A Guide to Being Just Friends (Jansen Brothers: Book 3) by Sophie Sullivan

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Adult, Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Audiobook, Adult Fiction, Clean Romance

Series: Jansen Brothers

Ten Rules for Faking It—Book 1

How to Love Your Neighbor—Book 2 (review here)

A Guide to Being Just Friends—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A playful and emotional romantic comedy from the author of Ten Rules for Faking It

Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.

Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lackluster first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes, but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.

When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behavior, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?


First Line:

Salad paid the bills. At least, it was supposed to.

A Guid to Being Just Friends by Sophie Sullivan

I’ll admit this; I didn’t read the blurb when I accepted the invite from St. Martin’s Press. I saw the title and the cover (in the widget email they sent) and made my decision from that. To be clear, I rarely accept books based on the title and/or cover. So, I was a little hesitant when I saw it next on my reading schedule. But, once I realized what series this book was a part of, I was excited to read it.

A Guide to Being Just Friends is the 3rd (and final) book in the Jansen Brothers series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the first two books before picking this one up. I recommend this so you, as a reader, can understand some of the relationships discussed in this book.

There are some trigger warnings that I want to warn you about in this book. Hailey (the main character) is fresh out of an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. In one scene, her ex tries (and stress tries) to verbally abuse and manhandle her, but Wes stops it. Wes’s parents are divorced, and Hailey’s family is dysfunctional (her parents love each other and ignore her). If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

A Guide to Being Just Friends is a medium to fast-paced book that takes place entirely in San Verde, California. The pacing of the book fluctuates during it.

As mentioned above, A Guide to Being Just Friends is Wes and Hailey’s love story. Hailey has just opened a restaurant that only serves salad (By the Cup) and is focused only on getting it off the ground and making money. She has no room for a relationship or wants one after what her ex-boyfriend has done to her. Wes couldn’t agree more with her. He is still dealing with the wounds of his parent’s divorce and has been on several not-so-great first dates. All he wants is companionship. So meeting Hailey and developing feelings for her was not part of his master plan (the same goes for Hailey). While being in a relationship is not in the cards for either of them, they will settle for being just friends. But their feelings grow, and being just friends is starting to sound not so great. Will Hailey and Wes wake up and see that the person they want the most is standing in front of them? Or will they forever be just friends?

I like going into a book and knowing at least one of the characters. For me (and I don’t know about you), it made connecting with the other main characters easier. I also liked seeing a different side of that character than what was portrayed in other books.

  • Hailey: I liked her. She was super focused on getting her business off the ground and wouldn’t let anything or anyone distract her. She was also one of the sweetest people in the book and didn’t deserve the treatment she got from her parents, ex-boyfriend, and Ana. I also liked that she overcame all the self-doubt and self-esteem issues that her ex gave her. Of course, since this is a romance, I wanted to shake her when it came to Wes. But I understood why she was holding herself back.
  • Wes—I was talking about him in the above paragraph. I liked seeing little glimpses of him in the previous two books. I did have a view of him from what I read. So it was nice for that view to be expanded and for how he acted explained. Wes had a lot on his plate, a lot of pressure from his father and Ana (the CEO of a company he’s trying to buy). Plus, he had awful luck on the relationship front. The blind dates the author showed were horrible. I did like his character growth, though. By the end of the book, he wasn’t afraid to do what was right for him (and yes, that involved Ana and her meddling ways!!)

The secondary characters were interesting. They should be since they were all previous characters in the other two books. A couple of new characters were introduced (Hailey’s cousin and her group of friends), and I hope the author decides to create another series in this world. I would love to see some of those people get their HEAs!!

A Guide to Being Just Friends fits perfectly into the romance genre. I liked that this romance took months to ignite and just as long to get off the ground. I love those types of romances. They seem more genuine, and (because I am a weirdo) I can picture them lasting in real life.

There is sex in A Guide to Being Just Friends. But it isn’t graphic. The author sets the mood, starts the sexual encounter, and ends the chapter. The next chapter is the following day with a satisfied hero and heroine. I am a fan of smut and graphic sex scenes, but sometimes it is nice to let my imagination do what it does best. And it did its best in this book. Also, there were only a couple of sex scenes.

The main storyline is Wes and Hailey’s romance. As I said, the author made this into a slow-burn romance, and I liked it. She also made it as realistic as possible. Hailey and Wes went through what I considered the usual ebb and flow until everything exploded. There was only one thing that I disagreed with: Ana. She was a vindictive, nasty person. What she did to Hailey (and let’s not forget what she tried to do) was pretty low.

Several secondary storylines enriched the main storyline. The secondary storyline that stands out to me the most was the landlord raising the rent on the apartments and shops where Hailey had her business. I loved how the author kept me wondering what would happen there and then melded it into the main storyline. It was perfect!!

The end of A Guide to Being Just Friends made me an emotional mess. I cried during the big reveal scene. I was mad because of what Hailey assumed was happening between Ana and Wes. I was happy because that assumption wasn’t true. And the epilogue. It was freaking perfect!!! I couldn’t have asked for a better epilogue than that.

I would recommend A Guide to Being Just Friends to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and very mild sex scenes. Also, see my content warning above.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Sophie Sullivan for allowing me to read and review A Guide to Being Just Friends. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading A Guide to Being Just Friends, then you will enjoy reading these books:

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: January 24th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Holiday, Halloween, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Thriller, Mystery, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

With the 80’s nostalgia of Stranger Things, this horror drama from NYT bestselling author Christopher Golden follows neighborhood families and a mysterious, lurking evil on one Halloween day.

It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…


First Line:

In the woods behind Tony Barbosa’s house, the autumn leaves screened out so much daylight it seemed like dusk had already arrived.

