March went by entirely too fast. I read 7 books. I was pretty medium on the first two books I read (Woman of the Year, Snap Out of It) and was worried I was in a reading rut (sometimes I will just find myself reading a seemingly endless streak of mediocre books which is just the worst). Things turned around and I wound up reading some really great books! Everything on this list besides the first two is 100% worth reading but three books in particular were real standouts for me.
Woman on Fire was highly recommended by quite a few of you and basically my dream book: a mystery, an art heist, a vicious gallery owner, mixed in with a bit of historical fiction. I LOVED it, gave to my mom and she loved it too. My mother and sister had highly recommended The Island of the Sea Women by Lisa See and it was magnificent. Incredibly researched, heartbreaking but heartwarming; an amazing book. Last but not least is Adelaide. It is not out until a little later this month (4/18) but completely worth the pre-order. It’s Normal People meets Tell Me Lies, in all the best ways.
Give me your recs! I love reading your comments — tell me what you read this month and/or what you are most looking forward to reading.
PS – Don’t forget about The Library. Every book I’ve read, categorized and ranked.
Everything I Read in March 2023
Woman of the Year by Darcey Bell
A few days after reading this book I am still not entirely sure about it. Did I love it? Hate it? I really don’t know. It’s uncomfortable to read in that the protagonist is wildly unlikeable, at least at first. This is the story of two college best friends: Lorelei and Holly. Twenty years after graduation, the friends have had a falling out. Holly is about to be awarded “Woman of the Year,” and has attained all possible levels of success. Meanwhile, Lorelei dropped out of college, has a messy life… and lives alone with her cat. (She is the kind of cat lady who makes the rest of us cat lovers seem crazy).
Lorelei blames a lot of her failures in life on Holly (thanks to a gaslighting incident in school that ruined Lorelei). She attends the dinner for Holly, determined to get revenge.. only for there to be another murder which convinces her that maybe she could be in danger, too. The book alternates between modern day and college (where Lorelei and Holly were still tight and Lorelei was sleeping with their beloved college professor). It is uncomfortable to read (like I said I didn’t necessarily enjoy reading it), but I liked the ending! Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Snap Out of It, by Maddie Dawson
I am usually a big Maddie Dawson (her books are so heartwarming) but this one was not my favorite. The main character is Billie, a sixty year old woman whose husband Victor left her when she was 25 (with a newborn daughter). Since then she married twice (divorced one more time, widowed another). She no longer believes in love. She is kooky and dresses up as a “heartbreak bunny” to help people get over their exes. (I found her to be kooky to the point of no longer believing in love). Meanwhile, her daughter is an influencer, whose marriage is falling apart.
The thing about the daughter and the career was that it felt like the author didn’t really have a good understanding of influencing so the book wasn’t believable to me. There are holes in her career that I couldn’t get past, which left me irritated. I didn’t expect her to get into the behind the scenes of influencing but it felt one dimensional. The daughter’s husband takes photos of her in ball gowns. When the husband leaves, she immediately hemorrhages followers (despite a very real announcement). That just would never happen.
IDK. That plus Billie being a bit annoying and getting in her own way, I felt more and more annoyed as the book went on. I almost DNF’d (but I love Maddie Dawson!). Anyway, Louise (daughter)’s marriage is falling apart, and Billie finds herself in a romantic pickle: a handsome widower and then her ex husband returning and trying to be present in Billie and Louise’s life. Of course Billie is super annoying about all of it as she doesn’t believe in love. This was cute and heartwarming in the end but Billie’s character annoyed me so much! That plus the influencer stuff meant the book just fell a bit flat for me. Overall Score: B // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Women are the Fiercest Creatures, by Andrea Dunlop
I really enjoyed this (and you know I’m a huge fan of Andrea Dunlop’s books). It’s set in Seattle, among the wealthy (and often backstabbing) tech elite and it is a fun, feminist, ride of a novel.
The story centers around three women (the ex-wife, new wife, and ex-girlfriend) of a manipulative tech CEO. Jake Sarnoff is a tech god, the wunderkind founder of Strangers (an app that is similar to Meetup and helps people form groups and find friends). His public image is that of a smart, highly evolved – even feminist! founder. Privately, he’s not quite that person, which we learn from meeting the women in his life. There is Anna, still reeling from her divorce with Jake after he left her for a much younger woman. He still tells her how much he loves, needs, and wants her back (despite forcing her out of the company she helped build).
