I somehow read nine books in June. A lot of reading, especially over the past two weeks. There were a few books I was only medium on, one that I really did not like… but overall, it was a great month of reading. The new Elin Hilderbrand is awesome. The Chateau is easily the best thriller I’ve read in ages. The Secret Book of Flora Lea was magical. And of course, I absolutely loved Glossy (Marisa Meltzer’s deep dive into the worlds of Glossier and Emily Weiss). I also have to mention I Could Live Here Forever. Heartbreaking in a good way. I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’d love to know what you read this past month (and your recommendations!) And as always, every book I’ve read is documented in The Library, where you can search, sort, and filter by genre and “grade.”
Everything I Read in June 2023
Thrillers / Suspense
The Writing Retreat, by Julia Bartz
I liked but did not love this one. I found the main character messy and unlikeable, I didn’t love the mean girl friendship drama, and the book itself is more “horror” than “thriller,” and I tend to prefer thrillers over horror (except in film: LOVE a horror flick!). Still, I read it in 36 hours and liked it. It kept me entertained and was one of those books where you keep going as you have to know what happens.
Alex’s life is a mess: she hates her job, her best friend and her had a major falling out (and she lost the rest of her friends), and she’s fresh off a drunken hookup with her one remaining male friend. Oops. When she is accepted into a prestigious writer’s retreat at her favorite author’s home, it feels like getting a do-over. A chance to make a name for herself as an author (and potentially secure a seven figure book deal!). It doesn’t matter that her former best friend is also attending the retreat. But when she arrives to the retreat, there are surprises. Intense writing goals each day. And each writer must finish an entire book within the 30 day retreat. Add to that mean girl antics from the former bestie, plus weird, supernatural things happening within the house.
It goes deeply off the rails and again it is more of a horror plot than a thriller, so just be warned!
The Chateau, by Jaclyn Goldis
Thriller people, this one is an absolute must-read! It has everything. Girlfriend drama, lying, cheating, deciept, a glamorous and wealthy grandmother, murder… all set in a beautiful chateau in the south of France. It’s a masterpiece. The first A+ thriller I’ve read in a bit, it had me on the edge of my seat the entire time (I read this embarrassingly fast, in under 24 hours, as I needed to know what happened). It’s the kind of book that makes you shirk work because all you want to do is read.
When Darcy and her three friends receive an elegant invitation to spend the weekend at Darcy’s grandmother (Séraphine Demargelasse)’s elegant chateau in Provence, the women (all now in their early forties) head to France. Twenty years earlier, the four of them had studied abroad in Avignon, visiting Séraphine on the weekends. They have stayed close over the years but drifted at times, as can happen over the years. The older woman stresses that she has something critically important to tell them. She also wants to discuss her Will with Darcy. But before she can do any of that, she is brutally murdered in the middle of the night. Darcy and the other women are devastated. Meanwhile, a sinister instagram account pops up, threatening to expose the four friends’ intimate secrets.
It’s one of those terrifying (at times) whodunnits… all of the women, living under the same roof, starting to suspect each other. Secrets and lies come out, making Darcy and her friends question everything. I found this book completely unputdownable and loved it so much. My mom loved it too!
The St. Ambrose School for Girls (out 7/11/23)
Oh my. This one was pitched to me as Heathers meet We Were Liars, and that is pretty spot on. Right off the bat, a massive TW for mental health (especially bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts). If those things are going to bother you, I’d avoid this book. Sarah Taylor is a smart, complicated loner, struggling with bipolar disorder. She spent the summer hospitalized and is now starting her first semester at an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. From her first day at school, beautiful, popular Queen Bee Greta Stanhope makes her her mark. The pranks start small and get bigger. Luckily, Greta has support. There is her roommate Ellen “Strots” Strotsberry, and her handsome RA Nick Hollis. But when a scandal unfolds, and someone ends up dead, things begin to unravel.
I struggled for the first 150 pages. Sarah’s character is really struggling and I found a lot of it really upsetting (we are taken through manic depressive episodes, a suicide attempt, etc.) It’s very raw and vulnerable but hard. to read. After that, the book veers more juicy and dark (and for me) became more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this, just know that it’s dark!
The Five-Star Weekend, by Elin Hilderbrand
There is something so wonderful about Elin Hilderbrand’s books. I started this while my cat was sick (I had a four hour wait at the vet and this was the perfect companion). Her books go beyond just being beach reads. They’re extremely well written, with relatable characters (this one in particular, I feel like we all know someone similar to each woman), and wonderfully researched. And always, a satisfying ending. You just know everyone is going to be okay (even when there’s quite a bit of drama!).
Newly widowed Hollis is a food blogger, with a beautiful home on Nantucket. As she grieves the loss of her husband, she reads about something called “The Five-Star Weekend,” where you invite the best friends from each stage of life. And so she invites her high school best friend (Tatum, a Nantucket local), her college best friend (Dru-Ann, a freshly cancelled sports agent/TV host), Brooke (a fellow mom from Wellesley), and Gigi (a bit of a wild card; one of her blog’s most engaged readers who she’s developed a bond with. The weekend is packed with food, friend time, and bonding.
But Gigi is holding secrets; Dru-Ann and Tatum have a long-standing feud; and Hollis’s daughter (who she hired to film the weekend) is barely speaking to her. I feel like as I explain it, it doesn’t sound as interesting as it is, but the way Hilderbrand writes and how she developed these characters made it a special book. I really loved this; it’s one of my favorite books of hers.
