Saturdays at the Café is a weekly feature hosted here to talk about and discuss the books I’ve discovered during the past week, added to my shelf and am excited about reading. They may be new/scheduled releases I’ve seen on NetGalley, at the library, or from publishers or they may be older titles my friends have reviewed and shared on Goodreads or blogs.
Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.
But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.
A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.
Thanks to my friend Marialyce @ yayareads for this one, which she included in her comments on last week’s post. Scheduled for release in February, it’s an audio review hopeful.
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
Vibrating with tenderness, Hello Beautiful is a gorgeous, profoundly moving portrait of what’s possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.
Thanks again to Marialyce @ yayareads for putting this on my radar. It’s a library audiobook hopeful, scheduled for release in March.
Perfect vacations or last resorts? In this collection of short psychological thrillers, bestselling authors bring trouble to paradise. Today’s itinerary: surfing, sailing, hiking, facing your worst fears . . . Most dream vacations never live up to expectations—but few cause this many nightmares.
Uncharted Waters by Sally Hepworth
“Speak your truth.” An icebreaker leads to unintended consequences for two strangers aboard a luxury yacht in this seductively twisty short story by the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Sister.
His Happy Place by Zakiya Dalila Harris
A quiet weekend in the wilderness, just the two of them. How romantic. But new love turns to terror in a suspenseful short story from the New York Times bestselling author of The Other Black Girl.
Stockholm by Catherine Steadman
An extravagant anniversary trip turns into a desperate scramble for survival in an unsettling short story about desire, manipulation, and revenge by a New York Times bestselling author.
Belle Mer by Luanne Rice
On the New England coast, an irresistible vacation rental draws a woman into the sinister secrets of her past in a cunning short mystery with a gothic twist by a New York Times bestselling author.
Catch Her in a Lie by Jess Lourey
Two agents on the trail of a serial killer. A mother and daughter on the trip of a lifetime. Fates converge in paradise in a chilling short story by an Amazon Charts bestselling author.
Shell Game by Rumaan Alam
An extended family’s Cape Cod vacation reveals uncomfortable truths that threaten one man’s illusion of happiness in this incisive short story by the New York Times bestselling author of Leave the World Behind.
I’d accepted the first book in this collection for audio review and then decided I wanted all of them. Thank goodness they were still available (individually or as a full collection).
OZ operative Liam Stryker is known for his bravery, his wit, and his ability to find an escape when there’s no way out. He’s also a man on a mission. He needs to find her. She’s out there somewhere. He refuses to believe she’s gone. Someday, somehow, he will find the woman he’s never seen but loves with all his heart. And if it’s the last thing he does, he’ll find the people responsible for causing her pain.
Aubrey Starr once had a plan for her future, but when her life is derailed and upended, she’s motivated to create a new one. As an award winning documentary maker, she’s known for digging deep to uncover and expose evil. Few know about the past that drives her or the man who inspires her. She never knew his real name, never got to see his face, but without him she wouldn’t have survived. Even though she doubts that he’s still alive, she dreams that one day she’ll see him.
Evil takes many avenues and insinuates itself into every aspect of life, causing havoc and pain. Some are born to fight against it with every fiber of their being. Others are thrown into its path and have no choice but to stand up to it or die. Liam and Aubrey have been on parallel paths for years. When their paths finally converge, it’s as if life has given them another chance and everything has fallen into place.
But there are enemies out there who will do everything they can to make sure Liam and Aubrey never find the happiness they seek. When events take a tragic turn, they’re faced with the knowledge that fate has thrown them a new, cruel twist.
And this time, there’s no way out.
Reece is one of my most favorite romantic suspense authors (she’s SO good!) so I picked up this second book in her Option Zero series.
A young poet tells the unforgettable story of his harrowing migration from El Salvador to the United States at the age of nine in this moving, page-turning memoir hailed as the mythic journey of our era (Sandra Cisneros)
Trip. My parents started using that word about a year ago–“one day, you’ll take a trip to be with us. Like an adventure.”
