Review: Hey Hun: Sales, Sisterhood, Supremacy, and the Other Lies Behind Multilevel Marketing by Emily Lynn Paulson


I received a free copy of the audio version of this book from #Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

I was introduced to this book though by blogger Lydia Schoch. Why not check out her blog, too? Leave her a nice comment! We bloggers live on comments.

My Interest

I may have no ability to push away a guy not worth having (and am a champ at getting rid of the ones WORTH having), but dang if I can smell b.s. in business and politics (and no, I don’t mean a Bachelor of Science degree). Happily, my fear, loathing, and research into pyramid schemes came very early–way per-internet. “If it sounds too good to be true…” was taught to me at the dining room table. Mind you, I suck at math, but even I can see when the numbers are not adding up and are rally just mumbo-jumbo.

Disclaimer: I have never seriously considered joining an MLM. I have seen people WHO GOT IN EARLY, seemingly do very, very well with them. I also saw a woman of over 300lb [not shaming–hang on] agree to sell chocolate in a home party setting because her friend did well. She was the target audience–a stay-at-home Mom with too much debt. She bombed. “Optics” are everything in this game. I know a PhD in PSYCHOLOGY who got sucked into Amway (under a different name–another game MLMs play). Yes, it is “true’–if you buy one jug of something, put it on your store’s shelf, then buy it yourself you “can’t keep it on the shelf.” Yes, it is stuff you were “going to buy anyway.” 

MLM’s prey on stay-at-home moms and struggling single moms. The upper-middle and upper-class STAHM’s have all the advantages and win every time. The working class or single moms–well, they fail. The failure rate is around 99%. This book tells why. (As if you can’t figure out that all your friends are broke, child care to go to meetings costs a fortune or ruins every family and friend relationship….blah blah blah blah)

I also never seriously thought of joining a sorority. At my Big 10 college the Greek system was HUGE. I had neither the looks, income, personality, or personal interests to make it in the Greek world as anything more than a date to a cruel “pig” party, and I knew it! There’s a ton of similarity between joining an MLM and rushing a sorority on 3rd street or North Jordan.

If anyone has ever told you to “banish your stinkin’ thinkin'” or similar phrases, you’ve met a hardcore MLM-er without knowing it. Very likely it was at your conservative mega-church or in your suburban upper-middle class Moms’ book club or at the neighborhood pool. This book explains why that is.

The Story

“…toxic positivity….”

Emily is an a-typical MLM [multi-level marketing aka pyramid scheme] recruit. A former sorority girl, she is happily married to a high-flying husband and has 5 little kids because they are “bad at birth control.” She had a comfortable life, but is isolated and lonely. She rarely speaks to adults. She rarely has time away from her kids. When someone she barely knew from school contacts her she goes–but it turns out to be a pitch for an MLM that she fictionalizes at “Rejuvenate.” Primed with wine, she agrees. Next comes success, alcoholism, and an income of  her wildest dreams–most of which is wasted on an au pair, a p.a., and other expenses. [Note: She was in that 1% who truly succeed, but after the expenses were subtracted she made about $80k–something her profession as a chemist would have easily given her. Nearly every person in an MLM would earn more working a minimum wage job].

As Emily progresses up the exhaled ranks of her MLM, her life shreds and she, in hindsight, explains how and why.

My Thoughts

“…a crack where the truth slips in….”

My years of fascination with alleged cults (like Amway which operates under different names today), cultish religion and similar groups, nothing here shocked me. In fact, the entire book was like one long vindication. Unlike the author though, I do not see capitalism as evil. I spent 4 years earning a degree studying authoritarian regimes–sorry, I don’t see capitalism as “evil.” The problem with MLM is the one she spells out–they are in bed with the GOP in Congress. Yes, the GOP.  (Oh, don’t worry–the Democrats would be if they’d been offered the $$ first). But allowing the loopholes in business laws that we have is what allows these monsters to exist–not capitalism. Amway has had it’s hand up the GOP backside since it’s beginning (Disclaimer: I know a a few families who got into Amway earlier and as guru Dave Ramsey would say “changed their family tree” for the better, but still..) These companies stay “just” legal.

