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Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – March 2023

March 2023 reviews of No Two Persons, Mad Honey, Maame, Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun, Blackwater Falls, My First Popsicle, The Villa, Big Swiss, and The Levee.

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Wow–what a month of reading March has been! With three five-star, standout books, this has been the best reading month in a long time.

Thank goodness I read these books while on spring break. Delayed flights, plus some nice time by the pool, meant a lot of great reading time.

Of course, I got sick as soon as I got home (meaning I’m a bit behind on things on the blog), but that just meant some more good reading and listening.

Book covers of March 2023 reads

While recovering, I did a little rereading/watching experiment with the new Daisy Jones and the Six series–you can follow along here:

Bingeing Daisy Jones & the Six (book & series!) in one weekend

Enjoy these reviews, and don’t sleep on the first one! I read it a bit early for its May release date, but I loved it SO much. Worth preordering!

Print and E-Books

No Two Persons by Erica Bauermeister

No Two Persons

Author: Erica Bauermeister
Publish Date: May 2, 2023
Source: St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Alice has written a debut literary novel that’s caused a minor stir in the book world. As readers encounter the book, each finds something different in the story that resonates. No Two Persons introduces us to nine of those readers who are loosely connected and have their lives changed by the book.

The summary is simple, but I cannot even articulate how beautiful this book is. It may be a case of “right book, right time” for me, in this year when I’m reading through the lens of my four “reading quadrants” (more about those in the video below). This book manages to touch on all of them, while illustrating the transformative power of books.

This is not a fast-paced beach read, but I read it on the beach and couldn’t put it down. It’s structured as a series of connected short stories–not my favorite format–but I loved every one of them. I love books about books, and this is quite possibly my favorite I’ve ever read.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

Maame by Jessica George


Author: Jessica George
Publish Date: January 31, 2023
Source: St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Maddie (nicknamed “Maame” by her mother) is a twenty-something in London who cares for her father, who has Parkinson’s. Her mother spends most of the year in Ghana and her brother doesn’t help. When her mother decides to come back, this is Maddie’s first opportunity to move out and claim her independence. Maame follows Maddie as she learns about the world outside her home and struggles to find a place in it, while pushing back against her family’s expectations–particularly when tragedy strikes and she is overcome by grief.

Maddie is an endearing character; she’s naive, which could be frustrating to read, but she’s also aware of it. I actually saw hints of autism in her (though I’m no expert and have not seen others mention this), and reading with that lens made her naivete and some of her tendencies more understandable. Whether or not my interpretation is true, Maddie is a character I rooted for, and this book deserves all of its accolades.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Mad Honey

Author: Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publish Date: October 4, 2022
Source: Random House Publishing via Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Olivia is raising her son, Asher, on her own after leaving an abusive marriage. Asher is popular, charismatic, and head-over-heels for his girlfriend, Lily. When Lily is found dead at the bottom of her stairs–where Asher claims to have found her–he is the main suspect in her death. Throughout the trial and investigation, Olivia learns things about her son and his relationship that make her question everything she knows.

I am being purposely vague in this summary so I don’t spoil some key plot points, but Picoult and Finney Boylan cover a lot of timely ground here, and they do it in a way that brings controversial, national conversations close.

This is one of my favorite things about reading–how “issues” are made personal, and we as readers can start to understand the real-life implications of legislation and political hot buttons. Picoult has become particularly masterful at doing this in her most recent books–while writing page-turners–and this one is no exception. It’s excellent.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

Pin this!
5-star books to read in 2023 + more spring reviews

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun

Author: Elle Cosimano
Publish Date: January 31, 2023
Source: St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

Look, I love the Finlay Donovan series. It feels like a fresher version of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, which have grown a little tired, 20-some novels in. Finlay and Vero are still a great duo of unintentional assassins for hire who got mixed up with the mob, and I’ll be here for the last in the series. But this one didn’t feel like it moved the story forward very much. There is a bit of satisfaction on the romance front, for readers invested in that angle, and the hijinks are fun.

