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+