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

This isn’t easy to admit, but I am a giant baby in reading or watching anything horror. Take, for instance, the new series on HBO Max, The Last of Us. I was sitting with my husband and oldest daughter, and whenever something scary would come on, I would cover my face with a blanket and tell them to tell me when it was over. That is how I felt reading All Hallows. I wanted to cover my face and wait until it was all over, but I couldn’t. This book scared the living out of me!!

I am going to be upfront with the trigger warnings in this book. I wasn’t expecting a couple of them, and they left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized what was happening. The triggers are child sexual abuse (not graphic, but a couple of scenes that describe a victim’s emotions), racism (overt and subtle), domestic violence, cheating, bigotry, and homophobia. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The plotline for All Hallows was exciting but all over the place at first. Halloween has come to a Massachusetts town, Coventry. While kids are out trick or treating, the individual families are fracturing. Add to this, there are kids in the neighborhood who don’t belong. They are dressed in old-fashioned costumes and are begging people to let them in their houses. Why? They have escaped from a being called The Cunning Man and are running from it. But not all is what it seems, as the hours count to midnight and long-held secrets are uncovered. Who are these children? What do they want? Will The Cunning Man get them? Or is everything they told a lie? What horrors are in store for the families that took them in?

All Hallows has multiple main characters; writing a short blurb on each is impossible. So, I am not in this review. It would make this review go on forever; we all know people don’t like it.

The main characters in All Hallows were well-written and fleshed out. Each character brought a fresh perspective to what was happening in that neighborhood that night. I loved seeing the same events from different eyes.

As for the secondary characters, some of them felt a little flat. While they did provide some needed filler in the storylines, I couldn’t connect to some of them. And that made it impossible for me to care when certain things happened in the book (like Donny Sweeney’s semi-redemption arc).

All Hallows fit perfectly in the horror genre. The author did a great job of making me want to cover my eyes during parts of the book. This would have been a great book to release around Halloween because, well, the book is set on Halloween afternoon/night.

The storyline with The Cunning Man and the displaced kids was unique. The author did take me for a ride with that one. I was expecting one thing to happen, but a neat twist in the storyline had me shaking my head and saying, “No way.

The storyline with the neighborhood relationships fracturing was, again, well written. The author didn’t do a massive deep dive into the people he featured during that night, but it was deep enough to know that this was beyond what neighbors act like, especially in 1984, when neighborhoods were tight. I was seven in 1984, and I remember my neighbors being like second parents. If we (my brothers and I) were outside playing, someone was always out with us. Like in the book, the neighbors treated Halloween like a party for the adults, and we kids would go around the neighborhood trick or treating, barely supervised. You can’t do that these days, which is sad.

The end of All Hallows was interesting. While the author resolved things, only some were, if you understand. There were a few storylines that I had questions on that were left up in the air. Also, there were no happy endings. People died and were hurt; the end was maybe three days later. Everyone involved was still processing what had happened. There might be a book two because of the last couple of scenes. I would love to see Vanessa, Chloe, and possibly Julia get revenge!!

I recommend All Hallows to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex (some light kissing). Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Christopher Golden for allowing me to read and review All Hallows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading All Hallows, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton, Dutton

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Suspense, Audiobook, Adult, Contemporary, Adult Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed….

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer–the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin….

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.


First Line:

Deep in those woods, there is a house that’s easy to miss.

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

The House in the Pines was on my must-read list since I had seen it on another blog that stated they were looking forward to reading it. So, I was beyond thrilled when I got an email from Penguin House Dutton requesting a review. I couldn’t accept it fast enough. I had planned on reading this book as soon as I got it, but life happens, and it got put on the back burner. I finally read it right after Reese Witherspoon announced it was the book of the month in her book club (and no, it wasn’t because of that). I was let down by it. The House in the Pines didn’t live up to my hype, and I was disappointed.

The House in the Pines is a fast-paced book all over the place. It alternated between past and present without giving the reader a heads-up. I get why the author did it. But it didn’t work for me in this case. It only confused me and made me lose focus on what was going on.

This book mostly takes place in my home state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I grew up in coastal eastern MA, not in the west. But, I have been to Pittsfield, which is as pitiful as the book described. I have also been to Amherst (I had friends who went to college there), and I lived a quick 5-minute T ride outside of Boston for years (as well as growing up 25-30 mins east of there).

The characters in The House in the Pines alternated between me liking them and not believing their actions. I know it’s a huge difference there, but that’s how it was with me. The only character that I truly liked was Maya’s mother. She was solid and well-written.

  • Maya—She annoyed me for 90% of the book. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t tell Dan that she was going cold turkey from Klonopin withdrawal. He seemed like a decent person who would have helped her. Instead, she was sneaky about it. She is sneaky for almost all of the book and is borderline obsessed with finding Frank and confronting him about Aubrey’s death. But, as much as I disliked her, I did feel bad for her. She lived with the horror of seeing her friend drop dead before her and blamed herself for Audrey’s death. Her mother, who I liked, was vigilant about Maya’s mental health. I will not get into it here, but I blame her mother for pushing her down the path that led Maya to abuse Klonopin and become an alcoholic; what Maya needed after that traumatic event was a therapist, not drugs.
  • Frank—Oh, man, where do I start with him? He was indeed a scumbag, and I believe he targeted Maya because she was innocent. But, at the same time, I think he might have liked her. It was just the vibe I got from their scenes together. I did figure out his deal reasonably early in the book. The video clued me in, as did the book that Frank suggested Audrey read. But I liked seeing Maya’s journey to get to where I did.
  • Audrey—Even though she is dead, she is a massive part of the book. The author formed Maya’s whole adult identity from Audrey’s death. Maya was obsessed with connecting Frank to Audrey’s death and trying to remember what happened that day. The glimpses of Audrey that I got in the flashback, she was a good kid trying to look out for her friend and got caught up in something much bigger than her.

