What a great month of reading. Most of what I read is in the photo above, minus two REALLY good ones (In a New York Minute and The Art Forger) which I mailed to a girlfriend who was sick and quarantined with COVID. I absolutely loved most of what I read (with two small exceptions). Three were advanced copies (I always feel guilty but couldn’t resist them!) It’s a part of my job (and also a big perk!) to get to read these. Also, pre-orders are really helpful to authors. I try to balance what I read but this month, there were so many that I was excited for!
Hopefully you will pre-order (the best way to support a new book!) and/or place a library hold (I know you library readers actually like when I do a lot of advanced copies). I could use some book suggestions – in the comments, tell me what you’re reading / send any and all recommendations – it’s really, really helpful!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BEAUTIFUL BOOK CLUB PAGE.
Every month I update it with everything I read – it includes every book I’ve read in the past seven years. The best part is that you can filter + search by genre. 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 also! My big post of everything I read this year will be up next week.
Everything I Read in December 2021
The Divisive One!
The Paper Palace, by Miranda Cowley Heller
I am not sure the last time I got so many DMs about a book, just from showing it a few slides on my Instagram story. This book is divisive!!! It is also very dark. I read it as it came recommended by so many of you (and also my mom). My mom really liked it but warned me that her book club did not feel the same. I think that my mom and I enjoyed it for the same reasons: the depiction of Cape Cod (specifically the Outer Cape) is spot on, and the writing is flawlessly good.
It sparked so many memories for me – especially because as a child we would rent a cabin on the marsh in Truro for a week most summers.
The book opens on a balmy summer night. Elle Bishop has just cheated on her husband Peter with her childhood best friend and first love, Jonah. The plot proceeds to alternate back and forth over fifty years (the past) and 24 hours (the present), helping us to understand how Elle got here. It’s a love story (sort of), it’s beautifully written (I would classify this as literary fiction), but as I mentioned, it is dark. There are content warnings for a lot of things: sexual abuse, infidelity, miscarriage, death of a sibling, suicide, I could go on. The sexual assault scenes are particularly hard to read. I did not care for the main character, but the trauma she endured made her more sympathetic. I also felt like a lot of the characters (especially the older ones) felt very familiar to me.
Hours after reading the book I still can’t really say what I think about the ending. Anything that has infidelity in it (not a spoiler, this happens right at the beginning) tends to upset me a little bit, but I think (I may change my opinion on this!), that I liked how it ended. This book is a conversation starter for sure. I think it would make a really excellent book club pick as there would be a lot to talk about. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A-
This Month in Thrillers…
Friends Like These, by Kimberly McCreight
I really love this author but in my opinion, gotta be honest: this was the worst of all her books. It had a great twist at the end but it was a slog to get to. It’s a little bit overwritten and there are so many characters (and a lot of unnecessary sub-plots). Five friends from college head up to the Catskills. It’s part bachelor party, part “let’s get our friend clean and send him off to rehab.” Two days later, one of the friends is dead and the other friend is missing. The book alternates between the detective investigating the case and the five friends’ perspectives. With diary entries from their sixth friend, who died in college.
I found parts of it to be enjoyable but really just felt it was mostly a lot of unnecessary twists and turns that didn’t really go anywhere (plus, keeping up with whose POV it was as in my opinion, the author didn’t do a great job giving each character a separate voice). Mostly, I wanted to know what happened so I kept on reading… but found myself frustrated it. Not terrible but not great either. There are just SO many other really good thrillers out there, so I would say to skip this one and read something else. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: B-
The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro
This book is older (from 2010 I believe) and I’ve had it in my TBR pile for over a year! What pushed me to read it was wanting more art forgery after reading Fake last month. First of all, I loved it and am mad that I waited so long to read it. Second, now I feel like maybe I could forge a painting? (I’m kidding – I can’t actually paint… but like now I know all of the steps?). Claire Roth is a pariah in the art world. Despite being incredibly talented she’s struggling to pay rent, supplementing her income by doing reproduction paintings for an online company.
One day powerful gallery owner approaches her with an offer – forge a Degas painting (stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum!) in exchange for $50,000 and a one-woman show at his famous gallery. It’s an offer that is too good to be true… but it’s also very dangerous. I loved this book. It’s so well-researched (I assumed the author was an art historian and/or artist as her knowledge of painting techniques runs so deep), it’s fast paced and fun, it’s absolutely fascinating! A must-read. And less importantly, I loved that it was set in Boston (I went to college there and lived there for 4 years after graduation). Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A
Just One Look, by Lindsay Cameron
OK, I absolutely loved this! I needed a palate cleanser after Too Late (see below) and this was a slight gamble as I hadn’t seen much about it (though it was blurbed by so many of my favorite authors). If you loved You (or books by Liv Constantine or Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks, you will love this!). It’s got stalking, suspense, and an unhinged-but-still-loveable protagonist. Cassie’s life is in shambles: due to a previous incident at her last firm (we’re not sure what it was, we just know it was embarrassing) she is doing temp work. We also know that her father was very sick, her mother is not in the picture, and her boyfriend has dumped her.
