New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.
That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.
Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.
“Never mix vodka and witchcraft.”
Valuable advice, but advice that Vivi fails to heed. Nine years ago, after falling hard for Rhys Penhallow only to find out too late of his betrothal, Vivi shouts frivolous curses into the night not realizing there was actual magic behind them. When Rhys returns to town for the first time since that fateful night his luck is exceptionally bad and he has no idea why until he finds out the truth behind his misfortune. Vivi, feeling most apologetic for her role in this debacle, decides to set aside past grievances to find out how to reverse the curse especially when they discover the curse is going to destroy the very town itself. It doesn’t help matters when she realizes Rhys Penhallow is just as distracting as he was when she fell in love with him nine years ago.
The Hex Hall series and the spin-off novel School Spirits are some of my favorite YA books so discovering that Erin Sterling (a.k.a. Rachel Hawkins) was writing a witchy adult novel had me thrilled. I found this story to be extremely delightful overall (and well worth the read) but there were some aspects that I wish had been better. There’s plastic skulls that come to life, a talking cat that won’t stop asking for treats, and even a ghost that haunts a library. The magical bits were absolutely, well, magical, but considering this has been pitched as “Hocus Pocus but they fuck” (hahaha…) I wanted, and rather anticipated, this book to be straight imbued with magic. The romance was far from lacking in chemistry but I expected more tension between the two since Vivi had been pining over Rhys for the entire nine years but they acted almost as if their issues never happened.
I adored the family aspects of this though (it felt very much like Practical Magic) and the light humor was on point. Apparently this is the first in an anticipated series and I am here for it. Bottom Line: this was an incredibly cute, delightfully whimsical, and overall perfect read for the Halloween season (or when you need a little magic with your romance.)
When a British Indian woman's life hits rock bottom, she decides to change her stars by falling in love...with herself--a hilarious, heartfelt story from outrageously funny novelist Radhika Sanghani.
Nina didn't plan to spend her thirtieth birthday in jail, yet here she is in her pajamas, locked in a holding cell. There's no Wi-Fi, no wine, no carbs--and no one to celebrate with.
Unfortunately, it gives Nina plenty of time to reflect on how screwed up her life is. She's just broken up with her fiancé, and now has to move back into her childhood home to live with her depressed older brother and their uptight, traditional Indian mother. Her career as a freelance journalist isn't going in the direction she wants, and all her friends are too busy being successful to hang out with her.
Just as Nina falls into despair, a book lands in her cell: How to Fix Your Shitty Life by Loving Yourself. It must be destiny. With literally nothing left to lose, Nina makes a life-changing decision to embark on a self-love journey. By her next birthday, she's going to find thirty things she loves about herself.
About Radhika Sanghani
I have just written my debut novel VIRGIN, which will be coming out in August in America, with Penguin, and September here in the UK with Harlequin.
I'm a women's writer for The Daily Telegraph in London where I write on women's issues. I read constantly and love reviewing contemporary novels.
Two lives. The one you wanted. The one that wanted you.
Her birthday should be like any other night.
One minute Kelly’s a free-spirited artist in Chicago going to her best friend’s art show. The next, she opens a door and mysteriously emerges in her Michigan hometown. Suddenly her life is unrecognizable: She's got twelve years of the wrong memories in her head and she's married to Eric, a man she barely knew in high school.
Racing to get back to her old life, Kelly's search leads only to more questions. In this life, she loves Eric and wants to trust him, but everything she discovers about him—including a connection to a mysterious tech startup—tells her she shouldn't. And strange things keep happening. The tattoos she had when she was an artist briefly reappear on her skin, she remembers fights with Eric that he says never happened, and her relationships with loved ones both new and familiar seem to change without warning.
But the closer Kelly gets to putting the pieces together, the more her reality seems to shift. And if she can't figure out what happened on her birthday, the next change could cost her everything...
“This life, I didn’t choose. It was chosen for me. But would it be so bad if I had to stay here?”
Is readbait a thing? Well, comparing this as Russian Doll meets Black Mirror is major readbait for me.
