I was in a real reading rut in the beginning of the month and I couldn’t really put my finger on why. None of the offending books are on this list but I found myself DNFing again and again. Things improved though, and overall it was a great month of reading. The highlights for me personally were Peggy Guggenheim’s biography, Between Two Strangers (a fast, fun thriller), and The Senator’s Wife (Liv Constantine is a favorite!!). Tell me what you read and loved this month in the comments section – I love your recommendations!
Everything I Read in May 2023.
Swipe Up For More, by Stephanie McNeal
Admittedly, I read this over the summer but I saved my review for this month as it comes out June 5th! There are so many books about influencers (mostly fiction) but this one is unique as the author is a journalist and really took the time to sink her teeth in and spend quite a bit of time following (visiting, interviewing) the three influencers that are profiled within the book. I loved that she asked the tough questions but led from a place of curiosity vs. snarkiness and criticism. The book is juicy and intimate, but also funny and vulnerable: profiling three major influencers: Caitlin Covington (@cmcoving) of Southern Curls & Pearls, Mirna Valerio, and Shannon Bird.
McNeal spent THREE years with each of these women so you get true coverage of what these women’s lives are like (and how they have built their respective empires). I personally found the Mormon mommy bloggers parts the most interesting (probably because those women’s lives are so different from my own) and it made me see Shannon Bird in a totally different light. I loved this book and think you will really enjoy it too! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Kismet, by Becky Chalsen
This is such a cute book, and would make for a great beach read. And as I have said on Instagram stories, if you love Emily Henry, you will love this. Twins Jo and Amy have been best friends since birth. And when Amy married Ben, the three of them were thick as thieves… inseparable! Now though, everything seems different. It’s Jo’s wedding weekend at their family house on Fire Island. Amy and Jo haven’t spoken in months. Amy and Ben are estranged, we just know that something happened months ago that rocked their world.
Meanwhile, Jo seemingly barely knows her fiancé Dave, and Dave’s parents seem dead set on stopping the wedding. The cherry on the top? A man from Amy’s past has turned up at the wedding – the one who got away. She cannot stop thinking about him and begins to question her marriage. This one is packed with family drama and you just want to shake the main character (Amy) at times. I gobbled it up and loved the ending. You’ll want to read this in a single afternoon! Overall Score: B+ // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org.
Under the Influence, by Noelle Crooks (out 8/8)
This is a very fun read, especially if you are like me and will read any book about influencer culture. This one was more about self help influencer culture (so different from my world. I stalked the author a little bit only to discover she used to work for Rachel Hollis). It was FUN – like a Devil Wears Prada for the digital age. I read it on my overnight flight to Venice and did not want to put it down to sleep (I continued to read it when I got to Venice — ultimately finishing it at a sidewalk cafe while I waited for my boyfriend to arrive).
Harper is smart but unlucky with work; laid off from her last job and totally broke, struggling to pay rent. When she is offered a job working for a self-help influencer (Charlotte Green) where she’ll be paid triple her old salary, she jumps at the offer even though it means moving to Nashville. Charlotte is charismatic and optimistic, and has built a cult-like following. But some things are too good to be true. What starts out as a fun, refreshing workplace (afternoon dance parties and group bonding activities!) quickly turns toxic. The book explores some of the darker sides of the industry: assistants who don’t get credit, plagiarism, toxic positivity, I could go on. I really enjoyed this! Overall Score: A- // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
Between Two Strangers, by Kate White
I received an advance copy of this book (it just came out mid-May!) and absolutely loved it. This is a very twisty thriller that is fast and fun and such a treat to read. The kind of book that will suck you in and hold your attention until the end… you’ll want to read it in one sitting (it is great for a long flight!) Skyler Moore is a struggling artist who is just making ends meet. One day she gets a suspicious call from a lawyer, finding out she’s inherited a large sum of money from a stranger, Christopher Whaley. Upon wracking her brain, she realizes that years and years ago, she’d had a one night stand with him. They’d never even exchanged phone numbers; why on earth would he leave her all this money!?
