Book Review: The Work Wife

The Work Wife
By: Alison B. Hart
Genres: LGBTQ Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publication Date: July 19, 2022
Format: E-ARC via NetGalley

Synopsis from NetGalley

Three fierce women connected to a billionaire film mogul collide at a Hollywood party in this richly observed novel about female ambition, complicity, and privilege.

Zanne Klein never planned to be a personal assistant to Hollywood royalty Ted and Holly Stabler. But a decade in at thirty-eight, that’s exactly how she spends her days, earning six figures to make sure the movie mogul and his family have everything they could ever dream of and more.

However, today is no ordinary day at the Stabler estate. Tonight, everyone who’s anyone will be there for the Hollywood event of the season, and if the party’s a success, that chief of staff job Zanne’s been chasing may soon be hers. Which means she can buy a house, give her girlfriend the life she deserves, pay off her student loans.

Nothing’s going to get in Zanne’s way—not disgruntled staff, not a nosy reporter, not even a runaway hostess. But when Ted’s former business partner, Phoebe Lee, unexpectedly shows up right before go time, Zanne suddenly has a catastrophe unfolding before her—one with explosive consequences. As the truth comes out and Zanne realizes how deeply entangled she’s become in the Stablers’ world, she must decide if the sacrifices she’s made for the job are worth the moral price she has to pay.


Review

The Work Wife is a queer contemporary lit fic told from three POVs from three different women each connected to an eccentric film maker, Ted Stabler. This book’s main event takes place in one day, at Ted’s party, with plenty of reminiscing and flashbacks with each woman’s POV.

This book did take me a while to get into, but once I did, I was hooked. Keep in mind I read an advanced reader copy (ARC) so it’s possible what I read is not the final published piece. I say this as there are a lot of sections I would have cut entirely or shortened.

At times, a lot of the event planning details got overwhelming and I just skimmed through those. And my biggest “meh” factor was the Hollywood name droppings of celebrities. I know, I know, this is set in Hollywood, but I kind of wish it was a Hollywood adjacent world because my eyes started to glaze over with all the directors and writers and producers that I don’t know. (If you are a Hollywood buff and know the culture and names, you will probably love those bits!)

Now onto the POVs.

Zanne, our sapphic queer, is a almost forty year old who is in line for a promotion. Her POV is very go-go-go, checklists, wonderings, and always thoughts for moving in and moving up with her much younger girlfriend. She begins to find her loyalty tested once Ted’s past comes face to face with her in a random meeting.

Holly, our rags to riches hostess, is a bucket of anxiety and host of insecurity that she tries desperately to mask, which really ramps up as her POV continues once many thing are revealed about her husband Ted’s past.

Phoebe, our sidelined director/writer, is dealing with a lot. Her POV is probably my favorite even if it’s the most difficult to read. The racism and sexism as a Korean woman in Hollywood, her creative loss she expulsion, her secret marriage and divorce from Ted, her trying to move on and then finally tell her story. It’s a lot.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am glad I read it. While the first half of it was slow going for me and easy to put down, once I hit about the 60% mark I read through the rest of it in one night. The tension, the confronting the past, and putting yourself back into the world amid much Hollywood politics was so captivating to read.

If you like queer contemporary fiction with a heavy dose of Hollywood being horrible and watching it through the lens of three different women, I do recommend getting your hands on The Work Wife.

Flash Fic: Waiting for the Storm

Photo by Adi Constantin on Unsplash


I should get off the roof before the storm comes in.

But my legs won’t work, won’t let me get up. My eyes won’t pull away from the taxi departure station below. Even though he’s already gone back north. Away from the city, the chaos, away from me.

How did he put it? This pace suits you, Ro. You’re always moving, always ready for the next best thing. But I’m tired of waiting for you to come back.

Funny isn’t it? Now I’m the one waiting, stuck, waiting for him to come back.

A minute later, I feel the first rain drop.

(Mostly) Unedited, Unfiltered: What’s The Mood?