Kelly is attending her best friend’s art show in Chicago when she opens the bathroom door and steps into another life. Her hair is long, her tattoos have disappeared, and she’s married to a guy she barely remembers from high school. Kelly possesses all of the memories from her Chicago life but they’re now overlayed with memories of a life, a good life, but a life she doesn’t remember actually living. Desperate to get back to her old life but having no clue how to make that happen, she’s confronted with the possibility that she might be stuck in this life, but would that be the worst thing?
“[…]I remembered, eventually, everything that had happened to me in both lives. How they’re both still there, uneasily coexisting in my head.”
Jeng handled the various similarities and differences between the timelines well and the scenes where Kelly’s world began to “glitch” (her tattoos would reappear on her arm only to disappear again) really heightened the intensity of the story. I do feel though it would have been even more intense (and engaging) if Kelly had been glitching out of one life and the other, but alas, she did not. What really failed for me was the backstory behind why this was happening and who was responsible. If I was glitched out of one life and put into another that I didn’t choose, I doubt my nutshell response would be “it’s okay, they meant well.”
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
From the bestselling author of Underground Airlines and Golden State,
a sweeping legal thriller about a sixteen-year-old who suffers from a neurological condition that has frozen him in time, and the team of lawyers, doctors, and detectives who are desperate to wake him up.
Wesley Keener lies in bed: not dead, not alive, not in a coma or vegetative state, but simply frozen at an unchanging 16 years old, the forward course of his existence having simply stopped midway through sophomore year. His condition is the result of something called Syndrome J, an extraordinarily rare neurological event, at least according to the brilliant young neurologist Anna Pileggi.
When Wes was first hospitalized, his parents Beth and David Keener hired acclaimed PI Jay Shenk to help find answers about the illness that befell their beloved son. Now, years later, when David is accused of murdering the brilliant young doctor who served as expert witness in the hospital case, Shenk and his son Ruben discover that this standard malpractice suit is part of something more sinister than anyone imagined. An alternate explanation, brought forth by a mysterious older man, suggests an inter-dimensional entity wrecking havoc on the community. The child is not a prisoner, this stranger insists, he is a prison.
Told from alternating perspectives, The Quiet Boy explores the tensions between justice and compassion, in heart-pounding prose. With clever plotting, and a knack for character, Winters expertly weaves a group of misfits together in a race to save themselves, and an innocent life.
In 2008, a boy named Wesley Keener suffered a traumatic head injury at school. Following his brain surgery, he begins pacing the small confines of his hospital room without reprieve. He doesn’t stop to eat or sleep. And as time unfolds, the careful observations of the boy reveal that his hair doesn’t ever seem to get any longer and he never seems to get any older. Personal injury attorney Jay Shenk rushes to the hospital after getting word about this case, intending on trying to pick up a medical malpractice case that seems like a slam dunk but he ends up with something far more on his hands.
This is my fifth book by Winters and I’m pretty sure if it was my first it would’ve been a DNF. The Quiet Boy is a very slow-to-build story and at first glance, it’s a bit deceiving. It comes across as nothing more than a courtroom legal thriller but it’s definitely more than meets the eye and deserves a little patience. It’s a dense yet captivating story that will keep you guessing till the very ambiguous ending where you’ll have to just keep on guessing. I appreciated the subtle hint at answers, the suggestion that nothing is ever just black and white, that nothing has just a single interpretation, that it’s all based on your own perception… but I wanted (or needed) less ambiguity and more transparency.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.
Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.
While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.
Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.
Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.
“Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul. Emails are.”
Cassie Woodson had a promising legal career until a breakup with her boyfriend led to some workplace violence that went viral. The incident got her fired and blacklisted and the only job she could get was a temp job reviewing documents where she sat in a windowless room with scheduled bathroom breaks. Her sudden and disastrous fall from grace has transformed her into an angry individual with a drinking problem but when she stumbles upon some personal correspondence between a husband and wife in her work documents, she develops a mild obsession with the couple. The mild obsession only grows and Cassie is no longer satisfied with simply reading about their lives: she wants it for herself.
As can be determined based on my review, this wasn’t a home run for me. I give this book enormous credit for pulling me out of the reading rut I found myself in when I decided to pick this up though. The beginning of this is entertaining as shit and Cassie and all her crazy actually reminded me a lot of good ol’ Joe from You. It was basically like watching a train wreck because you know nothing is going to end well so you might as well grab the popcorn.
