It felt like I read less this month and my focus was a little off but I still managed to read 9 books. I guess that’s probably because I read SO MUCH last month. It was a really good month of reading, though! Reading is definitely my preferred mode of pandemic self-care and I’m so grateful for good books right now!
EVERYTHING I READ IN August 2020
In August, I read 8 books. I had been feeling pretty down in July so implemented a “no sad books August” rule, which is why this month’s list is packed with romance and thrillers. I loved everything I read, but especially Majesty, Rodham, Monday’s Not Coming, and Party of Two.
TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE READING! I’m always looking for great recommendations… I love reading your comments!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BOOK CLUB PAGE.
Every month I update it with everything I read – it includes every book I’ve read in the past six years. The best part is that now you can filter + search by genre (memoir, light read, historical fiction, thriller, books by Black authors, etc!) Now you can also filter by GRADE to find exactly what you’re looking for or just peruse my top picks. If you’re feeling like you need even more book recs, check out last month’s list and everything I read in 2019!
This Month’s Anti-Racist Pick
How to Be Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
This was my anti-racist pick for August. To be honest, this one was a little bit intimidating (it’s long!) but came highly recommended. I listened to it as an audiobook, which I would definitely recommend. So not the point but I love Ibram X. Kendi’s voice. I had heard him speak on podcasts before and just really like it. You can consider this your anti-racism masterclass. I am glad that I didn’t start with this (the first anti-racist book I chose was So You Want to Talk About Race) as he covers SO much ground… it was good to have had a primer, first.
I really really love what a scientific/academic approach he takes, while still managing to seamlessly weave in anecdotes and … covering everything from racism in science to all of the different types of racism and how it can emerge in so many different ways (ethnicity, bodily, culturally, etc). He talks about racism throughout history, and things I hadn’t even thought of like Black on Black racism and his own biases and mistakes he made as a teenager and how we woke up from his own racism. The end result is a book that is important, powerful, and educational… while simultaneously being engaging and interesting. I can’t recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A+
Some YA Thrillers!
Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany D. Jackson
I said this on instagram stories but Tiffany D. Jackson is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors! Last month, I read Allegedly. It haunted me. The ending!!! GAH!!!! This one is just so good! Claudia is a 14 year old Black girl, growing up in DC. She spends every summer at her aunt’s house in Georgia. But this summer when she gets home, her best friend Monday (who is more like a sister than a friend) is absolutely nowhere to be found. She doesn’t turn up for school, no one knows. She goes to Monday’s house in the projects and is told to GO HOME and stay out of it. No one knows where she is, and no one seems to care… until Monday is found nearly a year later.
This one is chilling and upsetting and while it’s an excellent thriller (the twist at the end got me!) it could also be a social justice book in it’s own right, looking at how the town failed to protect this little girl. I loved it and couldn’t put it down and can’t recommend it enough. In fact, I read it very quickly, in a few days… staying up late to finish it. I should note that I’ve also pre-ordered Jackson’s next book (Grown, 0ut 9/15!) and cannot wait for it to arrive. I LOVE her books!
- Overall Score: A
Two Highly Anticipated Sequels!
Majesty, by Katharine McGee.
You know I’m a huge Katharine McGee fan (stan?). I loved The Thousandth Floor trilogy and I ADORED American Royals, which imagined what the US would look like if George Washington had become king as opposed to president. Her books are technically YA books, but I call them YA for adults as the characters and relationships are complex. This one picks up where American Royals left us… A terrible tragedy has taken place and Beatrice finds herself the queen of America. But nothing is as it should be. She can’t be with the man she loves (her guard, Connor), she is betrothed to the man her sister kissed (Teddy), and her sister hates her for it.
This one was really calm and almost soothing to read for the first two thirds of the book. There are surprise love interests for everyone (Sam especially), and it’s not at all what I had predicted. The villain (Daphne) had a bit of a redemption (or at least we felt badly for her/came to better understand her plight, there were a few different romantic surprises, and it felt like I was catching up with old friends. But then of course, all hell breaks loose in the last third of the book and it is so juicy and fun. And surprisingly (well not surprisingly, if you know Katie/Katharine) feminist!
I loved that about it.
