Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon – A Literary Mystery Surrounding Racial Discrimination in Criminal Investigations and Mental Health

Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Cuddle wearing a pajama hat.

Blurb:

On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister, Summer, walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again. The door to the roof is locked, and the snow holds only one set of footprints. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing Black woman, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister all on her own.

With her friends and neighbors, Autumn pretends to hold up through the crisis. But the loss becomes too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with the various murders of local women and the men who kill them, thinking their stories and society’s complacency toward them might shed light on what really happened to her sister.

In Speaking of Summer, critically acclaimed author Kalisha Buckhanon has created a fast-paced story of urban peril and victim invisibility, and the fight to discover the complicated truths at the heart of every family.

Joce’s review:

The cover of Speaking of Summer is what first caught my eye. It is just gorgeous with the flowers, the flawless deep skin, the vibrant colors. Fortunately, the content of the book is just as wonderful. We follow the journey of Autumn Spencer, whose twin sister Summer vanishes from the roof of their Harlem brownstone one night in December.Read More »

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory – Reinventing the “Strong Woman” Trope in Romance

“Hey, friends!” Cuddle excitedly waved Xiaolong and Amina over to her reading rock, and they ambled over.

“I wonder what Cuddle has in store for us today,” wondered Xiaolong.

“Maybe it’s that delicious soup again! Remember when she made that? Mmm…” replied Amina.

When they arrived, Cuddle said, “I am reading the greatest book. It’s reminding me of one of my favorite movies a little, you know, Pride and Prejudice! ‘

Cuddle the otter, holding up a Pride and Prejudice DVD.With that, Cuddle promptly turned around, with her little brown tail sticking straight up into the air as she rummaged around in her collection, throwing knick knacks this way and that behind her, as if emptying Mary Poppins’ bag. She suddenly emerged head upright, with her paw aloft, waving a beige DVD back and forth triumphantly.

Xiaolong rolled her eyes, though she had a smile on her face that lended affection.

“Cuddle, if I have to see Matthew McFayden in the rain in that dang wet white shirt ONE MORE TIME…”

The Wedding Party. Jasmine Guillory. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by Joce, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Cuddle, the otter wearing a pajama hat.

Blurb:

Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

  1. Alexa is their best friend
  2. They hate each other

After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.

Joce’s review:

Jasmine Guillory. Give me all her books. Give them to me now! After reading and loving THE PROPOSAL, I was highly anticipating the next companion novel in the series, called THE WEDDING PARTY – big thank you to Chelsea at Chelsea Dolling Reads for sending me this beautiful book.

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Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia – An Insightful Depiction of Online Community, Privacy, and Mental Health

Text: Eliza and her monsters, Francesca Zappia. Image: A sketch of a girl and a boy, facing each other, reading a book.

Blurb:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Joce’s review:

Eliza Mirk is a high school student who lives in Indiana and anonymously writes and illustrates the famous webcomic Monstrous Sea, read by millions, as her online persona LadyConstellation. She feels out of place at her school and experiences anxiety, including social anxiety. She develops a close relationship to Wallace, who experiences selective mutism, and he seems to understand what it’s like feeling truly at home online and less so face to face. However, their friendship is somewhat one-sided because Eliza knows that he is the most famous Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer, but he does not know that Eliza is actually LadyConstellation. They communicate mostly online, and a budding relationship, whether it be friendship or romantic, that transpires mostly through written word, is my favorite.

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Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – It Was Great! … Until It Wasn’t.

Text: Lock Every Door. A Novel. Riley Sager. Image: A silhouette of a woman entering a door.

Blurb:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story… until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Joce’s review:

Riley Sager’s thrillers, with their vibrant covers and original premises, have been on everyone’s radar ever since the publication of FINAL GIRLS a couple years ago. I had mixed opinions about his previous two books – I enjoyed FINAL GIRLS but found THE LAST TIME I LIED to be tedious and lacking tension. Even so, I was intrigued by the modern haunted house style basis of LOCK EVERY DOOR. As I have been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately, I was in the mood for a thriller, and buddy read this with Heather from her Booktube channel Bookables

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – An Unconventional Lesson in Flirty Note Writing

Text: The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

Joce’s review:

I was first introduced to THE FLATSHARE when I saw someone ask on Twitter for the title of a novel they’d heard of in which two roommates who share a house at opposite times write notes to each other without seeing each other for a long time and eventually fall in love. That truly sounded like the most ingenious idea for a book so off I went to look for it! Tiffy, who is an assistant editor at a publisher of DIY crafting books, answers an ad that Leon, a night nurse at a hospice, puts in the newspaper, asking for a roommate who would occupy his apartment at night when he works his shifts. 

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