This was a very enjoyable month of reading. 8 books total! I really enjoyed every single book I read this month… which is not always the case. And I love when that happens! I read A LOT of thrillers (5 of them, what a treat!), an amazing literary fiction pick (Tom Lake was extraordinarily good), and some lighter reads. The Guest is a must-read if you’ve spent any time in the Hamptons, and I’m still thinking about the new Lisa Jewell book a week after finishing it. So good but extremely dark. I would wholeheartedly recommend every single book on this month’s list!
PS – You can see every book I’ve read over the past 8 or 9 years here on this page, and also filter by genre and grade. But most importantly, give me your book recs! I love love love your recommendations. <3
Everything I Read in August 2023
The Summer of Songbirds, by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Kristy Woodson Harvey’s books are just the best. Imperfect, wonderfully relatable characters… always set in these idyllic small towns in the South (I loved the Peachtree Bluff books too!). And like an Elin Hilderbrand novel, everything always works out, making her books perfect to read when you are stressed or anxious. They’re the book equivalent to a big mug of tea or chicken soup. Wholesome! This one was no exception. It’s about three best friends (and an aunt), and feels like hanging out with best friends (and made me a little bit sad that I don’t have any friends I’ve known since age six).
There is Daphne, a single mom/lawyer, who has struggled with addiction and has sworn off love. Lainer is a bookstore owner, struggling between her fiance and her first love. (Lainier’s brother is Daphne’s first love). And then there’s Mary Stuart, who has just gotten married. All three women help each other through their “hard things,” (this is such a cute idea, you’ll learn more in the book), but then one big hard thing happens. Their beloved summer camp, run by Daphne’s Aunt June, is in danger. The women cannot imagine losing the place that brought them together and was so much more than a summer camp. And so, they band together to try to save the camp.
This is such a great friendship story. It’s sweet without being saccharine, and one of those books you don’t want to put down. I wish these women were my IRL friends! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Main Character Energy, by Jamie Varon
This is a light and fun read. It isn’t my usual genre, but after getting back from vacation I just wanted to cozy up with something cute and happy. This delivered. The main character bugged me at times (she self-sabotages a lot which is equal parts annoying and relatable) but I ultimately enjoyed it, reading it in just a couple days.
Poppy is in a bad place. She dreams of becoming a writer, but instead writes listicles for a content factory type of site (it felt like a mashup of Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog). Meanwhile, her brother is a successful, famous author. Her relationship with her mother is fraught at best, and she’s become convinced that as a plus-sized woman, if she just looked differently, her life would be so much easier. Everything changes in an instant. When her glamorous and mysterious aunt passes away, she is set to inherit her aunt’s mysterious writing retreat in the south of France. The only caveat? She must finish writing a book in six months.
Poppy takes off for France and her whole life changes. She’s finally able to put her writing first. She meets a few different handsome men. She’s making real connections. But her tendency to self-sabotage gets in the way. I will say no more, but the end is very satisfying! I ultimately enjoyed this a lot. Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Thrillers and Suspense
The Guest, by Emma Cline
Oh my. This book was very polarizing according to my DMs. Half of you loved it, half of you hated it. This is one of those books you keep thinking about well after it’s finished. I read an article saying that people in the Hamptons are freaking out about this book, which makes sense as that is where it is set. And I kind of think you have to have spent considerable time out there to appreciate how well Emma Cline captured it (in a beautifully written, satirical sense).
Alex is twenty two years old and after a relatively minor mistake at a party, has been dismissed by her (much older, mid fifties) “boyfriend” Simon and sent to the train station. The thing is, she is in trouble back in the city and doesn’t have anywhere to go. So she spends a week grifting along. Crashing on the beach, at parties, wherever she can. Her phone is dead, everything she owns is on her back.
I was conflicted in that nothing really happens but it’s kind of perfect? And I did not love the ending but also can’t think how to better end it. I think what I liked most about it was how well Cline captures Hamptons-esque archetypes. The wealthy middle aged man with the fragile ego, the young girl drifting along, the transactional nature of some relationships… she captured it so well that you almost cringe a little bit as you’ve met these people. Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Gone Tonight, by Sarah Pekkanen
Sarah Pekkanen is one of my favorites for thrillers and I could not wait to read this one. It did not disappoint. I am not going to tell you too much as it would be easy to provide spoilers, so I apologize for being vague. The net takeaway is that this is a different sort of domestic thriller; between mother an daughter. And that I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend. That’s what you need to know.