Then there is Jessica, Jake’s 25 year old new wife. A blonde bombshell who is now a new mom, struggling to stay afloat. Lastly, there is Samanta Flores-Walsh. Sam is his college girlfriend who also hand a hand in building Strangers, long ago. Now she is a single mom, raising her daughter while running a thriving fitness business, she has questions for Jake as well. As Strangers nears its IPO date, the three women’s stories begin to intersect in interesting ways as secrets come to the surface. I couldn’t put this one down. I read it in just a couple days. Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Before We Were Innocent, by Ella Berman (Out 4/4/23)
I really enjoyed this! I think I would classify it as a thriller. It’s definitely not scary, but it is very suspenseful. Ten years ago, Joni and Bess went on a trip of a lifetime. Post high school graduation, their friend Evangeline invited them to spend ten weeks with her in Greece. Only the trip didn’t turn out as planned. The girls fought, Evangeline turned out to be a bit controlling, while Joni and Bess wanted to be young, free, and party. Evangeline ends up dead, the girls find their lives ripped apart. Ten years later, Joni has capitalized on her infamy, turning her life around and becoming a motivational speaker. Bess has done the opposite, moving to the desert and making her life as small as possible.
When Joni turns up on Bess’s doorstep, asking her to be an alibi for a similar crime, Bess has to relive the memories she’s pushed aside (and has to make a decision). Told in alternating timelines, past and present, this one kept me on my toes and made me need to keep compulsively reading! I think the book does a really good job at looking at what it is like to be young and stupid (and also to learn to forgive yourself for childish antics!). Also: parts of it reminded me of Woman of the Year but I liked this one better! Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Woman on Fire, by Lisa Barr
I feel like this book was just made for me. It’s a thriller about the art world, with a touch historical fiction thrown in. I found myself savoring it… I really loved this book! Jules Roth is a young, ambitious journalist who talks her way into a job with Dan Mansfield (a wildly respective, unconventional investigative reporter). When Dan assigns her to a top secret, off the books project, her whole life changes. She’s assigned to help him locate a painting that had been stolen by the Nazis. Dan’s old friend Ellis Baum (renowned shoe designer), wants the painting for personal reasons. Meanwhile, Margaux de Laurent is a powerful art dealer, managing her family’s many art galleries all over the world.
The thing is, her family business is suffering and she is being told she’s going to need to close some of the galleries and sell of pieces from her family’s collection. She has no interest in doing any of this, and has made other plans to rebuild her family fortune (legal or not). As Jules and Margaux’s paths intersect in a rush to find the stolen painting, Jules proves herself to be even more ambitious and talented than Dan could have thought; and Margaux becomes more and more ruthless. Both women: desperate to obtain the painting. I loved this book and could not put it down. Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See
This book is amazing… a masterpiece. When we were in Belize my sister said it’s the best book she’d ever read and my mom agreed. Naturally, I ordered it and started reading as soon as I got home. They were right. Set on the Korean island of Jeju, it follows the main character (Young-Sook) from the thirties (pre-WWII) all the way through modern day. It begins as Young-Sook and her best friend Mi-ja are learning to work in the sea with the village’s all-female diving team. Jeju is a matrifocal society: the women work in the sea (diving for abalone, sea urchin, other treasures) while the men stay home and care for the kids.
It’s kind of amazing how these women dived into the cold water, holding their breath for three minutes, without a wet suit or any sort of modern equipment. The waters are dangerous and there is tragedy. The girls have each other but as their lives take different turns and the world around them changes, they both make difficult decisions and in the process, lose each other (I am keeping things vague so not to spoil anything). Spanning generations of women (Young-Sook all the way down to her great grandchildren), this is a book I think I’ll remember for years to come. I absolutely loved it. Overall Score: A+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Adelaide, by Genevieve Wheeler (out 4/18)
Let it be said; I absolutely loved this book, but it was a hard one to read. There’s a content warning for suicidal thoughts and mental illness, but it is truly just a wonderful book. It’s beautifully written and something that I think anyone who has ever loved someone who didn’t love them back can relate to. In some ways, it has big Tell Me Lies energy but this one felt more literary to me; the writing is really beautiful. Maybe I would say it’s a cross between Normal People and Tell Me Lies? Yes: that’s it!!!
Adelaide meets Rory when she is in her early twenties and for her it is pretty much love at first sight: she tells him he looks like a Disney prince. But Rory is not consistent. He doesn’t always call her back, he rarely makes plans, and they’ll go for weeks without talking. When a horrible tragedy occurs, Adelaide does the best she can to help Rory put the pieces back together. As she bends over backwards to help him the best she can, she loses herself in the process. There was so much of the book where I just wanted to step in and intervene!
Besides exploring grief, love, and mental health in a very raw way this book is also a good reminder of taking care of yourself. I loved this book so much, reading it in just a couple sittings. Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.