Everybody loves a good ole reaction video—so how about a reaction book list? There’s something so thrilling about waiting for a reader to travel through a new author’s prose for the first time, so we decided it’d be fun to round up our first impressions of popular authors. These reader reactions are top-notch, whether we went down memory lane to recall impressions of the past or took this list as an opportunity to try out a different author we’d heard so much about.
Molly says: A member of my book club requested we read a thriller this month, and I was quick to suggest Megan Miranda. It was the perfect opportunity to read an author whose work I’ve long heard great things about. We selected her most recent novel, SUCH A QUIET PLACE, about a tight-knit community rocked by the murder of two of their neighbors a year prior. The convicted murderer? One of their own, Ruby Fletcher. But now Ruby’s conviction has been overturned and she’s returned to the neighborhood for reasons unknown. Suspicion spreads and the perceived safety of their neighborhood is threatened once again. SUCH A QUIET PLACE was a slow burn at first, but I ripped through the back half of the book like wildfire. In addition to its surprising twists and turns, I also thought it provided an interesting commentary on the popularity of true crime and people’s misplaced confidence as amateur detectives. I look forward to reading Megan Miranda’s other books!
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest—a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection—comes a new riveting suspense novel about a mysterious murder in an idyllic and close-knit neighborhood.
We had no warning that she’d come back.
Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.
With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?
Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.
Pulsating with suspense and with the shocking twists that are Megan Miranda’s trademark, Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s best novel yet—a twisty locked-box thriller that will keep you turning pages late into the night.
Sabrina says: Like many others, I was introduced to Alice Hoffman through the cult classic screen adaptation of PRACTICAL MAGIC and fell in love with the romantically tortured Owens women, though I’m not a romance fan at all. Even with a gorgeous Victorian mansion, thriving apothecary garden, mischievous sense of wonder, and generational magic at their fingertips, the quirky Owens family members are still endearingly relatable and beautifully flawed. After becoming enamored with the movie, I decided to read the book, which opens potential dissonance to the movie imagery laid out for us. However, I found Practical Magic to be one of the closest book-to-screen adaptations ever, and the novel was no less magical than the movie. Reliving the story in print was just as enjoyable as watching it, and it encouraged me to get my hands on as many Hoffman novels as I could possibly find. I’ve found Hoffman’s characters consistently lay bare the insecurities that plague us all, and through the literary conquering of these internal obstacles, the reader also gains a sense of confidence, mastery, and belonging. Alice Hoffman continues to keep this reader spellbound by her novels.
Having lived most of their lives with their eccentric and magically gifted aunts, orphaned sisters Sally and Gillian want nothing more than to ignore their own burgeoning powers and blend into normal society. But when a ghost begins to menace their hometown, can this misfit family embrace their magical gifts to save their community?
Heather says: YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY is the first book I read by Akwaeke Emezi, but it won’t be the last. I knew going in that there was a lot of buzz around Emezi, who’s known for a lyrical writing style and who, with this novel, would be dipping their toe into a new genre: romantic fiction. Well, turns out the buzz was justified! I was immediately drawn into the story of Feyi, an artist and young widow who is still struggling to embrace a new life for herself after the tragic death of her husband five years ago. Meeting the handsome and charming Nasir makes Feyi start to believe it’d be possible for her to fall in love again, but he’s not the one who gives her butterflies. No, unfortunately, she finds herself drawn to someone totally off-limits . . . Nasir’s father, Alim. YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH is a complicated love story with a complicated heroine, and I enjoyed it for those reasons as much as for Emezi’s prose, which is just gorgeous. My e-reader tells me I highlighted 34 passages!
A New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and “one of our greatest living writers” (Shondaland) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
Sharon says: Since it was published last year, KLARA AND THE SUN has been on my radar, and after braving the library on-hold list of 36 people, I finally had the opportunity to pick it up. KLARA AND THE SUN initially caught my attention for its dystopian setting and exploration of artificial intelligence, and while I loved Ishiguro’s examination of these themes, I was drawn to how reflective his writing is. Klara’s observations of human nature are spot-on, and quotes such as “what was becoming clear to me was the extent to which humans, in their wish to escape loneliness, made maneuvers that were very complex and hard to fathom” cemented my love for Ishiguro’s writing. Upon finishing KLARA AND THE SUN, I am more than eager to pick up his other major dystopian novel, NEVER LET ME GO. If you're looking for an excellent discussion about this book, check out this podcast episode from Book Squad Goals!