Do y’all ever get hit with such a MOOD read that you abandon all current reads and plow through three different ones?

That was me this past weekend. I’ve been reading Meet Me in the Margins (a You’ve Got Mail inspired novel set in the publishing world), The Work Wife (a queer contemporary #MeToo heavy novel set in Hollywood), and The Only Good Indians (a horror novel set around four Indigenous men).

All of those books are great, to be very clear. But then I finished Wonderland (a thriller novel set at a theme park/small town) and I needed something to pull me out of that world. It was so good, so twisty, and intense as fuck. So I needed something to let my brain go.

So, I read a motorcycle club romance and two monster erotica*. Fallen angels, specifically. Because apparently that is my thing right now. I’m not mad about, just highly amused.

*If y’all have not read the Creature Café series by Clio Evans and queer monster erotica with a ton of dark kink is your thing, go immediately. The last book comes out in ONE WEEK!

Anyhoo, please share with me the mood reads that come for you! I want to know.

Until next time,
-A

Book Review: Vengeance Becomes Her

Vengeance Becomes Her
By: Alexis C. Maness
Genres: Dark Fantasy Romance
Publication Date: July 7, 2022
Format: E-ARC via Alexis

Synopsis from GoodReads:

He will regret awakening the monster within me.

Cast against a shadowed low fantasy world, this tale of feminine rage, dark magic, and desire follows Rhiannon in her bloody pursuit of vengeance.

Death came for Rhiannon disguised as love. She survived, barely. Now, she will do anything to get her revenge and finally claw her way back to herself. But the forces against her are greater and more sinister than one man, and she’s not the only one in danger.

Fear for the women of Larindia and beyond propels Rhiannon down an increasingly dangerous path that illuminates an insidious evil that has lurked in the shadows of her world as she seeks to stop the man who took everything from her. She will get her retribution, but will her thirst for blood destroy her in the process?

Please read full list of Content Warnings here.


Review

Vengeance Becomes Her is a dark fantasy romance that takes the “fuck the patriarchy” and revenge trope to a brilliantly done extreme. Alexis C. Maness writes incredible Big Babes & Badassery, aka, gorgeously fat, morally grey characters.

Part of me still doesn’t actually know what to write for a review. I am just still in awe and processing this world, these characters, these relationships, THE ENDING! I will warn the most WHAAA of cliffhangers. So so worth it though.

Rhiannon and Tristian both are swoon worthy and I have a crush on both of them. So much so, that I want to shake them when they are being ridiculous, Rhiannon more so (FOR VALID REASONS). I adore every scene they are together, every intimate scene, every fight scene, every spicy scene. These two know how to bring the heat. Maness is exceptional at writing shifting power dynamics in sex scenes. I love love love watching them both be the dominant one and then in the next breath decide when they want or need to submit.

And Silas. I don’t know what to say about Silas. He’s not a redeemable villain by any means, and I appreciate that being done! I love me a redeemable villain, but sometimes villains are just the worst. And that’s okay!

The revenge journey is so well done, so hard to read at times because I just want to hug Rhiannon and wish hugs were enough. But that is the beauty of this book. People heal and grieve differently. I cannot wait to see where Maness takes this in the sequel. I honestly don’t even know what I am expecting or what I want to happen. I’m just ready for it.

If you like gorgeous, swoony worthy stabby babes, angsty romance, hot as fuck sex scenes, and revenge stories, Vengeance Becomes Her should be on your list immediately.

Book Review: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons
By: Kate Khavari
Genres: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Publication Date: July 7, 2022
Format: E-ARC via NetGalley

Synopsis from NetGalley:

Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast paced, fearless adventure. 

London, 1923. 

Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin. 

Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself. 

Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons.

Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list? 


Review

Thank you to Kate Khavari, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGally for a free e-arc in exchange for a honest review.

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons is a historical cozy mystery with a dash of romance set in London 1920s. I absolutely applaud and adored the plethora of botany descriptions and found myself Googling to get an idea of all of the plants.

