Secret lives by Mark de Castrique (Thriller / Mystery)

Writing: 3/5 story: 4/5 characters: 3/5

75-year old Ethel Crestwater runs a boarding house for government agents and has the heads of the FBI and Secret Service on speed-dial. When one of her boarders is killed and a bag full of counterfeit money is found in his room, Ethel and her double-first-cousin-twice-removed take matters into their own hands staying just a step or two ahead of several agencies and agents who all have their own agendas and possibly something to hide.

This was entertaining and had some (obviously) quirky characters that I enjoyed. I know very little about how the FBI and Secret Service work but I can’t say I found this depiction in any way believable. Some clever hiding places and just the right amount of background information on cryptocurrency.

Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on October 11th, 2022.

Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman (Fiction)

Writing: 4.5/5 Characters: 5/5 Plot: 4/5

A light and fun novel that allows us to inhabit a happy, kooky world full of lovable characters with more intellectual curiosity than I typically expect in this genre.

Laura Costello has abruptly moved cross-country to study physical therapy much to the dismay of her academically-oriented family and charming but domineering ex-fiancee. Within days of her arrival, her apartment house has burned down along with all of her belongings. Luckily for her, as an uncharacteristic downpour converts her to utter bedraggledom, she wanders into Nina Hill’s bookstore (the star of the utterly delightful The Bookish Life of Nina Hill) and things take a sudden turn into the neighborhood of charm, quirk, and delight.

I love Waxman’s writing — it’s simultaneously funny and thoughtful. While none of the story is particularly realistic, it also isn’t stupid — it creates a world I’d like to inhabit even if I don’t ever expect to do so. In addition to the plot (which is engaging), there are lots of interesting descriptions of various fields of study from the perspective of someone who really knows and cares about it. For example, I loved the descriptions of the human body and what it does mechanically during every day activities.

The setting of Larchmont Village (a real LA neighborhood that sounds like a place I’d like to visit) along with a lovely boarding house run by an even lovelier landlady reminds me a bit of Maupin’s Tales of the City books, albeit with a little less focus on sexual experimentation and discovery.

Some fun quotes:
“What had been tobacco and paper was now dog vomit, and Herbert was sitting under the kitchen table regretting his life choices.”

“Anything’s interesting when it’s explained by someone who cares about it.”

“I’ve learned recently that my mind isn’t the safest neighborhood to go into alone.”

“Laura looked at the cat. The cat looked at her. Neither of them said anything, Laura because she didn’t speak cat and the cat because she was mentally composing a letter to her senator.”

“Ferdinand was no longer pregnant, but she was still built along capacious lines.” (bookstore cat)

“Anxiety lives in the unknown future, depression lives in the unforgettable past, and peace lives in the acceptance of the present moment.”

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on May 17th, 2022.