OK, first of all! Based on the feedback from last month’s reading list, we are going back to the old format (full reviews in the blog post!)
I have to tell you, last month was such a home run for books; but the first two books I read this month I was just medium on (City of Likes) /didn’t like (The Lifestyle). I was worried that I was in a book slump (ever have that happen where you hate everything you read?).
Fortunately, Things We Do in the Dark redeemed those books. It was so good. That broke me out of the mini-rut. Everything else I read this month was great. The best book (far and away!) this month was Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. I found that one to be exceptional. A must-read, if you ask me. (And no, you don’t have to be into video games to enjoy it!) Read on for reviews of everything I read this past month, and don’t forget: all book reviews are saved (and sort-able) over in The Library!
What are you reading?!! Share your recs in the comments.
Everything I Read in July 2022
City of Likes, by Jenny Mollen
I was excited to read this as it has pretty much dominated my Instagram feed for the past several weeks. I enjoyed it and read it in under 24 hours (it’s just over 250 pages so it’s a pretty quick read). Megan is a frazzled, unemployed mother who is new to New York City. Her husband is the head of membership for a Soho-like club and she manages to get a low paying copywriter job. When she meets Daphne Cole (a beautiful and stylish mom-fluencer), she is taken into Daphne’s world; and Daphne takes her under her wing! Suddenly Megan has a new group of friends, a new wardrobe, and is becoming an influencer herself. But all that glitters isn’t gold; her relationship with her husband becomes strained and other elements of her life suffer. It’s a satire and it is very biting.
If you read it as a satire and just laugh, it is very funny – and dark! It’s not just a satire about influencers though, it tackles so many of the grosser parts of New York (private schools, the moms, the social scene, startup culture, etc) too. I will say that I think because I am an influencer, I get irritated by these horrible stereotypes with influencers behaving badly. I found both women to be deeply unlikeable for different reasons. Daphne was terrible, but Megan got swept up in it and was annoying in her own right.
There is a big part of me that wishes a book could have an influencer character that is just a normal girl, but that just wouldn’t sell books. Anyway, this is a fun fast read, perfect for the beach or a book club; you’d have a lot to talk about! Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: B+
The Lifestyle, by Taylor Hahn
The premise of this one intrigued me: three married couples in New York decide to take up swinging. Georgina’s husband has cheated on her and she becomes convinced that swinging will help them save their marriage. She convinces her two best friends (who she’s convinced need to be together) to join her. When she runs into an old flame at one of the parties, all bets are off. Friends.
I really didn’t like this book. I’m not being a prude here (the swinging / sex party parts were interesting – probably the most interesting part of the book), and it had its heartwarming moments, but I didn’t relate to any of the characters and I especially could not stand Georgina. I found her to be hypocritical and uptight and just a mess. And that came out as part of the plot but I just… didn’t enjoy the book. Also, the ending. Without giving spoilers away… two characters that end up together… it made absolutely zero sense whatsoever. You can skip this one. Again, parts were enjoyable and interesting but mostly it just annoyed me and made me mad. Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: B–
Things We Do In The Dark, by Jennifer Hillier
Oh wow, I absolutely loved this. It took maybe 50 pages to get into but once I did, I couldn’t stop reading. One of those books where you resent work or plans or anything keeping you away from the book! Please note: there are trigger warnings for abuse (child abuse, sexual abuse). It opens up with Paris Peralta being accused of murdering her (much older, very wealthy) famous husband. She’s arrested in her own bathroom, covered in his blood, so we, the readers aren’t even sure whether she is innocent. But Paris has even bigger problems: her past is full of dark secrets and one woman (Ruby Reyes, who committed a similar crime) knows them all and is threatening to expose her. Paris has to prove her innocence and confront her past… in some sort of order.
The book is so much more than a thriller. Without giving anything away it’s the story of perseverance, friendship, and so much more. It’s told in different segments. First, of course, there is Paris. We get to know her and also understand her relationship with her husband. Then, there is Ruby’s (now dead) daughter Joey – we learn her story. Lastly, there’s Joey’s best friend Drew (now a true crime podcaster). The stories come together beautifully, with lots of twists and turns. This book really kept me on my toes! Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: A
The It Girl by Ruth Ware
First of all, I really love Ruth Ware. Any time she has a new one out, it gets a pre-order from me. I ordered this without knowing anything about it and when I started reading, I was initially a little bummed out as it felt similar to so many books I’ve read recently. There is an In My Dreams I Hold a Knife trope going around right now where a girl is murdered in college and then years later her friends solve the case (and usually, the killer is one of the friends). This follows that sort of trope but I really loved the ending – it really got me! As a serial thriller reader, I often find myself guessing the ending so I appreciated that.
April Clarke-Clivedon was the It Girl at Oxford. Vivacious, smart, beautiful, clever, and a bit of a prankster… she dazzles everyone in her orbit. Hannah Jones is her roommate and the two quickly become inseparable, developing a tightly knit group of friends. But by the end of the year, April is dead. Flash forward ten years later and Hannah is now married to Will (April’s old boyfriend). The man (John Neville) who had been convicted of killing April (a creepy but potentially innocent porter at Oxford) has died in prison.