While this book took me about five or so chapters to really get into, but once I got into it, I was pretty hooked. There were too many characters introduced in the first chapter at the dinner party that I couldn’t keep them straight. Eventually they all separated into their own characters as the story went on.

Saffron is a brilliant botanist dedicated to her mentor and I love seeing a genuine sweet relationship between mentor and apprentice. I do wish we would have had more interaction with them, though. Alexander is a war veteran, semi grumpy love interest, but first and foremost an ally and friend to Saffron to help her clear her mentor’s name from murder charges.

The mystery itself was quite twisty in the end and I enjoyed seeing it all wrap up, even if it was very different from where I thought it was going. This might be a book that I reread to see if I can spot any clues or foreshadowing that I missed the first time around.

Lastly, I can’t tell if this is set up to be a series or not, but would read a sequel if there is one. If you like slow burn mystery and romance with a splash of dark academia vibes, much plant descriptions, then I would recommend this one.

(Mostly) Unedited, Unfiltered: It’s All Rubbish

Trying to keep to a schedule is rubbish. Trying to do accomplish anything without a schedule is also rubbish.

Thank you, ADHD, you’re the worst.

I don’t normally post here on Mondays, but my brain wanted to write something, share something. Even though at this point it’s post coffee rambles and rambling around a topic – schedules.

Tomorrow I have a book review scheduled for a book that came out a month ago. I had a flash fic scheduled for Thursday, but then decided it was too depressing and put it back in my drafts. And now I’m writing this.

I know there is no magic formula to beat the social media algorithms, but maybe if I keep changing it up, I can sneak around it. But probably not. Still trying not to compare myself to my good month. But alas.

Now it’s time for second cup of coffee.

Until next time,
-A

June Wrap Up

Y’all, Texas allergies hit different. I am currently drinking hot coffee to sooth my throat. I wasn’t able to sleep because it was too swollen. My mom had to buy some more allergy meds for me. Whew. I hate Texas allergies.

Sometimes it catches me off guard how differently month to month goes. For reading, mental health, physical health, priorities, energy, etc. and I don’t hate it. I love change (even if my anxiety doesn’t) and I love being able to start again. I feel like mid year is a good time to set some things down and pick some new ones up.

Now, on to our wrap up!

Books Read

  • The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes (Kit Webb #2) by Cat Sebastian
  • The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
  • Unhinged (Necessary Evils #1) by Onley James
  • They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe
  • Psycho (Necessary Evils #2) by Onley James
  • A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari

Posts Written

Currently

Thinking about how I contain multitudes, contradictions, and am so very human

Drinking coffee with honey and unsweetened almond milk out of my They/Them mug

Listening to my two oldest niblings play with my mom and stepdad

Daydreaming about moving to Ireland or New Zealand

Admiring my mom’s office set up with my old desk

Lastly

I realize I forgot to do a Mini Read for the month, but since I read mostly NetGalley books (which have their own posts), I don’t feel too bad about it since those get their own posts. If you don’t already, you can add me as a friend or follow me on GoodReads and StoryGraph to keep up with my reviews that way too.

Next month, I plan on switching up how I do reviews anyways. I think I’m going to do more mini reviews for NetGalley and make a monthly wrap up for my ARCs and then focus on long reviews for my queer indie authors. I also want to go back to posting my Instagram story reviews more which I have been falling behind on.

We shall see! Y’all know I love to change things up.

Until next time,
-A

Book Review: They Drown Our Daughters

They Drown Our Daughters
By: Katrina Monroe
Genres: Gothic Mystery/Thriller
Publication Date: July 7, 2022
Format: E-ARC via NetGalley

Synopsis from GoodReads:

If you can hear the call of the water,
It’s already far too late.

