I read/listened to ten books in July – a couple of which I got in just under the wire! I really liked everything I read this month so hopefully you’ll find some good recommendations to add to your list. As a reminder, I’ve linked all of the books here to bookshop.org when possible, which shares profits with independent bookstores and is a great alternative to Amazon. You can also always keep up with what I’m reading on Goodreads and/or follow me over on my bookstagram!
This book was so good! Anything that’s classified as gothic and takes place in a crumbling, creepy old mansion is right up my alley, and this one really had a unique take on the genre. The book centers on Noemi, a young socialite in 1950s Mexico who is sent to the imposing High Place (aforementioned creepy, crumbling mansion) when her cousin, who recently moved in there with her new husband, sends a rambling, frantic letter describing disturbing goings-on at the manse. I will say that this book started slow, but I enjoyed the writing, the imagery, and the chilling atmosphere so much that it didn’t really bother me. The author skillfully created a creeping sense of foreboding throughout, and then the action really picks up towards the end. Noemi was a great strong lead and I just really liked that this book took the gothic genre in a different direction than I’d previously seen…it went to a very unexpected place and I appreciated the originality of it. Wholeheartedly recommend!
SO fun! Anna K is a modern day retelling of Anna Karenina, set amongst rich Upper East Side teens…so basically Gossip Girl meets Anna Karenina (neither of which I’ve watched/read, but still seems like an apt comparison!). It’s just full of relationship drama, parties, drugs, romance, over the top spending…what’s not to love, honestly? I think Jenny Lee is a great writer and she just pulled this off spectacularly. You get to know and care about the characters and I became really invested in the story…I couldn’t put it down! I’d definitely recommend this to pretty much anyone who’s looking for something dramatic and juicy but also well-written and well-crafted.
Loved this! I’m an official Ruth Ware stan. This one also features a gothic mansion – one that our main character Hal travels to when she receives a letter informing her that her grandmother, Hester Westaway, has left her a bequest. The only problem? Hal doesn’t have a living grandmother. As she becomes entangled with the Westaways, she starts to unearth long-buried secrets and lies that draw her deeper and deeper into the mystery of who exactly she is to this family – and who they are to her. This is another case of throw your characters into a big old creepy mansion (in this case in the English countryside), toss in some shifty characters and things that go bump in the night, and I’m sold. There was a solid mystery at the center of this that was all about this upper class family and the secrets they want to keep concealed, and it had almost like a Knives Out vibe to it, so I just loved it. Total page turner and great gothic mystery….very Ruth Ware all around!
This book was fun historical fiction that takes place in 1960s New York City, when our heroine Alice goes to work for the newly anointed editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown. HGB was a really interesting person in real life – in some ways totally ahead of her time, and in others hopelessly backward by modern standards – and I loved learning more about her in the book. I was actually somewhat familiar with her because I listened to a podcast that dissected her (at the time) groundbreaking and somewhat scandalous book Sex and the Single Girl, and so it was cool to read about her as a character. I also enjoyed the main character, as she lived on the Upper East Side and did photography! Anyone who likes Fiona Davis books will for sure love this, as it really transports you to 1960s New York City and brings the time period to life. Overall a fun summer read for anyone who loves historical fiction, especially of the NYC variety.
This was a great, fast-paced thriller centering on two women, both desperate to disappear for different reasons, who switch places and identities on a flight. We follow both of their stories and the pages just fly by. I read the author interview at the end and she said she wanted to feature two strong female leads who weren’t crazy or unreliable, and that really resonated with me! It makes you realize how many thrillers feature women who are crazy, unstable, traumatized from a past event and thus seen as crazy, etc…it’s rampant! And it’s fine, but it was refreshing to read about two entirely human and flawed, but at the same time strong and savvy women.
Kevin Kwan strikes again with this glitzy and glamorous modern day take on A Room With A View (another classic I know nothing about!). It starts at an extravagant wedding weekend in Capri, where guest (and our heroine) Lucie meets a strange yet compelling young man named George. After this highly dramatic wedding and romp around the Italian coast, Sex and Vanity whisks you off to the upper echelons of the moneyed set on the Upper East Side and the Hamptons, where events from that wedding come back into play and threaten to turn Lucie’s world upside down. This was just pure froth and fun. Kevin Kwan is a master of transporting you to the places he’s writing about, and this couldn’t be a more perfect time to be taken away while we’re all stuck in quarantine! Sex and Vanity had the signature Kevin Kwan cocktail of glamour, high drama, brand namedropping, and wittiness that we all came to know and love from Crazy Rich Asians, so if you’re a fan of his you know exactly what you’re going to get. I really enjoyed it!