If you ask a MLM person about court cases they will inevitably answer “General Motors is sued all the time.” Yes, they are–but not for “tying” (requiring purchase of other merchandise to get the new, hot thing) and not for R.I.C.O.–racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations. And, yes, a law firm has a lot of similarity to a pyramid scheme, but, law firms PAY their employees. The big problem with pyramid schemes is you work for free most of the time. Product sales are not the key to success–recruitment is. You get paid for the people you recruit. That’s the problem.

If congress would close the loopholes theses accursed companies would die. Am I holding my breath? Of course not…… [The European Union aka “EU” makes it much harder for these companies and we should learn from them]. Somewhere out there, right now, a single mom desperate for more money is charging a sales kit to her “emergency” credit card and starting into a nightmare of debt and shaming. Just as if she’d dared to rush a sorority. She’d have been better off striking a deal with another single mom and swapping child care while each works a minimum wage second job. Or, today, taking the kids with her as she does a food delivery service like Door Dash.

A quick not on the comparison to the Cu Clux Clan [I am deliberately misspelling hoping to avoid freaks, ok?) It’s true. Check out the new book on the Clan, Fever in the Heartland (link is to my review).

Emily Paulson tells the story so well. This book should be in every public library, every church library (if any church still has a library) read by every suburban book group and, due to the business press putting some positive spin on these organizations occasionally, in every university library. MLMs ruin churches, marriages, extended families, and neighborhoods with their mandatory predatory recruiting policies and their ridiculous minimum buy figures. It’s time they were stopped.

I enjoyed hearing about how Emily became sober and went on to re-credential as a sobriety coach. I have not read her first book, but she has a good way with words and I can see how she would be a good coach [fyi: I took graduate level coaching classes during COVID]. Her new business, which is not an MLM, but a legitimate business that she owns, is called the Sober Mom Squad. They have a reasonable fee structure similar to other such groups and provide scholarships for those who cannot afford the regular fees. They also have groups specific to single moms, parents of special needs kids, etc, to help a person find their way to recovery.


My Verdict


Hey Hun by Emily Lynn Paulson published today.

Here’s a podcast in which Emily is interviewed

Listen to Emily’s TED Talk

Review: Pieces of Blue by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

Hawaii was one of the places we studied in 3rd grade social studies with Mrs. Englehart back in about 1970. I’ve been interested in that state ever since. I don’t usually like covers like this, but this one “worked” for me and drew me in. I wanted to read it–so I requested it! 

The Story

Lindsey Hill’s husband Paul hits the big time with the next great tech thingy. [That’s an official tech term–“thingy”]. But greed. And then someone else does his idea only better. The children are enjoying the huge new house and the cool private school, but then a storm comes and Paul [hubs] goes surfing–great waves off the Oregon Coast near their hipster Portland home. He doesn’t come back. Lindsey fights for the life insurance money, wins, and takes Olivia, Carlos (aka “Carl”) and Senna to Hawaii where she buys a ramshakle motel in which to remake their lives. Providentially, Chris, arrives eager to help.


My Thoughts

For once I’ll start with the bad, ok? If I’d heard the phrase “The Crown Victoria” [as in the Ford car often used as a patrol car by police] one more time.  I felt this was one of those “darlings” you are supposed to “kill” when revising a book.  I’m also thinking the car had a bigger role in an earlier draft of the book. If not, why couldn’t she just say “the car”????  And, then there was the overuse of the “the narrative.” Can anyone find synonyms for this annoying woke term anymore?? “The story?” “The plot?” “the history?” UGH UGH UGH. This author wrote a huge Disney hit movie for goodness sake! Was her editor 15? Did she even HAVE an editor? She tells a good story, but the overuse of these phrases was very annoying.

