Book Club

  • Allegedly

    A
  • When They Call You a Terrorist

    A+
  • They Wish They Were Us

    A
  • Miracle’s Boys

    A-
  • The Wife Stalker

    A-
  • Born a Crime

    A+
  • The Comeback

    A
  • The Boys Club

    A
  • Big Friendship

    A-
  • Head Over Heels

    A
  • Homegoing

    A
  • The Heir Affair

    A-
  • Lakewood

    A
  • Older

    A
  • One To Watch

    A+
  • The Vanishing Half

    A+
  • A Good Marriage

    B+
  • So You Want To Talk About Race

    A
  • Sleeping With Strangers

    C-
  • Home Before Dark

    B+
  • The Nickel Boys

    A+
  • On The Island

    B-
  • Patsy

    A
  • Reputation

    B+
  • Clap When You Land

    A
  • The Last Flight

    A+
  • The Lies We Told

    A-
  • Happy And You Know It

    A-
  • The Boyfriend Project

    B
  • The Book of Longings

    A+
  • The Chiffon Trenches

    A+
  • Perfectly Famous

    B
  • No Filter

    A-
  • The Lies that Bind

    A
  • Feels Like Falling

    A-
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

    A-
  • The Last Guest House

    B+
  • When The Lights Go Out

    B-
  • The Guest List

    A-
  • The Authenticity Project

    B+
  • I’ll Give You The Sun

    A-
  • The Twin

    C+
  • The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

    B
  • He Started It

    C+
  • Open Book

    A-
  • Big Summer

    A
  • If I Never Met You

    A
  • Genuine Fraud

    B+
  • Darling Rose Gold

    B+
  • Our Stop

    A-
  • Would Like to Meet

    A-
  • The Other Mrs.

    A-
  • This is Big

    A-
  • The Glass Hotel

    A-
  • You Are Not Alone

    A
  • Long Bright River

    A
  • Uncanny Valley

    B-
  • Know My Name

    A+
  • Followers

    A-
  • Quiet

    A+
  • The Wives

    B+
  • One of Us is Next

    A-
  • The Honey Don’t List

    A
  • Anna K

    A-
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

    B-
  • Regretting You

    B+
  • Modern Love

    A+
  • Such a Fun Age

    A
  • In Five Years

    A+
  • The Woman Upstairs

    B
  • City of Girls

    A+
  • Get A Life, Chloe Brown

    A
  • I’ll Never Tell

    B
  • The Gifted School.

    A-
  • The Poison Garden

    C
  • The Shape of the Night

    B
  • Fleishman is in Trouble

    C-
  • Twice in a Blue Moon

    A-
  • American Predator

    A
  • Good Girls Lie

    A-
  • The Testaments

    A
  • A Keeper

    A
  • The Other’s Gold

    B+
  • We Came Here To Forget

    A-
  • The Family Upstairs

    A
  • Chances Are…

    B
  • The Luxe (Series)

    B
  • My Friend Anna

    B+
  • Save Me The Plums

    A+
  • Lock Every Door

    A-
  • Three Women

    A+
  • The Wedding Party

    B+
  • Tell Me Everything

    A-
  • With the Fire on High

    A
  • The Turn of the Key

    B
  • The Friends We Keep

    B+
  • How Could She?

    A-
  • Waiting for Tom Hanks

    B-
  • A Nearly Normal Family

    B+
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over

    B
  • American Royals

    A+
  • The Silent Patient

    A-
  • The Unhoneymooners

    B+
  • American Spy

    A
  • Necessary People

    A-
  • Rules of Civility

    B+
  • That’s What Frenemies Are For

    B+
  • My Lovely Wife

    A-
  • Park Avenue Summer

    A-
  • The Idea of You.

    A
  • Daisy Jones & The Six.

    B+
  • The Perfect Girlfriend

    B-
  • The Last Book Party

    B
  • Behind Her Eyes

    B+
  • More Than Words

    B
  • The Mother-in-Law

    A-
  • The Seas

    B+
  • Normal People

    A-
  • So Here’s The Thing…

    A+
  • It Ends With Us.

    A-
  • An Unkindness of Magicians

    A-
  • Verity

    A+
  • The Story of a New Name.

    A
  • The Seasonaires

    B
  • Tell Me Lies

    A-
  • An Anonymous Girl

    B+
  • Where the Crawdads Sing

    A
  • The Banker’s Wife

    A-
  • Becoming.

    A+
  • The Governesses

    A-
  • The Woman Inside

    A
  • My Brilliant Friend

    A+
  • A Sky Painted Gold.

    A
  • My Favorite Half-Night Stand

    A-
  • Little White Lies

    A-
  • The Other Woman

    B-
  • Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t

    A
  • One Day in December

    A
  • Nine Perfect Strangers

    C
  • The Proposal

    A-
  • 99 Percent Mine.

    A-
  • Lilac Girls

    A
  • Our Kind of Cruelty

    B
  • Children of Blood and Bone

    A-
  • Waiting at Hayden’s

    A-
  • Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win

    A-
  • The Towering Sky

    A
  • Save the Date

    B
  • The Girl Before

    A-
  • The Stylist

    B+
  • Love and Other Words

    A
  • #FashionVictim

    B-
  • The Paris Wedding

    B
  • A Double Life

    B-
  • The Masterpiece

    A-
  • Circe

    A+
  • Marriage Vacation

    A-
  • From the Corner of the Oval

    B+
  • The Underwriting

    A-
  • The Dinner List

    A-
  • Beach House for Rent

    B
  • The Last TIme I Lied

    A
  • A Million Junes

    A-
  • The Intermission

    B+
  • Matchmaking for Beginners

    A
  • Something in the Water

    B+
  • Ghosted

    A-
  • Listen To Your Heart

    C-
  • Therapy Mammals

    A-
  • Mine

    B
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

    B-
  • The Hating Game

    A-
  • A Nantucket Wedding

    B+
  • Vicious

    B
  • The Oracle Year

    B
  • Social Creature

    A-
  • The Favorite Sister

    C
  • When Life Gives You Lululemons

    A-
  • Educated

    A+
  • The Summer of Jordi Perez

    B
  • Next Year in Havana

    A-
  • Waiting For Snow in Havana

    A
  • All These Beautiful Strangers

    A-
  • All We Ever Wanted

    A-
  • Famous in Love

    B
  • Truly Madly Famously

    B
  • People Like Us

    B
  • Then She Was Gone

    A
  • The Good Liar

    A-
  • Royals

    B
  • Paper Princess

    C
  • Broken Prince

    C
  • Twisted Palace

    C
  • The Secret to Southern Charm.

    A-
  • One of Us is Lying

    B
  • The Great Alone

    B+
  • Not That I Could Tell

    B
  • The Alice Network

    A
  • Do Not Be Alarmed

    B-
  • The Perfect Nanny

    B
  • The Wedding Date

    A
  • 10% Happier

    A
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies

    A
  • An American Marriage

    A
  • If I Die Tonight

    B+
  • Two Girls Down.

    B+
  • Ready Player One.

    A
  • The Woman in The Window

    A-
  • Little Fires Everywhere

    A
  • Still Me

    B+
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish

    A
  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    A
  • The Identicals

    A-
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

    A
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

    A
  • The Wife Between Us

    A
  • The Selection (Book 1)

    A
  • The Elite (Book 2)

    A-
  • The One (Book 3)

    A-
  • The Dark Lake

    B+
  • Devil in Ohio

    B+
  • Unbelievable

    A
  • The Silent Sister

    A-
  • The Address

    A
  • The Power

    B
  • The Dazzling Heights

    A-
  • Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

    A+
  • The Thousandth Floor

    A
  • Amanda Wakes Up

    B+
  • The Rules of Magic

    A-
  • The Hate U Give

    A
  • The Child

    B+
  • The Silent Girls

    B+
  • Party Girls Die in Pearls.

    B
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

    A+
  • Startup

    B
  • The Lying Game

    A-
  • Hello Sunshine.

    A-
  • Goodbye Vitamin

    B
  • Girl in Snow

    B-
  • Final Girls

    A
  • Commonwealth

    B
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

    A
  • Fitness Junkie

    A-
  • Miss You

    A-
  • How to Fall in Love With Anyone

    A-
  • Tuesday Nights in 1980

    A-
  • Into The Water

    B+
  • The Light We Lost

    A
  • Fake Plastic Love

    A-
  • How to Be Married

    B
  • Romancing The Throne

    A-
  • The Rules Do Not Apply

    A-
  • Secrets in Summer

    A-
  • This Must Be The Place

    B
  • Sweetbitter

    A
  • Slightly South of Simple

    A
  • The Wicked City

    A
  • All The Missing Girls

    A-
  • The Book Thief.

    A+
  • Free Gift With Purchase

    A
  • The Dollhouse.

    A
  • Since She Went Away

    A-
  • How to Murder Your Life.

    A
  • Behind Closed Doors

    A-
  • Commander in Chief

    B+
  • Local Girls

    B-
  • The Perfume Collector

    A
  • Mr. President

    B+
  • Watching Edie

    B+
  • Modern Romance

    A-
  • Attached

    A
  • The Couple Next Door

    A-
  • The Regulars

    B
  • The Nightingale

    A
  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

    A
  • I Let You Go

    B+
  • The Girls

    B
  • We Were Liars

    A
  • The Light Between Oceans

    A-
  • The Woman in Cabin 10

    A-
  • Eligible

    A-
  • Truly, Madly, Guilty

    B-
  • Here’s to Us

    A-
  • The Assistants

    B+
  • The Widow

    C+
  • Pretending to Dance

    B
  • A Man Called Ove

    A
  • What Alice Forgot

    A-
  • First Comes Love

    A
  • Valley of the Dolls

    A
  • Red Rising

    A
  • The Husband’s Secret

    A
  • The Singles Game

    A-
  • Beautiful Ruins

    A-
  • Unfriending my Ex and Other Things I’ll Never Do

    B+
  • The Book of Life

    A-
  • The Circle

    A-
  • The Last Letter From Your Lover

    A-
  • The Goldfinch

    A
  • With Malice

    B+
  • The Girl You Left Behind

    A
  • Faithful

    A
  • Small Great Things

    A-
  • Water for Elephants

    A
  • The Devil in the White City

    A+
  • Leaving Time

    A
  • After You

    B
  • But What if We’re Wrong

    A
  • Rich and Pretty

    B
  • Follow Me Into The Dark

    A-
  • The 24-Hour Wine Expert

    A-
  • The Career Code

    A-
  • The Crossroads of Should and Must

    A+
  • Half Bad

    A-
  • Silver Bay

    A-
  • One + One

    A-
  • Eleanor & Park

    B+
  • The Maze Runner

    A-
  • The Tipping Point

    A
  • Big Magic

    A
  • Charlie, Presumed Dead

    B-
  • I Was Told There’d Be Cake

    A
  • Straight to Hell

    B
  • The Royal We

    A
  • The Luckiest Girl Alive

    A-
  • The Knockoff

    A
  • Everybody Rise.

