A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons is a slowly-paced historical mystery.

Synopsis

Set in 1923 at the University College of London, where Saffron Everleigh is attending a dinner party when Mrs. Henry, a professor’s wife, suddenly collapses. The police begin an investigation, which soon reveals that someone poisoned Mrs. Henry. Further investigation leads them to believe that Saffron’s mentor Dr. Maxwell is the primary suspect.

Saffron refuses to believe that Dr. Maxwell could have committed such an act. And thus, she commences her own amateur investigation, determined to uncover the actual culprit. Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, finds himself joining her case.

The university was supposed to embark on an expedition to the Amazon in a few weeks’ time, but with the poisoning, things remain uncertain.

Review of A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

This cozy mystery alternates perspectives between Saffron and Alexander. Aside from the central plot, it explores PTSD, women working in a male-dominated field, and sexual harassment in the workplace.

I wasn’t a fan of the casual racism that appeared a couple of times in this story and went unchecked. In the context of this story, it doesn’t surprise me, but the fact that it’s just there without any discussion around it offends.

Overlooking that, the story itself didn’t hold my interest and the romance felt forced.

There were a few things that I did enjoy: Saffron’s research of poisonous plants and her best friend, who was supportive but also gave her much-needed reality checks. Also, the ending was quite satisfying as the pieces started coming together.

Other reviewers have enjoyed this much more than I did, so be sure to check those out.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 07 June 2022

Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty is a contemporary romance with characters trying to process their trauma.

Synopsis

Five years after the death of her husband, Feyi Adekola wants to try dating again. Her roommate and best friend Joy is equally excited for Feyi to get back out there.

One day at a rooftop party, Feyi skips the dating part and leaps right into a steamy encounter with a handsome stranger. Over the summer, Feyi’s decision to start living again will shape her life in ways she never dreamed was possible for her again. From spicy sessions to finding new love. From her brownstone apartment and work as an artist to a tropical island with huge career opportunities. Although it’s not an easy switch for Feyi, she’ll have to work through her emotions, trauma, and grief.

Review of You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty

This romance novel solely focuses on Feyi’s POV. The writing style flows smoothly, making this a fairly quick read. However, it does delve into some fairly heavy topics.

It has themes of life, death, sexuality, art, pleasure, grief, and joy.

This is the kind of romance that I generally prefer: contemporary and character-driven. It’s very spicy, but there’s more to the story than just that.

The plot took an unexpected and immediate turn, romance-wise. I don’t have an opinion on the nature of the relationship, except that it happened fast, incredibly so.

This novel is the third that I’ve read by Akwaeke Emezi, and though they have all been in different genres (literary fiction, memoir, romance), I have enjoyed them all. At this point, Emezi is an auto-read author for me. They can write anything, and I will gobble it up.

So, I recommend this if you want a spicy beach read with emotional depth.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 24 May 2022

Thank you to Atria Books for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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For past reviews, click here.

Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Never Coming Home will have you rooting for the bad guy.

Synopsis

To outward appearances, Lucas Forester looks like the grieving husband he should be. His wife went missing nearly a month ago, and since then, it appears he hasn’t been able to eat or sleep.

However, when he’s in the comfort of his own home, Lucas is pleased with his public performance. Now, he merely needs to wait until he receives his wife’s inheritance upon her declaration of death.

He’s spent years meticulously planning how to remove his beautiful and ultra-wealthy wife from the picture. He’s covered all his tracks and now only has to keep playing his part.

But soon, Lucas begins second-guessing everything when he starts receiving ominous messages implying that someone knows what he did. And things start spiralling out of control for Lucas from there.

Review of Never Coming Home

This psychological thriller solely follows Lucas’ POV. His character is very intriguing. Of course, his actions automatically make him an unlikeable character, but his motivations, while not justified, are somewhat understandable. Even though he’s awful, you sometimes root for him anyway.

Toward the end of the publisher’s blurb, there is a clue signalling how this story will go down. So, the big reveal wasn’t exactly a surprise for me. I would recommend not reading the blurb in full.

The plot veered to the unbelievable side after the midpoint, which wouldn’t usually detract from my enjoyment, but it was a bit much after a while. It started to feel more like an action movie at a certain point. However, I did like the open-ended conclusion.

Overall, this was a fun read, and I will keep an eye out for future books by this author.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 24 May 2022

Thank you to MIRA for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

If you have not read Children of Earth and Sky or A Brightness Long Ago, I’d recommend reading at least one of those before starting All the Seas of the World. I read A Brightness Long Ago a few years ago but forgot most of it, so I was a bit lost at the beginning of this book. This latest publication focuses on some characters and events from those previous books.

Brief Synopsis

It is three years after the events of A Brightness Long Ago, and two powerful brothers have hired Nadia and Rafel to assassinate a khalif in a bid for power. Though their mission is successful, an unexpected turn of events completely changes these two merchants’ lives in ways they never dreamed.