Javier’s adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border. He will leave behind his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Traveling alone except for a group of strangers and a coyote hired to lead them to safety, Javier’s trip is supposed to last two short weeks.
At nine years old, all Javier can imagine is rushing into his parents’ arms, snuggling in bed between them, living under the same roof again. He does not see the perilous boat trips, relentless desert treks, pointed guns, arrests and deceptions that await him; nor can he know that those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside a group of strangers who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family.
A memoir by an acclaimed poet that reads like a novel, Solito not only provides an immediate and intimate account of a treacherous and near-impossible journey, but also the miraculous kindness and love delivered at the most unexpected moments. Solito is Javier’s story, but it’s also the story of millions of others who had no choice but to leave home.
I hadn’t heard of this book until it was selected by the Today show’s Read With Jenna book club. After watching a segment with the author, I was dying to learn of his journey. Thanks to my library for the audiobook.
Shy, bookish, and admittedly awkward, Lily Greene has always felt inadequate compared to the rest of her accomplished family, who strive for Black excellence. She dreams of becoming an editor of children’s books but has been frustratingly stuck in the nonfiction division for years without a promotion in sight. Lily finds escapism in her correspondences with her favorite fantasy author, and what begins as two lonely people connecting over e-mail turns into a tentative friendship and possibly something else Lily won’t let herself entertain–until he ghosts her.
Months later, still crushed but determined to take charge of her life, Lily seeks a date to her sister’s wedding. And the perfect person to help her is Nick Brown, her charming, attractive new neighbor, whom she feels drawn to for unexplainable reasons. Little does she know that Nick is an author–her favorite fantasy author.
Nick, who has his reasons for using a pen name and for pushing people away, soon realizes that the beautiful, quiet woman from down the hall is the same Lily he fell in love with over e-mail months ago. Unwilling to complicate things even more between them, he agrees to set her up with someone else, though this simple favor between two neighbors is anything but–not when he can’t get her off his mind.
My thanks to Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra for featuring this in her Can’t Wait Wednesday post. I’m really excited about it, scheduled for release in February. It’s a library audiobook hopeful.
Professor Jeremiah Post, the poor handsome man, is in fact standing in the way of Alejandra “Alex” Torres turning Loretta’s, her grandmother’s bar, into a viable business. The hot brainiac who sleeps in one of the upstairs tenant rooms already has all of her Mexican American family’s admiration; she won’t let him have the bar and building she needs to resurrect her career, too.
Alex blowing into town has rocked Jeremiah to his mild-mannered core, but the large, boisterous Torres clan is everything he never had. He doesn’t believe Alex has the best interest of her family, their community or the bar’s legacy in mind. To protect all three, he’ll stand up to the tough and tattooed bartender with whom he now shares a bedroom wall—and resist the insta-lust they both feel.
But when an old enemy threatens Loretta’s and the surrounding neighborhood, Alex and Jeremiah must combine forces. It will take her might and his mind to save the home they both desperately need.
Thanks to my new blogger friend, Lilly @ Lair of Books. Of course the cover drew me in but Lilly’s review hooked me. It’s a library audiobook hopeful.
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK
For fans of Amy Tan, KJ Dell’Antonia, and Kevin Kwan, this “sharp, smart, and gloriously extra” (Nancy Jooyoun Kim, The Last Story of Mina Lee) debut follows a family of estranged Vietnamese women—cursed to never know love or happiness—as they reunite when a psychic makes a startling prediction.
Everyone in Orange County’s Little Saigon knew that the Duong sisters were cursed.
It started with their ancestor, Oanh, who dared to leave her marriage for true love—so a fearsome Vietnamese witch cursed Oanh and her descendants so that they would never find love or happiness, and the Duong women would give birth to daughters, never sons.