    A-
  • A Discovery of Witches

    A
  • Summer Secrets

    B+
  • Eight Hundred Grapes

    A-
Grade: A

Allegedly

OK I don’t even know what to say about this book because the last chapter is going to maybe haunt me forever? (TW: a baby is murdered, some violence). I had been asking you guys for recommendations for thrillers by Black authors and Tiffany D. Jackson kept getting suggested (I’ve ordered her other books too!). This did not disappoint. Mary Addison is a Black girl who (allegedly) killed a (White) baby when she was nine years old. After serving six years in baby jail, she goes to a group home where all the odds are stacked against her. She faces social workers who could care less about, her, intense bullying, and the women in charge of the group home turn a blind eye to it. She’s basically on her own with no support system (her churchgoing mother is untrustworthy), though she dreams of reopening the case against her… and taking the SAT’s to go to college. Now, she has her boyfriend Ted and has a baby on the way but as a ward of the state (and given her history), the state is threatening to take her baby away. I don’t want to ruin the plot for you but I will just say that this one has a Verity-like twist. It hit me over the head and SHOCKED me!

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Grade: A+

When They Call You a Terrorist

I cannot recommend this book enough. Please read this book. I think it’s especially powerful after reading one of the more academic anti-racism books like How to Be Anti-Racist or So You Want to Talk About Race. I split my time reading and listening to this one and preferred the audiobook, especially as it’s narrated by the author. (I used to be soooo anti-audio books but have come to really enjoy them, particularly for memoirs when the author of the book reads it to you.) Patrisse Cullors is one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the book is her memoir. From growing up Black and queer and watching the men in her life struggle with addiction and mental health issues (and wind up imprisoned for it) to founding what has become a global movement, it is absolutely amazing (though yes – very hard to read at times). It’s hard to read. I didn’t know the whole story of how BLM was founded and hearing the stories of the early movements (especially leading up to Trump’s election) feel eerily similar to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I loved this book and I hope you all will read it. It’s an important book. It will break your heart and is a lot to absorb but it’s definitely one of my favorite books from this year.

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Grade: A

They Wish They Were Us

Oh boy this is a good one. It’s a twisty, YA thriller… the perfect summer thriller, in my opinion! I stayed up all night reading it. It’s been compared to Gossip Girl meets One of Us is Lying, which is a pretty perfect description! Jill Newman is a high school senior at Gold Coast Prep. She has it all: a full scholarship to one of the best prep schools in the country and is on track to head to likely Brown in the fall, a loving family, a handsome and smart boyfriend… and she’s a member of The Players: an elite (not so secret) society. Everything’s perfect except for the fact that her best friend Shaila Arnold was murdered three years ago. Her boyfriend at the time confessed to it and the case was closed. But three years later, Graham and his sister Rachel are insisting he’s innocent. Jill is torn: open up old wounds, or move forward with that “perfect” senior year? The book alternates between past and present day as we get to know Shaila and some of the secrets she was hiding, and come to find out what really went down on the night of Shaila’s murder. I highly recommend this one – you won’t be able to put it down!

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Grade: A-

Miracle’s Boys

This was recommended to me by Elizabeth Acevedo when she came on the podcast. Published back in 2010 this is more of a children’s book than a YA adult (I think?) and I wanted to read it because a) it’s a big focus for me to read stories about people with different backgrounds than my own and b) Elizabeth Acevedo recommended it and she’s one of my favorite authors/someone I respect so much. It’s told from the perspective of a 12 year old Black boy (Lafayette). His father died when he was just a baby, his mother died more recently (his 22 year old brother Ty’ree is raising them and working around the clock to try to keep the family together), and his formerly loving and sweet brother Charlie has just gotten home from reform school and is now hostile and cruel. The book is short but powerful. One weekend, events unfold and the brothers must choose whether to be there for each other or give in. This one made me cry! It’s a fast read only 131 pages and larger text… read it in an afternoon and then pass it along to someone younger!

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Grade: A-

The Wife Stalker

I am a big Liv Constantine fan (fun fact “Liv” is the pseudonym for sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine) and The Last Mrs. Parrish was one of those books I devoured in a single day (you can read my review of it here). I somehow missed that they released a new book (this!) in May, so was v excited about this. I devoured it in a day. I stayed up late reading it and then woke up to read it the next morning. There’s a fantastic twist that totally got me, too. Piper Reynard moves to Westport, CT to set down roots and move on from a horrible tragedy. When she meets successful and handsome lawyer Leo Drakos, the wedding ring on his finger is just a minor obstacle. Meanwhile, Joanna has just seen Leo through a terrible depression and is waiting for the man she fell in love with to return to her. Slowly he starts to come back to life… only to throw her out of the house and fall in love with Piper. Joanna returns to her mother’s home, told by Leo that she can still see the kids. She won’t let him go so easily though and becomes determined to find something she can use against Piper… diving deeply into her past and unearthing terrible secrets as she does. I loved this book. It was a fast, fun read and I love that I didn’t guess the twist!

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Grade: A+

Born a Crime

So many of you recommended this and I am so happy I read it as I absolutely loved it. I have been a huge, huge fan of Trevor Noah (and of course The Daily Show) for a very long time and had somehow not realized he had a book. And it’s amazing. As one would expect, Trevor tackles heavy stuff with grace, wit, and (when it is appropriate), humor. This is the story of his childhood in South Africa. Because of apartheid his birth was a literal crime (his father was a White Swiss man and his mother was a Black Xhosa woman), so he was kept inside for most of his early years. Then, as he got older we learn about his more mischievous teenage years (from his love of computers as a teen to his early encounters with girls and life as a “colored” child – not Black, not White, never quite fitting in.) The book is at once light and optimistic while also talking about serious things like domestic abuse. I cannot recommend it enough and while I am usually a paper books purist, this one is especially wonderful as an audiobook as Trevor himself narrates it. My favorite part was everything in regard to his mother: fiercely independent and fervently religious. She seems like an absolutely incredible person. I will warn you that the last 25 minutes are extremely intense but everything wraps up okay in the end.

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Grade: A

The Comeback

Oh I loved this book. There’s so much to talk about with this one. (TW: Sexual Abuse – it’s not graphic but wanted to share) Becca and I were in a reading “war,” over what our August book club pick would be and this was her pick and did not disappoint. A young actress (Grace, great name) disappears from Hollywood mysteriously, at the height of her career (the night of the Golden Globes). When the book opens, we aren’t sure what’s happened to her or why she’s decided to leave behind what by appearances seems like the absolute dream. As the book alternates between modern day (living at home with her parents in Anaheim and eventually returning to LA) and the past, we learn the abuse and trauma she suffered at the hands of her famous director boss Able Yorke. We slowly learn what he did to her and how he managed to manipulate her for eight years, and how she moves on. While Grace is not always likable (you see a lot of how what she endured impacts her relationship with her family, friends, and husband), you also understand why she did the things she did and you root for her, wanting her to thrive. I tore through this one and loved the mix of a thrilling page turner with the importance of the #MeToo movement and standing up for what is right. Similar to The Boys Club (another fav from the month), it weaves heavy issues into something unputdownable.

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Grade: A

The Boys Club

Oh how I LOVED this book! I read it in just a couple days; despite being a thicker book, I could not put it down!!!! (TW: Attempted rape + some violence.) This is the story of a first year law associate (Alex) who moves to New York, fresh out of Harvard, to work in Biglaw. It’s (true to the name of the book), a Boys Club. As she strives to make her way in the hyper competitive environment working in mergers and acquisitions, she finds herself changing. Drifting from her long-time boyfriend, getting competitive with the women she works with, developing a crush on the handsome partner at the law firm, letting down her family. I have likened it to Devil Wears Prada (toxic, stressful work environment) meets Suits (an old favorite show of mine with good looking lawyers and lots of drama), Tell Me Lies (toxic relationship, coming of age story as our loveable but human protagonist makes some terrible romantic decisions). I could not put this book down. I loved it so much. It’s such a New York book (and made me mourn the days of fancy restaurants and big nights out), and it’s very fun to read while also touching on the really important stuff like sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexism. It was one of those books where once I got invested (early on), I literally could not stop reading. I can’t recommend it enough! I also think it is so interesting that the author still works in law but writes under a pseudonym.

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Grade: A-

Big Friendship

As a long time listener of Call Your Girlfriend, I was excited to read this book! I think one of the most interesting things about the book is the voice that Aminatou and Ann decided to use… it’s written entirely in third person! This is effective for so many reasons but I think the biggest thing is that it allows them to talk about their friendship in a really objective manner. The book itself was fascinating and deeply relatable. It’s the story of their “big friendship.” The good parts, the bad parts, and how they’ve gotten through the tougher times. I flew through it. If you’re a listener of their podcast, you’ll love it because you’ll feel like you know them so much better after reading. (I really identified with Aminatou’s introvertedness – and her openness about it… she said a lot of things I’ve thought but been unable to articulate as eloquently!) And if you don’t listen to their podcast (you should!), I think you’ll still get a lot out of it as it’s an interesting story about their friendship and also a hard look at being a better friend. I also took away a lot from the chapter about having an interracial friendship and the nuances of that. Highly recommend it!

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Grade: A

Head Over Heels

When Becca told me that I had to read this romance novel about gymnastics, I was not exactly sold. But I “knew” the author from social media and after reading some really heavy books this month, I desperately wanted to something light and happy where the ending was tied up in a bow. And this book delivered! It’s so much more than just a romance story. There’s a redemption story (I love when a character gets her act together and finds her passion… falling in love along the way), a powerful friendship between the female characters, and the coaching dynamic was very sweet and heartwarming. Avery is a former gymnast whose career was ended at the Olympic trials with a devastating injury. Since then, she’s never been able to get her act together… dropping out of college and never really figuring out her passion. When she’s brutally dumped by her quarterback boyfriend, she returns back to her hometown, desperate for a fresh start but unsure what that will look like. When an old (and very handsome) acquaintance reaches out with a coaching job she accepts, and things finally start to fall into place. But it’s not all perfect… there’s a shocking scandal that rocks the gymnastics world, and old struggles with her former best friend and coach (who are now married!). I read this in a day and absolutely loved it.

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Grade: A

Homegoing

While this book was excellent (beautiful story, beautiful writing, just a beautiful book in general), it was at times very very hard to read! And I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it but I do want to warn you. I read it during a week last month where it was thundering and raining every day and I hadn’t been sleeping very well, and this book really affected me. So I would recommend this book 1000%, but I’d also say that it’s probably best to read it when you are in an emotional place to handle all of the heartbreak that comes with reading it. Does that make sense? It is the story of two half-sisters. One is sold into slavery and one marries a white man. Every chapter is the story of a different descendent, working all the way from the 18th century to the 80’s. As someone who doesn’t like short stories, this one was hard. Every chapter was a different heartbreak for different reasons. And just as you felt yourself bonding with the character (or the storyline improving), the book moved on to a different person. A reader commented saying that “it ripped my heart out and threw it down the stairs in every chapter,” and those words are very true. The ending was magical and I really did love it, but I don’t remember the last time a book affected me so much or made me so sad.

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Grade: A-

The Heir Affair

If you read and loved The Royal We as much as I did, The Heir Affair is going to be such a treat for you! Honestly, reading this book felt like I was being reunited with my long lost pals Bex, Nick, and Freddie. After a scandal turned their would be fairy-tale wedding into an absolute nightmare, Bex and Nick have fled the palace for a tiny town in Scotland where they’re working in a bookstore. But when the queen has a health scare, they find themselves having to return. Back at home, Freddie is furious with them and we aren’t sure the guys can ever recover… the media and their former (traitor) friend Clive is having a field day (especially with digs at Bex), and the whole family is having a hard time forgiving them for leaving. It starts out a little bit slow, but as Becca said to me, I’d read about these characters doing anything so I truly didn’t mind – it was just so nice to have them back in my life! It’s really in the last third of the book that things pick up and there is a new juicy scandal, baby fever, a romance for Freddie and much more… but I don’t want to ruin it for you! This was a very fun read (no surprises there), and despite being 460 pages long I read it in a single weekend! Highly recommend.