Meanwhile, Chris’s family is upset — and extremely suspicious. His widow is convinced that they must have been having an affair and is convinced that Skyler must have been blackmailing him. She threatens revenge. Skyler’s apartment is broken into and she quickly realizes she’s being followed. She realizes she has to dig for the truth and figure out why the money was left to her. And as she does this, she realizes there were were even bigger, darker secrets at play. Alternating between past and present, this book is fast paced and fun. I highly recommend it! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
Midnight is the Darkest Hour, by Ashley Winstead (out 10/3)
I really tried to hold off on reading this a little longer (it’s not out til October), but couldn’t help myself: Ashley Winstead is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved In My Dreams I Hold a Knife and The Last Housewife. She is not afraid to go really dark. This was described to me as Twilight meets Where the Crawdads Sing and that description is not wrong (just make it more of a thriller). It is set in Bottom Springs, small Louisiana town where a fire & brimstone preacher rules the roost (it felt like it could have taken place so long ago, except the main character loved Twilight so you know it’s set in present day).
Ruth Cornier has always been an outcast. A preacher’s daughter, bookish and small. Her closest friend is Everett, also an outcast/the boy from the wrong side of the tracks thanks to his violent, alcoholic father. When a skull turns up in the swamp, next to mysterious carved symbols, the town panics and is immediately thrown into uproar. Everyone thinks it must be The Low Man, a shadowy vampiric figure said to steal into sinners bedrooms and kill them in the night. Ruth and Everett must comb the town’s dark history to solve the mystery of what has happened… before the town turns on them! Well worth the pre-order. Overall Score: A- // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
Confessions of an Art Addict, by Peggy Guggenheim
This is a fun little book. It’s very short (under 200 pages) and not the best writing (this was definitely before the age of ghostwriters), but it is just fun. Imagine your wealthy, eccentric great aunt just telling you all her stories about the art world in the 1940s and 1950s and you have what is an unputdownable little memoir. I absolutely loved it. I learned so much and it was also just FUN. Peggy had such an interesting life. The book spans her childhood (which was not very happy), her multiple marriages, how she started collecting art… her different galleries… and it’s also juicy! Think… Page Six but abstract/surrealist artists?
From talking about how Mondrian came into her gallery asking where he could go dancing, to her descriptions (and stories about) Brancusi, Giacometti, (of course) Jackson Pollock, and other artists.. I found myself utterly engrossed. It was also a fun book to read upon returning from Venice (she talked a lot about the art biennales and I could perfectly envision each of her stories). If you love art, or if you’ve just gotten back from Venice, this is the perfect book to read! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
The Senator’s Wife, by Liv Constantine
I had pre-ordered this and was so excited for it as Liv Constantine is one of my favorite author duos (“Liv” is actually a team of two sisters that write together). You probably know them from The Last Mrs. Parrish which I loved. The perfect can’t-put-it-down thriller. This one was really satisfying for me as I guessed the twist(s) pretty early on BUT they have such a great way of keeping you guessing that I second guessed myself the whole time. It was addicting?
Two years ago, Whit and Sloane each lost their spouses in a tragic accident. Over the years they leaned on each other and now: they are married, and happily in love. Every day, Sloane pinches herself that she somehow managed to love two incredible men. Her life is pretty much perfect. But Sloane has some health issues: she needs a hip replacement and often experiences debilitating flares of lupus. When they decide to hire someone to help out with Sloane’s non-profit and also care for Sloane at home post-operation, Athena seems perfect.
But as Athena cares for Sloane, Sloane just seems to get sicker and sicker, her lupus flare-ups getting worse and worse. Meanwhile, it seems that Athena and Whit have taken to each other. As Sloane gets sicker and sicker, it seems that something evil is at play. I loved this almost as much as I loved The Last Mrs. Parrish. It is fun and twisty and will keep you on your toes. It’s also the kind of book that you kind of just have to read in one sitting: I found that I could not stop reading!!! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org