The Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin

Book Blurb:

In this whip-smart and timely novel from acclaimed author Kimmery Martin, two doctors travel a surprising path when they must choose between treating their patients and keeping their jobs.

Georgia Brown’s profession as a urologist requires her to interact with plenty of naked men, but her romantic prospects have fizzled. The most important person in her life is her friend Jonah Tsukada, a funny, empathetic family medicine doctor who works at the same hospital in Charleston, South Carolina and who has become as close as family to her.

Just after Georgia leaves the country for a medical conference, Jonah shares startling news. The hospital is instructing doctors to stop providing medical care for transgender patients. Jonah, a gay man, is the first to be fired when he refuses to abandon his patients. Stunned by the predicament of her closest friend, Georgia’s natural instinct is to fight alongside him. But when her attempts to address the situation result in incalculable harm, both Georgia and Jonah find themselves facing the loss of much more than their careers.

My Thoughts:

I read Kimmery Martin’s debut, Queen of Hearts (Reviewed December 17, 2017), and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to this one. Both books are drawn from her medical background and set in the world of medicine. However, the books are totally different. What I liked about this one is that it showcased discrimination towards LGBTQ and the fallout from baseless accusations. It touches on contemporary moral dilemmas concerning whether this community can be denied medical care. There was a bit of a mystery, too, in determining whether one of the characters had been set up and if so, who did so and why. I especially liked the bond between the two main characters and the support shown. The message toward the end of the book “the antidote for everything is integrity” was appreciated, and I like that message. I don’t think I liked this book quite as much as her debut, but it was still an enjoyable read with a positive message.

My Rating: 4 Stars

HardcoverL 352 pages

Published: February 18, 2020 by Berkley – Us

Majesty by Katharine McGee (American Royals #2)

Book Blurb:

Is America ready for its first queen?

Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we’re looking at you Daphne Deighton.

As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace–and Prince Jefferson–at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans.

My Thoughts:

I reviewed the first in this series, American Royals, on December 18, 2019 not realizing that it was part of a series. I enjoyed the book and was looking forward to reading the follow-up. I thought this was a trilogy, but after I finished this one, I learned she only had a two-part deal. I am hoping that there will be at least a third one. Although this is supposed to be the end of the series, the story felt unfinished. I can imagine a lot more stories for these characters and would like to see where the stories lead. I like all the characters (except evil, conniving Daphne, of course) and I appreciated that the characters grew in this book, especially Samantha. As noted before, this is a fun, entertaining series that is a light read with several romantic relationships. I will say that this book did not go in the direction I thought it would after finishing the first one. So if you want a fun read and love books about royals, I would recommend this one.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Hardcover: 374 pages

Published: September 1, 2020 by Random House Books for Young Readers

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Book Blurb:

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

My Thoughts:

I was so excited to read this one, but then by the time I got the advanced copy for review, I lost interest due to the controversy. Fortunately, two of my book groups decided to read it this month. The controversy centered around whether or not this book should have been written by a white person rather than someone with a diverse background or someone who had immigrated. Personally, I think authors write outside of their own experience all the time, so it didn’t bother me. She did her research, and the important part for me was that she presented what the immigration experience is like for so many in a very real way. She was smart in making the main character an educated and successful woman. I think that makes the story hit closer to home for her readers. Cummins is a gifted writer as well. Her prose is superb, and the story she told was compelling. I felt on the edge of my seat the whole time worried about what would happen next. Because of the title, I did expect more of the book to be about what happened after arriving to America, but that wasn’t the case. As a result, I felt that the ending was a little rushed. I would have liked it if she had spent a little more time telling about their experience after arriving in America. I highly recommend this book, though, and hope more people will read it and possibly gain more insight into and empathy for the immigrant experience.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Hardcover: 400 pages

Published: January 21, 2020 by Flatiron Books

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan

Book Blurb:

On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother, Fintan, are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas.

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island’s cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel’s kitchens, too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before.

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets….