During her temp work for another law firm, one of the senior partners’ emails is accidentally leaked. Suddenly, she is immersed in all of the loving emails between Forest and his wife Annabelle. She can’t stop herself from reading them and in time knows all of the intimate details of Forest and Annabelle’s seemingly perfect life. When a real life encounter leads her to believe that he may no longer be married, she becomes determined to replace Annabelle. For the first time in forever, she feels hopeful. But are things as they seem? Does she even have a chance? Does she want a chance? This book was positively addictive – I couldn’t put it down. Any book that makes me want to stay up past 2am is a must-read in my book! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A+
Traumatizing and just really bad.
Too Late, by C. Hoover
Let me be very clear: I am a huge, huge fan of Colleen Hoover. Whenever she has a new book, I’m first in line to read. And while some of her books have been misses for me, I generally love them all and consider her one of my favorite authors. But this book was… upsetting and kind of awful? A reader had messaged me telling me that it was darker and twistier than Verity (one of my all time favorite books, so I ordered it immediately. I thought the author’s note at the beginning was interesting.
She never intended to publish it, it started as an experiment for fun (if you’ve read it, you will question that idea of fun!!!). She ended up deciding to publish it, but under her initials and not her name. The author’s note also came with a strong content warning (graphic, sexual content, abuse, pretty much everything).
I thought she was exaggerating but she wasn’t. So in a way, it feels really rude to trash this book as I was warned. But it is just purely upsetting and kind of just disgusting. Nearly 400 pages of abuse and graphic (also abusive) sex scenes. It’s trashy – but not in the good way. I would say to absolutely skip this book unless you are curious and can’t help yourself. (In which case I get it!!!). There are zero twists and turns, just twistedness. I love twists, I like some types of twisted, but this is the kind of twisted that I do not like. At all. It is my least favorite book in a very long time. Like I said, I still love her – just not this one!!! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: C-
Three fantastic new books that are out sooooon!
In a New York Minute, by Kate Spencer (coming 3/15)
As you know, I am more of a murder and suspense kind of girl, but I had heard amazing things about this book and I absolutely loved it. It’s well worth the pre-order (especially if you love/miss New York right now – it will provide all of the warm and fuzzy nostalgia for the city). Franny is having the worst day.. She gets laid off from a job that she doesn’t even really like and then on the subway her dress gets stuck in the door and rips, leaving her nearly naked. When a stranger (handsome Hayes) lends her his jacket, the moment goes viral on instagram and the two of them become known as the “Subway QTs.”
Neither of them is particularly crazy about this, but they wind up on TV together, keep bumping into each other, and ultimately forming an unlikely friendship. I loved this because it made me nostalgic for my younger years in New York. Also, the story arc is so good… and I really fell in love with these characters. It is such a fun read… I hope it becomes a series as I would really love more from these characters! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A
The Golden Couple, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (out 3/8)
I am such a huge, huge fan of Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen’s books and this one (their fourth!) may be my favorite of all. I want you to know what a big statement this is… they’re such a talented duo: their thrillers are always twisty, unpredictable, and smartly written. Avery is an unconventional (but highly effective) therapist. In just ten sessions, she gets guaranteed results. When Matthew and Marissa (the seemingly perfect, “golden” couple) pay her a visit, all bets are off. It becomes very clear to Avery that they are both withholding some pretty big secrets. Avery is determined to get to the bottom of it.
The plot gets twistier and twistier as some of Avery’s other clients’ problems begin to get in the way… with a pharmaceuticals scandal, an angry and narcissistic ex-wife, and a cast of unreliable characters. It feels like the entire second half of the book is one new fire after the next… in the best possible way. I loved this book. It’s smart, clever and twisty. It kept me on my toes. I can’t recommend it enough! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A
Our American Friend, by Anna Pitoniak (out 2/15)
A political thriller! And oh my gosh, I cannot stop thinking about this book. Also: because I know so little about Melania Trump, I can’t help but feel like this was about her (it’s not – it’s purely fiction!!!). Sofie is a young but burnt out journalist, tired of covering the Caine (a very very Trump-ish president) administration. When the first lady, Lara Caine, reaches out to her asking her to write her biography, she is baffled, but intrigued. Lara has shown so little of herself to the world… notoriously private and aloof. All anyone really knows is that she was born in Soviet Russia and raised in Paris – modeling, and eventually moving to the US where she met Henry Caine (aka Donald Trump).
As the two women work together, they grow closer and begin to really trust each other. Lara entrusts Sofie with some huge, (unbelievable) secrets about her past. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of giving something away, but this is a must read. I couldn’t put it down! Alternating between 70s Russia and Paris (I loved the “book within a book” format) and modern day, I couldn’t put this down. Seriously – I missed dinner as I didn’t want to stop reading. This is fast paced and smart and just really fun! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
- Overall Score: A
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