The rest of the narrative follows these characters and several others in this richly detailed historical fantasy. There are many religious and geo-political factors that these characters must navigate.

Review of All the Seas of the World

It takes place in something close to Renaissance Italy. But it leans more toward historical fiction than it does as fantasy. The fantasy element is more of a whisper than anything else.

This book held my attention in stops and starts. There is a ton of info-dumping at the beginning that outlines the different religious groups and why they are at odds with each other. I found the pages in between the beginning and the end were the most compelling. The ending dragged quite a bit.

There are themes of exile, religion, identity, and memories.

While the writing style is beautiful and elegant, it is quite dense and requires a lot of focus. The POVs change abruptly, almost exclusively in the middle of a chapter.

I would absolutely recommend reading a Guy Gavriel Kay book, but maybe not this one until you’ve read the ones mentioned above.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 24 May 2022

Thank you to Viking for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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For past reviews, click here.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah is an epic start to a trilogy inspired by One Thousand and One Nights.

Synopsis

Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, began illegally hunting and selling ancient relics after losing her family. With the help of her jinn bodyguard, Qadir, she has built up her reputation on the black market selling these sought-after relics.

In the city of Madinne, the sultan has decreed that jinn be hunted and killed for their blood and relics. There is one relic, a legendary magical lamp, that the king has coveted for some time. Since his Forty Thieves have been unable to locate it, he blackmails Loulie into searching for it with the assistance of one of his sons.

Together, a jinn killing member of the Forty Thieves, a prince, a jinn in disguise, and the Midnight Merchant set out to find this powerful lamp. Nothing will come easy for this unlikely group. They’ll face countless obstacles and betrayals long before the end of their journey is in sight.

Review of The Stardust Thief

This Arab-inspired fantasy alternates between three perspectives. The writing style is very captivating and held my attention all the way through. The setting and the world-building are so vibrant, and the descriptions of food are so scrumptious.

The beginning was a tad slow, but the rest was evenly paced, balanced between quieter and action-packed scenes. All of the characters grew on me, especially Qadir and Aisha.

I liked that the characters had to work for everything; they didn’t just instinctively know what to do; they had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. It kept things realistic (as realistic as a fantasy novel can be).

The ending left off on a major cliffhanger. I cannot wait to see how the world expands in the next instalment.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 17 May 2022

Thank you to Orbit Books for providing an arc via Netgalley and a physical copy in exchange for an honest review.

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For past reviews, click here.

On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass

On the surface, it might seem like the residents of Brighton Hills, an exclusive gated community, live On a Quiet Street, but look again, and there is a strong undercurrent of tension.

Synopsis

Several months ago, Paige’s son died in a hit-and-run, and the police have yet to find a suspect. In her grief, Paige has pushed away her husband and begun spying on her neighbours, desperate to find the person responsible for her son’s death.

Meanwhile, Cora is sure her husband is having an affair, even though he adamantly denies it. Cora elicits Paige’s sleuthing skills to try to catch her husband in the act.

Then there is the reclusive Georgia, who remains a mystery to everyone in the community.

Review of On a Quiet Street

This domestic suspense (dramedy?) is evenly paced and alternates perspectives between Paige, Cora, and Georgia.

On the first page, the narrator states that the people in this exclusive community are too beige and plastic to be that interesting, but that something is brewing beneath the polished surface. While reading this domestic suspense, I really tried to keep this in mind because the characters did not give a great first impression. Then the first reveal came along, and it completely changed everything and had me reframing everything up to that point.

These women have all the gall, wealth, and privilege that allows them to do what they want with sometimes ludicrous results. Yet, I was still rooting for each of them.

Except for one glaring issue, it was a refreshing change reading about these women’s friendship and the lengths they would go to in order to support each other.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 17 May 2022

Thank you to Graydon House for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

Every Summer After is full of angst and yearning and characters not easily forgotten.

Synopsis

After a night out in the city, Persephone Fraser receives a call that prompts her to return to Barry’s Bay, where she and her family used to spend every summer. Almost immediately, she runs into Sam Florek, her ex, her first love, the man she is still not over.

Persephone, or Percy, her former nickname, first met Sam at the cottage when they were thirteen years old. For six years, they spent every summer and holiday together; they were inseparable. They spent their days swimming in the lake, running, working, and doing everything together. Over the years, their friendship evolved into something more, and they began looking toward their future together. That is until something happened, and their relationship entirely fell apart.

Review of Every Summer After

This coming-of-age/second-chance romance has dual timelines, which are equally compelling. It is very much a character-driven story.

This book was so close to a five-star read. I don’t read many romance novels, but this one was thoroughly unputdownable. And when I had to set it down, I could not wait to get back to it. The first few chapters that outlined Percy’s present lifestyle didn’t interest me much. But, when she returned to Barry’s Bay, the chemistry between the two was unmatched. The author perfectly captured hot summer days spent at the lake.