Now the good. And there was plenty of good. I LOVED Lindsey and her kids–loved them. Want them as neighbors. The emotion and personalities were real. Chris seemed pretty real too. “Jeff”–hmmmmmm….. I’ll leave “him” for you to experience.

But…but…but…n Pet Peeve No. 1: All the reading of Googled stuff into [lol] “The Narrative.” Senna was the font of all knowledge in this book, but she was around 7. Yeah. Hell of a gifted program at that private school I guess. And, please tell me just WHO thinks of the weight of a Ford Crown Victoria in the middle of a Hurricane?? No one? Exactly.[Spoiler alert] The Hurricane. I haven’t lived through one. I assume the author has? Can people really crawl to the car when a huge mahogany desk can be thrown around? Maybe.

Those are things that annoyed me. Probably they won’t affect anyone else, but they annoyed me so much I  must mention them. But, remember, I LOVED Lindsey and her kids. A real family and I mean that sincerely.

I would absolutely read another book by this author.


My Verdict


Pieces of Blue: A Novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan 

Cross-Generational Romance in Fiction: Thirst for Salt


Thank you to #Netgalley for a free copy of this audio book in exchange for an honest review.


My Interest

I love a true older man, younger woman romance. Not a bimbo and a billionaire, but the real thing. You know, like in the Cary Grant movies? That kind. The kind I write and hope to publish.  Plus the story is set in Australia–somewhere I don’t get to read about very often. So, when Netgalley offered this book I took it.

The Story

Told in memories,  a woman remembers meeting and falling for an older man on the beach. They are attracted to each other. They have you-know-what (in this book, you-know-what was needed and I didn’t find any “ick” moments). He is not  a drifter, but kind of a loner, and on the rebound. She was clueless about her life then. He has a rhythm to his life that he enjoys. He is too old to hold hands in public and tries telling her that. She wants it all. He reveals just enough of himself to her. (I did not go back to verify that was an actual quote–its a close paraphrase). He doesn’t say the lame “love means never having to say you’re sorry” line, but nearly. When she wishes he could fall in love again for the first time–this time with her, he replies “Every time is like the first time–that’s the beauty of love.” She needed to heed the “gap to fall into” aka the years between them in age. Then there is the photo that tells her she could have had it all. (Minor spoiler). 

My Thoughts

I should have known that anything so over-hyped as “A love affair so richly and attentively imagined it carries the grace and gravity of memory itself.” ( —Leslie Jamison) would not live up to expectations. This book was gloomy, dreary. I’ve never read a dreary beach book! She was a whiner wanting a boyfriend. He was a grown up wanting to have sex after a failed long-term relationship. There were red flags everywhere for them but the young woman (what was her  name??) wouldn’t see them. Unlike the book Groundskeeping where the characters were so utterly annoying because it was so well written, this was like listening to my daughter’s high school cheerleading friends whine about how the basketball players wouldn’t take them on romantic dates, but only wanted the free milk (if you take my meaning). I turned it on to try to listen to more and my brain said “do I have to?” No, I didn’t have to–I’d been bored long enough. So, this was a big old DNF for me. Your results, of course, may vary. 


My Verdict

2 Stars

Thirst for Salt: A Novel by Madelaine Lucas

Review: Künstlers in Paradise by Cathleen Schine


Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

I admit it–the cover grabbed my attention! Of course the story grabbed me, too. Escaping Nazi Vienna to Venice, California and do ordinary jobs in places like Hollywood? Why not? And, having recently read Maame, why not read a story of a “Mamie”?

The Story

“One’s trauma becomes banal when trotted out too many times.”