Nicole Says: It is nearly impossible to talk about books trending on TikTok without talking about the incomparable Colleen Hoover. Her catalog has seen an incredible boost thanks to people discovering her through the social media platform. Imagine my shock when I realized I hadn’t yet read anything by her. Rather than start with a romance, I decided to begin my Colleen Hoover journey with VERITY. This is without a doubt, one of the darkest and most unsettling books I’ve ever read, and I would absolutely read it again. The book follows Lowen, a struggling author, who agrees to accept a new project involving taking over a successful book series because its author, Verity Crawford, is injured and unable to finish it. Lowen heads to the Crawford estate and begins poring over years of Verity’s notes in hopes of familiarizing herself with the material. What she finds, though, is an unfinished autobiography that one can only imagine Verity hoped stayed buried. The pages feature confession after confession, including what really happened surrounding the deaths of Jeremy and Verity’s children. Lowen develops feelings for Jeremy during her time at the home, so she decides not to tell him about the manuscript. What ensues is nothing short of chilling, and I still don’t know who or what to believe. That’s all I can say without spoiling the plot, so if you’ve read Colleen’s other work and haven’t gotten to VERITY yet, please do. While I know her romances differ wildly from this title, I will absolutely be continuing my Colleen Hoover content binge.
Kerry says: When you grow up with a mom interested in true crime, you get used to seeing Ann Rule’s name on paperbacks sitting on her nightstand. It wasn’t until I was in high school, however, that I finally took the plunge into true crime obsession and read her masterful and terrifying classic THE STRANGER BESIDE ME. It was a story I already knew: the motherly police officer meeting and becoming friends with a pleasant young man who turned out to be one of the country’s most infamous serial killers. But in Rule’s expert hands, this is so much more than a grim example of truth being stranger than fiction. It’s an in-depth analysis of whether serial killers are born or made, a warning to all (but especially women) to listen to their instincts, and a call to action for victims’ rights. As a teenager who naively thought she was savvy about the dark corners of the world, I found THE STRANGER BESIDE ME to be a crucial read, one that both scared me and taught me a great deal. I’ve since read several of Rule’s book and still appreciate her lack of sensationalism and her focus on the victims and survivors. Frankly speaking, without Ann Rule, true crime as we know it today would look very different.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Rule, “America’s best true-crime writer” (Kirkus Reviews), her unforgettable classic account of the horrifying murders in the Pacific Northwest and her shock when she discovered her friend—Ted Bundy—was not only a suspect but also one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
Meeting in 1971 at a Seattle crisis clinic, Ann Rule and Ted Bundy developed a friendship and correspondence that would span the rest of his life. Rule had no idea that when they went their separate ways, their paths would cross again under shocking circumstances.
The Stranger Beside Me is Rule’s compelling firsthand account of not just her relationship with Bundy, but also his life—from his complicated childhood to the media circus of his trials. Astonishing in its intimacy and with Rule’s clear-eyed prose, you can’t help but share in her growing horror at discovering that her friend was one of the most notorious American serial killers.
An unforgettable and haunting work of research, journalism, and personal memories, The Stranger Beside Me is “as dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight” (The New York Times).
Emily says: I added HEAVY by Kiese Laymon to my to-be-read list so many years ago that I forget who recommended it to me. And then I read this old Off the Shelf review and it got me even more excited to read. And then I saw Lady Gaga’s praise of Laymon’s other book LONG DIVISION. Basically, I’ve never been more ready to read an author for the first time. In this memoir, Kiese is coming of age in Mississippi and, as friends and family love, challenge, or abuse him, he grows in his understanding of weight, racism, lies, love, language, revision. It’s about learning what it means to be a writer, an activist, a protector, and a Black man in America. I underlined so many sentences in this book and one of my favorites is: “I learned you haven’t read anything if you’ve only read something once or twice. Reading things more than twice was the reader version of revision.” So now I’m off to reread this gem!
Photo credit: iStock / Jun