This was a better month of reading. I am easing out of my reading rut. Traveling definitely helped – is there any better feeling than reading until you fall asleep on the airplane? To be totally honest, this month I just read what I wanted to. I wasn’t trying to learn anything, I wasn’t trying to broaden my horizons or be a better person. Honestly, it was great! I am obviosuly not going to do this every month but it was nice to read for pure pleasure.
The best book, far and away, was the new Taylor Jenkins Reid (she is my FAV and this just came out 6/1) but I would (very) heartily endorse all five of the books on this month’s list. I really enjoyed them all, for different reasons.
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 six years. The best part is that now you can filter + search by genre (memoir, light read, historical fiction, thriller, books by Black authors, etc!) 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, just in case you missed it… everything I read in 2020, ranked by genre.
EVERYTHING I READ IN May 2021
Anna K Away, by Jenny Lee
This was the sequel to Anna K (which I really really enjoyed) and I loved it almost as much as the first one. If you missed Anna K, it’s a modern retelling of Anna Karenina (but in a very Gossip Girl style, set in New York City / Greenwich / The Hamptons). It’s one of the most fun books I read last year… such a clever idea. This one picks up the day that Anna leaves for Korea. Where she will spend the summer abroad nursing a broken heart after the death of her beloved Alexia Vronsky. I loved her storyline and adventures (particularly the K-Pop element). Meanwhile back in America, Vronsky’s cousin Beatrice is acting out (and falling in love), and there are some sweet storylines between sisters Kimmie + Lolly and their respective boyfriends (Dustin and Steven -Anna’s older brother).
If you enjoyed Anna K as much as I did, definitely pick this up… it’s very satisfying and just a fun read, like candy. And I love that it was set all over the world (including a train ride on the Orient Express which is something I have always wanted to do. I will add that you definitely need to have read the first one to enjoy this… there are a lot of characters and it took me a minute to remember who was who. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
- Overall Score: A-
The Most Beautiful Girl In Cuba, by Chanel Cleeton
I don’t generally read a lot of historical fiction, but I really love Chanel Cleeton’s writing. And I also tend to really love anything about Cuba (you might remember that Next Year in Havana was one of my favorite books a couple years back… I had been on a kick of reading books about Cuba after going there for a week). This one is set at the end of the 19th century, during the gilded age of New York City. There’s a journalistic battle between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Meanwhile, Spain has invaded Cuba and is wreaking havoc on the Cuban people. Imprisoning them in camps, treating the women horrifically, taking all property for themselves.
This book takes us through three brave womens’ stories, which ultimately intersect. There is Grace Harrington who gave up a life of privilege to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist. There’s Marina Perez who grew up in a wealthier part of Cuba but abandoned her family to marry for love. After her husband goes to war, she’s left to provide for her family and becomes a courier, hoping to help with the war in her own way. And there’s Evangelina Cisneros who has caught the eye of a brutal Spanish general.
When he tries to force himself on her, her friends and family come to her aid. And she is jailed and accused of inciting an attack on him. Evangelina’s story gets to America where she’s billed “the most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Grace + Marina help (in their own ways) to free her. I read this in just a couple days and really really enjoyed it. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
- Overall Score: A-
People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
Oh my gosh, this book is so sweet and happy! We chose it as our June Bad on Paper book club book and Becca said it was her favorite book she’s read all year. It’s been spun as a modern day When Harry Met Sally and I didn’t see too many parallels but I really enjoyed it regardless. Alex and Poppy are college best friends. They couldn’t be more different – Alex is a teacher who loves his khakis and longs for a conventional life whereas Poppy is a wild child who wants to travel the world (she’s a travel writer) and never settle down. But they are as close as can be, and every summer without fail, they plan “The Summer Trip.”
The book opens and Poppy and Alex are just not as close as they used to be. The trip didn’t happen last year, and Poppy desperately misses Alex. She convinces him to plan one more trip (to Palm Springs – which was fun, as I read it while I was there). The book alternates between past summer trips and the current one. As we figure out what happened to their friendship, and what is going to happen next for them. It is a very cute romcom of a book. I really liked both characters (I typically find most of the leads in romcom style books to be annoying, which is why I don’t always enjoy the genre) and it’s my favorite romance type of book I’ve read in ages. Really cute and heartwarming, with a satisfying ending. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
- Overall Score: A-
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
OK I had been saving my ARC of this forever and then I forgot about it during the move. This was my favorite book from the month, I think. I mean you know how much I love Taylor Jenkins Reid. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of the best books I have ever read. Or at least, one of my favorite books ever. And when I found out that she had a new book out, set in Malibu in the eighties, I knew it was going to be good.
This is the story of the Riva family. Four siblings and their parents. Their father Mick (a huge star) abandoned them as kids and their mother was an alcoholic who wound up dying young. It was the oldest sister, Nina, who ultimately held the family (and their family restaurant) together, dropping out of school to raise her three siblings and hold the business together. Throughout this traumatic period though, the kids all love to surf, which winds up leading the siblings Nina ends up getting discovered while she is out surfing and becomes a famous model / surfer. This ends up as a means to an end, but she’s not truly happy (and ends up married to an awful guy).
The book goes back and forth between present day and the past. Uncovering layers of family trauma… ending in 1983 a the Riva’s famous summer party (and the start of the 1983 Malibu fires). I really, really enjoyed it. As with all of TJR’s books it is gritty and glamorous with complex relationships and characters you really love and relate to. I LOVED this book! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
- Overall Score: A
The Stranger in the Mirror, by Liv Constantine (out 7/6)
I am a big fan of Liv Constantine’s books. They (it’s a sister duo) write some of my most favorite read it in a day / stay up all night thrillers like The Last Mrs. Parrish and The Wife Stalker, etc etc. This one is not out until July and I will be honest, it was not my favorite of their books, but it was still very engaging and kept me on my toes. Addison wakes up on the side of the road with no memories. She cannot remember a thing about her past or who she was. Luckily, she’s taken in by an older couple in Philadelphia and slowly starts to build a life. Even getting engaged to handsome and charismatic Gabriel.
Meanwhile, up in Boston, Julian’s wife Cassandra is missing. One day she just vanished, leaving him and their seven year old daughter alone. Julian struggles to figure out what happened to Cassandra and where she went. While Addison struggles to figure out who she really is. Of course at some point, there stories intersect and that’s where it gets really good. I will say that I felt like the end went a little (a lot?) off the rails and wasn’t so believable. But that didn’t stop me from tearing through it and really enjoying it! It’s a fun fast read, perfect for the beach. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
- Overall Score: B+
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Thanks for the reviews, Grace! ❤️✨
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
I don’t read as many brand-new releases since I depend on loaners from the Free Little Library to keep my costs down, but I can usually find one or two that you’ve recommended in the past in there. I just finished My Brilliant Friend, The Last Mrs. Parrish and Infinite Country–all of your recommendations, so thank you for keeping such a user-friendly book reference page.
Ah all are so good!!!
Hi, Grace!!! I always LOVE your reading wrapups! One request to possibly consider: If you’re reviewing a sequel, would you mind not including a spoiler to the first book?? I hadn’t finished Anna K yet, and was so bummed to read your review that included the major spoiler on the character’s death 🙁 Just a thought for future reading wrapups!
Hi Marielle, Noted and so sorry! Given that Anna K is a retelling of Anna Karenina I thought that was a given, but understand not everyone knows the original story.