The Künstlers family were helped by a committee of Hollywood moguls and employees to escape Vienna. Mamie, the daughter, was a child and so did not always notice the threats to their safety. Julian, her grandson, was a “failure to launch”–an upper-middle class young man with an education and parents with a secure life near the park in NYC who can’t seem to motivate himself to get a real, adult life with a job. Just before COVID hits, Julian is sent by the family to check on his grandmother out in California. Covid hits and Julian is stuck with his Grandmother, Mamie, her platonic companion Agatha, and an aging Saint Bernard. During their isolation, Mamie tells Julian a lot of stories about her childhood and family. Julian, a wanna be writer, takes notes and shares the stories with a young woman, Sophie, whom he meets out walking the St. Bernard .They walk their dogs “together” masked and on opposite sides of the street, talking all the time. As Mamie enlightens Julian, she not only fills gaps in his formal education, but also in his knowledge of his family and of the society they have inhabited. Julian finds confidence and begins to act more like an adult.

My Thoughts

Marked as “Humorous Literary Fiction” by Amazon, I imagine the review saying “nearly hurt myself laughing” was a plant from a friend or the publisher. There is humor in here–mostly provided by Agatha. (In the audio, Agatha was voiced like the announcer in the old Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” commercial with the Soviet woman modeling “fashions”). This is a novel in which politics belongs, but even then it got old–and I’m a liberal. I also thought Mamie got boring in certain points of the story–like filling a space with reading the encyclopedia. A little more pruning would have helped. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I got tired of the audio book narrator who tried too hard to make the children’s voices precious. I hate precious.

I thought of Julian Fellowes saying he didn’t want Downton Abbey being one of those shows where ‘oh, look! here comes Lloyd George.’ For that is what kept happening. Instead of politicians, it was a famous actress, various writers, composers and musicians. Was it believable–YES! That was the community that sponsored the family. But, one scene, with the “Great One” made me roll my eyes and debate dnf-ing the book. It was a dilemma for me–knowing it was believable but still finding parts of it to be tedious. A little can go a long way. A lot can steamroller a story and the “Great One” did that for me. I didn’t find it all poignant.

I did LOVE, love, love the “jingling tray!” That was what Mamie and Agatha had to look forward to each day–the cocktail hour–“HOURS”as Julian was corrected to say Adult Mamie, Julian, and Agatha were real to me. I loved Julian’s romance, too.

As I said, politics belonged in this book. I am not a Trump fan at all, but even I get sick of it. No matter, the author did come up with one image that made me stop and think. I’m sharing this knowing some reading this will be angry–outraged even. Remember, it is just one person’s opinion in one novel that you do not have to read, ok? It is not my opinion–merely a thought from a book that intrigued me. Do not flame me.

“Trump is more like Stalin or perhaps Mao…the affect is like Hitler, …effect is quite different…..Genocide by virus…”

I took this quote down quickly on the side of the road so the punctuation may be off. I had to turn off the book and think about it. I have studied every major modern dictator before 1984 in extreme detail, yet, like most, I ignore Mao too often. Pol Pot–yes, Mao? Was he too big? It was such a fascinating idea that I toyed with it through my errands. This quote will stay with me as Trump continues to evade the legal consequences of his actions. I will think of this now when he is mentioned.

That quote and more are why I’m positive this will be one of NPR’s books of 2023. For me, it was a decent read. Great? No. Terrible? Of course not. A perfectly fine book.

My Verdict


Künstlers in Paradise by Cathleen Schine

I listened to the audio version

Review: Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash


First, thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of this audio book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

The only things I’ve seen or read about children sent to safety the USA or Canada from the UK in World War II were the Dutch princesses (one of whom was later Queen Beatrix), the grandchildren of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (related to the Dutch princesses as well as being a granddaughter of Queen Victoria via her youngest son, Prince Leopold) and the Mountbatten girls–whose great-grandfather, Sir Ernest Cassel was Jewish. The other exposure I have to these children is the tragically bad sequel to the movie, Mrs. Miniver in which the previously adorable little son comes back with baseball catcher’s gear and an odd way of speaking. Nonetheless, I’ve always been intrigued by how those children went on to live their post-war lives. Some came home well before the war ended, others at the end.