My Thoughts: I know the Christmas season is over, and I’m a little late with this post. However, even though this one is set during the Christmas season, I still feel like you could read this anytime To me the overall factor was the story and characters, not the fact that it was Christmas. This is a good one to settle down with in your favorite chair and read with your favorite cup of tea. It’s a light and charming book with fun, although, stereotypical characters. The characters are not just shallow ones, though. They dealt with real problems and had realistic interactions between them. There was also a sweet developing romance between two of the younger characters. Apparently this is the fourth in the series, but I didn’t know that going in, and I don’t think that is a barrier to picking this book up. It may inspire you to go back to read the three previous ones. The setting on an island in Scotland is appealing to me and made me want to go back there someday. I did have a little trouble with some of the names, but I eventually got used to them. This was my first Colgan book, but I will definitely read her again, especially when I’m looking for an easy pick-me-up.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Print Length: 352 Pages

Published: October 20, 2020 by William Morrow

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell

Book Blurb:

London, 1893: high up in a house on a dark, snowy night, a lone seamstress stands by a window. So begins the swirling, serpentine world of Paraic O’Donnell’s Victorian-inspired mystery, the story of a city cloaked in shadow, but burning with questions: why does the seamstress jump from the window? Why is a cryptic message stitched into her skin? And how is she connected to a rash of missing girls, all of whom seem to have disappeared under similar circumstances?

On the case is Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. Gideon Bliss, a Cambridge dropout in love with one of the missing girls, stumbles into a role as Cutter’s sidekick. And clever young journalist Octavia Hillingdon sees the case as a chance to tell a story that matters—despite her employer’s preference that she stick to a women’s society column. As Inspector Cutter peels back the mystery layer by layer, he leads them all, at last, to the secrets that lie hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.

My Thoughts:

The description of this mystery as gothic and set in Victorian England sounded intriguing and right up my alley, but sadly wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped for. For me, the setting was the star of this mystery. O’Donnell does an excellent job of painting the time period and atmosphere, so I felt that I was right there alongside the characters. He is skilled in his writing, and the characters created are interesting and the interactions between them are well-done. All this being said, I just didn’t become as engrossed in the story as I expected. It started out well, but then sort of lost me somewhere in the middle, only to pick up again toward the end. Overall, I enjoyed it well enough. It looks like this is the start of a series.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Hardcover: 408 pages

Expected publication: January 12, 2021 by Tin House Books

2020 Wrap Up

First of all, I’d like to thank all of you for reading my blog! It means a lot after putting the effort in to put this together. I’ve never done a year-end wrap up, but since several other bloggers seem to do that, I thought I would this year. As we all know, this has been a terrible year with the pandemic and we’ve had some health issues to deal with in my home on top of all that, but one good thing that came out of this year is that I shattered the reading goal of 72 books I set for myself. I actually finished 110 books! I find that quite amazing because for a long while I had trouble focusing on a book. Fortunately, I listen to a lot of my books, so I was able to do that while I was doing other things. Also, having so many of my normal activities cancelled meant more time at home. Otherwise, I never would have been able to reach that number. I’m listing below my top 25 by category. I wish each and everyone of you a Happy New Year!! Here’s to a better 2021. Happy Reading.

Mystery:

Psychological Thrillers:

Historical Fiction:

Romance/Women’s Fiction:

Literary

Non-Fiction:

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

Book Blurb:

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.

My Thoughts: This was my first Kelly Rimmer book, but I am interested in reading her again. I enjoyed this family saga and the topics explored. The current day story involves the topics of Alzheimer’s, an aging parent, post-partum depression, and sibling dynamics while the storyline from the late 1950s involves the discrimination and restrictive expectations for women, and postpartum depression, and abortion. I enjoyed the strong female characters of Marianne and Beth. I found the struggle of Beth, a child psychologist, dealing with post-partum depression yet afraid to seek help for herself because she would be looked down upon in her profession interesting. I also liked the way the topic was covered for both periods showing how some progress has been made with mental issues, but we’ve still got a ways to go. I knew there were expectations in the 50s and 60s for women to marry and stay home to raise a family, but I had not realized that some companies would terminate the female employees once they got married because they would probably have children. The story flowed smoothly between the two timelines, unfolding the family secret. In this compelling novel, I appreciated the exploration of these difficult topics and seeing how the characters navigated them. I would recommend this one and look forward to reading more of this author.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Hardcover: 352 pages