Homegoing is a beautifully written, sweeping, epic novel that starts with two half sisters in eighteenth century Ghana – one is married off to a British colonist while the other is sold into slavery. From here the book follows their descendants all the way up to modern day, with one chapter dedicated to each descendant. I learned so much from reading this book as it covered such a huge swath of time periods and topics, in a really compelling and unique way. Each chapter almost felt like a short story which I did struggle with a bit, because you’d be getting into a character and their story and then it ended quickly. However, it was a really unique and incredibly ambitious structure that allowed us to move through time and place and see how things both change and stay the same – for better or worse. Many of the stories were heartbreaking, but I think it’s a really important book because I did learn so much about slavery and racial issues in both West Africa and America. Ghasi takes you all the way from the slave trade and tribal wars in eighteenth century West Africa to the Jim Crow South in America and so many other places, all through the eyes of her characters. The fact that she could write so many characters with unique voices and points of view amazed me! I highly recommend this.
Such a fun summer read! This follows Bea, a fashion blogger who is asked to be the first plus-size Bachelorette (essentially – they call the show “Main Squeeze” but it’s a fictionalized Bachelor franchise), after writing a scathing indictment of the show’s lack of body diversity after a few too many drinks one night. It was so interesting to follow her experience and honestly, some of the things that happened were kind of out there but then you’re like actually, that probably is what would happen if a plus-sized person (gasp!) was put on the show! I liked the way it was written (with some letters, articles and emails peppered throughout), and it definitely had its funny and light parts while also hitting on more serious topics of body image, trusting your instincts, and heartbreak. It was a perfect mix of beach read with more serious topics explored, which is becoming a favorite genre! Fun fact: the author Kate Stayman-London served as the lead digital writer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. This was just so fun and I really can’t recommend it enough!
This was Alex North’s (pseudonym, by the way – the author is anonymous!) follow-up to The Whisper Man, a novel I loved so much as to make it impossible for anything to measure up – so predictably, I liked this but didn’t love it. Not to say it’s bad! Just that it didn’t rise to that level for me. It’s about a man who returns to his hometown in his adulthood (IT vibes), where a horrible murder took place amongst his friends when he was a kid. Now copycats are happening and he kind of has to revisit what happened on that fateful day during his childhood. It involved lucid dreams as a main plot point which I have to say, just didn’t really do it for me at all. Writing this review I struggle to even really remember anything that stood out in this book. It didn’t feel as original or nearly as creepy as The Whisper Man, and it kind of just seemed like there were a lot of plot points and they didn’t come together for me as a cohesive whole. Again not bad, just not my favorite. But more importantly, I want to know who Alex North is!
I listened to this one on Libro.fm and I highly recommend reading it that way. There are several narrators but mostly Judy Greer, and she did SUCH a great job! I think that’s part of why I enjoyed the book so much. So basically, as the title may suggest, the book tells the story of the lead-up to a horrible Sasquatch massacre from the perspective of several people who are involved with the community where it takes place. The “Firsthand Account” portion of the title refers to the bulk of the book, which are entries from a recovered diary written by a woman who was there (the Judy Greer character). Personally I loved the structure of the book, which reminded me of Fantasticland in that it’s people being interviewed about a catastrophic event that has already taken place – it lends a kind of podcast feel which I really enjoy. At the same time it felt very immediate due to the diary parts which we experience in “real time”. Anyway I just really liked it! Admittedly it took me a while to get into, but once I did I was really into it. It’s not a book I would usually be drawn to but I received an advanced reader copy from Libro.fm and so I’m really glad it came to me. I would say give it a try even if it doesn’t seem up your alley, because I was surprised by how much I liked it. I also feel like it would make an awesome movie, and in fact I think the author actually sold it initially as a script but then got it back to write it as a novel.
By the way, if you’d like to try this or any other book on audio you can join Libro.fm and get two audiobooks for the price of one by using my code yorkavenue or just clicking this link. Libro is the best as every audiobook purchase you make benefits an independent bookstore of your choice – and they so need our help right now while the pandemic continues to decimate their sales. Plus you can cancel anytime you wish to. So I hope you’ll take advantage of that offer if you’re an Audible member looking to switch or if you’re interested in trying audiobooks for the first time!