The House in the Pines was a good fit in the mystery genre. I also have it in the thriller and suspense genres, but they weren’t a good fit. I had everything pegged by the middle of the book. Even the twist didn’t take me by surprise. It fell flat for me.

The central storyline with Maya trying to find Frank, remember what happened that summer, and investigate another mysterious death was interesting. But, as I stated above, I figured everything out by the middle of the book. By the end of the book, I was waiting to see if any justice would be served, and I wasn’t surprised by what happened. But I was happy with what Maya was able to do.

The biggest thing that disappointed me about this book was the lack of closure at the end. Everything was left up in the air. I can’t say anything other than that because I am afraid of spoilers.

The end of The House in the Pines was anticlimactic for me. As I stated above, nothing was resolved. Wait, let me rephrase that. Nothing was resolved with Frank. Maya, on the other hand, was able to get some closure. But for the other stuff, everything still needs to be resolved. It was frustrating to read the end and realize nothing more was happening.

I would recommend The House in the Pines to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

I want to thank Penguin House Dutton, Dutton, and Ana Reyes for allowing me to read and review The House in the Pines. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The House in the Pines, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Adult, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Adult Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A Most Anticipated Romance by PopSugar!

Vibrantly funny, endearingly sweet, and a love letter to all things rom com, Jayne Denker’s The Rom Com Agenda is a story of two people finding love right when they least expect it.

You know how the story’s supposed to go…but love makes its own plans.

STEP 1: Find yourself
Leah Keegan is used to being alone, especially after taking care of her sick foster mother for the past year. But now there’s nothing keeping her in the sweet town of Willow Cove. It’s time to move on. Again.

STEP 2: Win back the one who got away
Eli Masterson thought he and Victoria were meant to be together until she decided to jet off to Rome for a year. Eli is determined to win her back. But how?

STEP 3: Become a romantic hero
Changing Eli’s physical appearance is easy, but to turn Eli into the sophisticated-yet-vulnerable ideal man, his girl pals force him to watch classic rom-coms. And take notes.

STEP 4: Fall in love?
Inadvertently drawn into the makeover scheme, Leah ends up being Eli’s guide through the wild world of meet-cutes and grand gestures. Even though she believes Eli doesn’t need to change a thing about himself. Even though she just might be falling for Eli . . . and Eli falling for her.

“The perfect swoony, slow burn, sentimental romantic comedy that we all deserve .” –New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay


First Line:

Leah Keegan was positive she was not meant to be a superhero.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Even though I like (and love) other genres, romance is the backbone of my reading experience. I was hooked when I started reading Harlequin book of the month romances in middle school. I also love rom-com. If I am in a bad mood or feeling blah, I can turn on Netflix and find many of them. So, when I got the invite to review from the publisher, I didn’t hesitate to accept it. But I was disappointed with The Rom-Com Agenda. Not that I didn’t like it (I did). The story fell short of my expectations.

The Rom-Com Agenda is a medium-paced book set in upstate New York. Leah had returned to Willow Creek to care for her sick foster mother. Now that her foster mother passed, Leah is at a loss for what to do. She holds multiple jobs, trying to make ends meet, when she overheard a disastrous proposal and break-up. Leah meets that man, Eli, when his sister and her friends are determined to give him a makeover and goes into the shop where Leah works. Leah is welcomed into the group by everyone (including Eli) and learns that Eli is determined to win back his girlfriend. That is when the Rom-Com agenda is formed. Eli must watch every rom-com movie the girls recommend to him to become a swoon-worthy man. They hope that he will learn something from them. Leah volunteers to watch them with him, and a connection is formed. Leah starts to fall for Eli, but she knows she is on limited time. Her foster mother’s son is coming back to town to sell the house, and Leah won’t have a place to stay. So, falling in love is the last thing on her agenda. Will Eli learn anything from the movies? Will Leah have to leave Willow Creek? And most importantly, will Leah and Eli admit their feelings for each other?

I loved the secondary characters and Leah in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were fleshed out, and I did form an attachment to them. The main characters were tough to like. Well, not Leah. She was sweet and reserved. It was Eli, and I’ll explain it in his section below. Let’s say that desperate is never good and comes off poorly.

  • Leah—She was a sweetheart. I wanted to scoop her up and shield her from the bad things in the world. I also couldn’t believe how reserved she was. I get why. I’m not going to get into her backstory, but it was excruciating and affected how she thought other people saw her. She decided to help Eli because she was a kind person and knew he was hurting. I loved seeing her character grow and understand her self-worth.
  • Eli—I couldn’t stand him. He is the reason why I rated this book three stars. He came across as desperate. What he did to Victoria (his ex) was not cool. They had only been dating for maybe two months when she went to Rome for a year. What did Eli do? He proposed marriage and then refused to accept the break-up. I was like, “what the heck, dude?” When his sister and friends decide to make him over (to help him get over her), he obsesses over her. I couldn’t even with him. I wanted to smack him and say, “Helloo, Leah, idiot.” This went on for almost the whole book.

The Rom-Com Agenda did fit into the romance genre, but it was slow-burn. The author went for a more relaxed, natural feel for the romance. While I did appreciate it, I sometimes wished it moved a little faster. But, overall, it was a good fit for the book.

The storylines in The Rom-Com Agenda felt a little meh to me. I was not too fond of that pseudo-love triangle in which the author tried to put Eli, Leah, and Victoria. As I mentioned above, it came across as forced and super creepy on Eli’s end. I did like the storyline where Eli’s friends tried to help him out of his depression, but I did find it odd that they wanted him to watch rom-com instead of him diving back into the world of dating. As for the storyline with Eli and Leah, I did like that one. It was sweet to watch them fall in love (even if Eli didn’t admit it to himself and kept obsessing over freaking Victoria).

There were a couple of trigger warnings in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were the death of a loved one by cancer, mental illness, foster care, and caregiver burnout. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of The Rom-Com Agenda was your typical HEA. I liked that Eli and Leah got their HEA. I would love to see more books in this world. There are several characters that I would like to see more of.

