I can’t stop talking to people about The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott. This book knocked me off my feet. It is such a fascinating history of prohibition and bootlegging while also being a great biography of some terrible people. Plus, there is murder!

I knew very little about bootlegging apart from the little bits and pieces that I have heard here and there.  Abbott follows George Remus, once hailed the “King of the Bootleggers,” as he switches from his life as a lawyer in Chicago to become a bootlegger in Cincinnati.  Abbott uses Remus as a point in which to tell the story of bootlegging in general as well as the history of the U.S. Attorney’s office and their investigations into illegal alcohol sales.

I couldn’t help but share facts as I read them with whoever happened to be around me at the time.  Remus’s story (and Abbott’s writing of it) read like a crazy, twisty thriller, making it hard for me to put this book down.  I throughly enjoyed it and think that everyone should take the time to join Abbott in the craziness of the bootlegging world.


I was already a huge Edgar Cantero fan but finally getting around to his English debut, The Supernatural Enhancements, cemented him as a favorite, auto-buy author for me.

The format of this novel was the first thing that pulled me in.  Told entirely through documents (such as notes, letters, and transcripts of videos and voice recordings, as well as many others), Cantero closely controls the amount of information that the reader receives, keeping you learning things at the same pace as the main characters (for the most part, though he does hold back some vital information as well).

Cantero is a master of telling a horrifying, scary story while making you laugh out loud and this novel is no exception.  While not as outwardly funny as Meddling Kids or This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Two of Us, he uses humor to comment on the absurdity of life, even when some terrifying, secret society stuff is happening.

This would have been a five-star read for me but the ending felt a little rushed.  I could have spent a lot longer in this strange world and I feel like readers deserve more than the few sentences of closure at the end.  I am fine with ambiguity but the ending left me saying, “humph.”


Temporary by Hilary Leichter is absurdism at its best. The narrator fills in for a variety of temporary jobs, from chairman of the board to a crew member on a pirate ship. In addition to all of her jobs, she is dealing with her 18 boyfriends.

This book is an absolute joy to read. The reality Leichter has created is so incredibly strange and different from our own yet incredibly relatable.  I wanted to follow this character through her whole life and was sad to leave her behind when the book ended.  Leichter uses each of the strange jobs and interactions the narrator has to show a truth about life and the world.  This one doesn’t come out until March but mark your calendars now because it will be the perfect escape from the winter rut that is March!


I was shocked when my friend Abi alerted me that I had not written a review yet for this absolutely wonderful joy of a book. I read it back in February and it is still my favorite read of the year (and I’ve read a lot of great things this year).

Winter in Chicago can be dark and exhausting so I was looking for something lighter and happier. I requested a galley of a YA summer romance and our rep responded that the warehouse was out of that one but that she had something else that might fit the bill. So she sent me Red, White, and Royal Blue. I read the synopsis and was immediately hooked.

And holy poop is this book everything I have ever wanted in a book.  It’s had fun moments and very serious moments.  It’s a romance yet has deals a lot politics and international relations.  (I describe it as international relations on the streets and between the sheets.) There is some great satire and commentary on the recent political history.  McQuiston has created just the most charming, amazing cast of characters I would have ever hoped for and I want to be all of their friends.

I finished this book and immediately told everyone I knew about it because I think that the whole world needs to experience the joy that is Red, White & Royal Blue.

Warning: if you read this book, you may become this Spongebob meme at a couple of points.  Multiple people I may read this responded to passages this way (and I yelled this alone in my room.)


Anyway, this book gets all of the Sequinbeasts from me.  This is the only time I have read a book and then bought book merch before the book even came out!  Claremont 2020!

I have been missing Chicago like crazy and so finding THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD by Claire Lombardo couldn’t have come at a better time.

While covering a large period of time and having quite a bit of plot, THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD, the story of the Sorenson family, is deeply a character study. What happens when a family grows up and goes on to live their own lives? How is that affected by the fact that, apart from one daughter, they all live close to each other? Lombardo writes some wonderful love stories, exploring both romantic love as well as familial love. I really felt like I was pulled into the Sorenson family and their love for each other while also feeling jealous because I would never be one of them.


Trying to catch up on reviews, I reached out to my Facebook world and asked what books people wanted reviews of.*  Taylor chose You by Caroline Kepnes.  Perfect, I thought.  I know I wrote a review of this one on Goodreads.

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Well, that’s not very helpful.  While I still find this review to be very funny, let’s flesh that out a bit.

I read You because I wanted to watch the tv show.  I hate watching a movie or a show based on a book without reading the book first because, in my opinion, the author took so much time and energy to come up with the story and I want them to be the ones to tell it to me.

The book started out strong for me in the first few pages.  There was some absolutely dynamite descriptions of the life of a bookseller and the crap we have to put up with from customers.  I was taking pictures of lines and sending them to my coworkers.  I was hooked and here for it.

And then it went downhill.  So fast.  It was like being on a go-cart with broken brakes falling down a long, scary San Francisco hill.  At first, it’s all fun and games and then it goes badly for so long.

