Friday, July 28, 2023

Mini Reviews: New Releases Edition


Sometimes you need a break from the usual beach read and if you are like me, you gravitate towards a good summer thriller. While one book I'm sharing today is a historical novel, it is also a bit of a page-turner filled with some suspense and the other is a summer thriller/murder mystery. If you are looking for a palate cleanser and/or a break from the overly saccharine beach reads, I've got you covered.

The Spectacular by Fiona Davis
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 13, 2023
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author Fiona Davis transports us back to 1950s Manhattan and the glamorous Radio City Music Hall. . . .New York City, 1956: Nineteen-year-old Marion is over the moon to have been selected to be one of the Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall’s glamorous precision-dancing troupe. It’s an honor to perform in the world’s most spectacular theater, an art deco masterpiece. But with four shows a day as well as grueling rehearsals, not to mention exacting standards of perfection to live up to, Marion quickly realizes that the life of a Rockette has both extraordinary highs and devastating lows. Then one night a bomb explodes in the theater. It’s only the latest in a string of explosions around the city orchestrated by a person the press has nicknamed the "Big Apple Bomber." They have been terrorizing the citizens of New York for sixteen years by planting bombs in popular, crowded spaces. With the public in an uproar over the lack of any real leads after a yearslong manhunt, the police, at Marion’s urging, turn in desperation to a radical new technique: psychological profiling. As Marion finds herself pulled deeper into the investigation, she realizes that as much as she’s been training herself to blend in—performing in perfect unison with all the other identical Rockettes—if she hopes to catch the bomber, she’ll need to stand out and take a terrifying risk. But she may be forced to sacrifice everything she’s worked for, as well as the people she loves the most."
Marion Brooks is living a pretty boring life in Bronxville with her father and sister. The year is 1956 and Marion pretty much has everything laid out for her. She is to get married to her fiance and live a pretty conventional life. This doesn't work for Marion. Her passion is in dancing and she hears about open tryouts for the Rockettes, the famous dancers from Radio City Music Hall, and she decides to take a chance and audition. Believe it or not, she gets the job. Her father, who is overprotective and controlling, throws her out once he finds out she is a Rockette, so now Marion is on her own. She lives in a boardinghouse for women and finds herself learning what it means to be a Rockette. But things aren't always amazing in glamorous New York City. There's the Big City Bomber, who police can't catch and has been wreaking havoc on the city for many years now. He has bombed Radio City Music Hall before and has plans to do it again, and this changes Marion's life forever. The Spectacular by Fiona Davis is a page-turner of a historical novel that fans of New York City, as well as the Rockettes, will especially appreciate.

I love how Davis highlighted the many issues creative women had to deal with in the 50s. Marion's lack of support from her family was heartbreaking, but I was happy to see her carve her own path in The Spectacular. The details surrounding the time period as well as the Rockettes were well done; Davis obviously studied their dance routines as it felt like a behind the scene glimpse into it all. I have always enjoyed the Rockettes and the details surrounding their dance numbers were a lot of fun. I was rooting for Marion through it all. The Big City Bomber kept me flipping the pages, but at the heart of the story are the Rockettes, female friendships, and what it takes to follow your dreams.

She Started It by Sian Gilbert
Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 13, 2023
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Annabel, Esther, Tanya, and Chloe are best friends—or were, as children. Despite drifting apart in adulthood, shared secrets have kept them bonded for better or worse, even as their childhood dreams haven’t quite turned out as they’d hoped. Then one day they receive a wholly unexpected—but not entirely unwelcome—invitation from another old friend. Poppy Greer has invited them all to her extravagant bachelorette party: a first-class plane ticket to three days of white sand, cocktails, and relaxation on a luxe private island in the Bahamas. None of them has spoken to Poppy in years. But Poppy’s Instagram pics shows that the girl they used to consider the weakest link in their group has definitely made good—and made money. Curiosity gets the better of them. Besides, who can turn down a posh all-expenses-paid vacation on a Caribbean island? The first-class flight and the island’s accommodations are just as opulent as expected...even if the scenic island proves more remote than they’d anticipated. Quite remote, in fact, with no cell service, and no other guests. The women quickly discover they’ve underestimated Poppy, and each other. As their darkest secrets are revealed, the tropical adventure morphs into a terrifying nightmare. Endlessly twisty, sharply observant, and deliciously catty, She Started It is sure to shock readers until the very end."

Poppy is getting married and invites her old friends from school to a bachelorette party on a private island in the Bahamas. All expenses paid! Who would say no? Well, Annabel, Chloe, Esther, and Tanya are a bit hesitant as they haven't spoken to Poppy since high school; plus, they weren't exactly nice to her. They know Poppy has always wanted to be part of their group, so maybe this is her way of finally having that. Plus, who could say no to a free vacation? Even if it stinks, they will have each other as these women, excluding Poppy, are still close friends. However, every woman is up to something, hiding secrets, and are all-around despicable people. Things quickly go downhill and there's a murder. Who will survive this bachelorette party from hell? She Started It by Sian Gilbert is an suspenseful debut set in the Bahamas and filled with mean girls and revenge.

Poppy isn't the girl they used to pick on anymore. She has got it together. She is a doctor, looks attractive, and has a ton of confidence unlike how she was in high school. She shocks the women when they arrive in the Bahamas as she is no longer the quiet girl they picked on. Slowly they get to know each other again, but things start to get weird. They have to give their phones to Poppy, alcohol is constantly flowing, and then secrets start spilling. Gilbert shared with us diary entries from Poppy's high school days which paint a full picture of what exactly happened to Poppy and what is driving her revenge. Parts of
She Started It seemed a bit far-fetched, but I was here for all the drama on a private island with self-absorbed maniacs. Every chapter is from each woman's point of view, so readers get to know each character and their motivations. There's nothing like mean girls to really make things interesting by turning on one another. If you liked Bad Summer People, you'd appreciate this summer thriller.

So, have you read The Spectacular or She Started It? Do you like to take a break from the usual beach reads and to mix in some suspenseful thrillers or historical novels? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. I love Fiona's books and am always excited to see what iconic building she's going to choose next!

    1. Me too! I think you'll like this one! Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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