The Story

Only child Beatrix is sent by her loving parents to an American family in Massachusetts to stay safe during the war. Her parents are away of many “bad” things happening to children evacuated to the countryside in England, so they send her abroad. She lands with a great family who seem way wealthier than her own. But, the father is a prep school teacher (UK public school) and the glorious house comes with the job. But, “Mrs. G”–the mother, owns an island off Maine thanks to her much wealthier family. But the G’s live on Mr. G’s salary. They are a mostly happy family and they fall in love with “Bea” and she with them.So much so that it is many years later that the find out she is called “Trixie” at home–not “Bea” (supposedly the other Royal Families refer to now former Queen Beatrix as “Trixie Holland”). The two sons, William and Gerald, are on either side of her in age so they make a good family. The summers in Maine are magical for them. Naturally, over the five years they are a “family” William and Bea grow a bit too emotionally close. Just in time though, the war ends and Bea must go home to London, to a small flat, a widowed/remarried mother and morph back into “Trixie”

The story carries on for several years until the “children’ are in their late 30s or so. We find out some of what their post-war lives are like.

My Thoughts

Overall, I loved this story, but the first part, during the war, was stronger. I was interested in what they all did after the war, but I felt too little was made of Trixie’s re-integration into London life. There were a few puzzling historical things that “could” have happened–I’m not saying they were impossible–the author may, of course, draw on personal experience. At any rate they did not change the story or my rating. Just odd that an editor didn’t say, “hmmmm” as I have.

  • A waspy, but middle class preppy-Harvard banker gets his working-/maybe middle-class Irish Catholic “fiance” knocked up in the Boston 1951 and doesn’t marry her? With a Priest brother? A brother who serves a local church? Hmmmm
  • A non-Catholic having a Catholic funeral and burial before Vatican II?? And Alice in Wonderland being read at the funeral? hmmmmm
  • A coed faculty house at a prep school in 1964? Maybe at Putney or the UK’s Somerhill, but doubtful at an obviously Episcopalian boys school with a chapel.
  • One character’s Kennedy obsession got irksome. Understandable at the time that part of the story was set, but still it got tedious for me.


I look forward to more from this author.

Beyond That, the Sea: A Novel  publishes March 21, 2023, but is on sale for Kindle pre-orders at $14.99

Review: Homestead: A Novel by Melinda Moustakis


Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.



My Interest

In my twenties I often wondered if I could handle Alaska. In my late 20s I went out to Northern Idaho, where my artist great-uncle and great-aunt lived until some lamentable far-far-far right wing groups invade and before the area was “developed” to cater to tourists and Hollywood. It gave me thoughts of a life lived in peaceful solitude, and the beauty of nature. You are laughing, of course. Never did I consider the WORK involved! LOL So, anyway, Alaska has long been on my radar. About 10 years ago a young friend moved there just for an experience. Even with an excellent health profession, it was so expensive we all mailed her food!

The Story

Not too long before Alaska achieved statehood [January 1959], a young woman from Texas journeys to Anchorage to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. Not wanting to go back, she looks around and finds herself a suitable guy. Marie and Lawrence marry and take out a homestead. This is back in the days of American Colonialism, when there were “no” settlers in Alaska because there were only the indigenous people whose land it was.

Lawrence has what we call PTSD today from his stint in the Army during the Korean “Conflict”–it was never declare as a “war.” He deals with it as best he can through hard work or even exercise. Meanwhile, he and Marie set up house in an an old bus modified to have a wood stove, while they clear the land and build a cabin. In town they see “natives” treated badly, but being people of their time and not woke individuals of today, they don’t like it, but they feel they must mind their own business. Lawrence is a little obsessed with “proving” his claim–[maybe a minor spoiler] it ties in a bit with his PTSD. Marie wants to share in the “proving up” of the claim. She though is by now pregnant. Her sister, back in Anchorage, has not been able to have a child. This is predictably a cause of tension between them.