Bad Summer People, by Emma Rosenblum
If you loved Pineapple Street, this is going to be your juicy summer read. For me, this read so similarly to that (satire, writing style, skipping around from character to character) except you hate everyone. Truly. Also, it’s plottier (more stuff happens — a death, plus several other things that I won’t spoil for you). Maybe it is Pineapple Street mixed with White Lotus? I think that’s it! As I read it, I couldn’t tell which character I liked the least? The writing is great, the characters are sharply observed… it’s a fun read but sometimes I hated it as I disliked the characters so much. It can be hard to read a book when you hate everyone. (Though I read the book in a single Sunday so I don’t know what that says about me?)
Set in Salcombe, a small town on Fire Island, the book explores the relationships between several couples (and their one single friend). It felt like high school except with lots of booze and money: very wealthy grownups behaving very badly. There are Lauren and Jen, the pretty, popular women who rule the island. More friends by situation (their husbands are best friends) than choice. There are the husbands (Jason and Sam, respectively) who grew up coming to the island. Except Jason sort of hates and resents Sam. There’s Robert, the hot new tennis pro with a past. And there’s Rachel, the “sad single friend.” Put them all together in a boring summer town and watch what happens.
Social Engagement, by Avery Carpenter Forrey
I have to be honest, I didn’t like this. I actively hated it for a lot of the time I read it. But I just wanted to know what happened, so I kept going. Don’t be like me. I should have DNF’d but curiosity killed the cat. I’d had high expectations for this for some reason, thinking it would be the perfect summer read. It wasn’t. I haven’t actively disliked a book so much since Fleishman is in Trouble? Also please know: there are huge triggers for eating disorders and body image stuff, so just be forewarned if these things trigger you and you still somehow want to read this after reading my review.
The book opens in a honeymoon suite in Watch Hill (one of the most desirable wedding venues in Rhode Island). The (deeply unlikeable) bride Callie Holt is laying in a bathtub, eating pizza, sauce all over her dress. Her groom is passed out and she knows their marriage is over. She decides to shift through her phone to pinpoint where things went so wrong. The book takes us back over the past year through secrets and resentments. I think I just struggled as the bride (and all of the characters, for that matter) were extremely hard to like, the weight and body stuff was wayyyy too much, and the plot was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. There was nothing redeeming. I did like the ending but that was maybe two paragraphs. I like dark commentary but this ain’t it. Skip this.
I Could Live Here Forever, by Hanna Halperin
This book was a reader recommendation (thank you Katie Herklotz!) who told me that it had Tell Me Lies vibes and not to read anything about it, just to order it as the description of the book has spoilers. So do that! I will warn you, it broke my heart several times. I’m going to try to describe it without giving anything away. Leah Kempler is living in Madison, Wisconsin, doing a two year long writing workshop. When she meets Charlie Nelson in line at the grocery store, there is an immediate spark. The attraction is immediate, and he is the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. She describes him as a cross between Jake Gyllenhaal and Johnny Depp.
They fall for each other hard and fast. But Charlie is peculiar. He makes grand proclamations of love and wanting a life together. But he’s 31 and still living with his parents. He often sleeps all day. He meets friends at odd hours of the night. As Charlie’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, Leah often feels unsafe and her friends worry. The book is incredibly vulnerable and sad, I couldn’t put it down. I read it in under 24 hours and while it did make me sad, I really loved it.
Glossy, by Marisa Meltzer (out 9/12/23)
I am fairly certain that this is going to be one of fall’s most buzzy books. So you might as well pre-order your copy now! It was certainly one of my personal most anticipated reads and I was thrilled to be sent a galley. Glossier, was, at its peak (and maybe its peak is yet to come!) considered one of the most innovative, disruptive beauty brands out there. And its founder, Emily Weiss, one of the most compelling and intriguing female founders (and also one of the few “girlbosses” — hate that term but I can tell that Meltzer felt the same — to avoid being cancelled during all of the female founder takedowns that came a couple years ago).
The book follows Weiss from her days as the “superintern” at Teen Vogue (fun fact: she was on The Hills – I never watched, but thought that was interesting!) through jobs in media and building Into the Gloss (this was once upon a time my absolute favorite blog/site to visit; I never missed a Top Shelf!) to launching and growing Glossier. Meltzer’s reporting is fantastic. She had access to Emily herself (note: this book is juicy at times but it is not a takedown), and interviewed everyone: Weiss, former employees, investors, etc. The book provides an objective take on what happened at Glossier — from its soaring successes to its missteps, to Weiss ultimately stepping down as CEO.
I found it fascinating, how Weiss was able to turn her blog into a 1.9 billion dollar business. Plus I had also always been so curious about why she stepped down as CEO. I devoured this, reading it in just two days (not typically the case with me and non-fiction!). I highly recommend it. It doesn’t come out until September 12th, but it’s worth the wait, I promise.
The Secret Book of Flora Lea, by Patti Callahan Henry
I did not want this book to end! It came highly recommended by my mother (my number one for book recs!); her whole face lit up as she was like, “This is REALLY good.” I knew I had to prioritize it and wound up really loving it. It has a dual timeline; 1940 during WWII where two little girls (15 year old Hazel and her 6 year old sister Flora) are sent from London to the English countryside for safety and 1960 where Hazel is 35 years old and working at a rare bookstore when something rather magical happens. Back in 1940, Flora had wandered off and was presumed dead or drowned. But Hazel and her mother always wondered if she could still be alive.
Now, twenty years later, it’s Hazel’s last day at the rare bookstore when a rare manuscript turns up. The story is undeniably the fairytale that Hazel had made up to help calm Flora when she was upset. A story that only the two of them knew. Is Flora still alive? Did she write the book? Hazel impulsively steals the book and a rather magical search transpires. The search also involves Hazel’s old love Harry (complicating things, as Hazel’s boyfriend is seemingly perfect and they are about to get engaged.) I loved this. I couldn’t put it down and it was so magically written. An absolute must-read if you ask me!