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Grade: A

Lakewood

This book is part horror, part thriller but not the usual light and twisty story about somebody murdering their husband or a wife that’s been locked up. You know I love those books, but this goes much further and deeper than those books.  This is an important book and a horror thriller of the psychological nature. It’s the sort of book that sticks with you and makes you break out in chills upon thinking back on it later. Lena Johnson is a college student with a heavy weight on her shoulders. Her mother is sick, her grandmother just passed away, and they are in a lot of debt. The best job she can find involves dressing up as a corn chip for $9.25 an hour. A new job offer surfaces and it seems like a dream. Move to Lakewood, Michigan with free rent, high pay, and health insurance for both her and her mother. It will be more money than she’s ever known. The catch? She’ll be participating in a secret research study. She drops out of college and takes the job, and that’s where the horrors start. From memory drugs to drops that can change your eye color, the experiments range from innocent(ish) to potentially devastating. As the book goes on it becomes increasingly difficult to tell what’s real and what is fake. It’s set in modern day but with a nod to the horrible tests and experiments that have been conducted on Black bodies in the name of science. It’s part Black Mirror, part Handmaid’s Tale and I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Grade: A

Older

Oh I LOVED this book. And sometimes I will feel a little bit guilty reading something so far from the pub date (it comes out 9/8/20) but this one was sitting on my shelf just taunting me! If you know me, then you know that Younger (which is based on a book!) is one of my all time favorite shows, about a woman in her 40’s who re-enters the workforce, pretending to be 26. And this is the sequel. I didn’t read the first book but watch the show religiously so was fine. Liza is now turning 50, and a little lost in life. She’s broken up with her on again off again boyfriend Josh, her daughter Caitlin is pregnant, and she’s just published her book, Younger! Her friend Kelsey is out in LA, shopping the book around, and it gets optioned for a show. So Liza heads West to help work on the show. Through that we are introduced to a whole new cast (literally) of characters, including high-maintenance actress Stella and older dreamboat actor Hugo. Hugo is playing her boss (think Charles in the show) and the two of them develop quite a flirtation. I loved this book. It isn’t going to change your life or leave you thinking for days, but it scratched such an itch for me and made me really happy. Highly recommend pre-ordering it and that way in September you’ll get a little treat in the mail!

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Grade: A+

One To Watch

Oh I LOVED this book. I read it after having read a bunch of more heavy books, thinking it would be good to read something cute and fun and while it was cute and fun (and Jasmine Guillory had blurbed it so I knew it would be good), it was so much more than that. It was real and raw and very clever… and I saw so much of myself and my friends in the characters and how they engaged with each other. Bea Schumacher is a plus-size fashion blogger (love a book about a blogger!) who has always been unlucky in love, especially when it comes to her best friend / crush, Ray. One interaction between them leaves her devastated and feeling completely unlovable and awful. Meanwhile, she’s always loved Main Squeeze (which is basically The Bachelor). One night on her blog she publishes a (slightly tipsy) takedown of the show, calling it out on their lack of diversity. The next thing she knows, the show is under new management and they want her to be the star! She begrudgingly agrees… never expecting to find love. I won’t tell you what happens but I will say how enthralled I was with the book. It was as satisfying as watching a whole season of The Bachelor with an inside twist on the behind the scenes. And Bea was just such a wonderfully relatable character. I adored this book and truly miss her now that the book is over!

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Grade: A+

The Vanishing Half

Oh wow – this book was amazing. Amazing. It would be a really good pick for a book club as there is so much to discuss: family, relationships, race, sexuality… I could go on. I read it in a little over 24 hours. This is the story of two identical twin sisters, growing up in the small Black community of Mallard, Louisiana. Desiree is the troublemaker and restless, whereas her sister Stella is more bookish and a bit of a goody two-shoes. When the sisters are sixteen, they decide to flee Mallard for New Orleans, running away forever. Once in New Orleans, the girls find ways to piece together a living: Desiree working at a laundromat and Stella pretending to be white and getting a job as a typist. But after a couple years, Stella abandons Desiree, leaving only a note behind, saying that she has to “go her own way.” From their, the sisters lives take very different paths. Stella passes for white and goes on to marry her boss and become a wealthy housewife (with her husband having no idea of her background). Meanwhile, Desiree marries the darkest man she can find, who eventually abuses her, causing her to leave and go back to Mallard. The story follows the two women and their daughters (Jude and Kennedy, whose lives intersect at one point!) through the fifties in the Jim Crow South to the nineties in Los Angeles. I could not put it down. I cannot recommend this book enough!

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Grade: B+

A Good Marriage

This was one of my Book of the Month picks last month and my mom and I read it together. If you’ve read Kimberly McCreight’s other books (I loved Reconstructing Amelia featured here back in 2013) this is similar. A dark, well-written, mystery, also set in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Lizzie is a lawyer with secrets of her own (an alcoholic husband and an embarrassing debt she has to pay because of her actions). Because of the debts she’s moved from the public sector to the elite firm, Young & Crane, where she works long, long hours. One day an old classmate Zach (who has always been a little bit weird) reaches out to her. His beautiful wife has been brutally murdered in their Park Slope Townhouse. Zach has blossomed from awkward nerd to rich startup owner. He swears he had nothing to do with the murder. Lizzie reluctantly agrees to represent him and as she works to prove his innocence, she makes other alarming discoveries: about Zach, his wife, their group of friends… even her own marriage. I couldn’t put this down and really enjoyed it!

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Grade: A

So You Want To Talk About Race

This book was my anti-racist read from the month (you can see my personal reading list here) and was excellent. I learned a lot reading it. It was definitely hard to read at times. But I am so glad I did, and I think it’s a really important, necessary read for all White people. I actually bought it a little while back. When the Alison Roman and Emily Giffin stuff was happening (google if you don’t know what I am talking about), I realized how poorly equipped I was about talking about race. I cannot recommend this book as a resource enough. Ijeoma gives so many examples from her personal life (I really liked this part, it made it a little bit less academic and more personal. In particular, I was really impacted by the parts where she talked about conversations she had to have with her well intentioned white mother.) This is a book that I will probably read over and over again (even having finished it I now feel like I need to go back and re-read it again) for years to come. It covers a LOT: from when something is about race, cultural oppression, microagressions, the model minority myth, and so much more. The parts to me that were particularly poignant were the parts on privilege, and of course the very last chapters about what to do next. Hard to read, uncomfortable, but also so incredibly important. Please read this book if you have not, already!

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Grade: C-

Sleeping With Strangers

I will be brutally honest with you, I did not love this book. I’m not sure I’d say I even liked it? I should have DNF’d it but didn’t. C’est la vie. It was recommended to me as I was looking to read more thrillers by Black authors. (I’m still on that mission, and will be reviewing a bunch more in the months to come but would LOVE any recs if you have them.) But this one was more of an action thriller than a psychological thriller? The writing was pretty cheesy and there’s also a lot of violence. And there’s a scene where the main character is raped by his mother and that made me feel physically ill. It’s very dark and I just didn’t really identify with or enjoy any of the characters. It’s also from 2007 so a lot of the cultural references don’t really hold up. I will tell you that it’s a wild ride, and that there are few really steamy sex scenes. I stuck with it but there was a giant cliffhanger ending and I will not be reading the sequel so I guess I’ll never find out what happens. Gideon is an assassin for hire. After a really intense job (killing the rapper, Big Bad Wolf), he finds himself on the other side of a job – being hunted. In between there are a few mysterious women, a complicated relationship with his boss, and an old personal score to settle. This book was not for me. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, just not for me!

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Grade: B+

Home Before Dark

Riley Sager never lets me down. I have now read and reviewed all of his books. He’s one of those authors where if he has a new book, I will pre-order it without even any idea of what the book is about. And that was the case with this: I ordered without even reading the description – I just knew it would be a scary treat. This one was very good, though I am only going to give it a B+ or so. Honestly, I think that after reading Patsy, The Vanishing Half, and Nickel Boys, I am a tougher crowd this month! I don’t want you to think it wasn’t good, because it was! I still loved it and teetered between giving it a B+ and an A-. It held my attention, it scared the shit out of me (seriously this one is v v scary – I don’t recommend reading it before bedtime!!!). Maggie Holt doesn’t believe in ghosts, but her father got rich writing about the terrifying, supernatural experiences in their first home in his book, House of Horrors. When he passes away, she mysteriously inherits the house (she had no idea he still owned it!) and returns to it with the idea of restoring it and selling it for a profit. But things go awry. The members of the town resent her for making their town infamous – and profiting from it. And then there is the issue of the house itself: things keep disappearing. There are strange noises at night. Scary things keep happening. The book alternates between (terrifying) chapters from her father’s book and modern day. And Maggie must confront the truth: was her father lying? Is the house really haunted? Or what if the truth about what really happened is even scarier than the book!?

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Grade: A+

The Nickel Boys

This book!!!! So many of you recommended it and I am so glad I read it. This book has been on nearly every notable “best books” list and it won the Pulitzer Prize this year, so I knew it would be good. It’s set in the sixties in Jim Crow-era florida at a hellish reform school, and it’s (horrifyingly) based on a true story. Elwood Curtis is the boy who sets out to do everything right. He’s heading into his senior year of college, working part time to help support his grandmother, and is about to start taking classes at the local college. He believes he’s “as good as anyone” (MLK’s words) and is determined to do great things with his life. One day, he makes the smallest, most innocent mistake and he’s sentenced to time at the Nickel Academy. The Nickel Academy claims to turn wayward youths into upstanding men but the reality is that it’s a sadistic, terrible, corrupt place of abuse. He befriends cynical Turner, and the boys form a close bond. The ending crushed me. The whole book crushed me. But please, please read this book, I promise you it will be one of the best books you read this year!

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Grade: B-

On The Island

First of all, everyone told me to read this book to help fill the deep void in my heart after reading The Idea of You. (Yes, even well over a year later, a tremendous hole in my heart still exists after putting down that book!) In hindsight, I see what they were saying as this does involve a complicated romance with a big age difference. But while The Idea of You was actually really well written with complex-sish characters, this book just… wasn’t. I think the mistake on my part also was in reading it right after Patsy which was so complicated, emotional, and well-written. So anything would feel shallow after reading that book. But I needed something shallow. And I’m not here to talk trash as I still enjoyed it! I started it Saturday morning and was done by Sunday morning coffee. TJ is a 16 year old boy who had been sick with cancer in remission. His parents hire (30 year old) Anna to be his tutor for the summer, which they will be spending at a house in the Maldives. The parents go ahead and TJ + Anna head over later, but their pilot suffers a heart attack and TJ and Anna are stranded on the island. Days turn into months and they figure out how to survive and live together. But as TJ turns into a man… well, you know what happens next! I will say that there aren’t any sex scenes. It’s still steamy, and of course I kept reading because I wanted to know if they’d ever make it off the island, and if they did, how they’d ever manage to be together. This one wasn’t great, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. If that makes any sense at all!