Hannah feels she can finally put the past behind her.. but her world is rocked when a journalist presents evidence to her that Neville might have been innocent and they could have put the wrong person in jail. Hannah becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened ten years ago; unraveling a web of lies, secrets, and discovering she may not have known her friends that well at all. Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: A-
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
This is a beautiful, special book. It follows Sadie Green and Sam Masur (later, Mazer) from their childhood friendship (they meet in a hospital waiting room and begin playing video games together). Sadie’s sister is sick and Sam has been in a traumatic car accident. The book spans all the way through adulthood to their late thirties. The two are inseparable. Never lovers, often fighting, but always deeply loving and respecting each other as creative collaborators. Their friendship begins in LA and follows them to Boston where Sadie is a student at MIT. Together, (with a lot of hard work, cobbling together money and resources from their friends with Sadie even dropping out of school) they build what ends up being a wildly successful blockbuster game, Ichigo.
The game is more popular than either of them could ever have imagined. The two become stars, rich… at just 25 years old. They move back to LA where they establish (alongside their third partner Marx Watanabe) their company, Unfair Games. Throughout, Sadie experiences a couple of bad heartbreaks. Sam has his fair share of health issues. They fight and find themselves not speaking to each other. This book is a story about friendship and a different sort of love. It will break your heart and put it back together several times as you read. I loved this book (and I know nothing about video games; truly – you do not have to like video games or know anything about them to enjoy this!) Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: A+
NSFW by Isabel Kaplan
Woof. This book. I loved it, and I loved the narrator’s voice, but it was hard to read. It was both darkly funny + biting at times. There are content warnings for sexual assault and sexual harassment, and if you are an old millennial and started your career in the late nineties/early aughts you might be a little bit triggered regardless. I know I was. Our unnamed protagonist graduated from Harvard and has moved back to Los Angeles, hoping to get a job in television. She lands an entry-level position at a major TV network “XBC.” She is smart, hard working, resourceful… the daughter of a feminist attorney. At first, she loves her work environment… thriving on the pressure and finding opportunities to succeed and become indispensable to her boss. But as time goes on there are allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.
At one point she experiences her own assault. The book is all to real; an exploration of the true cost of being a woman in a male-dominated workplace. The toll it takes to be successful. The idea that you can speak up (as we are so often told to do) and ruin your career or stay silent, be complicit, and move up the ranks. Is it ever worth it? This was at times very hard to read, but overall I really loved it. A spot on look at the me-too era, extremely sharp observations… the sort of book you think about for weeks after you put it down. Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: A-
First Born, by Will Dean
Before I get into my full review of this, I need to say something. The plot is excellent. It gets an A+ for twists and turns and shocking the reader. It had a couple really good ones. But the writing was just not very good. So an A+ for plot but only a B- for writing, so I gave it a B+. But if you love a good twist you will really enjoy this.
Molly Raven is extremely risk averse, living a quiet life in London. She loves structure and routine, travels infrequently, and weighs any decision over and over again. Meanwhile, her twin sister Katie is the opposite: she’s vivacious, fun, adventurous… living in New York City. They look exactly alike but couldn’t be more different. When Molly’s parents call her from New York to tell her that Katie is dead (and potentially murdered), Molly drops everything and heads to New York. As she tracks her twin’s last days (and meets her friends, boyfriend, and professors), she begins to uncover a web of lies. This one is extremely twisty. The writing is bad but the plot makes up for it. Order on Amazon or Bookshop // Overall Score: B+
I finally tackled Project Hail Mary and I loved it! It’s not my normal genre, but it was SO good!
I followed up with Every Summer After and it’s totally worth the hype. It will absolutely become one of my comfort rereads.
Last month I read You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar. Two sisters discuss the *near-constant* racist experiences of one sister (Lacey) in her Midwestern city. Amber Ruffin has her own show and she’s been a writer on Seth Meyers’ show, so there’s humor woven into it, but it was also really sobering and eye-opening.
Thank you for sharing!! I just ordered You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey.
Definitely adding NSFW to my TBR! My favourite July read was What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris. It’s a coming-of-age story by an almost eleven-year-old girl named KB. KB’s authentic voice brings this story of loss, grief, family secrets, racism, and black girlhood to life. Loved every single second of it. Couldn’t put it down! Absolutely loved the narrator, the setting, the writing, everything! So many emotions. It’s the perfect summer read. I read the physical copy but it would be amazing on audio. I plan on listening to the audiobook at some point. It’s a debut and I’m really looking forward to more from the author. Highly recommend!
Thank you so much for sharing, I am going to have to check it out!!!
I’ve had to spend less money on books this month, but luckily the Little Free Library in my neighborhood has been stocked lately. I’ve enjoyed Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins, Upper Bohemia by Hayden Herrera and I’m about to finish Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. I always keep a list of books I want to read (many from your recs) and get very excited when I find them for free. I’ll add these to the list!