And I couldn’t put this book down. I wanted to cry when it ended because I already miss the characters. She didn’t really set it up for a third (just that there is no big dramatic cliffhanger) but I’d be so happy if she decided to continue the story. Katie is my friend so I feel a little biased giving it an A+ but it’s an A+. I loved it so much. And it’s going to be our September Bad on Paper pick!
- Overall Score A+
Deadly Little Scandals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
This is the sequel to Little White Lies, which we had as a podcast book club episode a while back. Becca lent me her copy and I held onto it for way too long before reading it but in my “no sad books in August” month, it seemed like a good one to read. Sawyer and her debutante girlfriends Lily, Campbell, and Sadie-Grace are back and now they are 18 years old and pledging a secret society! This time around Sawyer is super focused on figuring out what happened to her mother’s friend Ana’s best friend – and her baby!
As with the last one, it alternates timelines: this time between present (where two of the girls are trapped in a hole!), past (25 years ago with the parents’ timeline), and a few months before. There is a gigantic (but extremely unrealistic) twist that you won’t see coming – despite being totally unbelievable, it was still fun. I will be honest and tell you that this one went a little off the rails for me. It wasn’t very believable, there are some pretty gigantic plot holes, and the ending had me scratching my head. Still, it was enjoyable… and creative! You definitely have to read the first one back so if you are looking for a fun, light thriller pick up both posts. But if I’m being really honest, there are better books out there!
- Overall Score: B
An Incredible, sometimes awkward “What If.”
Rodham, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rodham imagines what would have happened if Hillary and Bill had never been… Hillary and Bill. Or rather, if they had dated but broke up and never got married. What both of their lives would have looked like… and how the world would be different. I REALLY wish I could sit down with Hillary Clinton (and a glass of wine) to get her thoughts on this book. Wow. Truly – if she read it (which is probably doubtful), I’d just die to know. It was so fun to read – I couldn’t tear myself away. But, shiiiit – it was also awkward as hell to read at times!
It starts out (potentially?) true to Hillary’s story, feeling a bit like fan fiction: she graduates from Wellesley, heads to Yale, and meets and dates Bill Clinton. But what if they broke up? This is a wild retelling. The story is told in three parts: their early courtship (this isn’t a spoiler but there’s quite a bit of sexy stuff – in particular, a scene where a naked Bill plays the saxophone for Hillary. This is now imprinted on my brain and I cannot get the image out of my head, help!). From there, it follows her story (and bits of his) all the way through the seventies through present day.
I really enjoyed the book.
But was weirded out at times, mostly just because Sittenfeld nails Hillary’s crisp, dry way of writing (the book was clearly well researched!) which made it feel so real in a way that is truly quite eerie! I was a little emotional reading it, especially when it gets to modern day – I won’t say anymore about why as I don’t want to spoil it. It’s fun and clever but will definitely confuse you a little as at times it feels so real. Also: the Donald Trump cameos are pretty incredible.
- Overall Score: A
The Smart, Sexy Romance I’d been saving to read.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
Let it be said! Jasmine Guillory is one of my all-time favorite authors. I am not a big romance reader but LOVE her books. I had been saving this one and out of all of her books, I think that this one might be my favorite (a bold statement for sure… all of her books are EXCELLENT). This one is about Alexa (from The Wedding Date)’s older sister, Olivia Monroe. (Note: you don’t have to read all of her books. But if you are familiar it’s kinda fun when old characters make a cameo.)
Olivia’s just moved to LA to start her own law firm. While staying in a hotel on her first night in town, she chats up a handsome man at the hotel’s bar. When she gets up to her room, she realizes she hadn’t recognized him: she’d been talking to senator Max Powell. This gives her a laugh at first but when they reconnect at a conference a few weeks later, sparks fly and soon they are falling in love. But can Olivia handle the spotlight? The media commenting on her appearance and digging up her past?