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Grade: A

Patsy

This is a book that will make you feel all the things. It begins in 1998 in Jamaica where Patsy is living in Pennyfield, Jamaica… single mother to a 5 year old daughter, Tru. Her dream is to move to America. Years ago, her best friend (who became more than a friend) Cicely fled to America and now writes to her with stories of a better life (and the possibility of reigniting their love). Patsy makes the heartbreaking (I thought) decision to leave Jamaica forever to follow her dreams – leaving Tru with her father, Roy. This book follows them over the next thirteen or so years. Patsy arrives in America and it quickly hits her hard that things are not going to be the way she had thought they would be. Cicely is married, with a family and an overbearing husband. And as an undocumented immigrant, she has to work as a bathroom attendant and nanny – just to afford a tiny room in Crown Heights. Meanwhile, Tru grows up and becomes a teenager, struggling with her own sexuality and also unable to understand why her mother abandoned her. The story follows both of their stories. It’s ultimately hopeful, but broke my heart so many times, too. I felt angry with Patsy for abandoning her daughter, but also empathy for her as she struggled to find her “American dream.” I was heartbroken for Tru. These characters are complicated and real and I really think that every person should read this book.

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Grade: B+

Reputation

Okay this came HIGHLY recommended to me by so many of you, including Hitha, whose recs I trust. If the author sounds familiar, it’s because she also wrote Pretty Little Liars. I really really liked the book. It’s a twisty soap opera. So many characters and so many fun twists. But if I am being honest, I was a bit let down by the ending. (It just felt implausible, IDK). I don’t want you to be deterred by that, but I personally found it to be a little too outlandish. I still really liked it though? The book is told from the perspective of five different women. There’s the main character Kit, mother of two who works in fundraising for a prestigious university, and her competitive coworker, Lynn. Then there’s Raina who you just know is trouble… Kit’s sister Willa, and Laura, a nurse at the local hospital who married a cop. The university’s email database is hacked and everyone’s secrets are revealed. Just as it feels like things cannot get worse for Kit (it turns out her handsome doctor husband was also quiiiite the philanderer and his emails are leaked all over the internet), her husband is murdered and she finds herself at the heart of the investigation. This is fast paced and fun, I read it in 24 hours!

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Grade: A

Clap When You Land

Elizabeth Acevedo is one of my absolute favorite authors as her writing is always so beautiful and powerful with powerful storytelling and strong, diverse female characters. (PLEASE go buy all her books if you haven’t read them yet, you won’t regret it!) and I was SO excited to see she’d come out with a new book!!! Per usual I was not let down. This one is a deceptively fast read – at 417 pages I expected it to be longer but the way the pages are laid out make this one fly. Camino and Yahaira share a father – they just don’t know it. Camino lives with her aunt in the Dominican Republic, where they lead a simple lifestyle. Her mother died when she was young. She wants to be a doctor and dreams of moving to New York and studying at Columbia. Meanwhile, her half sister Yahaira lives in New York with her mother. When their father dies in a plane crash secrets start to unravel and the girls eventually learn about each other. It’s heartbreaking but also heartwarming and I loved the diversity across the characters – both girls are Dominican, Yahaira is a lesbian and her girlfriend is black, Camino’s best friend is Haitian. It was the perfect quarantine read in that it’s light and fun enough to hold your attention but also very moving. I loved this one.

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Grade: A+

The Last Flight

TW: domestic abuse. This is the first thriller I’ve given an A+ to since maybe Verity? It is SO good. Like, read in 12 hours good. I started it after work, read it all night until 2am, then got up early to finish it. That good. The book surrounds two women, both looking to escape very different (but equally dark) circumstances. When they meet in an airport bar, they hatch a plot to swap plane tickets and take each others flights: Claire going to Oakland and Eva going to Puerto Rico. But when the plane to Puerto Rico crashes, all bets are off and Claire must take Eva’s identity in California (and deal with the secrets she’s left behind). This has it all: a disappearance, an abusive husband, money + power, drug deals… I could go on. I loved it so much and was on the edge of my seat the whole time reading it.. I can’t recommend it enough!

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Grade: A-

The Lies We Told

First of all, I love this author! Her other book, Watching Edie, was incredibly dark and twisty (and unsettling)… one of those books you think about for months after you read it.  This one was a page turner. I started it on a Saturday night, stayed up way too late reading it, and finished it on Sunday afternoon. I could not put it down and needed to know what happened! It’s two intersecting stories, starting in the eighties with Beth who has a secret and a daughter who is showing sociopath tendencies and alternating between present day where Clara’s boyfriend Luke has gone missing. The stories seem so different and far apart (Beth’s daughter Hannah is clearly extremely troubled and we know something goes terribly wrong; meanwhile Luke comes from – or at least seems to come from – that perfect, golden family). So you can’t really imagine how the two storylines are going to intersect… but they do, and it’s glorious… I’ll say no more! There is twist after twist and it’s written so suspensefully (so many mini cliffhangers as we go back and forth between Clara and Beth’s storylines. I couldn’t put it down, it was a really fun read!

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Grade: A-

Happy And You Know It

This one has gotten a TON of but I wasn’t sure what I would think. For whatever reason I have always loved books about rich Upper East Side New York moms (or teens – hello Gossip Girl!). It’s a fun genre, and also a peek into a lifestyle so different from my own. But you also never know. Books like this can be done well (I think of Lauren Weisberger or Liane Moriarty) or not so well (there have been so many of these sort of books that have never made it to the blog as they’re terrible and I DNF them. But when Book of the Month chooses something, it’s almost always EXCELLENT – I trust their recs so much. I’m happy to report that this book did not disappoint. It’s about Claire, a musician who has just been kicked out of her band (JUST as the band makes it big) who out of desperation takes a job as a “playgroup musician” (yes that is an actual job!!!) for a group of six wealthy New York moms. She finds herself falling in love with the women and forming a real friendship with her new employers. There’s Whitney (the ringleader) who lives in a palatial apartment on the park, sarcastic and funny Amara who isn’t taking to being a full time mom very well, and 4 other women. But as time goes on, we realize each of the women have some pretty big secrets. I won’t say anymore but I really, really enjoyed the book. I found each of the characters likeable in their own way, and thought it was both fun and well-written!

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Grade: B

The Boyfriend Project

Okay so I really struggled with this book at first. It has a slow start, I wasn’t interested in the main character’s job (and the company name, Trendsetters, irked me). Also the Book of the Month description wasn’t very accurate. It described 3 women being cheated on and making friends and while I guess that technically happened (but not really, none of the women had even slept with the guy – yes I know, I’m weirdly hung up on this detail!!!) So I nearly DNF’d it but am so glad I didn’t. Because once I got through the first 130 pages (yes it took a while) I became downright obsessed with the main character, Samiah. She’s incredibly strong and hard working and just.. someone I aspire to be more like? The character development for her was GOOD – I want to be friends with her and would read a whole series of books about her. The chemistry between her and Daniel (who is secretly a spy and there’s this whole money laundering sidebar!) is fantastic as are the relationship with the girls. I guess I just wish it started a little faster and that I hadn’t been set up for a book about 3 scorned women that had been cheated on because that’s not really what the book is about. Instead, it’s a steamy office romance with a side of female friendship and crime. I enjoyed it a lot but am only going to give it a B+ as it took so long to get good.

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Grade: A+

The Book of Longings

I want to start by stressing that I wouldn’t consider this to be a religious book – it’s historical fiction. A well-written, incredibly researched piece of historical fiction, at that. Sue Monk Kidd is an amazing writer (and researcher!) but I hadn’t prioritized this book until my mom told me she was reading it and so I decided to read it with her. The premise? Imagine that Jesus had a wife. A feminist wife. The book is the story of Ana, Jesus’s fictitious wife. We’re introduced to her as a girl, growing up in a wealthy family in Galilee with her aunt Yaltha and brother Judas, betrothed to a much older man she doesn’t love. Through a chance encounter, she meets Jesus in a cave – they end up marrying, Ana giving up everything to be with him. The book is Ana’s story. It’s beautifully researched and incredibly written. It reminded me a bit of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (another classic!). I want to stress again that the book isn’t religious, it’s not claiming to be factual, and it’s also respectful to The Bible. (I’m saying this really as a response to DMs I’ve received which were a mix of “not wanting to read a religious book,” and also worried that the book would be disrespectful to the Christian faith. It’s neither!) I loved this book. I feel like I held my breath through parts of it, and it’s one of those books I know I’ll think about for years to come.

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Grade: A+

The Chiffon Trenches

Remember how much I loved Save Me The Plums? This was like that, but FASHION! I said this on Instagram that my other favorite genre (besides trashy thrillers and rich unsupervised teens) is memoirs from people who have worked in publishing. In college and my earlier years in New York, I dreamed of going to work for a magazine but it never happened for me. I love that world and have always really enjoyed reading about anything Condé Nast or Hearst; ESPECIALLY during its heyday of clothing allowances and black cars. And this was just so much fun to read. The book chronicles André’s rise from growing up in the Jim Crow South to moving to New York and working under Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine. From there he wound up at WWD, moved to Paris, then back to New York to Vogue. This book is positively dazzling. When it was over, I felt really sad to leave his glittery world.. Besides all of the glamour and fashion it also tackles some more serious (and timely things) like racism: the reason André left WWD and Paris was a terrible racist incident with a publicist at YSL. Therei s also some SERIOUS fashion tea. From his forty year long friendship (and falling out) with Karl Lagerfeld, to all things Anna Wintour, to the political dynamics at Vogue…. it’s fascinating. If you love fashion or the publishing industry this is a must-read. It’s simultaneously a frivolous distraction but also a really important book. I absolutely loved it. I have a book hangover upon finishing it!

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Grade: B

Perfectly Famous

This one had been blurbed by so many favorite authors that it was high on my list. And after The Book of Longings, I wanted a light and fun thriller. I read this in an afternoon – it’s quick and fun. I was only medium on it though – a solid B, B+. Ward DeFleur is a famous author, who has everything. The multi-million dollar house in Connecticut, a loyal fan base, and a career that just continues to grow and grow. Then one night, while she is at an event for her book tour, her teenage daughter (and best friend!) Stevie is brutally murdered. Consumed by her grief, she disappears… making the hard decision to never write again. Meanwhile, Bree Bennett is recently divorced and getting back into journalism. Ward is her favorite author and Bree becomes obsessed with tracking Ward down and telling her story. But Ward does not want to be found, and Stevie’s killer remains at large. This one is fun and fast paced and I really enjoyed it. But the first 150 pages were on the slower side and I guessed the twist (though there’s another twist at the end that I loved!). So it only gets a B, but it’s still worth reading, especially as a palate cleanser after something heavier!

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Grade: A-

No Filter

This book has gotten a lot of buzz in the social media world and as someone who has been on Instagram since the early days (when I just used it as a filter to post my photos to twitter – LOL) I found it fascinating. I loved learning more about the decisions behind each of the choices the founders made and it was so interesting to learn how they built the business and grew it from a tiny app into the thing we all know and love today. I really enjoyed learning more about the founders and the decisions they made along the way to become successful, what it was like making the decision to sell their company to Facebook (and ultimately surrender creative control). Everything they did (even the filters!) was done for a reason and has a story behind it. Frier also talked to several prominent influencers and touched on influencer culture a bit. It was all just SO interesting. I couldn’t put it down and learned a TON from reading it. It’s not as salacious as The Social Network (the story just isn’t as scandalous!) but if you enjoyed that book, you will probably really enjoy this one!

