This was a good month of reading! It was heavy on the thrillers and mysteries which is always my favorite. My favorite thing I read this month (aside from Becca’s book of course) was definitely Yellowface. I could not put it down. It is a trainwreck and the main character is awful but I still loved it? It definitely is not for everyone, my mother hated it. But it’s a contender for at least the top ten books I read this year. I would highly recommend it.
Tell me what you are reading in the comments! I love your suggestions.
Everything I Read in September 2023
My Friend Wrote a Book!
The Christmas Orphans Club, by Becca Freeman
Nepotism aside, this book is WONDERFUL. Truly, such a treat to read. It is what I would call a friendmance, which we need more of. Really, a love story about a group of friends living in New York. Four friends (Hannah, Finn, Priya, and Theo) have spent Christmas together every year for years and now. They are each other’s chosen family but now it seems like everything is changing. We see them now and then over the years: I love that the book is set on multiple timelines, alternating between present day and Christmases past. We learn that the tradition started back in college when Hannah and Finn both had nowhere to go. Hannah’s parents had died and Finn’s disowned him when he came out of the closet.
As Hannah and Finn graduate and move to New York, they add Theo and Priya to the group. But then — Finn announces that he’s moving to LA. So it may be their last. Hannah feels like she’s losing this family she’s built for herself. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has a hard time understanding this notion of family, and is pushing her toward settling down. Are the four friends growing up or growing apart? I loved this book so much. It feels like a warm hug. The characters are so real and vulnerable; they are people we all know and love. Having left New York I also loved all of the New York nostalgia and seeing so many of my favorite places included. I could not put it down and am so proud of my friend for writing such a fantastic debut novel! Overall Score A++++++ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Thrillers and Mysteries
The Golden Spoon, by Jessa Maxwell
This was described to me as The Great British Bakeoff meets Clue (it was a reader recommendation from the comments section here on the blog) and I immediately knew I had to read it, based on that one sentence alone. It is extremely fun, a little bit dark, and utterly enjoyable.
The book opens with someone turning up dead on the set of a baking competition. We don’t know who died or who did it… just that there is a body. We rewind, and get to know the two show hosts. There is Betsy Martin, celebrated baker, longtime host, and owner of the estate where the show is filmed and now there’s her co-host Archie: new to the show and seemingly willing to play a bit dirty.. We also get to know the six contestants… all apprearing to be very kind and innocent people (you’d really imagine each of them on The Great British Bakeoff! Nothing is as it seems and not everyone is who they say they are.
The show starts out with just a little bit of sabotage (mixing up ingredients, swapping sugar for salt) and quickly devolves from there. There is also a side dish of #metoo. I loved this. It kept me on my toes and was a super fun read. In the beginning I had a hard time keeping the characters straight but the author does a great job having us get to know them all as the show goes on. The only reason I gave it an A- was because I felt like it went just a little bit off the rails in the end but otherwise? Loved! Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Anywhere You Run, by Wanda M. Morris
First of all, I love this author. Her last book, All Her Little Secrets was a favorite. This did not disappoint either! While her first book was set in modern day, this one was set in the deep south in the Jim Crow-era 1960s. Two sisters have gotten themselves into hot water. Violet, just twenty one years old, has killed a white man (but only after being brutally attacked by him). Meanwhile, her older (always more responsible) sister Marigold has found herself pregnant and unwed. Violet uses her white boyfriend to get out of town, ultimately hiding out in Chillicothe, Georgia… a small, rural town. Marigold heads north, seeking a better life and no more segregation. In the process, she entangles herself with an abusive (but also lazy?) man.
Both sisters are on the run, both are being chased. A man is hot on their trail. He has his own dark secrets and a disturbing motive for finding the sisters. I read this in under 24 hours as I could not put it down. It’s definitely more suspense vs. thriller, it breaks your heart at a couple moments, but it is ultimately a fun fast read with a serving of social justice. Highly recommend. There are triggers for domestic abuse and rape (neither are graphically portrayed but they happen). Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Yellowface, by R.F. Kuang
I am not really sure what to classify this as but am listing it as a thriller. Oh my goodness, I went into this knowing nothing and absolutely loved it. It’s part thriller, part satire… equal parts enjoyable and uncomfortable. June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be successful authors. They came up together, top of their class at Yale. Except… June’s writing career has stalled and Athena is at the top of her game; a best-selling author with Netflix deals coming her way. When Athena dies in a freak accident (in front of June!), June does the unthinkable: she steals Athena’s manuscript, spends several weeks editing it, sends it to her editor, and passes it off as her own. But also: she rebrands herself from June Hayward to a more racially ambiguous Juniper Song.
The book itself is a masterpiece, about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War 1. Of course, it is a huge success and Juniper Song becomes famous nearly overnight. But June can’t seem to get out from under Athena’s shadow, even though she’s dead. June makes for an unreliable (and deeply unlikeable) narrator, though you do feel badly for her at times. It’s compulsively readable (you will not want to stop!) and fun, while also tackling themes of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation within the publishing industry. Overall Score: A+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com.
The Intern, by Michele Campbell
I loved this book but want to warn you first, I didn’t think the writing was very good. But: the plot more than made up for the writing. Also: I love a legal thriller and I loved that it was set in Boston. Madison Rivera is an ambitious Harvard law student. When she manages to land a prestigious internship with Judge Kathryn Conroy, she is overjoyed. Conroy is everything she aspires to be. The only problem is that Madison has a secret that could destroy her career. Her younger brother Danny has been arrested and Conroy is the judge on her case. And in a moment of nervousness, Madison lied and said she was an only child during the interview. When Danny goes missing (after accusing the judge of corruption), Madison searches for answers.
She and the judge become close, developing a special bond. But what is really happening here? Is the judge really crooked? Why is a strange man always lingering outside of her townhouse? Neither woman trusts the other and a cat-mouse hunt ensues. This book is a wild ride. The plot is creative and different from other thrillers I’ve read, with a satisfying ending. I would definitely recommend it (and I loved it!), just be warned that the writing isn’t very good which makes it hard to read at times. Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com
Reign, by Katharine McGee
The final book in the American Royals series! I love these books and dove right in. I don’t want to give you too much plot as that would mean spoilers for the first three books so I will just say that the final book ties everything all together. But also: it felt like hanging out with old friends. There was the usual bit of drama, scheming, etc… but it was just so good and just pure fun to read! I am sad that the series is now over but I really loved how it ended. If you haven’t read these books I would recommend ordering all four and having a good old binge read! Overall Score: A / Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com.