I recommend The Rom-Com Agenda to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings above.


If you enjoyed reading The Rom-Com Agenda, then you will enjoy reading these books:

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Psychological Thriller, Audiobook

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.


First Line:

Today is day three hundred and sixty-four. Three hundred and sixty-four days since my last night of sleep.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

As a mother, I was shaken when I read the blurb for this book. How could you not be? It is any parent’s worst nightmare to have a missing child. With that in mind (and knowing there could be triggers), I accepted the publisher’s invitation for this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Isabelle hasn’t slept since Mason, her eighteen-month-old son, was taken from his room at night. She has been tirelessly searching for him and making the rounds of tv shows and conventions to state her case. What has suffered in this past year is her marriage. Her husband has moved on with a woman who is a dead ringer for her. The police consider her a prime suspect, and Isabelle is being pushed to her limits. So, it is no wonder she accepts a true-crime podcaster’s invitation. As she interviews for the podcast, memories of her childhood resurface and cause her to doubt everything her parents had told her. What happened to Mason? Did Isabelle do something to him? Or was he kidnapped? What happened to Isabelle when she was a child?

All the Dangerous Things is a slow-starting book that takes place almost entirely in Georgia. The pace does pick up in the middle of the book. But, towards the end, is when the book picks up steam, and it doesn’t slow down until the explosive ending.

The author well wrote all of the characters in All the Dangerous Things. I loved how the author kept me guessing about the main and secondary characters.

  • Isabelle—The plotline pulled me in two different directions with Isabelle. In one direction, I wanted to believe her, but in the other direction, I figured she did kill Mason. With her being such an unreliable narrator, it was up in the air until the end of the book.
  • Ben—He was such a sleazeball. I didn’t like him and thought Isabelle could have done better. When Isabelle was thinking about how they met and when he told her he was married, I was yelling (yes, yelling), “Stay away.” And the night of Ben’s wife’s wake, what they did outside the funeral home, blah. Again, sleazeball and my dislike of him grew as the book continued.
  • Isabelle’s mother, father, and younger sister—-I am lumping them all into one category because together, they are a whole main character (if that makes sense). Something very traumatic happens that involves all three of them and Isabelle. It made sense why they weren’t in the present-day story much. I can’t go much into what I just wrote because of spoilers.

As with any well-written book, the secondary characters did add extra depth to this book. But I wish I could have seen them from another angle (like maybe the police). It would have given me a fresh perspective on the story.

All the Dangerous Things fit perfectly with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres. The author did a great job of keeping everything under wrap until the end of the book. I couldn’t put the book down; I needed to know what happened to Mason and when Isabelle was younger.

The main storyline with Isabelle, Mason’s kidnapping, and the investigation tore at my heartstrings. I felt Isabelle’s pain over Mason not being there. I felt her frustration over what she saw as the police doing nothing but pointing fingers at her. I even got her frustration with her sleepwalking habit. But she never once let any of those get to her. She harassed the police almost daily (even when they told her they considered her a suspect). She had insomnia because of the trauma of Mason being kidnapped. But, at the same time, she was unreliable. She made me question her because of her blackouts and sleepwalking. Plus, her not sleeping was messing with her head too.

The other storyline with Isabelle, her younger sister, and her parents was heartbreaking. It did detail Isabelle’s struggles with sleepwalking (even at seven years old). But there was something more important going on in the background. Something that I almost missed. Something that did contribute to her sister’s death and Isabelle being blamed for it. When I realized what that was, a lightbulb went off in my head. I felt so bad for everyone involved but mainly for Isabelle.

There are going to be trigger warnings in this book. The most obvious one is kidnapping. But there also is postpartum psychosis, the death of a child, and cheating. If those trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of All the Dangerous Things was one of the best I have read this year. I loved how Isabelle pieced everything together. I felt somewhat vindicated for her. But the author did have a few plot twists that even had me going, “What the heck?” Let’s say that I did not pity who went to jail!!

Three Things I Liked About All the Dangerous Things:

  1. Isabelle’s determination to find Mason.
  2. Isabelle’s relationship with her sister.
  3. How she figured everything out.

Three Things I Disliked About All The Dangerous Things:

  1. What happened to Isabelle when she was younger (and her being blamed too)
  2. Ben. He was such a sleazeball.
  3. The police. They were useless in this book.

I would recommend All the Dangerous Things to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading All the Dangerous Things, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Cultural, India, Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature, Asian Fiction, Novels

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewelry.

Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely.

Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.


First Line:

The women were arguing. The loan officer was due to arrive in a few hours, and they were still missing two hundred rupees.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

I was intrigued when I read the blurb for the Bandit Queens. I liked seeing a strong woman as the main character in the book. Plus, I was a little curious about how the author would portray Indian life. I wasn’t disappointed; I was shocked at how women in modern-day India are treated. It was eye-opening.

The Bandit Queen is a fast-paced book that takes place mainly in an unnamed village in India. Geeta’s husband, an abusive drunk, had disappeared five years previously. The suddenness of his disappearance caused a whirlwind of rumors to swirl around her. The prominent rumor was that Geeta killed her husband and got away with it. Geeta embraces that rumor and her newfound freedom. She becomes a “self-made” woman and is doing pretty well for herself. That is until the night one of the members of her loan group asks for help killing her husband. That night sets into motion a series of events Geeta cannot stop. But when Geeta needs help, will the women she helped come to her aid?

There are trigger warnings in The Bandit Queen. The author often talks about the sexual assault of girls and women. There are scenes of the aftermath of domestic abuse. There is one memorable scene of attempted rape. There are graphic descriptions of murder. There is animal abuse. The caste system is also investigated in the book. I am sure there is more, but my notes got erased (thanks to my kids). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

The primary and secondary characters of The Bandit Queens are wonderfully written. They were rich and added an extra depth to the storyline, while not needed, that expanded on what was given. They were well-fleshed out, and I connected with several of them. These were characters that I could picture walking down the street or shopping in the supermarket. I am going only to highlight Geeta and Solani. To me, these two were the superstars of the book.