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Grade: A

The Lies that Bind

Emily Giffin is one of my most favorite authors so I was really, really excited to get my hands on an advanced copy! This one is set right around September 11th and takes place in New York and while 9/11 and COVID-19 are obviously such different things, it felt oddly reassuring to read something set in New York during a crisis. Cecily Gardner is a tabloid writer and has just broken up with her long term boyfriend who would not commit. She’s out at a bar in the East Village, about to drunk dial him, when she hears a voice say “don’t do it!” And that’s when she meets Grant Smith. The two end up falling head over heels in love but then on September 11th, things come crashing down and Grant goes missing. As Cecily searches for him, she realizes she isn’t the only one looking for him. Turns out Grant had some massive secrets. I won’t say any more but I LOVED this one so much!!!! Emily Giffin is what the world needs right now I just love her books so much.

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Grade: A-

Feels Like Falling

If you’ve been reading here a while, it’s no secret that I ADORE Kristy Woodson Harvey’s books. Kristy is the voice we need right now during the pandemic. Her books are just so heartwarming and happy.. you always put them down feeling warm and fuzzy or crying happy tears. (If you love Elin Hilderbrand, Kristy’s been compared to the Southern version, which I would agree with!) Being the thriller addict I am, I always read them, waiting for one of the characters to turn bad or become a villain, but that rarely (never? trying to think here!) happens with Kristy’s books. This book is the story of two women; Diana and Gray. Gray is the super successful founder of an affiliate marketing company. She’s just lost her mother and is going through a divorce. Diana is 40, breaking up with her loser boyfriend, and just fired from her job. The two women could not be more different but find themselves in an unlikely friendship, coming to really lean on each other. Their friendship is the most important part of the book but there’s also a hefty dose of romance and redemption. I couldn’t put it down and just felt so happy upon finishing it.

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Grade: A-

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

This is our Bad on Paper May book club pick and I’m so excited to talk about it! The fact that it was a book club, set in Charleston, involving vampires and murder was enough for me but my mom also really loved it and my mom has the best taste in books so I knew it was a must-read. It’s addicting – once you start it, you won’t want to put it down. It’s also GRUESOME… more of a horror novel (haven’t read many of those) than a thriller or mystery. This isn’t a spoiler but there is a scene involving rats and another involving cockroaches and my skin crawls just thinking about both! Eeesh. But I digress. The book centers around Patricia Campbell, a lonely housewife and mother. She joins a book club, making a close knit group of Charleston women. One night she’s viciously attacked by her elderly neighbor, which ends up bringing the neighbor’s charming, well-traveled niece James into her life. But James is not who everyone thinks he is (or maybe he is… I don’t want to give it away!) Patricia finds herself convinced that James is actually a vampire. Of course, everyone around her thinks she’s insane for thinking this. As Patricia and her friends watch children from the neighboring town vanish, they know something is not right.

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Grade: B+

The Last Guest House

I love Megan Miranda’s books and this one did not disappoint! (She is so great at a twist!) This one (set in a coastal Maine vacation town) is about the death of one of the town’s summer residents, Sadie Loman. The death is ruled a suicide but Sadie’s best friend Avery has evidence that proves otherwise. And so she embarks on a search to figure out what really happened to her friend. Alternating between the summer of 2017 (when the Sadie’s death happened) and a year later, this one is very fast-paced, has a lot of twists and turns and constantly kept me guessing. And having grown up on Cape Cod of course I loved the dynamic between the locals and the summer residents (it felt very real!).

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Grade: B-

When The Lights Go Out

TW: Infertility. Okay so I have read most of Mary Kubica’s books and really love her writing but felt let down by this one’s ending! I was like WAIT WHAT and it felt like an easy out!  Still, it was enjoyable – one of my measures for how much I enjoy a book is if it keeps me up all night or if I want to wake up early to read a book and this one made me want to wake up early. It’s told in alternating timelines – in 1996, with a young wife (Eden) who only wants to be pregnant. It’s consuming her whole life, affecting her marriage, her friendships, her career. In modern day, we have Jessie who is feeling lost after the passing of her mother while simultaneously finding herself in a mysterious situation: when she goes to enroll for financial aid at school, and provides her social security number, she is told that she is dead. This is a fun mystery, good for right now but again I felt like the ending was a bit of a cop out. If you’ve read it I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Grade: A-

The Guest List

I didn’t realize I was reading this early as it was my Book of the Month pick! (I love when BOTM gets things early!!!) It’s set at high-profile, beautiful power couple Jules + Will’s wedding on a tiny, secluded island off the coast of Ireland. Jules owns a digital magazine and Will is a rising actor. On paper, they are perfect… and in person, they are gorgeous together. It’s a fast-paced, Agatha Christie style thriller. We know right from the start that there’s been a murder, we just aren’t sure who was killed… or who did it! It’s told via the perspectives of the bride, the best man, the bride’s sister, the wedding planner, and a plus-one. While I did guess the biggest twist, there were other little twists throughout that completely shocked and blindsided me. I will say that the first half of the book was a little slow (all the characters and the Irish names/phrases took me a little while to get into) but once I did, I fell in love with the book and couldn’t stop!

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Grade: B+

The Authenticity Project

I really enjoyed this book, but I was let down by the ending. I just want to preface my review with that, as Becca warned me and I didn’t listen. I’m still really glad I read it though, as I’ve been struggling with reading and this book felt like comfort food! The book revolves around a vivid cast of characters, all connected by a notebook called The Authenticity Project. Julian (an 80ish year old artist) started it, writing about his loneliness and how nobody actually knows their neighbors. He left it in Monica’s cafe, and she wrote in it… leaving it in a bar where it was found by Hazard, a struggling addict. And so goes this pattern as a wonderfully endearing cast of characters emerging. They find each other through the notebook and develop some sweet relationships. I loved the themes here (no one’s life is perfect, we all feel lonely, we’re all connected!) and found myself falling in love with each of the characters. I loved the book but not the ending! Still, a worthwhile read for sure!

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Grade: A-

I’ll Give You The Sun

This was our March book club pick for the podcast! It’s a magically written, sweet and heartwarming YA book: the story of two twins, Noah and Jude, via alternating timelines. Noah tells the story of their younger years when they are 13, and Jude tells the later years when they are 16. In between the alternating timelines, we just know that something tragic has happened that impacted both twins in profound ways. When they’re 13, they are so close that they claim to share a soul. Just three years later, they’re distant…not nearly as close, not even friends. I will be honest, it took me a bit to get into the book because of the writing style – it’s very flowery and creatively written. Noah’s character, in particular has a different style of writing/expressing his thoughts. But once I got into it, I loved it! It’s a wonderful, breathtaking look at love, loss, what life as a twin looks like, and also a bit of ethics and right vs. wrong. Highly recommend reading this one, it’s a nice little escape from the world!

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Grade: C+

The Twin

I will preface this by saying that this book is a YA thriller which isn’t always my favorite. I guess it depends. Something by E.L. Lockhart is always a fav but more recently, Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was a letdown. This book left me saying “what fresh hell did I just read!?” I always wished for a twin sister growing up and love books/movies where one twin ends up being the evil/bad one, which is why I pulled this out of my ARC pile. Oof. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible and kept me entertained, but not great. Ivy and Iris are twin sisters. When their parents divorced, they were split up. But then their mother passes away, so Iris moves in with Ivy and her dad. The sisters (devastated by the loss of their mother) struggle at first but then we see that something is not right between them. Is Iris trying to steal Ivy’s life? We watch her systematically become best friends with Ivy’s best friends, slowly trying to claim everything that is Ivy’s. Or is Ivy just paranoid and jealous? You’ll have to read the book to find out. It was fun but also kind of a mess of a book.

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Grade: B

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

This was really, really sad. I was warned that it was sad, but I still was just SO excited for it, because I loved Josie Silver’s other book, One Day in December SO MUCH. On Lydia Bird’s birthday, her fiance dies in a horrible car crash. Her whole world is completely flipped upside down. (This happens right a the beginning; before we’ve gotten to know said fiance, but STILL – you’re just emotionally wrecked from the first few pages! She begins taking sleeping pills at night to sleep but when she takes a pill she’s mysteriously transported to an alternate life where Freddie (fiance) is still alive. As time goes on (the book goes on for about a year and a half or so after his death), she finds it harder and harder to exist between the two worlds, especially as she tries to be a good friend, sister, etc. I don’t want to say what happens, but it was worth the sadness. Not as good as One Day in December, but still a good read. (I won’t say fun read; it made me cry to hard for that!!!)

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Grade: C+

He Started It

A trio of adult siblings (and their spouses) embark upon a cross country road trip mandated by their grandfather in order to spread his ashes and collect their hefty inheritance. OK we will start with the good here. The twist in this thriller got me and I was very surprised (there were a lot of twists, actually). This book has a lot. An unreliable narrator, family drama, and (one of my favorite elements) two mysteries occuring in alternate timelines. But… I just didn’t find this book all that enjoyable. I wanted to love it – I loved the author’s first book, My Lovely Wife! I think it was because I generally don’t love a road trip plot line (the same people and dialogues in the same space – a car – for an extended period of time) …it wears on you! I don’t know. This was a slog for me. There were holes in the plot and while it did get better around page 170 or so, I didn’t love it. I came so close to DNF’ing but needed to know what happened so continued to slog through.

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Grade: A-

Open Book

Okay (as I mentioned in Monday’s post) this book is SUCH a departure from my usual type of read (I generally could not care less about celebrities/celeb culture) but I listened to this as an audiobook (with Jessica narrating) and enjoyed it IMMENSELY. What drew me in was when Kate Kennedy talked about it in her stories, talking about how much celebrity “tea” there was and oh MY was there tea! I did watch Newlyweds back in the day so that was part of it, and I’ve also related to Jessica on and off throughout her life (I think she’s someone people underestimate, and I’ve had a lot of people think I’m stupid because I can be spacey; there’s a difference). She talked about all of her relationships in an extremely unfiltered way (the John Mayer parts were my favorite!) Highly recommend, and if you are quarantined in NYC and taking daily walks to stay sane, Jessica makes for the perfect walking partner!!!

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Grade: A

Big Summer

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I had received two ARCs and gave one to my mom… mine was sitting in my TBR pile and my mom and I were talking and she was like, “Oh didn’t you just love Big Summer” and I hadn’t read it yet so I paused on another book and picked it up and just devoured it!!!! There are some fun parallels to my own life (the main character is an influencer + it’s set partially in New York and Cape Cod, where I grew up). It’s the story of two (very different) girlfriends fixing their friendship. Daphne is a plus size influencer who grew up in New York in a working class family and had a scholarship for everything. She’s making ends meet nannying and running her Instagram. Meanwhile, her former best friend Drue is one of those people who has just had everything come easy to her: she’s rich, pretty, and newly engaged. She’s also a bit of a mean girl. The two reunite for her wedding and you think you’re getting a cute girlfriends redemption friendship story but then there’s a big mystery. I loved it!

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Grade: A

If I Never Met You

Mhairi McFarlane is one of Becca’s favorite authors but I’d never read anything by her until this one! And oh my, it is so cute. If you’ve ever gone through a crushing break up I think you will appreciate this one. It has everything: endearing characters you can deeply relate to, a soul-crushing breakup, great girlfriends, a bit of revenge, a dashing man, and a little bit of that Hating Game style office romance. Laurie finds herself left reeling after her boyfriend of EIGHTEEN YEARS breaks up with her, leaving her for another woman who gets pregnant pretty much immediately after the breakup. Her (very handsome but total playboy) coworker Jamie hatches a plan where they will pretend to date to a) help Jamie be taken more seriously at work and b) help create some jealousy to distract from the humiliation and grief on Laurie’s side. I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to give anything away. I LOVED this book and think you will too. Now I’m committing to read more of Mhairi’s books!!!

