Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I only recently started reading the mystery genre – and the Lovely Bones was one of the biggest books of the 2000s, let alone in the mystery space. I never saw the movie, and before reading this I had no real idea what the book was about. I went into it with fairly high expectations due to its popularity. Unfortunately, this one really fell short for me.

The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder — a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family’s need for peace and closure.

The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

I’ll admit, I was excited to read this book for perhaps the wrong reasons – through high school I loved the VlogBrothers YouTube channel (run by Hank and John Green) and consumed basically anything the brothers created. I ended up outgrowing the Green brothers’ YouTube content a few years ago, but when I heard Hank had a book coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it. Unfortunately, this book really didn’t work for me – the title alone should have been enough to tip me off to this book – the entire book is overly grandiose and has a strong sense of being too big for its boots.

The Carls just appeared.

Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

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A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

I’m a sucker for a good royal story – something about how it feels like a modern fairytale really appeals to me. Naturally, this book really appealed to me, so when I finally sat down to read it, I was very excited to read it. Sadly, this book was a massive let down for me. It was very predictable, mildly misogynistic, and featured a major pushover of a female lead.

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

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Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is an author that I thought would be a go-to for me after I read her first two books (The Wedding Date and The Proposal). Her third book was a bit of a miss for me, but I figured that would be a one off. Sadly, I find that Royal Holiday is also a miss – making me question if the rest of this authors books will also flop and if I should continue reading them as they are released.

Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent, and unyielding formality.

Malcolm Hudson has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until now. He is intrigued by Vivian the moment he meets her and finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. When flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, things snowball into a full-on fling.

Despite a ticking timer on their holiday romance, they are completely fine with ending their short, steamy affair come New Year’s Day. . .or are they?

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Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

Recently, I visited London for the first time, and while I was flying there, I wanted to read a book set in the city to set the mood. I stumbled onto Our Stop which really fit the bill – it’s a love story set in the city’s infamous tube system. Sadly, it was a book that was only redeemed from its inchworm pace by a few redeeming moments and sparks of chemistry.

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.

Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.

One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

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