  • Geeta—-I loved her. I wasn’t expecting to at first. She came across, in the beginning, as very standoffish and cold. But as the book went on and I got a good look into her life, I understood why she was that way. I also understood why she embraced what the rumors painted her to be. It gave her a certain amount of freedom that she wouldn’t have been able to have if she didn’t. I was horrified and then amused when Farrah roped her into helping her kill her husband. And when word got out, the fireworks began, and I was giggling the whole time. Geeta wanted no part in killing anyone, yet there she was, helping the twins with the nuisances (aka husbands). I also liked that Geeta, during this time, could look at her past life and reflect on it too. I believe that is why she and Solani reconciled (I am glad they did).
  • Solani—I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved this woman. She was a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire book. I am glad that she saw past Geeta’s husband’s facade and to the real person underneath. She tried to warn Geeta, but that didn’t go over well. Even when they weren’t talking, Solani attempted to be an excellent friend to Geeta. Some things came out towards the end of the book that proves that. I can’t say what because of the spoilers. Also, I loved how Solani embraced herself. She knew she was overweight (having kids will do that to you), and she didn’t care. There was one scene where it was called out, and she was like, “And?

The Bandit Queens have quite a few genres it could fit into. But the top three that fit perfectly into are the Fiction, Mystery, and Adult categories.

The main storyline with Geeta, Solani, the other women, and the killings were wonderfully written. I could see Geeta coming to life as the story went on. She was dragged, kicking and screaming, back into a friendship with Solani and into helping the other women kill their husbands. The humor was very dark in this storyline.

The end of The Bandit Queens was organized chaos, and I loved it. I’m not going to get too much into detail, but I did fear for Geeta. Several things happened that could have harmed her or her friends, and I was anxious reading that part of the book. But the author did a great job of relieving that anxiety. There is an author’s note after the story is over that I appreciated reading.

I would recommend The Bandit Queens to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning section.


If you enjoyed reading The Bandit Queens, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: July 19th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Audiobook, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Adult, Adult Fiction, Humor, Realistic Humor

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | Apple Books | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.


First Line:

My mother’s dying wish was for me to take a vacation.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

I was over the moon when I got the publisher’s invitation to review The Bodyguard. I love Katherine Center’s books. So, I didn’t even think about it when I accepted the invitation. But life happens, and I put The Bodyguard on the back burner as I dealt with some significant issues that I had going on. I am glad I finally got to read this book because it was amazing!!

Hannah is an Executive Protection Agent (aka a bodyguard) and is good at what she does. People underestimate her because she is small and blends into the background. Jack is a movie star who has been in seclusion since his brother was killed in a car accident a few years earlier. Hannah is assigned to Jack when he returns home to help out his family when his mother is diagnosed with cancer. His stalker, a middle-aged corgi breeder who knits sweaters, has found out he is home and has made some demands of him. But Jack doesn’t want a bodyguard, and his family doesn’t know about the stalker. So Jack makes a deal with Hannah; she needs to pretend to be his girlfriend, and his family cannot find out that he has a stalker. Hannah agrees but isn’t prepared for how comfortable she is with his family and Jack. The more time she spends with Jack, the more she likes him. What will happen when the stalker threat is gone? Will Hannah and Jack figure out that they are meant for each other? Or will their time at the ranch become a memory?

The Bodyguard is a medium to fast-paced book that is set in and around the city of Houston. The pacing of this book was perfect. It didn’t go so fast that I had issues following the plotline, and it also slowed down enough to process certain scenes. I also loved that the author set it in and around Houston. Houston has been a place I have wanted to visit (and is on my USA bucket list).

The main characters made this book with their witty dialogue and interchanges. There were characters that I would have loved to meet (if in real life).

  • Hannah—The Bodyguard didn’t start so well for her. Her mother died, and her coworker/boyfriend dumped her on the night of the funeral. Then, she finds out that her best friend/coworker has been sleeping with him. I wondered how she didn’t snap (because I would have). I felt awful for her. Hannah was tough but sweet. I loved how she got starstruck when she first met Jack. She reacted to how I pictured a regular person would act when meeting someone famous. I also loved her vulnerable side. She was hurting from everything that happened and didn’t have a chance to process it. Overall, she was just a nice person. Of course, she was tough and proved it towards the end of the book. Oh, and I get how insecure she was with Jack. She had a tough upbringing (her mom chose abusive men over her daughter). She didn’t know if she could trust him or not.
  • Jack—He took a little more time to get to know in this book. Not that I didn’t like him, but he wasn’t very open with personal things (Hannah was an open book). Like his brother’s death. From his reactions, I knew that something wasn’t right about it. And it took until almost halfway through for the truth to come out. I also liked that the author didn’t have Jack living a hunky-dory life after his brother died. He had issues (mainly PTSD and anxiety). The author handled his issues delicately and allowed them to be worked on throughout the book (notice I didn’t say worked out). I did think that his being super casual about the corgi stalker wasn’t cool. He did realize how deranged she was once Hannah got threatened.

The secondary characters brought depth and extra life to the book. I loved everyone in this book. Well, not everyone. I thought that Jack’s older brother was a d-tickle for how he treated Jack (he assumed something, and it came back to bite him). Hannah’s ex-boyfriend/coworker and her ex-best friend/coworker were awful. I couldn’t believe what they both said to her (each separately and each different thing). It stung me as a reader.