I love the famous person dates regular person trope, I loved Olivia as a character (she’s smart and funny and ultra relatable), and I liked that the characters were my age… sometimes reading romance novels about twenty-somethings depresses me a little bit. It was realistic, it was sexy, it was fun, smart… can’t recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A
Part Horror, Part Fairy Tale
The Changeling, by Victor Lavalle
This book. Wow. It was creepy. Really creepy and upsetting and gave me super weird dreams! It is a few years old but I interviewed the author (he was really cool!) for Random House’s summer reads panel so I wanted to read it but had no idea what I was getting into, only that it had received incredible press and accolades. Trigger warning for just about everything: violence and child murder and monsters. Do monsters get a trigger warning? It starts out innocently enough:
Apollo Kagwa is a rare books dealer whose father disappeared when he was child. He meets Emma; they marry, and start a life together. But one day he wakes up and Emma has committed a terrible act and ran away. Apollo’s search for her leads him to all sorts of places: a mysterious island of women and children in the middle of the East River, a graveyard, a Norwegian neighborhood in Queens, and the only forest in New York.
The book is gruesome and scary, the writing is beautiful (while totally different in terms of plot, the writing reminded me quite a bit of Emily St. John Mandel’s writing in The Glass Hotel. All sorts of other things come into play: racism, sexism, postpartum depression and anxiety… I am going to be really honest with you: this book is a masterpiece and beautifully written but I did not enjoy it. Honestly, I just wanted it to be over with (though I could not stop reading?) So it could get an A+ for writing and deserves all of the acclaim but I’m only going to give it a B+ because this is my blog and I do what I want. I will say it’s going to haunt me for a very long time.
- Overall Score: B+
Bad Decision Making at an Indian Wedding.
Destination Wedding, by Diksha Basu
This book was not what I was expecting at all. The pink and purple cover made it look like a romance novel (it was a little bit romantic but I wouldn’t call it a romance!). The book centers around Tina Das, who attends her cousin’s ultra-lavish wedding at a private country club in Delhi, India. She’s there with her best friend Marianne and her amicably divorced parents – and their new significant others. Her mother is dating a white man, her father’s been set up with a Delhi widow by an Indian matchmaker.
Tina’s character was both really relatable (she’s a TV producer living in Williamsburg!) and someone I could learn a lot from (I really loved seeing her experience as an Indian woman growing up in the midwest and her experience living, working, and especially dating in New York). Throughout the book, all of the characters make some very bad decisions (and some good ones t00!). There is drama, there is romance, there are flings.. I could go on. I loved it. But I did find it hard to follow at times (Basu writes in an interesting style, rapidly changing back and forth between characters – it definitely kept me on my toes!) but really, really enjoyed it.
It also made me realize how few books I’ve read about Indian characters. Oh and I also loved that it talked about a wealthier, more glamorous India (everything I’ve read/watched only has shown the poorer side). Anyway, I loved this and now I’d love to read more books about Indian American women so if you have any recommendations definitely leave ’em in the comments!
- Overall Score: A-
Majorly Mixed Feelings on This One…
Follow Me, by Kathleen Barber
On the one hand, this was a fun and twisty thriller that kept me guessing. On the other hand, I absolutely hated it because frankly, the author did such a terrible job portraying the main character (an influencer). We will get to why but this is a massive pet-peeve of mine: the portrayal of influencers as vapid and annoying (and the main character Audrey is so annoying that you almost want her to die?). I really hate it as it perpetuates a stereotype and is also just… false. I hate trashing this book but it’s so clear she didn’t do her research (or maybe she just hates influencers, I don’t know).
A special shout-out to Kate Stayman-London and Jennifer Weiner who got it right in One to Watch and Big Summer…. this made me appreciate their books even more. This book is about Audrey, a 29 year old influencer with a million followers who moves to Washington DC to work at her dream job: running social media for one of The Smithsonian’s galleries. She’s struggling financially (sorry but an influencer with a million followers is not going to be struggling) and the only two people she knows are her college friend Cat and her ex-boyfriend Nick, the guy she can’t seem to shake. But from the day she moves into her basement apartment (again: not realistic!), she can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong.
There’s her creepy upstairs neighbor…
and she feels like she’s constantly being watched/stalked. The book alternates between the perspective of Audrey, Cat, and “him,” her stalker. The author really went deep on the dark side of the Internet and privacy concerns, I just wish she could have spent even just a little more time researching influencers and their business (or talking to you know, actual smart people who do this for a living) as that ruined the book for me.
- Overall Score: C
photo by Allie Provost.