The hard work of the homestead is obvious. Lawrence’s father arrives to help build the cabin and Marie is grateful. Her sister is her sole “support” in terms of a “support network,” as we’d call it today, but Lawrence’s father is soon added to that.

Late in the story, they take a risk and ask to be introduced to a father and son–Native Alaskans. They learn a bit about how they see things. The story does not catapult them (thankfully) into modern views, but they do learn and grown from it.

The parallels are between Lawrence and Marie growing in their marriage and Alaska going through the growing pains from Colonial “Territory” to full statehood–even though many would prefer they be independent (just like Puerto Rico).

My Thoughts

In Peace Corps I learned a lot of the idiocy of the “Great White Savior” mentality like bringing in Monsanto for fertilizer so that without it crops failed. Or showing people who had been successfully growing their own food for centuries a “better” way to do it based on what worked in North Dakota. At the time I read this I saw the “other” side of Mt. Rushmore–a mountain that to certain Native Americans symbolized their history. I can honestly say I knew nothing of that. And, while I would still like to see Mt Rushmore, I will view it differently. All of these things, as the woke would say, provide the “lens” though which I viewed the story–or “informed” how I took in the story.

No matter, it is a very compelling story told mostly with the manners and mores of the time–something I value in historical fiction. Not everyone was as clairvoyant as many authors want their historical characters to be. That Lawrence and Marie even agreed to meet Alaskans was a huge deal and made an impression on them.

That said, I did not really “get” the symbolism (if there was any) of Lawrence’s big “thing” [no spoilers]. Was it a modern-day attack on men? Was it something to do with his PTSD? Hmmmmmmm. Otherwise, I thought the book was very “real.” The actions of the characters were believeable. The author planted me firmly in that homestead. I felt the angst of Anchorage residents at statehood as they waited to see if their lives would improve with the Capital being moved there (hint: Capital is still Juneau). This part of the story caught my attention as I was in Peace Corps with one of the Anchorage City Planners from just after that era. Fond memory.

No matter, I enjoyed this book tremendously. I look forward to reading more from this author.

My Verdict


Homestead: A Novel by Melinda Moustakis will be published on February 28, but is available for pre-order in all formats.

Maame: A Novel by Jessica George


First of all, thank you to #NetGalley for a free copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

This just sounded good!

The Story

Maddy, aka Maame (pronounced somewhere between Mame and mammy) is the child of Ghanian immigrants–who moved to London for a better life for their children. Her mother returns to Ghana for up to a year at a time to run a business. Her father, now stricken with Parkinson’s is at home in London. Maddy’s older brother has his own life elsewhere in the city and does little to help her with the care of their father. Maddy gave up the chance to go away to “Uni” (college) opting instead to go to a University in London and live at home. Her degree in English Literature, predictably, hasn’t gotten her very far up the career ladder yet. She is a personal assistant (secretary). When her mother returns to London this time, Maddy decides this is “her” time and takes a room in a shared flat with other young professionals. She begins dating. But then….NO SPOILERS…..

My Thoughts

I liked Maddy. I liked her reluctance to stray from home or from “the rules,” but I also understood her angst about missing out on what people her own age were doing. She is young and naive in many ways, too grown up in others. Her naivete causes her to miss a red flag or two–the sorts of things we all could miss at 25. I loved how she would Google stuff to decide–who hasn’t done that these days? I also felt everything when her work situation wasn’t going the way she wanted–especially regarding “intellectural property.” (Trying not to have spoilers).

Her faith matters to her–it matures as she matures in the book. She learns the difference between smoke/mirrors and doing what has to be done. Upon losing her virginity at the grand old age of 25, Maddy is beset with some predictable angst and engages in some deep searching within herself..