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Grade: B+

Genuine Fraud

This author writes twisty YA novels that make you think and always leave you a little bit devastated. (I absolutely LOVED We Were Liars, it gutted me!) Without revealing too much, I would compare it to The Talented Mister Ripley, told in reverse. (If you loved Social Creature I think you will really enjoy this.) It’s a quick read at only 288 pages, but it still won’t take you very long to read as you will just NEED to know what happens next! It opens with Jules, living at a hotel in Mexico. But she’s not going by Jules, she’s going by Imogen, who is supposed to be her best friend. Except where is Immie? And why is Jules on the run? Lena Dunham calls this “an addictive and shocking feminist thriller,” which is the perfect description. And I really loved the way that it was told, starting at the end and working it’s way back to the very beginning. It kept me on the edge of my seat and kept me guessing the whole time.

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Grade: B+

Darling Rose Gold

I was really excited about this one as it involves Munchausen by Proxy which I’ve become grotesquely fascinated by after reading We Came Here to Forget and watching The Politician. Trigger warning: hurting a child. Rose Gold grew up thinking she was sick, only to discover later on that her mother Patty had been starving and poisoning her to keep her sick and needing her. After a dramatic court trial, her mother is locked away in jail – still denying that she ever committed any sort of crime. Five years later, her mother is released and Rose Gold agrees to let her stay with her. But there’s a twist. Rose Gold isn’t the weak little girl anymore. She’s stronger now, and she wants revenge. This book is very twisty and pretty messed up and you are never really quite sure who the true “villain” is, which I loved. I tore through it, starting it on a Saturday night and finishing it Sunday afternoon. It’s definitely a bit upsetting at parts (I don’t want to give anything away but it’s quite disturbing!)

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Grade: A-

Our Stop

Becca convinced me to read this one, and I’m so glad she did! British chick lit is not my usual genre, but this was such a fun read, sort of akin to One Day in December (but a lot more lighthearted- One Day in December got pretty dark at times!) Reading this is like a warm hug. Nadia takes the 7:30am train every.single. morning. Daniel does not, but when he sees her on the train, he knows that she is “the one.” He places a missed connections ad in the newspaper, which Nadia’s friends send to Nadia. The two begin corresponding through the missed connections section, whilst encountering each other IRL in between… but they keep missing each other (and also getting scared off by misinterpreting certain things). The “will they ever find each other” drama really heightens, with a very satisfying ending. This is a really fun, feel-good read that you can do in a single Sunday. I loved it!

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Grade: A-

Would Like to Meet

This was a contender for our March book club pick and while we did not choose it, I definitely recommend reading it as it was very cute. Evie Summers is a 29 year old assistant to a big time film agent and they’re in a bit of hot water. Their biggest client, Ezra, has committed to writing a rom-com and hasn’t delivered. The whole firm is in danger and Evie is in danger of losing her job, so she makes getting Ezra to write her job. She commits to inspire him by staging her own meet-cutes and writing about them for Ezra. They go through all the rom-com tropes. Will spilling orange juice on a stranger result in true love? What about renting a ramshackle cottage like the one in The Holiday? And so on and so forth. In between she meets Ben and his sweet daughter Anette. It’s a very cute rom-com and a bit rambly and sometimes predictable, but altogether very satisfying and fun. I loved it!

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Grade: A-

The Other Mrs.

This was another fun one that I’d been eagerly anticipating. You might remember Mary Kubica from The Good Girl, which I absolutely loved. This one was not QUITE as good as that, but still very good and still kept me on the edge of my seat of anticipation. Sadie, her husband Will, and their two sons move from Chicago to rural Maine when Will’s sister commits suicide… leaving behind a big empty house and an angry sixteen year old daughter, Imogen. We know their family life isn’t exactly perfect: Will’s had an affair but swears he’ll change. Meanwhile they are living on a tiny little island where Sadie is a doctor. One day, their across-the-street neighbor Morgan is brutally murdered. No one can explain it and weird things keep happening. Sadie swears she’d never met Morgan, but their neighbors claim to have seen the two women arguing. And so begins a twisty spiral. This has it all: murder, an unreliable protagonist, and lots of twists and turns. I really enjoyed it. AND it’s being developed by Netflix!

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Grade: A-

This is Big

This was my non-fiction pick of the month! I would describe it as writer Marisa Meltzer’s memoirs on her relationship with her body + diet culture interspliced with a biography of Jean Nidetch (the founder of Weight Watchers). I knew it would be interesting, but was a little bit worried that the book would glorify diet culture (something I am not so big on) but was pleasantly surprised. The book is a really interesting look at Jean Nidetch’s life (she was such a colorful character and impressive woman; though Meltzer doesn’t glorify her but rather looks very honestly at her life and some of the mistakes she’s made. It’s also a very honest, raw account of someone who seems like someone I’d want to be friends with – a cool, funny, feminist woman and her history with her body (she was first put on a diet at age five). What I love most about it is that it doesn’t have all the answers and it isn’t preachy. It’s a realistic look at what it’s like to be a woman who wants to lose weight in an age where society is simultaneously obsessed with both beauty/thinness AND being body positive. Becca and I have talked on the podcast about how anti-feminist it can feel to admit you have body hangups OR aren’t feeling great about how you look OR  that you want to lose weight. I really like how Marisa Meltzer is so honest; admitting her struggle with this. If you’ve ever felt this way, this is the book for you!

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Grade: A-

The Glass Hotel

This one was a contender for a book club pick for March or April. We ended up not choosing it because we felt like it wasn’t a conversational enough book (meaning that we’d have a lot to say about it!) but it was still really good. Emily St. John Mandel is such a gifted writer! This one opens at the beginning with a woman falling from a boat to her death. Throughout the book there are a few things at play: a massive Ponzi scheme, the woman’s death, and two half siblings growing up in a small town in Vancouver. It all seems unrelated at first but there is a connection. My favorite moment of the book was one line, delivered by Jonathan Alkaitas’s wife Suzanne. If you read the book, you will know exactly what I am talking about. It stopped my in my tracks! The storyline was great and I couldn’t put it down but what I loved most about the book is how well the author manages to get into the psyche of each of her characters. They’re all so complex and interesting. Lastly: a lot of people asked if it was as good as Station Eleven and I don’t know! I haven’t read that yet but it’s on my list to eventually read!

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Grade: A

You Are Not Alone

This thriller scratched a BIG itch for something that would keep me up all night, keep me guessing, and so on and so forth. These two also wrote An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between Us (two FAVS – I couldn’t put either one down) and I had been saving it because I knew it would be good. I was right, it was such a fun thriller, without falling into the more common thriller tropes (I haven’t seen a plot line similar to this one, yet.) This is the story of lonely Shay – nothing is going right for her. She’s lost her job, she’s unhappily single… she craves closeness but just can’t find it. One day, on her way to an interview, she’s waiting for the train and witnesses a woman committing suicide. She becomes dangerously obsessed with the woman’s story (who is she? what drove her to do this!?) Through her personal investigation into Amanda’s life she meets her two friends, Cassandra and Jane. Cassandra and Jane seem to have everything figured out. They’re smart and glamorous, own their own boutique PR firm, and have a wonderfully close-knit group of girlfriends in the city. She finds herself getting closer and closer to them… but something is amiss. I won’t say anything else but if you love a twisty thriller, this is the book for you!!!!

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Grade: A

Long Bright River

I had been given an advanced copy of this book but for whatever reason, kept putting it off. I don’t know why, as it is fantastic!!!! I want to start by saying that I think there’s a huge difference between a thriller and a mystery and this is a great detective style mystery. It is NOT a light, trashy thriller – it actually took me a very long time to read! It’s really well written and definitely kept me on my toes the whole time. It’s set in a Philly neighborhood and is the story of two sisters. Mickey is a cop, and her sister Kacey is a drug addict, living on the streets. The two sisters (once inseparable best friends) no longer speak but Mickey always keeps an eye out for her sister. One day, Kacey goes missing, right in the middle of a string of murders where all of the victims are drug addicted women, living on the streets. Mickey becomes (rightly so!) obsessed with finding her sister (and the killer), putting her whole career on the line to do so (her colleagues don’t know her backtory or anything about her sister). The plot alternates between modern day and the girls’ childhood. There’s a huge twist that I didn’t see coming, but I really loved it. This book is a double whammy as it’s incredibly heartwarming but also very anxiety inducing (in a good way!). I couldn’t put it down and have been telling all of my mystery loving friends to pick it up!!!

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Grade: B-

Uncanny Valley

I wanted so much to love this book (and it had been a contender for our February book club -Becca and I both rushed to read it as we had thought we might like it even more than Followers. Spoiler alert: neither of us liked it very much, which bummed us both out! It started out strong. It’s Anna Weiner’s story of going from the publishing world to the tech world and an incredibly dead on portrayal of what it’s like to work in the tech world as a woman. I’d say I enjoyed the first 50%. Enjoy may not be the word. I related to, and felt really intrigued (and a little sick/nervous as it’s such an accurate portrayal of working at a startup!). But the second half of the book lost me, to the point where I put it down at the last chapter because I was just… struggling. Becca likened it to reading one really long New York Mag essay. It just lost me. I feel badly as it’s well written and I feel like Anna and I would probably get along great, but I just didn’t love this one (and it has gotten SO MUCH HYPE!).

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Grade: A+

Know My Name

I put off reading this book because I knew it was going to be hard. Chanel Miller was the victim in the Brock Turner sexual assault case. She’d been anonymous throughout the case but when Turner received an extremely light sentencing (just 6 months in county jail), she published her victim impact statement to BuzzFeed. Her statement went viral, receiving over TWENTY MILLION views – receiving government attention (Joe Biden wrote her!) and ultimately helping to change state laws. This book is her story. I knew it was going to be a tough read. And it was. But Chanel is also an incredibly moving writer. It’s incredibly sad and upsetting, and very vulnerable. But somehow, it’s hopeful, too! And even funny at times (mostly because of her very relatable, often witty voice). You won’t ever look at sexual assault the same way again. I never really thought about how our culture protects predators. It broke my heart a million times but also left me feeling a) more informed and b) hopeful that things can change. The book has received countless awards and been featured everywhere. The hype is very real. If you haven’t read it yet, I would encourage you to make it a priority.

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Grade: A-

Followers

Oh my – this book. I want it to be a Bad on Paper pick but Becca needs to approve it – she’s starting to read it this week. It’s such a wild ride and so crazy and fun. It’s set between modern day and 35 years from now and a lot of what it talks about is oh so relevant to our generation; especially the social media age. We start out with Orla and Floss who are determined to make a social media name for themselves and achieve internet fame – whatever the cost. It alternates between their story and Marlow’s (set in the future, where Marlow lives in a town where social media stars are government employees and her whole life is available to those who want to tune in on social media). One day something snaps in Marlow and we see her deciding to make some big changes. It’s completely wild (and addicting) and such a fantastic conversation starter!