This book was stalker, horror porn.  Every decision that Joe made made by stomach fill with knots.  I know, I know, that’s the point.  But I never felt like there was any motivation behind what he was doing.  He became just a stalker sociopath with nothing else going on.  And Beck just kept making bad decision after bad decision.  She felt like a very one-dimensional pawn and he felt like a flat “crazy man” so it felt more like reading horror porn than anything.  It felt like I was reading event after event after event with no idea of how I had gotten there.  Beck was just a stereotypical dumb girl who needed a man to fix things for her.  And I quickly lost any interest in Joe when his character became purely a method of shocking the audience.

I had some conversations about the book after I finished with people who had watched the show (which I still haven’t because I am scarred by this book) and they were shocked to learn that all of the things that they loved about the show didn’t exist in the book.  Apparently the show adds some dimension to the lack of believable plot by adding in some actually sympathetic characters.  The book definitely could have used that.

The only reason this is a two-Sequinbeast book rather than a one-Sequinbeast book is that I can’t get past the connection I felt to those first few pages.  But that is really all it has going for me.


*I still need help prioritizing what books to write reviews of since I fell so far behind.  So if you go to this page and see a book that I read this year that you want to know my thoughts on, please let me know!

How do you make friends in a town when everyone is always moving away and your family stays?

“Friend or Fiction” is a beautiful story about what it means to be a good friend as well as showing that there is no such thing as a perfect friend. Cooper explores some extremely heavy topics with a lightness and grace that allows this story to still be a lot of fun. Jade is such a relatable character, just wanting to fit in, and she is a great role model for bookish kids, showing that it is good to be different. Cooper also deals with the fact that everyone is going through things that other people cannot see and shows kids that they should be more accepting of those around them rather than writing off people quickly.

The magical realism of the story makes this story feel different and unique while still being relatable and quite realistic.


The Liar tells the story of Nofar, an unremarkable girl whose whole life changes one summer when she tells a lie that spirals out of control, changing the lives of many people around her.

I am of two, very conflicting minds about this book. First, the positives. Ayelet Gundar-Goshen is a beautiful writer. She has created a beautiful character study, showing us a cast of very different characters that are all fully developed and three-dimensional. She really explores how actions of one person can deeply change the character and lives of another. Also, she deftly talks about problems in Israel without getting political or making the moments feel at all forced. Instead, this novel really feels like a slice of life.

Now for my problems with the book. I really don’t feel like this is the right time for this book. We are in a currently in a climate where women are not being believed when they come forward with accusations of sexual assault and so a book in which the main character fakes a rape doesn’t feel right. I feel like this book could be used as a weapon to show why we shouldn’t believe women. This is a very serious subject and I feel like this book doesn’t handle that fact. There is one character who Nofar interacts with that makes her feel bad about her story but I never felt that she felt the weight of what she was doing enough or that she had changed the way the public would view other women who were actually assaulted.

That said, I would recommend this book for the writing and the characters if you can get past the repercussions of the novel, which I found I wasn’t always able to do.


Middle School is HARD and Pipi’s eighth grade experience made me so glad to be so far away from my experiences.

Pipi has had something humiliating happen to her every year since she started kindergarten (and she won’t even talk about what happened in 7th grade) but she has decided that 8th grade is going to be different. She is going to make up for each humiliation and make it her best year yet. But will she be able to do that without becoming like the people she has grown up being hurt by?

This novel is fun, heartwarming, and has a good message. It’s a book for all of the “weird” kids who are having a hard time with classmates. It’s a call to action to embrace your inner weird and live your best life. Vrabel has created a cast of characters with depth, intense backstories and from different life experiences. And she has helped me figure out what I want to be when I grow up: Bacon with Boobs!

Thanks to Running Press Kids and Netgally for a copy of this book!


All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker is a wonderful story about the power of art while also discussing depression in a masterful way, all in the package of a middle grade novel.

When Olympia’s dad runs off and her mother falls into a deep depression, she turns to art to keep herself functioning. From drawing monsters for her friend to creating dioramas of her life with her dad’s partner, Olympia distracts herself by escaping into the world of her imagination. A realistic fiction novel set in the 80s with a hint of mystery, Tucker has written a book with so much heart. I wanted to hug Olympia and tell her that everything would be alright. This message of this book, that it is okay to talk to people about the problems in your life, is so deeply important. I love a good middle grade with a moral that doesn’t hit you over the head with it.


Such a Fun Age is absolutely brilliant. Kiley Reid has a beautiful way of writing about absolutely terrible every day horrors in a way that is almost too easy to read. She explores both sides of a working relationship. Alix is a white, upper class woman who hires Emira, a 25-year old black woman, to work as a babysitter for her son. After Emira is accused of kidnapping Alix’s son one night at a grocery store, events unfold that show the ways in which casual racism permeates the world. I finished this book with a smile and was immediately hit with a wave of “oh man the world is a truly horrible place.” Reid has created amazing, three-dimensional characters that make you feel for all of them, causing me to change loyalties with each chapter. This book deserves all of the attention it is getting.


Immigration and border issues between the US and Mexico are incredibly important to me and this book did such a beautiful job of explaining to the world why we should care more. Villasante has created such complex characters and shows the lengths people will go to for the hopes of safety. Marisol, the main character, is only seventeen yet she is willing to give up her health and happiness just to make sure that her younger sister has a better life. I want to hug each and every one of this characters. I want to make sure that they are safe and happy. Unlike some YA novels, the romance plot line seemed like a happy side effect rather than taking over the story. Definitely make sure to pick this one up.