By most people’s standards I read a lot this month. But I could have read so much more. I was intensely aware of how much time I spent staring at my phone this month. Time that could have been spent reading.
That said, I still read 13 books this month and while a lot of what I read was only ‘OK’, I didn’t read anything that I disliked. So that’s a win! And 30% of the authors I read this month were written by BIPOC authors. Room for improvement, but not too bad.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
Head Over Heels is about two retired Olympic level gymnasts who are now acting as coaches for a young girl hoping to make it to the 2020 Olympics. At it’s core this book is a sweet closed door romance. But there’s also an exploration of the impact that sexually and emotionally abusive training environments have on young athletes. This aspect of the book is really well done and didn’t feel too heavy.
This book is definitely more about gymnastic training than the Olympics themselves so keep that in mind if you just wanted to read about the Olympics. This book doesn’t build to a fever pitch and take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it’s a fun read and former gymnasts, other competitive athletes and sports fans, and light fiction lovers will definitely enjoy this.
The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine
The Wife Stalker is told from the perspective of two women –beautiful Piper who moves to Connecticut and promptly falls in love with Leo Drakos in spite of the wedding ring on his finger; and Joanna, the woman Leo dismisses as soon as he meets Piper.
This book is wild. Usually I’m pretty good at guessing whodunnit in thrillers, but I did not see the twist in this book coming. That said, it felt so damn long. I did not need to read so many descriptions of what characters wore or ate. Also, the unreliable female narrator shtick is so overplayed.
I’d only recommend this book to the most ardent fan of thrillers and suspense novels.
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Tell Me Three Things is a YA novel about Jessie, a teenager who’s forced to move to Los Angeles after her mother dies and her father gets remarried. On her first day at her new high school Jessie begins receiving anonymous emails from one of her new classmates. She starts to fall for her mysterious new friend, but will things change once she finds out who they really are?
I’ve heard so many great things about this book, but it didn’t live up to the hype for me. It was so damn predictable! And Jessie is one of those teenagers who I found to be way too self-involved to enjoy reading about.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer is about sisters Korede and Ayoola. Korede is a well behaved nurse who’s constantly cleaning up after her sister Ayoola. The twist? Ayoola is a serial killer who murders all of her boyfriends, and Korede is her accomplice.
This book is extremely short and predictable and felt more like a character sketch than a fully fleshed out book. While the plot revolves around murder, I’d categorize it as character driven literary fiction, not a plot driven mystery.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read is the story of writers, rivals, and neighbors January and Gus. They’re both struggling with writer’s block so decide to spend the summer writing novels in each other’s writing styles.
All the reviews I read of this book went out of their way to make it clear that this is not your typical beach read. Hearing that made me think there would be a twist turning it from a rom-com into a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. But no, it is just a rom-com. An exceptionally well done rom-com, but a rom-com none the less.
Character development was excellent, the romance was just the right level of steamy for my taste, and the ancillary characters were delightful, too. Oh, and Gus is my new favorite fictional boyfriend.
This month I re-read The Royal We for the umpteenth time in preparation for the release of the sequel, The Heir Affair. For the uninitiated, The Royal We is barely veiled Will/Kate fanfiction about Rebecca, an American who meets and falls in love with Nick, the future King of England, while spending a semester studying abroad at Oxford. The book spans their 20s and ends on their wedding day.
The Heir Affair picks up exactly where The Royal We left off. While The Royal We is about falling in love and the adventures of your 20s, The Heir Affair is about growing up, settling down, and working through your s*&t. It’s also about dealing with the consequences of your actions.
The Heir Affair got off to a real rough start for me, (frankly, I wished it had glossed over the events that The Royal We ended on) but I started to get into the groove about 100 pages in. Even then, this wasn’t the story or the path I would have chosen for Bex, Nick, and Freddie. It isn’t a particularly joyful story, shenanigans with the Queen aside, but then if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that life isn’t always that joyful. Much of being an adult is about duty and responsibilities, and that’s the story the authors decided to tell in The Heir Affair.