It alternates between the perspectives of mother and daughter Ruth & Catherine. Ruth was a teen mom and is now 41, Catherine is 24. For as long as Catherine has been alive, Ruth’s main priority has been keeping her daughter safe. Ruth has a past, having run away from her family as a teenager. As cracks begin to emerge in the carefully constructed world Ruth has created for her daughter, trust erodes between the two of them. I will say no more than that, just trust me, this is a good one! Overall Score A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Bye, Baby, by Carola Lovering (out 3/5/24)
Oh my goodness. THIS BOOK. First of all, it’s not out til March and I truly am so sorry for reading/reviewing so early but it could not be helped. My ARC arrived in the mail and all hope was lost, I had to start reading it immediately. Plus, pre-orders are incredibly helpful for authors! This is such a good one. It’s all about a very toxic friendship.
Cassie and Billie are childhood best friends. Together, they endured (and supported each other) through terrible things. But now, in their mid thirties, everything has changed. Cassie has married into a very wealthy family and spends her days as an influencer/running her vanity project boutiques. Her husband is a bit of a jerk but she doesn’t seem to care, and she has an entirely new friend group. Billie plans luxury travel for a startup and is always off on her next trip. And she can’t seem to bring herself to settle down, especially reeling from a tough breakup years earlier and knowing that shed doesn’t want children.
The book opens with Billie sitting in the apartment below Cassie’s: having just kidnapped Cassie’s baby. I mean, what an opener. Told from both women’s perspectives, in dual timelines, it’s fast paced and unputdownable. I loved it so much. I think it may be Carola Lovering’s best which is saying a lot: I LOVED Tell Me Lies! Overall Score: A+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
The Girls of Summer, by Katie Bishop
This book was very dark but also very good. Before we dive in there are trigger warnings for self-harm and sexual abuse. It is sort of a mashup of Tell Me Lies with Before We Were Innocent... with a bit of Jeffrey Epstein and #metoo thrown in. Set in dual timelines, I could not put it down.
Rachel has been in love with Alistair for 15 years. She’s married now, but still thinks about him daily. The only thing is that she was a teenager when they met (she was just 17) and he is twenty years older. It begins with Rachel and her friend taking a trip to a Greek Island. They start out on vacation but she meets Alistair and decides to stay longer. Their nights are long, drugs and alcohol are plentiful, and some of her memories are a little hazy and feel off. Fifteen years later, despite being married, she tracks Alistair down. I don’t want to say much more for fear of ruining the story but it deals with a lot of themes: power and consent being two big ones. Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
None of This is True, by Lisa Jewell
Lisa Jewell is the master of dark thrillers. She is not afraid to kill everyone, she’s not afraid to go dark… her books usually come with at least a few trigger warnings (this has one for domestic abuse, pedophelia, and child abuse). I don’t know what it says about me that I dove right in and couldn’t put it down.
Alix Summer is a popular podcaster. One night, she’s out celebrating her 45th birthday. She meets Josie Fair, also celebrating her 45th birthday. They laugh about being birthday twins, born on the same day in the same hospital. They meet again, outside Alix’s kids school. Josie has a proposition. She is about to make great changes in her life and wants Alix to document it for her podcast. As the episodes unfold, we learn Josie’s dark secrets. Before we know it, Josie has wormed her way into Alix’s life and home, and there is nothing Alix can do about it. I don’t want to say anything else as it will spoil the book’s many twists, but this is a good one. I got up at 6am to finish reading it and I am not a morning person! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Tom Lake, by Ann Patchett
I haven’t loved a book so much in a long time. Just thinking about it gives me all of the warm and fuzzy feelings. It is the spring of 2020, and Lara + her husband Joe own a cherry orchard in Northern Michigan. Their three adult (early twenties) daughters return to the farm. While picking cherries, the daughters beg her to tell them about Peter Duke, a now extremely famous actor. Before Duke was every famous, Lara had shared a stage with him (in the performance of Our Town at a theater company called Tom Lake. They had also been romantically involved. The girls are fascinated by their mother’s romance and want every detail.
The beauty of Patchett’s writing is that this very simple plot is so much more. The way that she crafted this family’s relationships, and the little bits of truth about young love, married love, and family are just so accurate and wonderful. I feel like I may be a little bit biased as I am one of three girls, so at times I pictured Lara as my own mother. But at other times, I pictured myself as Lara. It’s a beautiful, intelligent novel. I may actually also listen to it. While I opted to read this one, Meryl Streep narrates, which sounds absolutely wonderful. Overall Score: A+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.