“What does God think of me now… Is [he] religious? Does he know that I am? What I call a modern day Christian, a Christian who wants to get into heaven without doing any of the dutiful stuff because surely believing in Him is enough of an entry requirement and its really hard to go to church every Sunday and then read the Bible every day, too.    and not drink, smoke… gossip, lie and watch tv and listen to music with none of the aforementioned….”  [quote taken down from the audio–punctuation may be incorrect]

I liked that quote, but was left wondering–is it only ok for non-whites to be Christians today? Would a white girl have been given the same respect for waiting “so long” to have sex in a book today?. I wonder. But, maybe the Christian dissing isn’t so bad in the UK for anyone? I don’t know.

I also cheered her as she dealt with the truly hypocritical aspects of her mother’s faith. I want to be clear, we are ALL hypocrites–every single one of us, in some way. I do not buy into the modern mantra that ALL Christians are “this” or “that.” But her mother truly was caught in the type hypocrisy that can give Christians, at least here in the US, a bad name.

If I had a print or ebook copy, I’d give the long, delightfully skewering quote on the funeral industry. It was absolutely perfect.

Ignore the truly ICK comment from the friend described as “…a serial over-sharer” early in the book–it is an apparently obligatory mention of such to make a bestseller. There are a few other such moments–just endure, the “normative construct” and “bi-erasure” guy especially. I didn’t mind the last of these scenes–it fit the story, showing what is out there on dating apps. The other seemed part of a check list. I also did not object to the scene at the end of the book–it fit the story so well.

Another debut that is hard to believe IS a debut novel.

My Verdict


Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper (Aaron Falk #3)

My Interest

First, thanks to #NetGalley for a free audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Harper has become a “must-listen” author. I like her books on audio to hear them in an Australian accent appropriate to the story. I have enjoyed each of her books. I have dear friends in Australia, so I love getting my hands on books set anywhere even close to where they live. Silly, when you think how big the country is, but I mean well.

Note: I don’t usually review series books–too hard to avoid spoilers. This one, though, came to me via NetGalley, so I am happy to give my review.

The Story

“You see what you expect to see.”

Federal Police agent Aaron Falk is involved with another suspicious death. A new mother leaves her new baby in the stroller in a stroller corral at a festival ride. Her shoe is found later. Her teenage daughter from her first relationship isn’t satisfied with the police outcome. And, what about the boy whose father died in a mysterious way in the same area?

A small town with a typical high school rite of passage–a big boozy party out in the boondocks–just like those held in my hometown or here in my kids adopted hometown. (They went, I couldn’t be bothered). A group of friends, booze, a girl has too much. Fast forward to today and it’s the teenage daughter of the missing mom who is going to party.

The small town also has an annual festival–a big money-maker for small towns the world over I guess. This town, being near vineyards and wineries, gets tourists from all over the country. Did anyone see that mom park her stroller? Or leave the festival? Or be helped to leave…. “You see what you expect to see” Falk reasons with another cop.

What’s the truth? You know my rule–no spoilers here!

But the ending had an element of surprise in addition to the “who-done-it-reveal.” That intrigues me. I want to know what Harper has in mind for this in the future.

My Thoughts

I liked having Aaron back. This was a good mystery for folks like me who don’t read a lot of them or a lot of police procedurals. I’m never good at guessing the outcome of this type book and did not guess this one’s ending.

My Verdict


Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper releases on January 31, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Note: I do not make any money off this blog. The links to Amazon are just for your convenience.

My Reviews of Previous Jane Harper Books:

Some of my Favorite Fiction and Non-fiction Books Read in 2022


Yesterday I posted my favorite Historical Fiction reads of the year. (Click the link to go to that post).

Today, I’m looking at the rest of my reading–or to be honest, my LISTENING. Audio books are my go-to. Since the COVID lock-down I’ve really struggled with reading print/Kindle books. Audio is my thing these days.