The most frustrating part, for me, though, was how heavily this depended on the storylines of the previous novels. I just did not remember the details well enough to track all the calls back to past events–and there were so many. So often as I read, I was saying to myself, “Wait, who?” or “What was that thing that happened?” or “What is it we’re trying to figure out, here?” I can appreciate the difficulties of writing a series and not doing this, but I do feel like each installment needs to stand a little better on its own.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble


Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Blackwater Falls

Author: Ausma Zehanat Khan
Publish Date: November 1, 2022
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

In the town of Blackwater Falls, Colorado, immigrant girls have been going missing. Their cases haven’t been getting much attention, until the body of Razan–a star student and Syrian immigrant–is found hanging in a mosque, deliberately positioned. Tensions are high in Blackwater Falls, with a right-wing biker gang, a mega-church, and a packing plant (a large employer) all pushing against the immigrant population.

Detective Inaya Rahman of the Denver Police is recruited to solve the murder, along with Lieutenant Seif, who seems to have ulterior motives. But Inaya knows this community, and together with two other women colleagues, she is determined to solve the murder and the disappearances–and reveal the deep corruption in the local police force that supports the discrimination and violence against immigrants.

This is the first in a series, and though it dragged in places, it’s a promising start. The three women–all minorities–make a compelling team, and the entanglements of the various law enforcement agencies are intriguing. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger (though not a frustrating one) and I will be on the watch for the next in the series.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

My First Popsicle edited by Zosia Mamet

My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings

Editor: Zosia Mamet
Publish Date: November 1, 2022
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Nonfiction

Zosia Mamet has assembled a collection of essays from a number of famous people reflecting on food, memories, and the emotions surrounding them. The essays range from short and sweet–and not all that meaningful–to poignant and deeply reflective.

This made the collection feel a bit uneven, but it was an easy listen that I enjoyed from start to finish. Many of the contributors read their own essays in the audiobook (and Busy Phillips read many of those not read by the author–she’s fantastic).

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The Villa

Editor: Rachel Hawkins
Publish Date: January 3, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

Emily and Chess have been best friends forever, but lately, things have felt strained. When Chess invites her to stay in a villa in Italy, Emily is hoping the trip repairs their friendship. While there, Emily learns of a murder that took place at a villa in 1974.

She becomes embroiled in the complicated story of sex, drugs, rock and roll–and murder. Determined to find the truth, she starts finding clues hidden throughout the villa. Meanwhile, tensions with Chess continue to rise, and Emily suspects all isn’t as it seems.

This got a little wild, and I can’t say I was fully satisfied with the resolutions in either timeline. However, it did keep me hooked until the end, so it’s a solid three stars.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

Big Swiss

Editor: Jen Beagin
Publish Date: February 7, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Greta works as a transcriptionist for a local sex therapist, so she’s privy to a lot of secrets in her small town. She becomes infatuated with one of the clients, who she nicknames Big Swiss, and soon she’s crossing boundaries when she befriends her in real life. Their friendship turns into more, but Greta’s secret, as well as both of their difficult pasts and how they choose to face them, could be their undoing.

This had an air of absurdity and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Despite all the sex, it’s never sexy, and Greta is not a character to root for. Nonetheless, it did keep me interested as I wondered how it would all fall apart when Big Swiss found out the truth.

The very first Goodreads review succinctly said, “my favorite genre is literary fiction about messed up women doing crazy sh*t.” If this is a genre you love, too, give this one a try (and I’ve also heard it’s being adapted for screen by HBO, with Jodie Comer starring).

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

The Levee by William Kent Krueger

The Levee

Editor: William Kent Krueger
Publish Date: February 28, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Historical Fiction

In this audiobook-only novella, William Kent Krueger takes us to 1927, when the Great Mississippi flood is closing in on a family trapped in their ancestral home, protected only by a damaged levee. When four men (three of whom are convicts) show up to rescue them, some of the residents refuse to leave. The rescue mission turns into a hasty repair effort, and some of the convicts see opportunity in the chaos. Soon, the rising waters aren’t the only threat to the people at the home.

This audiobook started off slow, but soon I was swept up in the tension, the complex loyalties, and the characters. It’s a short listen, and William Kent Krueger shares some interesting history on how it came to be in the notes at the end.

Amazon | Bookshop.org | Libro.fm | Barnes & Noble

What books have you read in March?


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New 2023 Books to Read - March Reviews


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