Oanh’s current descendant Mai Nguyen knows this curse well. She’s divorced, and after an explosive disagreement a decade ago, she’s estranged from her younger sisters, Minh Pham (the middle and the mediator) and Khuyen Lam (the youngest who swears she just runs humble coffee shops and nail salons, not Little Saigon’s underground). Though Mai’s three adult daughters, Priscilla, Thuy, and Thao, are successful in their careers (one of them is John Cho’s dermatologist!), the same can’t be said for their love lives. Mai is convinced they might drive her to an early grave.
Desperate for guidance, she consults Auntie Hua, her trusted psychic in Hawaii, who delivers an unexpected prediction: this year, her family will witness a marriage, a funeral, and the birth of a son. This prophecy will reunite estranged mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins—for better or for worse.
A multi-narrative novel brimming with levity and candor, The Fortunes of Jaded Women is about mourning, meddling, celebrating, and healing together as a family. It shows how Vietnamese women emerge victorious, even if the world is against them.
This showed up at my library and it had me at Amy Tan and magical realism. I’m in a short queue for the audiobook.
Fans of Christina Lauren, Colleen Hoover, and Jill Santopolo will love this breathtaking story about first love, second chances, and starting over from New York Times best-selling author Corine Michaels.
Teagan Berkeley is trying her best. A single mom raising a precocious teen, she may have given up on her dreams, but she’s accepted her life in her small beachside hometown. Now the one person who abandoned her when she needed him the most has returned, bringing back memories of what might have been.
Derek Hartz arrives in town with a teenage daughter – and he’s full of guilt over his failed marriage and the way he ended his friendship with Teagan. He’s determined to set things right with her, but first he needs to gain her trust, something he’s not convinced he deserves.
As Teagan and Derek open up to each other – and confess their deepest secrets-it’s impossible for them to deny what’s always been between them. But just when their happily ever after is within reach, their complicated history surfaces again and threatens to keep them apart. Forever.
I had this on my Audible wishlist and was able to get it this week in their 2-for-1 credit sale.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover’s romantic, emotion-packed debut novel unforgettably captures all the magic and confusion of first love, as two young people forge an unlikely bond before discovering that fate has other plans for them.
Following the unexpected death of her father, eighteen-year-old Layken becomes the rock for both her mother and younger brother. She appears resilient and tenacious, but inside, she’s losing hope. Then she meets her new neighbor Will, a handsome twenty-one-year-old whose mere presence leaves her flustered and whose passion for poetry slams thrills her.
Not long after a heart-stopping first date during which each recognizes something profound and familiar in the other, they are slammed to the core when a shocking discovery brings their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together and the forces that tear them apart. Only through the poetry they share are they able to speak the truth that is in their hearts and imagine a future where love is cause for celebration, not regret.
I was offered this for audio review and couldn’t have been more surprised! It’s a new audio release of this older series that I’ve wanted for some time.
A stunning novel about a mother whose dream of musical stardom for her three daughters collides with the daughters’ ambitions for their own lives—set against the backdrop of gentrifying 1950s San Francisco
At home they are just sisters, but on stage, they are The Salvations. Ruth, Esther, and Chloe have been singing and dancing in harmony since they could speak. Thanks to the rigorous direction of their mother, Vivian, they’ve become a bona fide girl group whose shows are the talk of the Jazz-era Fillmore.
Now Vivian has scored a once-in-a-lifetime offer from a talent manager, who promises to catapult The Salvations into the national spotlight. Vivian knows this is the big break she’s been praying for. But sometime between the hours of rehearsal on their rooftop and the weekly gigs at the Champagne Supper Club, the girls have become women, women with dreams that their mother cannot imagine.
The neighborhood is changing, too: all around the Fillmore, white men in suits are approaching Black property owners with offers. One sister finds herself called to fight back, one falls into the comfort of an old relationship, another yearns to make her own voice heard. And Vivian, who has always maintained control, will have to confront the parts of her life that threaten to splinter: the community, The Salvations, and even her family
I kept going back and forth about this one until it was selected by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club. Thanks to my library for the audiobook.
What books did YOU add to your shelves this week?