What I Read in June 2020
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Absolutely brilliant, I loved everything about this book! Emily Henry has great skill at relaying real world emotions in her characters. January is a best-selling romance author who has suffered a great loss and no longer believes in happy endings. Next door lives Augustus, a former college classmate who is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. The two writers strike up a contentious friendship based on loathing the others’ genre. This novel is so much more than a romance or a “beach read.” It’s about what happens when someone you love and trust implicitly betrays you. It’s about healing and starting over after such a trauma. I highly recommend it for any fiction reader.
The Wife Stalker by Liz Constantine
Advanced copy from NetGalley, published May 19, 2020 This is a stunning thriller, you’ll be fully engrossed from beginning to end. The chapters alternate between Joanna and Piper, two utterly different women who are fighting to be with Leo and his two children. The story moves back and forth in time seamlessly as the story unravels. I highly recommend this one for readers of thrillers, mysteries, and domestic dramas, especially in audio book form.
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
This was an interesting little book, though it’s nothing ground breaking. I did enjoy learning what hygge is and how the Danes prioritize it. While the subtitle is “The Danish way to live well,” the author doesn’t give much advice on how to incorporate his ideas into one’s life or how to combat the obstacles other cultures face. I wouldn’t recommend this one.
I Was Told it Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman
Advanced copy from NetGalley, published June 16, 2020 This is a one of the most realistic mother-daughter stories I’ve read. It brings up tough issues and doesn’t gloss over or glorify parenting. Jessica and her teen daughter Emily travel from Los Angeles with an organized group to tour East Coast colleges. We get alternating views from both women, which shine a light on how differently they interpret their interactions and relationship. It’s a funny book, the writing is casual and the characters’ individual voices come through loud and clear. I highly recommend this for readers of contemporary fiction.
Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Such a powerful exploration of the history of racist ideas in America. The audio book made for a truly engaging experience. Jason Reynolds narrates, and it’s almost rhythmic at times. I found myself unable to tear myself away from listening. I learned a lot about the racist ideas held by men we are taught to admire (Lincoln, Franklin, etc) and am viewing history through a whole new lens. I loved the way Reynolds connects the dots from the early days of slavery through Jim Crow and the Black Panther party, up to Barkak Obama and today. His language is casual yet straight forward and direct. I highly recommend this for any reader, young or adult.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark
Advanced copy from NetGalley, published June 23, 2020. This is a super suspenseful mystery, weaving together the stories of two very different women. Claire and Eva meeting in an airport bar. Both desperate to escape their lives, they swap plane tickets. But when one of the planes crashes, things become even more complicated. The writing is sharp, the alternating timelines transition smoothly, revealing backstory while continuously building the suspense. The story touches on heavy subjects, domestic violence, drug abuse, sexism, and grief. Both women are strong protagonists, which I appreciated. Neither is a villain, as it seems is so common in thrillers. This is a compulsive read that proves things are not always as they appear on the surface. I highly recommend it for readers of thrillers and mysteries, as well as contemporary fiction.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
The premise of the book is interesting, though strange. It would translate much better in a visual format, a sweet rom-com or a Netflix series. Meg is a semi-famous creative, sought after for her hand lettering skills with wedding invitations, and planners. She thinks visually, imagining what the text of someone’s words would look like. The first part of this book is loaded with descriptions of fonts and letters. It was awkward and difficult to visualize. Then along comes Reid, uptight and demanding to know about the “secret message” Meg hid in his wedding program. More weirdness and awkwardness ensues. As Meg and Reid spend time together and get to know each other, the story flows much better. They each have a lot of backstory and secrets they’re hiding not only from each other but the world at large, and even themselves to some degree. This is where I enjoyed the story, because people are complicated and relationships are messy. It’s not only about romantic relationships, but those with friend, roommates, co-workers, and family. I don’t recommend this one.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
This is an audiobook where you don’t want to miss a single word. Reynolds’ narrations is rhythmic and emotional. It’s a fast story, the majority of it taking place over the course of just a few minutes in an elevator. The concept is unique, the verse format providing short pieces of commentary on what is happening, true to real life. For such a short book, it’s a powerful glimpse into life for youth who are sucked into gang violence. Reynolds’ author’s note at the end was extremely enlightening, so don’t miss that! I highly recommend this for all readers.
Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Having loved the Sookie Stackhouse series, I had high hopes for this one. It wasn’t bad, though I certainly found it lacking. It’s slow moving and the writing is weak in spots. The characters are interesting, and I’m hoping we get to know them better as the series continues because I was left wanting to know a lot more. The main mystery here was compelling, however there were a lot of side stories to keep track of and I was confused when all was revealed, I felt like I had missed something. Maybe I did. Anyway, I will move on to the next in the series. I don’t feel like I can recommend this book until I know the series becomes better/more solid.