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Grade: A+

Quiet

I can’t stop talking about this book. Carly recommended it to me a while ago and I put off reading it (non-fiction takes me so much longer to read!) but over the break I had some time to really sit down and read and I just. loved. this. book. It delves into the science of introversion/extroversion, and the ways that we idealize extroversion (and act as though introversion is something to be fixed when in fact it really isn’t). I felt a lot more confident and as though I understood myself better after reading it. I often find myself faking extrovert behavior and genuinely do love being social, but sometimes feel like such a weirdo in how I then need to recharge by being alone. This book explains a lot. I cannot recommend it enough. If you are an introvert, are married to/dating an introvert, or work closely with an introvert, it’s worth the read. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!

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Grade: B+

The Wives

This one came highly recommended by Andrea Dunlop (the author of We Came Here to Forget). And I was instantly intrigued by the polygamy angle (why am I like this!?). It goes EXTREMELY off the rails. In a very dark twisty way. There’s a twist mid-plot, and several other twists throughout the back half of the book. It’s hard to give you a proper synopsis without any spoilers so I’m going to have to be intentionally vague. Our main character, we’ll call her Thursday, is married to a man who happens to have two other wives. He sees one on Monday, one on Tuesday and her on Thursday. She’s desperate to keep his attention and be the star wife – though she knows nothing about the other wives. One day she finds a crumpled piece of paper in his pocket with an address, leading her to one of his other wives. Upon meeting Hannah (Monday), she realizes that he’s abusing her (he’s never been abusive to Thursday). And a mystery and giant unraveling takes place. I know my description is strange and vague but I promise I had to be this way to keep it from giving spoilers. I enjoyed this a lot but it definitely went off the rails. A fun and crazy thriller you’ll read in a day!

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Grade: A-

One of Us is Next

This is a fun one. It’s a YA thriller, and it’s actually the sequel to One of Us is Lying, which came out a couple years ago and was actually our second EVER Bad on Paper book club pick! So definitely read the first one and then grab this (you could read this without reading the first one, but I think it’s more fun if you do that). We’re back at Bayview High two years after Simon’s Death and a twisty game of Truth or Dare has taken place. The “original four” from the first book have moved on – they’re in college now and all play a peripheral role… so now we are dealing with their younger siblings. I tore through this and absolutely loved it!

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Grade: A

The Honey Don’t List

I absolutely adored this book. It was so cute and definitely one of my fav Christina Lauren books to date! Everything those two write is great, but this one was extra charming. So… imagine that Chip and Joanna Gaines actually really hate each other (despite having built a successful business on the foundation of supposedly being madly in love and a mutual love of design. Okay, now imagine what it likes being the personal assistant to each of these characters. Melissa + Rusty Tripp are remodeling + design gurus who have been married for over twenty years but secretly despise each other. And lucky James + Carey are their respective assistants. NOT an easy job and the four of them all have to go on tour. Both James + Carey need the job for reasons I won’t share, but both are very disillusioned (and also secretly quite attracted to each other). So you have the recipe for the cutest romance to arise while on tour… but I won’t tell you about that! I absolutely loved this one, it’s such a fun read!

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Grade: A-

Anna K

This was recommended to me by Katharine McGee (author of The Thousandth Floor and American Royals) and I was incredibly excited to read it, especially upon hearing that HBO is already developing it into a TV show. It lived up to the hype! It’s Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina reimagined and it feels a lot like a mix between Gossip Girl and Crazy Rich Asians. Anna K is living any teenager’s dream life on the Upper East Side. She has the perfect boyfriend (perfect, even if he is kind of boring), a great group of friends, and has always been the good girl (keeping her Korean-American father happy and proud of her). When she meets Alexia Vronsky, her whole world is jilted. There are other wonderful characters: Anna’s party-boy brother Steven, his sweet but clueless girlfriend Lolly, Lolly’s sister Kimmie, and Steven’s best friend Dustin. There are love triangles galore, juicy dramas and even deaths… and I couldn’t put it down. It’s luxe and opulent, it’s engrossing but also heartbreaking, it’s just a really fun read.

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Grade: B-

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Another YA thriller! This one just didn’t grab me. I mean, it grabbed me enough to read the whole book but.. it was a little juvenile (and yes, that is normal for YA but I dunno, I think I prefer YA that’s actually written for grownups). It definitely had some fun plot twists and turn (and I did NOT guess the ending)… it just felt like a bit of a slog, getting there! Five years ago, beautiful (but mean + popular) Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend Sal, who killed himself after the fact. Now, the tragedy still haunts the town and Pippa is doing her senior capstone project on the case, determined to find out what really happened as she believes that things just don’t add up. There are twists and turns as she’s determined to solve the case. It’s a fun read and definitely kept me on my toes but it was the young sort of YA which is not really my thing!

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Grade: B+

Regretting You

First of all, this is VERY different from Verity. It is NOT a thriller so I would not even compare the two. I’d say it’s a romance / mother-daughter story with a tragedy in there. Morgan is a 34 year old housewife who got pregnant at age 17 and put her dreams on hold. Now, her daughter Clara is 17 and wants to be anything but her mother. The book alternates between the perspectives of Morgan and Clara as they face a horrible tragedy (AND scandal). What happens is really, really terrible. In the aftermath, they both turn to people they never thought they would. I am being vague here but this book is both very upsetting (Colleen Hoover tends to be good at that!) and also heartwarming. I read it in a couple days as I needed to know how everything worked out!

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Grade: A+

Modern Love

This book is amazing. It contains the 8 stories from the TV show and so many more. It’s also really interesting because the TV show definitely took quite a few liberties when they told the stories… I enjoyed spotting the difference. I can’t recommend this book enough. It will make you laugh. And cry. And everything in between. I’m just so in love with this column (I read the column, I listen to the pod, and now I devoured the book). Get it for yourself but also get a copy or two for your mom, your sister, your best friend, and so on and so forth.

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Grade: A

Such a Fun Age

This is a complex story about race but also so much more than that. It begins with when Emira (a black babysitter) is held at a supermarket because the security guard there believes she’s kidnapped the little girl she’s babysitting. It gets complicated when a bystander records the whole exchange. And then it goes from there. The book alternates between the perspectives of Emira and Alix (Emira’s boss). There’s a bit of a twist where their stories overlap outside of their working relationship (this one shocked me!!).

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Grade: A+

In Five Years

Oh My God – This book WRECKED ME. Not in the way I thought it would, but probably even more intensely so. Dannie is one of those girls who has everything figured out. Engaged by 28, married by 30, making partner at her law firm, and so on and so forth. Her fiance David is dependable, sweet, and handsome, and she is certain she is on the right path. Then, the night she gets engaged, she has a dream that feels more like a premonition: it’s exactly five years later, and she wakes up in someone else’s apartment with a (very dreamy) strange man. She can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong and 4 years later, she meets that man (same name, etc etc.) It’s eery! This book is a little bit like The Light We Lost, and a little bit like One Day in December. I loved both of this books and maybe loved this one even more!  You won’t be able to put it down and it is going to cause some serious tears. I definitely recommend preordering it.

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Grade: B

The Woman Upstairs

First, a trigger warning. This one deals with violence to small children and upset me at times. (I’m pretty thick skinned and am not easily triggered.) It’s a fast paced thriller. But the plot is upsetting, and there are holes. For example: WHY would you allow a total stranger to move into your house (without checking any references or doing a background check). But anyway – Katie, pregnant with twins, moves into a rundown house and meets Paula (a doula) who offers to help her. Katie gives birth to the twins but simultaneously uncovers horrible secrets about her husband… so she comes to really rely on Paula. But all is not as it seems. This book is pretty upsetting and rather implausible but it was fun.

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Grade: A+

City of Girls

I really, really enjoyed this book.  The book follows Vivian Morris (a 19 year old Vassar dropout) to New York City, through ups and downs and middle age all the way until she’s 89 years old. She moves to the city to her aunt Peg’s house, where she takes up costume design for glamorous showgirls… spending most nights out on the town . When she makes a terrible mistake her whole world implodes and she faces ruin but ultimately lands on her feet. This is the story of female friendship, of female sexuality, of redemption… and so much more. I could not put it down.

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Grade: A

Get A Life, Chloe Brown

If you’re one to judge a book by its cover it looks like it’s going to be YA or a cheesy romance. And while it is a very sweet romance, it’s so much more than that! It’s a complex romance and WHOAH there are some very steamy sex scenes. Definitely not YA! Chloe Brown is chronically ill – after getting pneumonia years ago she has fibromyalgia and is always tired and sick. She’s close with her family but was abandoned by her boyfriend + friends when she got sick. But she has a plan and an utterly adorable to-do list…  to help her literally, “get a life.” Things like “do something bad,” and “have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.”  Redford “Red” Morgan is Chloe’s superintendent, but also an artist with some pretty heavy emotional baggage. The two initially hate each other (think The Hating Game) but ultimately fall for each other. It’s very sweet and a fun romance that you’ll be able to devour in a rain afternoon. 

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Grade: B

I’ll Never Tell

Right off the bat I had a hard time getting into this one. There are so many characters (five siblings and the groundskeeper) and none of them are particularly likable. I was tempted to stop reading, but I’m glad I did because it got really good toward the end. Here’s the premise. The MacAllister family owns a summer camp outside of Montreal. The parents tragically die, leaving the camp to the 5 siblings… but it’s conditional. They have to figure out what happened twenty years ago, when a horrible crime was committed. Amanda Holmes (which is the name of my high school best friend, so that was creepy!) was found bludgeoned at camp 20 years ago. But no one knows what happened. All 5 siblings suspect each other, and so they retrace the events of the evening to figure out what happened! Once I got into it, I was really into it. It’s a fun read that keeps you guessing!

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Grade: A-

The Gifted School.

If you liked Big Little Lies you will probably love this. A new (and very) school for gifted children is opening in an upscale town in Colorado, and the pressure + competition caused by the application process causes four different families to go a little bit crazy.. doing things they never thought they’d do. It’s beautifully written and the character development is insanely good. I also appreciate that the author was able to write believably from the perspective of not only just the men and women, but also the children!

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Grade: C

The Poison Garden

A psychological thriller in which a woman walks in on her husband cheating on her and she begins to question everything. In a matter of days, her whole world unravels. Her neighbor is involved, her ex husband comes into play. I think it could have been better if it were maybe a little bit longer (it’s only 194 pages long)and there was better character development? I don’t know – the whole thing was just so outlandish to me!!!! There were so many holes and so many things that happened that just didn’t feel real. It’s a great idea, and the twist is very fun (I didn’t see it coming), but I think maybe the story just wasn’t developed quite as well as it could have been. It felt like the author wrote it in a hurry. I read it in under 24 hours because I wanted to know what happened, but was left underwhelmed.

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Grade: B

The Shape of the Night

This book is spooky and kind of cheesy but still fun. Ava Collette goes through a horrible tragedy in Boston and fleas to Maine, where she moves into a beautiful old house called Brodie’s Watch. It seems however, that the house is haunted and that the ghost (who also happens to be very sexy – think Christian Grey meets a puritanical sea captain?) and her have a bit of a spark. Everything is going fine and she has this weird little romance with the ghost until she finds out that every woman who has ever lived in that house has died. So yes. This is cheesy, it’s a thriller but it’s quite fun! I enjoyed it!