The Bodyguard fits perfectly into the romance genre. Jack and Hannah had a slow-burn romance forced by their proximity. While I knew what Hannah was feeling (the author told the book from her POV), I couldn’t understand what Jack was feeling. One scene at the end, where Jack told Hannah to get lost after inviting her to his house for a date, broke my heart. But I am glad that Hannah had second thoughts about what he said because if she didn’t, things would have ended differently.

The storyline with Hannah, her coworkers, and the fallout from her breakup was hilarious and sad. What upset me was not what her ex said to her (and it was a dick thing to say) but what her supposed best friend said. I liked how everything worked out in the end and how her ex ended up with no one (teaches him to be a jerk!!).

The storyline with Hannah, her coworkers, and the fallout from her breakup was hilarious and sad. What upset me was not what her ex said to her (and it was a dick thing to say) but what her supposed best friend said. I liked how everything worked out in the end and how her ex ended up with no one (teaches him to be a jerk!!).

The end of The Bodyguard had me almost in tears. The author wrapped up each storyline and did it in such a way that it made me smile. But I almost had a heart attack when Hannah and Jack’s storyline was wrapped up. What Hannah said made me go, “What the heck” for a minute before I read the following line. That was so not funny.

I would recommend The Bodyguard to anyone over 21. There is mild language, violence, and mild sexual situations.


If you enjoyed reading The Bodyguard, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: August 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Fiction, High Fantasy, LGBT, Science Fiction, Queer, Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | Better World Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two warriors shepherd an ancient god across a broken land to end the tyrannical reign of a royal family in this new epic fantasy from the author of The Vanished Birds.

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022—Tordotcom, BookPage, LitHub

The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.

But that god cannot be contained forever.

With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

Both a sweeping adventure story and an intimate exploration of identity, legacy, and belonging, The Spear Cuts Through Water is an ambitious and profound saga that will transport and transform you—and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.


First Line:

Before you arrive, you remember your lola, smoking.

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

When I first received the publisher’s request to review The Spear Cuts Through Water, I almost didn’t accept it. I had reviewed The Vanished Birds and “meh” about it. But when I read the blurb, it caught my interest, and I decided to give this book a chance. I am glad I did because this book was one of the most uniquely written books I have ever read. Oh, and I also really liked it.

The Spear Cuts Through Water had an exciting plotline. It follows the journey of Keema, a one-armed outcast, and Jun, grandson of the emperor, as they escort Jun’s goddess grandmother across the country. Jun and Keema face many dangers but discover strengths they didn’t know they had. There is also another storyline that is intertwined with Keema and Jun. That is the story of an unnamed man who finds himself in a place called the Inverted Theater after a lifetime of hardship. He is watching a play about Keema and Jun and their journey. Like me, he had questions about their journey. Will they complete their journey?

Usually, I will put a trigger and content warning at the end of my review. But, if I feel that the book’s content will immediately affect the reader or the triggers are horrible, I move it to the top of the review. The triggers in this book are a combination of both. If you are triggered by gore, genocide, ritual cannabilism, body horror, dismemberment, and ableism, do not read this book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a medium-paced book in a dystopian ancient Japan or China (I couldn’t figure out which one). The author uses a lot of Japanese and Chinese folklore as a base for the story. I loved it!! It made the book so much more enjoyable for me to read because I enjoy the folklore/mythology from those areas.

As I stated above, this was very uniquely written book. It was written in equal parts, 2nd person and 3rd person POVs. I can count on one hand how many books I have read in 2nd person. And I can count how many of those books I have liked on half of that hand. The author seamlessly switched between the 2nd and 3rd person without disrupting the book’s flow. I was surprised at how much I liked the way it was written. Now, saying that the way this book is written isn’t for everyone, and I would keep that in mind when starting it.

The main characters of The Spear Cuts Through Water were well-written. The author did a great job of fleshing them out and making me care about them (and their journey).

  • Keema—I liked him. There’s not much I can say about him other than that he was almost stupidly brave. I wouldn’t say I liked that he was looked down upon for only having one arm or that the other guards picked on him because of it. His journey with Keema was to find himself as much as it was to bring the Moon to her final destination.
  • Jun—So, he didn’t make the best first impression when he showed up in the book. But, as the book continued, I saw Jun’s character evolving. He started to care about Keema and what the Terrors were doing to the people during his journey. Heck, he even cared about the tortoise. By the end of the book, he has changed from the beginning.
  • Unknown Narrator—This is the person being told Jun and Keema’s story and their own life story. I felt terrible for this man. He had been through so much in life. He was amazed to find himself at the Inverted Theater, watching this story unfold. There was a more fantastic connection between Jun, Keema, and himself that was revealed at the end of the book. I didn’t see that twist coming!
  • The Three Terrors—I was going to make them secondary characters, but I got to thinking, and they each, in their way, were main characters. To me, they embodied the worst traits that society had. Jun’s father (the First Terror) was Violence. He participated in genocide in the Old World. He did love his sons, but that was his only redeeming quality. The Second Terror, to me, was Greed and Gluttony. In my eyes, he was the scariest Terror, mainly because of what he did to gain the powers of the tortoise. The Third Terror, I couldn’t place him in any group. He was a horror exiled from his family at a young age. I will not even get into what he was or what he did. But I did feel bad for him. The scene with the man in that dungeon was both gruesome and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • The Moon— I wasn’t sure about her. I understood why she wanted to leave (who would want to be held captive under a palace). But I wouldn’t say I liked how she coerced Jun and Keema to do what she wanted. She didn’t get to her destination, forcing Jun and Keema to do something atrocious, something I had heard of but had never seen written in a book before. She also held no love for her children. That bothered me more than anything, to be honest.

The Spear Cut Through Water did have a lot of notable secondary characters. I will not list them, but they all added extra depth to the book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water was listed as a fantasy novel. I agree, but it is more suited as a dark and epic fantasy. The author did a great job weaving the epic fantasy angle (the journey) and the dark fantasy angle (everything else). It made for a great read.