They say Cape Disappointment is haunted. That’s why tourists used to flock there in droves. They’d visit the rocky shoreline under the old lighthouse’s watchful eye and fish shells from the water as they pretended to spot dark shapes in the surf. Now the tourists are long gone, and when Meredith Strand and her young daughter return to Meredith’s childhood home after an acrimonious split from her wife, the Cape seems more haunted by regret than any malevolent force.

But her mother, suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s, is convinced the ghost stories are real. Not only is there something in the water, but it’s watching them. Waiting for them. Reaching out to Meredith’s daughter the way it has to every woman in their line for generations-and if Meredith isn’t careful, all three women, bound by blood and heartbreak, will be lost one by one to the ocean’s mournful call.

Part modern gothic, part ghost story, They Drown Our Daughters explores the depths of motherhood, identity, and the lengths a woman will go to hold on to both.


Review

Thank you to Katrina Monroe, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for this free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

They Drown Our Daughters is the contemporary Gothic horror book I didn’t know I was craving. Set in a small town, featuring a lighthouse, a family curse, and dysfunctional mother daughter relationships, I tore through this book in two days.

There is something about “going back home” that has always appealed to me horror novels. The facing of disappointing and sometimes frightening legacies, the layered unraveling of mental health and paranormal experiences, I devour it every single time.

Meredith and her daugher, Alice, have such a special place in my heart now. Meredith and her mother Judith, Judith and her mother Diana, Diana and her mother Bethany, Bethany and her mother Grace, Grace and her mother Regina; Regina, the one who started it all. Each of these women were so hurt and desperate, it was such a journey to witness.

This book is told in multiple timelines. Mostly present day, and then we get snippets of mother daughter relationships along the entire maternal line of the Strands. Monroe does a wonderful job and creating these characters with such compassion and heartbreak, I wanted to huge them all so badly.

The ending, which I won’t spoil, is what got me to tears. The absolute heartache I felt and relief and understanding. I just was in awe.

If you like contemporary Gothic horror mysteries, wrestling with what it means to be a mother, a daughter, and how to survive a legacy of hurt, this book should be on your must read now list.

(Mostly) Unedited, Unfiltered: Anxious Traveler

Pre-travel jitters are the worst.

Mine usually start a week before I am due to leave and the day before they ramp up so much. So today, I feel like I am trying to run out of my own body.

Hmmm….Is this coffee a good idea right now? No, probably not. But it’s a must.

Tomorrow on the drive to the airport I’ll be able to take some meds to get me through my flight, fingers crossed there is not too much of a delay. I am expecting one, but hopefully it’s not drastic.

Now, which books will I take with me? Obviously my Kindle will come with, but I do still have a few spaces left for my physical books. OR. Do I wait to buy books at the bookstore?

Until next time,
-A

Book Review: The Woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library
By: Sulari Gentill
Genres: Mystery/Thriller
Publication Date: June 7, 2022
Format: E-ARC via NetGalley

Synopsis from GoodReads:

In every person’s story, there is something to hide…

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.


Review

Thank you to Sulari Gentill, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for this free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

The Woman in the Library is one of the most unique mysteries I’ve read in a long time. The story opens with a murder in the Boston Public Library, a woman’s scream is heard, and four strangers are thrown together, each with their secrets that slowing become revealed.

The unique twist that had me thoroughly engaged, is that story is in fact a mystery being written by an author named Hannah. Each chapter ends with manuscript feedback from a fan/beta reader named Leo. It creates a unique perspective on writing and watching a murder mystery unravel. As the story goes on, the feedback gets progressively more pointed, obsessive, and off-putting.

I completely enjoyed this book, the written mystery following Freddie, an Australian author in Boston on scholarship; Marigold, a tattooed attractive psych student; Whit, a charming student trying to get out of grad school; and Cain, a handsome author with a dark past; and also Leo, Hannah’s fan/beta reader who just utterly baffles. Not to mention the brilliant banter, dark humor, and character relationships by Gentill is just wonderful.

If you like unique, twisty mysteries with layered plots and semi unreliable characters, I highly encourage you to add this to your list immediately.