Wow those are great finds, well done!!!
I download them for free from the library on my kindle paperwhite. I enjoy a real book too, but the kindle is so easy( especially for travel) and I save a ton of space and money. I still buypaper book, but not as often.
Thanks for converting back! This is one of my favorite posts every month! I do also love and use The Library 🙂
of course 🙂 xx
I had such a great reading month too – 9 books! Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow is top 2 of the year (only competition is Black Cake, I’m not sure which I loved more!). Another great one I read this month is The Displacements by Bruce Holsinger. Set in the near, the first ever category 6 hurricane hits the US. It’s SO good!
The worst book I read this month was The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager. I haven’t seen many people talk about it, which is disappointing because I need to talk to someone about how ridiculous it was lol. It started out enjoyable (if a little basic) and took a turn about halfway through.
Loved the post – I added a few of these to my list.
It was such a special book! I think it is number 3 or 4 for me (After Cloud Cuckoo Land and Black Cake, tied with Notes on an Execution). The Displacements sounds so good, I’m going to order it!
Good to know on the Riley Sager. I have read most of his books (a few have gone too far off the rails for me) but will skip this.
Leslie — I will talk about The House Across the Lake with you…because WTF?!
I thought it would be decent….Until I got to the Len/Katherine mix-up. It’s also eerily similar to The Rear Window and The Woman in the Window.
I think I’ve realized I just don’t like thrillers that are unrealistic. I’m scarred by this book.
I’m honestly tired of the onslaught of books centering influencer culture. I’m glad it’s not just me! There are still SO many other careers, interesting people, interesting subcultures out there to explore – its just feels copycat to me at this point and less interesting/unique every time. I have “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” on hold at the library. I was about a third of the way through “Unlikely Animals” and my hold at the library expired! (sad face). THAT book was so intriguing and unique – I love when a book surprises and delights me that way, with characters that are unexpected and view points that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. Also, incredibly good writing. SO, I put another library hold on that so I can finish! I am currently finishing up Emma Straub’s latest book, “This Time Tomorrow,” which is excellent. Before I got that from a library hold, I had also started Cloud Cuckoo Land, which was NOT at all what I expected! Also kind of knowing your reading preferences, I was surprised — I can’t wait to get deeper into it. It’s definitely intriguing. I recently finished “Kin” – a really great non-fiction/memoir and look at Apalachia, and Emily Henry’s “Book Lovers” which I adored – it was SUCH a refreshing and smart – almost satirical? – take on romance tropes. She’s such a witty writer and I loved the way it ended — the main character didn’t have to drop/change who she is. I liked that. “Beach Read” was more of a meh for me.
Up next: “You made a Fool of Death with your Beauty” by Akwaeke Emezi and “Olga Dies Dreaming,” by Xochitl Gonzalez. There are so many excellent reads out there and I’m working VERY hard not to read multiple at the same time -which I used to do – since it feels as though it affects my ability to focus and get into a story (I make an exception for non-fiction). It’s so hard though when they all seem to become library available at the same time! 🙂 ha.
Thanks for this conversation!
I can’t wait to read Tomorrow…
I just finished Where the Crawdads sang and really loved it. When a book hits me deeply, I need a bit before I am able to start a new one (anyone else that way?) Now I started The Paper Palace but I am just a few pages in so far.
I loved Jenny Mollen’s other books, they’re so good. This one is on my need to read list. She’s so funny!
an indigo day
Let me know what you think. The influencer character was… something!
I am so looking forward to Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
Have you read The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by the same author? It was just made into a movie (no release date yet), filmed last winter on the Cape. I highly recommend it.
Oh no way! I will have to check that out, thanks for sharing.
I’ve told friends to not read anything about “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” — not as blurb, synopsis, anything — but just start reading the book. It’s like a neighborhood gem with terrible curb appeal (“Book about gaming? Ehhhh…”) but that serves rich, beautiful food that you savor for days after.
This is a stay up too late, hope plans cancel kind of book. The characters are so real and the writing is inspiring. Five stars, highly recommend.
YES that is perfect advice. Just such a wonderful book.
Grace, I really think you need to read “The Guncle” — kaftans are a major plot point & it’s set in Palm Springs. You’d love it!
Has anyone read “The Lioness” (same author as “The Flight Attendant”)? I’m about halfway through & it’s giving me a lot of old Hollywood, Evelyn Hugo vibes.
Thank you so much for the rec!
Read Lessons In Chemistry. Or listen on Audible. Good narrator. Trust me. A really good book!!!
I did! I reviewed it either last month or the month before. Loved it.
Agreed on The Lifestyle!! I know it’s supposed to be a modern retelling of Emma but it felt like the author tried too hard and Georgina lost any charm Emma has in the original. The ending felt too sudden for me! I saw where the author was trying to go and show growth but they really rushed it. It felt like the same thing the Game of Thrones (the show) did to Dany in the final season: the seeds were there but they rushed it so much it feels too disjointed and out of character.
Yeah, rushing things never helps!