I also want to add that there is a romance and LGBTQ+ angle to this book also. Keema and Jun’s romance is cultivated throughout the entire book. There was so much given with a look between them. And the yearning, oh my, it was almost too much for me to bear.

The author amazingly wrote the main storyline with Keema, Jun, the Terrors, the Moon, and their journey. The author had me glued to the book, wanting to know more, and you know what? He gave it to me in spades. The author explained everything, and he tied everything together. The author left no loose ends with this plotline. There were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming.

The storylines with the unknown narrator and the Inverted Theater was well written. I didn’t get as invested as I did with the main storyline, but still, it drew me in. A twist in that storyline made me put my Kindle down. I needed a second to process what I had read because the twist was that unexpected and that good.

Several secondary storylines give some added background and depth to the main storylines. The author incorporated them into the main storyline without pausing the book’s flow.

The end of The Spear Cuts Through Water was not what I expected, but at the same time, I expected it, if that makes sense. I loved how the author ended the main storylines and how he merged them both.

Three reasons why you should read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

  1. The storylines.
  2. The characters.
  3. Jun and Keema’s slow-burn romance

Three reasons why you shouldn’t read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

  1. The triggers. I am usually pretty good with the number of triggers in the book, but even I got triggered by this book.
  2. The way it was written. Being told in 2nd and 3rd person isn’t most people’s cup of tea.
  3. The Terrors. They genuinely creeped me out.

If you enjoyed reading The Spear Cuts Through Water, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Art of Prophecy (The War Arts Saga: Book 1) by Wesley Chu

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of Publication: August 9th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Adult, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Literature, Asian Literature, Science Fiction Fantasy, Adult Fiction, Epic, Cultural, Asia

Series: The War Arts Saga

The Art of Prophecy—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

An epic fantasy ode to martial arts and magic—the story of a spoiled hero, an exacting grandmaster, and an immortal god-king from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lives of Tao.

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals.


First Line:

The line of broken soliders stretched out of the training pit and around the arena, spilling out onto the streets.

The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

I love long books, but only if they are well-written. I have read books (not this one, thankfully) that are well over 500 pages, and they ramble, but that is not the case with The Art of Prophecy. This book is 528 pages which kept me captivated to the very end.

The Art of Prophecy had an exciting plotline. Taishi, a grandmaster of marital arts who controls the element of wind, has arrived to evaluate Jian, who is prophesied to defeat the Eternal Khan. She finds a spoiled brat who can barely do martial arts or fight. When an ordinary soldier kills the Eternal Khan, Taishi finds herself doing the unexpected; saving Jian and hiding him away from people who want him dead. After a few months on the run, Taishi decides that Jian would be better hidden in plain sight and leaves him with another grandmaster. There, she hopes he will learn the discipline that he needs. But she also has an ulterior motive. Taishi will find the sect of monks who originally wrote the prophecy and see what it says. But it isn’t going to be easy for both Taishi or Jian. Jian has to deal with a school where people see him as a joke, and he cannot display any knowledge of fighting. If he does, his cover is broken. Taishi must stay one step ahead of the assassins sent to kill her. Add a morally gray character (Saliminde) whose only wish is to free her people and a psychotic bounty hunter (Qisami), and there is no telling what could happen. Can Jian stay hidden? Can Taishi find the monks and figure out the prophecy? Will Saliminde’s people be free? And will Qisami get her bounty?

As I stated in the opening paragraph, this is a long book. So, if you are going to read it, make sure you settle in for a while. Because I can guarantee you that once you start, you will not be able to put it down. That is a promise.

I loved that this book was set in an alternative (fantasy) China. The author did an excellent job of building up that world. It wasn’t an easy world to live in. It was violent, and the people lived under the constant threat of war. But, saying that, I would love to visit it!! The descriptions of blade dancing on the grass of the Grass Sea and its floating cities captivated me.

There are three (and, towards the end, four) main characters in The Art of Prophecy. They were all well-written and had their distinct personality. The characters are:

  • Taishi. I didn’t like her at first. She did come across as pompous and a little bit of a control freak. My dislike of her only lasted a short couple of chapters before I got glimpses into who the real Taishi was. That Taishi was a good person who wouldn’t let a child (who reminded her of her son) be killed. I also loved that she had a disability (she only could use one arm) and could still kick bad guys’ butts.
  • Jian. I felt terrible for Jian up to the middle of the book. He was the Champion of the Five Under Heaven. He was supposed to kill the Eternal Khan. Instead, the Khan was killed, and Jian ended up on the run with Taishi. It was a rude awakening for him. For the first time in his life, Jian had to work for things. By the middle of the book, I started to get aggravated with him. He kept having a “woe is me” mentality and was a jerk to the other kids at the school. By the time he and Taishi were reunited, he had grown out of that, and I got a good glimpse into the man he was going to be.
  • Saliminde. I liked her right from the beginning. She was The Viperstrike (head warrior) of the Great Khan’s army. Her weapon was one of the coolest ones I have ever seen described in a book. She was such a bad-a** that she decided she wouldn’t commit ritual suicide for the Eternal Khan. Instead, she was going to find the next Eternal Khan and free her people from slavery. She didn’t kill to kill; she had a code about it. By the end of the book, I couldn’t get enough of her scenes. That last fight scene with Taishi and Qisami was 100% epic.
  • Qisami. Ok, so I wasn’t a big fan of her when she was introduced halfway through the book. She was 100% psychotic, and the author made no qualms about it. She didn’t care who she killed (a 300-year-old drugged-out monk, for instance). She loved it. I found her constant talking in the fight scenes distracting. But, she did give both Saliminde and Taishi a run for their money, fightwise. Her ability to move through the shadows was terrific. By the end of the book, I still didn’t like her but understood her motivations for looking for Jian and Taishi.