This isn’t the sequel I had hoped for or the one I would have written, but it’s still well done and true to our beloved characters. Plot decisions aside, my one real complaint is that we see very little of Lacey, Gaz, Cilla, Bea, Gemma et al.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
Party of Two is the third book by Jasmine Guillory that I’ve read this year. Guillory is one of the most consistent authors writing today. You always know what you’ll get from her books – a ‘will they or won’t they’ romance between two smart professionals with no crazy plot twists.
Party of Two is about Olivia and Max, a lawyer and U.S. Senator respectively, who’ll have to overcome media scrutiny and navigate a bicoastal relationship if they want to be together. It’s my favorite of Guillory’s books so far. The characters were likable and relatable.
It was also nice to get a brief glimpse of Alexa and Drew, the characters from Guillory’s first novel, The Wedding Date (review here). I like the way she weaves in characters from previous books but in ways that allow you to still enjoy the plot if you haven’t read those or simply don’t remember much about them.
This book is a must read for fans of romance and romantic comedies.
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
28 Summers is about Mallory and Jake, a couple who’ve met once a year for 27 years to spend Labor Day weekend together on Nantucket. The catch? Jake is married to someone else. There is one chapter for each year of their affair. Some chapters describe their weekends together while others describe significant events in their lives separate from their relationship.
I always love Erin Hilderbrand’s writing, and 28 Summers was no exception. Usually I don’t enjoy reading about infidelity, but for some reason in this story I minded the infidelity far less than I minded the fact that Jake is clearly such a terrible weenie. It was very hard to understand why they lived with that arrangement for so many years instead of just being together.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Loveboat, Taipei is about eighteen-year-old Ever Wong who is sent by her parents to a camp in Taiwan the summer after she graduates from high school. Ever is torn between wanting to make her parents proud and wanting to spread her wings and do her own thing for the first time in her life.
The characters in the book were complex and the setting was unique. However, the plot itself felt pretty predictable. I’d recommend this book to fans of YA romance and anyone interested in learning more about life as a second generation immigrant growing up in the US.
The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine
The Margot Affair is about Margot, a Parisian teenager and the product of a longtime affair between a politician and a theatre actress. After keeping her family’s secret for her whole life, Margot finally decides to expose it all.
The first adjective I’d use to describe The Margot Affair is ‘French’. The vivid picture the author paints of Paris, the many descriptions of food, the focus on arts and culture – it’s all so transportive and specific. After four months in my house in America, I enjoyed feeling like I was in France with Margot.
However, I have a low tolerance for unlikeable characters so a story about a moody teenage girl, complicated parents, and potentially untrustworthy supporting characters … well let’s just stay I wouldn’t describe this as a relaxing read.
That said, the writing was beautiful and lyrical, and the book left me with a lot to think about when it comes to mother-daughter relationships. If you like literary fiction, character driven stories, or books about complicated families, then this is the book for you.
Endurance by Scott Kelly
Endurance is easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It’s a memoir by astronaut Scott Kelly about his training as a fighter pilot, career as an astronaut, and record-breaking year in space on the International Space Station (ISS).
Yes, it’s a great book for those who are fascinated by space and space travel. You’ll learn what happens if a toilet breaks in space, how supplies are delivered and trash is disposed of on the ISS, and all of those other space travel details you’ve probably wondered about.
But it’s so much more than that. One of the aspects of the book that I really enjoyed was learning about what it actually means that the ISS is a cooperative international project. Although the astronauts are trained as engineers, pilots, scientists, and more, they also end up serving as diplomats. I loved Kelly’s observations about what it was like to work with astronauts from different nationalities.
I would recommend this book to everyone – space fanatics, those interested in how human beings respond to extraordinary circumstances and environments, and memoir lovers.
As If! by Jen Chaney
As If! is an oral history of the movie Clueless, both the making of the film as well as the impact it’s had on pop culture since its release.
I love oral histories, and As If! is no exception. There aren’t many juicy ‘stars behaving badly’ anecdotes in this book, so don’t go into it expecting anyone to spill the tea. But I liked reading about how hard writer and director Amy Heckerling had to work to sell a script written by a woman that centered around high school girls.
In many ways this feels like the end of the summer reading season, so I’m interested to see what sort of things I read in August. What’s your favorite book that you’ve read so far this summer? Any you’re hoping to squeeze in before the official end of summer arrives with Labor Day?