Note: Historical fiction is not included here. See this post for my favorites in historical fiction this year.

Biggest Surprise

A book about an aging closeted gay mailman? Ok….right up my alley. But wait! It was pretty much wonderful. Ok, there were preachy parts, but I didn’t really care. Read this–it’s good! The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle. Somewhere this year–Enchanted April [haven’t finished this one yet] or maybe Illyrian Spring– I encountered another Entwistle. Funny how books do that too you!

Best Mystery or Thriller


I loved finding the Youtube videos the author obviously used for some of his research! The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting.

Favorite Rom-Com-ish Book


The Bodyguard was just plain fun!

Most Out Of My Comfort Zone Book That I Loved


So sweet and fun–and a new genre for me, too. I never imagined I’d like this style of book known as manga. A Man & His Cat.

Favorite Nonfiction Book or Memoir


Winston and Clementine’s youngest child–born after the death (while they were away) of their daughter, Marigold, Mary Churchill went on to be wife of an MP & Ambassador, mother of an MP, and the author of an excellent biography of her parents. Her life at 18 was interesting. There were not yet any “teenagers” in the world! The word wasn’t yet in use. There were, however, debutantes and debs delights in her world, though. Mary Churchill’s War.

Worst Book I Finished


I suspect the NY Times raved about it because it was horrible. Portrait of an Unknown Lady. Ugh.

The Book That Broke One of My Rules


I listened to a James Patterson-franchise book, but only for Dolly! Dolly Parton gives kids books. That’s good enough for me! Run, Rose, Run, is about a dumb as it’s title, but I love Dolly and gave my Audible Credit for this!

Favorite Book in Translation

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A tale all Americans should read, but won’t. Maybe if it’s made into a Netflix series? Ugh. I loved this. The Ardent Swarm. Why is it that the free World Book Day (I think that’s right) books from Amazon are good, but the Kindle First Read Book are a death sentence to a book?

Favorite Christmas Book


The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

Favorite NetGalley Book***


Oh my!! I have to pick a favorite? ***Several of the books mentioned here (The Bodyguard, Mary Churchill’s War, Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, Sixteen Trees of the Somme, were from Netgalley. How about Thank you to NetGalley for many great reads and here is one I didn’t name as a favorite, but still really loved Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander.

The “Hidden Gem” Book


Paying Tribute to Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich is a GEM! Read it, read Mrs Harris and go see the new Mrs Harris move–see the bottom of this post for the trailer.

Favorite Book by a Favorite Author (not historical fiction)


French Braid by the great Anne Tyler

My Favorite Book of the Year

Tune in tomorrow!

What about you? Did you do a “Favorites” post for 2022? Leave me a link or just give me a comment with some of your favorite books read this year!

It Happened One Christmas Eve by Jenn McKinlay


My Interest

I was in the mood for a “put your brains under the seat and don’t ask too many questions” sort of Christmas book. [That quote, by the way, originated long ago with a Bond movie–The Spy Who Loved Me, iirc].

The Story

Heiress and museum director, Claire MacIntosh (fyi, I’ve never met a woman named Claire–nor Tess…most popular names in novels) plays Runaway Bride by seizing Santa’s “sleigh” and making a run for it when her society husband-to-be plans a cheesy Pinterest/Instagram-worthy proposal. Trey may have money and be an up-and-coming partner in her father’s environmental law firm, but he’s not at all what Claire dreams of. Her society mother Hildy pushes Trey at her like an exceptional hors d’oeuvres. Claire sees him as wheat grass. Happily, Santa’s sleigh has been hijacked by Sam, a well known investigative journalist.  Yep, you guessed it…..[No spoilers here].

My Verdict

This little book was just what I needed. I laughed, I “awed-d” and I just plain had a fun time listening to it.


It Happened One Christmas Eve by Jenn McKinlay

I don’t have the page total but it was only 3 hours and 22 minutes on audio

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