My only criticism would be that the ending wrapped up slightly too perfectly and felt rushed.

Even if romance isn’t your go-to genre, I would still recommend this if you enjoy character-focused stories. At the time of writing this review, I finished reading this book several days ago, and I’m still swooning over Sam and Percy.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 10 May 2022

Thank you to Viking for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew

Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew is when small slights turn into larger issues.

Synopsis

Liv, her husband and daughter, plus three other families, are excited to commence their three-week vacation in Greece. Dubbed the “Liv and Pete Comeback Tour” by their friend Ange, the couple hopes this holiday will be the reset they desperately want.

Despite Ange being the newest friend to the group, she has become the ring leader, with everyone doing the most to please her. Initially, Liv was able to ignore the polite little jabs that Ange threw at her, but slowly they have become more difficult to brush off.

Liv wants her friend group to return to simpler times before they all met Ange. The only problem is that everyone is still under Ange’s thrall. Liv has never had close friends before, so she’s hesitant to let these women go.

Review of Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew

I don’t think I would label this as a thriller. It’s more of a domestic drama with a few thriller elements near the end. The timeline alternates between the past and present.

I nearly DNF’d this multiple times. There are many characters, and most of them are unlikeable. The women come across as entitled, judgemental, and the queens of petty. And most of the men are classic dudebros. Ange and Liv were the most well-developed characters. The rest were rather bland.

Overall, I am glad that I finished it because the ending picked up and was quite thrilling.

I recommend if you enjoy slowly paced domestic dramas with some suspense.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 21 June 2022

Thank you to Raven Books for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

Just Like Mother delivers on all the creepy vibes oozing from its cover.

Synopsis

Since she escaped from the cult she grew up in, Maeve has built a fortress of walls around her. One of the only people she lets marginally close is her casual boyfriend.

Maeve’s quiet life gets disrupted when her long lost cousin Andrea, who grew up in the same cult, contacts her. Maeve learns that Andrea has made a successful career for herself in the lifestyle and tech industry. Soon, Maeve spends most of her time at Andrea and her husband’s historic estate, despite the general disapproval of Maeve’s single life from Andrea’s inner circle.

I can’t say much more than that, except things start getting super creepy and snowballing out of control for Maeve.

Review of Just Like Mother

Suspension of disbelief is a must when reading this book. The plot gets pretty wild and makes one wonder how someone can be so oblivious. Generally, I don’t mind books that lean toward the dramatic side, so it didn’t take away from enjoyment of this novel.

The writing style is very engaging, making this a quick read. Maeve’s voice instantly captured my attention.

Also, a heads-up that this book has a lot of spice and open-door scenes.

Overall, I had fun with this one and will definitely read future books by the author.

As a total aside: this book reminds me of Cher’s iconic 90s interview.

Jane Pauley: “You said, ‘a man is not a necessity. A man is a luxury.’”
Cher: “Like dessert, yeah. A man is absolutely not a necessity.”
Jane Pauley: “Did you mean that to sound mean and bitter?”
Cher: “Not at all! I adore dessert, I love men. I think men are the coolest. But you don’t really need them to live. My mom said to me, ‘you know sweetheart, one day you should settle down and marry a rich man.’ And I said, ‘Mom – I am a rich man.’”

CW: for everything associated with cults.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 17 May 2022

Thank you to Tor Nightfire for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum

Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum is a sci-fi time travel novel centred around the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Synopsis

1986: Anna Berkova, an esteemed nuclear scientist, is asleep in her bed when she suddenly time travels to the exact moment of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Somehow, she has travelled to the future where she meets her estranged daughter Manya, shot in the chest, begging Anna to save her daughter Raisa.

Philadelphia in the 1960s: adopted Manya, now called Molly, lives with her grandparents. Recently, Molly started writing a comic book series titled Atomic Anna. It’s her dream for it to be published. But her life takes a turn when she meets and falls in love with Viktor, a charming but toxic man.

Philadelphia in the 1980s: Raisa is a self-taught math prodigy living with her grandparents. She’s a bit of a loner until she meets her neighbour Daniel. Raisa grew up reading Atomic Anna, and oddly, new editions have been cropping up and seem to be asking for her help.

Review of Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum

This sci-fi novel follows the lives of these three women. The plot’s pace is even, although the timeline skips around quite a bit.

Atomic Anna tackles the phrase “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” It explores the risks of producing nuclear weapons. It asks whether it’s possible for a weapon to be created but not used and who controls it.

I am happy I read this, as science fiction is not a genre I read often. And I am far from a science buff, but the author did a great job explaining everything in simple terms.

So, I would recommend Atomic Anna if you want a story that blends sci-fi, historical fiction, and thriller.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Now Available.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy to review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.