The ending quite literally fell apart for me, thus my low rating. Oddly enough, still entertaining and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what’s next from this debut author.
Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times-bestselling author, returns to the fairytale world with this haunting retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.
Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller's daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.
Or so everyone believes.
When one of Serilda's outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn't meant to be part of the bargain.
Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.
About Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles, Heartless, The Renegades Trilogy, and Instant Karma, as well as the graphic novel duology Wires and Nerve. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University and a MA in Publishing from Pace University. In addition to writing, Marissa hosts The Happy Writer podcast. She lives near Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and twin daughters.
Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely community college professor repressing her own dark past—welcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
“We had a problem on the block and the cops wouldn’t solve it. So we solved our own problem.”
The residents of Maple Street only look perfect on the outside, of course. There’s also the giant sinkhole that opened up in the neighborhood park that kind of mars things. When the Wilde’s moved into the neighborhood, they knew they didn’t belong (Gertie an ex-beauty queen with breast implants, her husband Arlo an ex-rocker with tattoos covering his track marks) but they had hoped to find their own place amongst the impeccable families. Rhea Schroeder, the undisputed Queen of Maple Street, decides to look past her differences and befriend Gertie. One night, dark secrets are shared and Rhea misinterprets Gertie’s reaction and decides to turn on her instead, telling the neighborhood everything that Gertie didn’t want getting out. When Rhea’s daughter Shelley falls into the sinkhole, she blames Gertie and her family for her death and sets in motion irreparable devastation.
The story is set in a world much like our own in the year 2028 where it’s clear the current climate has deteriorated rapidly. The sinkhole spews oil, somehow causes the residents to have patchy phone connections, and it continues to expand at a seemingly alarming rate. On top of the timely climate narrative, there’s also the inclusion of newspaper and academic articles from 15-years into the future that reference “the Maple Street Murders” which give the story a true-crime feel. Personally, I think the climax would’ve been much more shocking without the articles providing the bleak foreshadowing of what’s to come.
The whole thing is a very unsettling type of dark. It’s a plausible story about the power of a lie and their abilities to destroy regardless of authenticity. It also shows how terrifyingly quick things can escalate and get out of hand. Sarah Langan is known for writing horror and she certainly transitioned well into suburban horror, but everything was severe and over the top to the point where the heavy-handedness became oppressive. Some of her phrasing and the way she chose to describe things was needless too, much like this line:
“The man’s expression was animalistic and ugly. A sweaty sex face on the verge of completion.”
Good Neighbors is a laborious and unnerving study on the perfection of suburban America: just because everything looks perfect doesn’t mean it is.
Two lonely teenage girls in 1940s Washington, DC, discover they have a penchant for solving crimes—and an even greater desire to commit them—in the new mystery novel by Macavity Award-winning novelist John Copenhaver.
Philippa Watson, a good-natured yet troubled seventeen-year-old, has just moved to Washington, DC. She’s lonely until she meets Judy Peabody, a brilliant and tempestuous classmate. The girls become unlikely friends and fashion themselves as intellectuals, drawing the notice of Christine Martins, their dazzling English teacher, who enthralls them with her passion for literature and her love of noirish detective fiction.
When Philippa returns a novel Miss Martins has lent her, she interrupts a man grappling with her in the shadows. Frightened, Philippa flees, unsure who the man is or what she’s seen. Days later, her teacher returns to school altered: a dark shell of herself. On the heels of her teacher’s transformation, a classmate is found dead in the Anacostia River—murdered—the body stripped and defiled with a mysterious inscription.
As the girls follow the clues and wrestle with newfound feelings toward each other, they suspect that the killer is closer to their circle than they imagined—and that the greatest threat they face may not be lurking in the halls at school, or in the city streets, but creeping out from a murderous impulse of their own.
About John Copenhaver
John Copenhaver’s historical crime novel, Dodging and Burning, won the 2019 Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel and garnered Anthony, Strand Critics, Barry, and Lambda Literary Award nominations. Copenhaver writes a crime fiction review column for Lambda Literary called “Blacklight,” cohosts on the House of Mystery Radio Show, and is the six-time recipient of Artist Fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He grew up in the mountains of southwestern Virginia and currently lives in Richmond, VA, with his husband, artist Jeffery Paul (Herrity).