The Simple Wild by KA Tucker
The premise is great, a young woman traveling to see her father for the first time since she was barely two. The setting of a small Alaskan town is lovely, and the writing is solid. The only problem is all the characters are horrible. I absolutely loathed the main female from the start and couldn’t get to a place where I felt any sympathy for her. She’s an entitled snob who couldn’t get over herself for two seconds. I think I sprained my eyeballs rolling them at her. Her male love interest is a huge asshole, bordering on emotionally abusive. While they both “come around” in their own ways, there wasn’t much personal growth from either, which is my favorite thing about romance novels (besides the sex and the scenes here are not even that hot) I’m not a fan of love to hate stories anyway, then this one is forced and not relatable. I don’t recommend this one.
The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert
This is a super enjoyable, juicy interracial romance. I appreciate that it has a little bit of heaviness in regard to the Prince’s family history. The beginning felt rushed, otherwise it was an interesting story. Ruben visits the school where Cherry works and is immediately smitten with her. After one sexy date they are busted fooling around by the paparazzi, and Ruben blurts out that she is his fiancé, in order to protect his reputation as a royal playboy. The story gets better from there, as the two navigate a fake engagement. The writing is solid, ad the sexy is hot and heavy. I definitely had to suspend my disbelief to fall into this world, and once I did I enjoyed it a great deal. I recommend this one for fans of the romance genre.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
This technically falls into the romance novel category, but it doesn’t feel like it. The story is reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, so if you enjoyed that one you’ll like this too! Susan lives a simple, well-organized life. She doesn’t see a need for emotions or any other potential complications such as relationships. After being faced with two drastic unforeseen situations, Susan’s typical controlled methods of dealing with them aren’t working. The writing is sharp and witty, even while the storyline deals with death/grief, family secrets, and unexpected pregnancy. I enjoyed getting to know Susan and understand how/why she operates as she does. The other characters were wonderful congrats to her personality, and it was fun to see Susan being to be influenced by those who cared for her.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
I was intrigued at the start of this book, then it quickly felt lame and forced. I almost quit a few times, but didn’t because I thought it would get better and I wanted to know who the murderer was. It didn’t get better. Our main protagonist Pippa is SO ANNOYING. I couldn’t get behind her because from the very first paragraphs she’s doing exactly what she was told not to do. She makes poor choices over and over again yet somehow manages to keep plodding along. Pippa is doing a research project on a local case involving a high school girl who was supposedly killed by her boyfriend though her body was never found. It’s been five years and somehow Pippa manages to get witnesses to talk and finds evidence the police never did. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to find most of the plot probable. The writing isn’t strong either. I don’t recommend this one.
The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
The audiobook narration is excellent, I felt like the main character was talking directly to me, sharing her dirty secrets. She is married to a man who has two other wives, though she doesn’t know them or even know their names. This arrangement has suited everyone for a long time. Until suddenly, it doesn’t anymore. What follows is a fast paced, frantic story that bounces all over the place. It will keep your mind working the entire time, trying to figure it out. I highly recommend this one for thriller fans, especially if you like an unreliable narrator!
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
This novel is utterly weird in a truly wonderful way. From start to finish, I was awestruck not only by the plot line and characters, also by the sharp, witty writing. I already knew this about Wilson’s writing, yet this story is so unique and creative that I was re-impressed by how great a writer he is. This is the story of a married couple who are performance artists. When they have children, they incorporate them into their bizarre public “events.” Once the kids are grown, they don’t want to be involved in the art anymore, and the parents don’t take that well. This is a brilliant, funny story about how parents screw up their kids. It’s also sad and heart wrenching at times. I highly recommend it for readers of literary fiction.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wisner
I had high hopes for this one and it turned out to be a dud. I never felt any emotional attachment to either character. The story moves at a snail’s pace and it felt like “nothing happened” for the first half of the book. I almost quit around 40% but was hoping for some good sexy time scenes. I was horribly disappointed in that department too. The writing is fine, not great and not terrible. At first, I thought the premise was interesting, a TV show runner and her assistant are photographed on the red carpet in a moment that causes rumors to flare that they’re dating when they aren’t. Once I got into the story, I was uncomfortable with the growing potential for this workplace romance. It was awkward a lot of the time. And I don’t think I could ever get down with a romance where one love interest constantly refers to the other as “boss.” I wouldn’t recommend this one.
Felon : Poems by Reginald Dwayne Betts
I found this poetry collection much more accessible than I expected. There’s a lot of power in how concise his writing is. While there were a couple poems that felt over my head, the rest were
The redaction poems (also called blackout poems or found poems) were my favorite part because they take what is presumably a rambling legal document and expose its bare bones to deliver a strong message about the bail system. Several of his other poems had lines that made me gasp out loud like I’d gotten a sucker punch. He illustrates complicated concepts regarding race and class so well. I highly recommend this book.
The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski
This is a vivd, heartbreaking story set around Paris at the start of World War II. A young man fleeing the city before the Germans arrive hops aboard a moving train to escape. Once aboard, he discovers he’s joined a circus troupe. I will be doing a Book Tour post for this novel next week, July 8th so come back for my full review!