Published: April 14, 2020 by Graydon House

The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

Book Blurb:

A novel of survival, love, loss, triumph—and the sisters who changed fashion forever

Antoinette and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel know they’re destined for something better. Abandoned by their family years before, they’ve grown up under the guidance of pious nuns preparing them for simple lives as the wives of tradesmen or shopkeepers. At night, their secret stash of romantic novels and magazine cutouts beneath the floorboards are all they have to keep their dreams of the future alive.

The walls of the convent can’t shield them forever, and when they’re finally of age, the Chanel sisters set out together with a fierce determination to prove themselves worthy to a society that has never accepted them. Their journey propels them out of poverty and to the stylish cafés of Moulins, the dazzling performance halls of Vichy—and to a small hat shop on the rue Cambon in Paris, where a business takes hold and expands to the glamorous French resort towns. But when World War I breaks out, their lives are irrevocably changed, and the sisters must gather the courage to fashion their own places in the world, even if apart from each other. 

My Thoughts:

I thought this would be a fun historical fiction book to learn a little more about Coco Chanel. You do learn about her, but the the book is told from the perspective of her sister, Antoinette which I did not expect. I found it sad to learn of their difficult childhood in an orphanage, but they were close and fortunate to have each other. It’s inspiring to read about people who were able to rise above their circumstances. I really didn’t know much about either other than Coco’s perfume and dress designs, so I was surprised to learn they started out with hats. The book chronicles their love lives as well as the business. In the author notes, she says she took a lot of liberties with the love interest in Antionette’s life because there really is very little known about her. At times, I did feel like the book dragged, but overall, I enjoyed it.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for a review.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Hardcover: 400 pages

Expected Publication: December 29, 2020 by Graydon House

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin (Inspector Rebus #21)

Book Blurb:

Some cases never leave you.

For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria’s killer has never been found.

Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?

In a tale of twisted power, deep-rooted corruption and bitter rivalries, Rather Be the Devil showcases Rankin and Rebus at their unstoppable best.

My Thoughts:

Although I haven’t read all of the Ian Rankin books, he is one of those mystery authors that I feel I can count on for a compelling police procedural mystery. I ended up listening to this one. I especially like listening to books when they are set in a different country like this one, in Scotland, so you get a real sense of the place. I typically listen to my audiobooks at 1.5 speed, but because of the heavy accents in this one, I had to listen at normal speed. This mystery had a bit of a complicated plot involving an unsolved murder that crossed into a modern day murder. It was further complicated by the number of characters. I found that a little confusing, and had a little trouble keeping track until I looked at a character list. He does have interesting characters who appear throughout the series and does a nice job with the dialogue. Although the mystery was complicated with the numerous characters and intricate plot, I enjoyed this one.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Kindle Edition: 317 pages

Published November 3, 2016 by Orion

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Book Blurb:

A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.

My Thoughts:

I have read several books by Fredrik Backman, and I must confess I haven’t always been as big of a fan as everyone else seems to be. Beartown was the first book of his that I really enjoyed. Now I can add Anxious People to the list. If you are looking for an original, uplifting book, this is a good one. I did have a little trouble getting into it at first. I probably would have just stopped except my brother and sister-in-law highly recommended it, so I kept with it, listening to the audiobook. It’s hard to say much that adds to the description from the book blurb, but I loved its heart and the way the characters learned from each other and helped each other grow. The storylines unfolded masterfully and were cleverly tied together for a very satisfying ending. Highly recommended as a perfect read for these anxious times.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Hardcover: 341 pages

Published: September 8, 2020 by Atria Books (first published April 25th 2019)