There were many notable secondary characters in The Art of Prophecy. Each character added flair and depth to the book. I hope that some of the characters showcased at the end of The Art of Prophecy are made into more mainstream characters in the next book.

The Art of Prophecy also featured a fantastic fantasy storyline with action and adventure. I haven’t read a book that featured martial arts as prominently as this book did, and I still liked it. As for the fantasy, I couldn’t get enough of the world that the author had built up (if you can’t tell by me by fangirling this entire review).

As for the storylines, I LOVED them. There were some that I wished were expanded more upon (like Qisami’s origins) and some that I could have done without (the mapmaker), but they made the book.

The end of The Art of Prophecy was terrific. There was a truly epic fight scene where I did think one of the main characters had died. The author did not end any of the plotlines. Instead, he added to them during the last scenes of the book. Talk about making me want to read the second one!!!

Three reasons why you should read The Art of Prophecy:

  • Amazing characters and storyline
  • Martial Arts!!!
  • Great world building

Three reasons why you should not read The Art of Prophecy:

  • The book was super long (528 pages)
  • A lot of graphic violence
  • Some storylines could have been shortened or omitted.

If you enjoyed The Art of Prophecy, you will enjoy these books:

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: May 5th, 2020

Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Mystery, Romance, Contemporary, Adult, Adult Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Indigo | Indigo | Kobo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.


First Line:

By the second week of September, the outer Cape was practically deserted.

Big Summer by Jennifier Weiner

I was excited when I saw that Jennifer Weiner had a new book. I had read Mrs. Everything and enjoyed it. I figured Big Summer would be just as good as Mrs. Everything, and guess what? I was right!! Big Summer was a perfect mix of mystery, thriller, and romance.

Big Summer had an interesting storyline. Daphne is an up-and-coming social influencer who has overcome body image/weight issues in high school/college. She is surprised when her ex-best friend, socialite Dru Cavanaugh, asks her to be in her wedding. Ask is not the correct word. Dru begs Daphne to come and offers to pay her. When Daphne agrees, she is immediately thrust back into the role of Dru’s best friend. But things aren’t what they seem with Dru. As the wedding draws closer, Daphne starts to see cracks in Dru’s flawless veneer. And when a murder happens the night before the wedding, Daphne is considered one of the main suspects. Can Daphne find the murderer and prove her innocence?

I liked Daphne, but she got on my nerves during the book. I liked that she had risen above the bullying and comments about her weight and turned it into something positive. But I wouldn’t say I liked that when Dru came back into her life, she immediately fell back into her old role as a sidekick. It made all that progress that she had made go down the drain. Daphne was also blind about Dru. I saw that Dru had something else up her sleeve when she begged Daphne to be in her wedding. It took Daphne until the wedding to realize that maybe Dru was using her again. Other than her willful blindness, I enjoyed Daphne’s character. She was positive, down to earth, and she knew she had come a long way from the girl she used to be.

I was not too fond of Dru as an adult and despised her as a tween/teenager. Let’s talk about Dru as a teenager first. Ever see the movie Mean Girls? She reminded me of Regina (the head of the group, The Plastics). She treated her friends, Daphne mostly, horribly. She would take pictures of kids and post them to an online burn book. She would alternately be all over Daphne or treat her like crap; there was no in-between. I did feel a little bad for her when the author revealed that her home life sucked and that she envied Daphne for her relationship with her parents. But still, it didn’t excuse what she did. Posting that video of Daphne freaking out at the club was unacceptable. Adult Dru was just as bad in my eyes. She used people to further her brand and didn’t care if it hurt them or the ones they loved. Dru was an actress who knew how to reel people in and get them to do what she wanted. She used even her ex-boyfriend (the one that Daphne found).

There are several triggers that I need to let you know about before continuing with the review. The author tackled issues such as fat shaming, online bullying, self-esteem, and body positivity in this book. The author doesn’t hold back regarding Dru’s treatment of Daphne or the video that resulted. It was raw and authentic, and unfortunately, keyboard warriors still think it’s ok to comment/make fun of another person’s weight. If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

The main storyline, Daphne being in Dru’s wedding and the backstory of their friendship, was well written. I could see why Daphne was so taken by Dru. She was a new girl in a new school and had no friends. I also could see how Dru kept stringing Daphne along until college. When she showed up at Daphne’s nannying job and begged her to be in her wedding, I was shocked by how ballsy Dru was. And I wasn’t surprised with how that storyline ended up. What did surprise me was Daphne’s dedication to finding who and why. At that point, I would have washed my hands of everything.

The storylines with the mystery woman and the little boy were left in the air for 75% of the book. It wasn’t until Daphne was in the Cape for Dru’s wedding that the storyline got rolling again. Once it was revealed who the little boy was and how the police handled the case, I felt awful for everyone involved. I also didn’t blame the officer for telling Daphne what he did. That was the one case he couldn’t solve, and he wasn’t going to allow a 2nd case to go cold either.

The storyline with the murder didn’t start until halfway through the book. I was gut-punched at who the murder victim was and how that person died. Daphne’s reaction was typical, but I loved how she got herself together and decided to investigate the case. Being the main person of interest did have something to do with it. I was shocked at who the murderer was and was sad about the motive. That was a twist in that plotline that I didn’t see coming, and the reason was awful.

There is a romance angle that I wasn’t a big fan of. I was thrilled that Daphne hooked up with someone who liked her for who she was. But that person ghosted her after their night together. Not a great way to start a relationship. Also, figure in Instalove. Daphne was head over heels for this guy, and she didn’t even know who he was!!

The end of Big Summer felt a little rushed, but the author did a fantastic job with the reveal of the killer. She also tied up the remaining storylines and gave them all great endings.

I would recommend Big Summer to anyone over 21. There is moderate language, moderate violence, and some explicit sex scenes. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph above.


If you enjoyed Big Summer, you will enjoy reading these books: