Doozy of a post coming up because I got way behind whoops. We’ll start with my favorite of the bunch but these are all honestly 3 stars and above, some solid reads here.
When No One Is Watching, by Alyssa Cole
A gentrification thriller that feels all too plausible and is also a way to learn about the history and impact of gentrification without feeling preached at (I do a lot of preaching). It could be easy to call this a “what if gentrification was deliberately evil” but gentrification is deliberately evil and what happens in this book is way too believable in the bad way. The insidious racism and repeated gaslighting have real Get Out vibes, this book is very good. I chewed through the whole thing in, like, a day.
A young woman, Sydney, has returned to her mother’s Brooklyn home to find the neighborhood changed and changing rapidly. The Black neighbors she has known her whole life are literally disappearing, with new white people moving in before the ink feels dry on the sale of the home. She decides to take on the history of her hometown and learn all she can about its Black history while it feels that history is being swept away. The book plays hopscotch with the “is she paranoid or are they after her” line really well. I looked up the author and she’s best known for romance (there’s a super steamy scene to prove it) but wow has she switched genres really well. As a gentrifier, I’ve been recommending this one to a lot of people.
Good Girl, Bad Blood, by Holly Jackson
Coming pretty much on the heels of A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder we rejoin Pip as she turns her brief time as an investigator into a podcast but tries to put the experience behind her. The mystery is solved and the bad people have been punished (mostly. Prepare to also be frustrated). Being an investigator cost her a lot and she is more than happy to move on. When a friend’s older brother goes missing and he has nowhere else to turn, she reluctantly returns to those roots to uncover yet another mystery (and definitely set up a third).
This is another speedy read, my records say I finished this one in a day as well. I think it’s the mystery element, I have to know what happens because if I stretch it out I will start googling the book’s title plus “spoilers”. It’s also just really well-paced, by the time the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up Pip is coming to the same realizations. A good book for younger readers who want to feel like they’re pushing the envelope.
The Unsuitable, by Molly Pohlig
I did a combo review here because I don’t have the words for this one. This one is … odd? I couldn’t even give it a star rating because I don’t know how you evaluate a book quite like The Unsuitable. Set in Victorian times, our protagonist is Iseult Wince, fast approaching spinsterhood. She’s been deemed virtually unmarriageable because her mother – who died in childbirth – lives as a separate personality in the scar on her neck and is, well, disruptive. They have different ideas about how Iseult should be living her life and how much if it is really her own.
This one is pretty gnarly. Obviously mental health is a significant theme and there’s also a lot of self harm. It’s not an easy read but it goes by quickly and it’s really unsettling. I don’t know if I can recommend this but if you DO read it please let me know so we can talk about it?
The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott
I listened to this one as an audiobook and that probably contributed to how much I liked it, the variety of voices kept me engaged when I might have skimmed something I was reading. It’s one of those that gives you adjoining stories from several perspectives so of course some are more engaging than others. Ostensibly it’s about the publication of Doctor Zhivago, a book I only have a passing cultural understanding of. It’s about how the USSR saw it as damaging to the Soviet government and tried to prevent it seeing the light of day and it’s about how the burgeoning American CIA in turn saw it as a cultural weapon against the Soviets. The Beatles and abstract art did as much as any politician to bring down the Iron Curtain and it’s nice to see that recognized … kind of. It’s about the push to get it published, not so much about anything that happened after it got into Russian hands. It’s probably a book you’d buy for your mom.