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Grade: C-

Fleishman is in Trouble

I really wanted to like this book and I know that not everyone is going to agree with me – you don’t have to – we can all have our own opinions! The reasons that I disliked it so much are not that it’s poorly written or lacking in substance. It’s very well written! I personally found it to be incredibly boring (it really dragged!) and also really depressing. Frankly, it is an ad for never getting married or having children. But mostly, it was just really boring. I found myself constantly falling asleep while reading this; and feeling really depressed at the end. The last 50 pages are pretty good but do not make up for the rest of the book.

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Grade: A-

Twice in a Blue Moon

It is no secret that I love everything Christina Lauren writes. They (it’s two authors) just know how to turn my cold heart into mush, and this one is no exception! Tate Jones is the long lost daughter of the biggest movie star in the country. (Think Tom Cruise.) She spends her childhood very sheltered, hidden away from the press. She goes to Europe with her grandmother and falls hard for Sam Brandis, only to have him out her biggest secret to the media. Flash forward 14 years later and Tate is on the verge of becoming a movie star herself. She takes the role of her dreams… only to walk straight into Sam! This is a very cute love story, extremely heartwarming, and answers the question: can a person do the wrong thing for the right reason and be forgiven?

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Grade: A

American Predator

This book is absolutely terrifying. If you love true crime, you are going to love this. I am not a huge non-fiction person but when it’s about a serial killer I obviously change my tune. This one is the story of Israel Keyes, the meticulous serial killer who was largely kept out of the media. The whole thing reads crazier than fiction, truly. If it were fiction, I would have criticized it for being too implausible. But it’s real. I couldn’t put it down, but once I finished it, I was just… terrified – even walking to Sweetgreen to get dinner felt scary! If you want to scare yourself (and learn the story of a terrifying serial killer), this is a must-read.

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Grade: A-

Good Girls Lie

I obviously adore a thriller, but this one is even better as it features rich unsupervised teens at a boarding school and… a secret society! Ash Carlisle leaves England to attend the prestigious Goode School in Virginia. With her, she takes a very dark past and a huge secret… intending to start her life over again. She attempts to make a name for herself and move on from her dark past but has a hard time doing so at the school… darkness seems to follow her everywhere she goes! A terrible suicide takes place… or was it murder? I couldn’t put this one down and think you will feel the same. Becca and I both really enjoyed it which doesn’t usually happen with a thriller. Highly recommend!

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Grade: A

The Testaments

I was so excited to read this one. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I read it without having read The Handmaid’s Tale (I watched the show, though!) This book tells the story of three characters. A girl raised within Gillead who decides to become an aunt, a disciplinarian (okay fine it’s Aunt Lydia), and a girl raised outside of Gillead, in Canada. I found it fascinating, particularly because we get so much backstory to Aunt Lydia. I could not put this book down. I tore through it, wanting to know how things end (or don’t) for Gillead. If you love The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll absolutely love this.

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Grade: A

A Keeper

I can’t decide whether to classify this book as a thriller or as literary fiction, as it’s kind of a nice mix of both! Elizabeth Keane is a single mother living in New York who returns home to Ireland to sell her mother’s home after her recent passing. She never knew her father but while she’s cleaning, she discovers a bundle of letters he’d written to her mother. The book circles back and forth between modern day (Elizabeth trying to figure out what the hell happened), and the past (as Patricia meets Elizabeth’s father and the terrifying series of events that happen). I am being vague but it’s intentional… I don’t want to spoil it for you! I read this one in a full day this past weekend and loved it so so much.

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Grade: B+

The Other’s Gold

This book follows four girls (Lainey, Ji Sun, Margaret, and Alice) from day one of college (they’re thrown together as roommates) through adulthood. The girls become the best of friends and the book follows them each as they make the worst mistakes of their lives. The first two mistakes were innocent enough (still bad) but the second two get a bit dark. Both Becca and I were kind of like WAIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED!? I still enjoyed the book. As I said above, I’m processing and I think about it a lot. But I love when a book makes you think like this. I loved the real look at female friendships (it was similar to How Could She? in that regard). The characters are complex. The stories are complex. Their mistakes are… intense. But overall I really enjoyed the book and I really enjoyed how well the author captured the intricacies of female friendship. Read it with your girlfriends; it will definitely give you something to talk about!!!

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Grade: A-

We Came Here To Forget

Okay before we dive in, I’ve been asked to provide trigger warnings with my book reviews. If you’re pregnant or have a small child this book may be problematic for you. I can’t say much more than that without revealing too much/providing spoilers. Tthis book kept me up ALL NIGHT. Literally. I read it til past midnight and then woke up at 6am to read if and finish it. It’s Katie Cleary’s dream to become a gold medalist skier. And she’s on track to do that; leaving home as a teenager to train with her boyfriend and best friend, winning race after race and eventually making the US team. And then everything unravels as a terrible, gruesome secret about her sister comes out in the media completely derailing everything – her career, her relationships, etc.  She flees Park City for Buenos Aires where she starts her life over as Liz Sullivan. It is there that she befriends a group of vibrant expats and begins to rebuild her life. The book alternates between Katie’s childhood + college/growing up with her sister to modern day until the two catch up.

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Grade: A

The Family Upstairs

This book centers around estranged siblings Libby, Lucy, and Henry and their friends Phin and Clemency. Back on the eighties, their parents are found dead in their beautiful English mansion. By all accounts, it looks like they had formed a cult and they’d committed suicide. Henry and Lucy were teenagers and disappeared, while Lucy was a baby – abandoned on the scene. Twenty five years later, Lucy has had her birthday and is set to inherit everything (the home is worth millions). Her birthday brings the family members out of the woodwork and a mystery unravels. It alternates between their (very creepy and disturbing) childhood and modern day.

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Grade: B

Chances Are…

This is the story of three men (all good friends since college in the sixties and all very different!) What unites them is their college friendship (they were all the poorer kids at a wealthy liberal arts school in Connecticut and met serving food at a sorority house. What also unites them is that they were all in love with free spirited Jacy Calloway, who disappeared from the island in 1971, never to be seen again. As the friends reconnect more than 40 years later, they can’t help but wonder what happened to her and what secrets they’re keeping from each other. It’s funny, it’s surprising, and it’s definitely very different from anything else I’ve read recently. This isn’t going to be our October book, but I really enjoyed it. The first half is very slow and then it really picks up. There’s a mystery of course, but there’s also these very real vulnerable characters and their friendship.

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Grade: B

The Luxe (Series)

The Luxe series is just so fun. It really sucks you in – if I had to describe it, it would be Gossip Girl, set in 1899! A strange concept, for sure but picture Blair and Serena in ballgowns and arranged marriages and you kinda have the jist. It starts with the first book, which introduces you to sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland. The Holland sisters kind of rule Manhattan, alongside Penelope Hayes who is Elizabeth’s best frienemy. The Holland family has come under hard times so Elizabeth is forced to marry the dreamy Henry Schoonmaker who everyone adores except her. Meanwhile, he’s dating Penelope and secretly in love with Diana. So just imagine. The series follows them through marriages and deaths and a lot of drama. The best book is the last one – if you’re doing this, just go and order all four at once!

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Grade: B+

My Friend Anna

If you listen to the podcast or know me at all, you know that both Becca and I are OBSESSED with all things Anna Delvey. So naturally, we both freaked out a bit when we heard about this book, written by one of Anna’s closest friends during her peak faux-socialite heyday. It details everything – from how they met to how Anna eventually scammed Rachel… the rise and fall of their friendship. Fancy lunches and dinners at Le Coucou, her time at 11 Howard, a crazy adventure to Morocco (where Rachel was forced to pay the huge bill). I felt myself feeling incredible amounts of secondhand financial anxiety for Williams. It was juicy though. I wanted to learn more about Anna and her scams, and I did. There is exact text message conversations. It’s definitely a fun read. It is not very well-written which can detract from the book at times, but overall I REALLY enjoyed i

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Grade: A+

Save Me The Plums

This is Ruth Reichl’s memoir and I just loved it. Ruth is a former food critic who was brought in to bring big changes to the magazine (and she does!) Save Me The Plums takes you inside the glamorous world of Conde Nast during its heyday… from S.I. Neuhouse’s birthday party (and art collections!) to the private kitchen inside the magazine, with looks at all of the most famous celebrity chefs. I don’t remember the last time I loved a book so much. I cried during the bits about 911 and then again at the end when Conde Nast decided to fold the magazine.

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Grade: A-

Lock Every Door

Jules is struggling with just about everything (she loses her boyfriend – a cheater, and her job on the same day) and thinks maybe her luck is changing when she gets a dream offer: the chance to be paid ($4,000 a month) to apartment sit in one of New York City’s most beautiful (and mysterious) apartment buildings – fixing her problem of being homeless and broke all at once. Of course, things are not what they seem. Within a few days of arriving, her new friend Ingrid (a fellow apartment sitter) disappears. And Ingrid learns of the building’s tragic past. I read this one in 24 hours. It got to that point where it was 10:45pm and I’d been reading for an hour but had to keep going as I was too scared to put it down – I had to finish it to know what happened! Highly recommend!

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Grade: A+

Three Women

This book is a MASTERPIECE. It’s one of those books that you can’t stop thinking about, days later. Lisa Taddeo followed three women (and their sex lives) over the course of eight years. And the result is fascinating… something that reads like fiction but is actually 100% true. There’s Lina, whose husband won’t touch her – won’t even kiss her. They see a therapist who takes the side of her husband. Lina begins an extramarital affair with her high school boyfriend. And then there is Maggie, who had an affair with her teacher when she was a student. Years after it happened, she speaks out against him publicly. And then there is beautiful Sloane, who is happily married but whose husband enjoys watching her with other men (or women). I couldn’t put this down.

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Grade: B+

The Wedding Party

Jasmine Guillory’s books never disappoint. They’re light, fun, easy to read, and just the perfect vacation book. I devoured her other books (I loved The Wedding Date and was medium on The Proposal) and am just such a fan of everything she writes. I should also note that while the books are connected, you don’t need to have to have read the other books in the series. They all stand on their own perfectly. This one starts with a Hating Game type of plot… Maddie and Theo hate each other. She finds him to be nerdy at best, demeaning and condescending at worst. And he considers her to be the “bitchy hot girl.” But one night, they hook up. And slowly they start finding themselves more and more into each other; to the point where they’re each the first person they turn to in an emergency situation. The story follows all the typical romantic comedy plot lines (they hate each other, they fall for each other, things fall apart, things work out) but that doesn’t make it any less delicious to read.

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Grade: A-

Tell Me Everything

Holy moly – this is one of those books that just haunts you after you finish reading it!!! Malin is a college student, with a dark past and a family secret. She attends Hawthorne College up in Maine. Hawthorne is a small, exclusive liberal arts school, where she’s worked hard to build a group of close friends and pushes herself to excel in academia. There’s her best friend: beautiful Ruby who is also the star soccer player, dramatic Gemma (a theatre major, naturally), rich and handsome John, his cousin Max, and Khaled – a prince, naturally. They become the closest of friends but they’re each hiding secrets… Malin probably most of all, working hard to conceal who she really is and her tragic family history. The book opens on senior day, the day before a murder. You know there’s a murder but you don’t know who dies. Throughout, it flashes back to Malin’s childhood in Texas and her freshman year. There’s a small twist, there’s the mystery of who gets murdered.. it’s a good one.

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Grade: A

With the Fire on High

This is about a teen mom Emoni growing up in Philly, living with her grandmother and daughter Emma. The book opened up talking about why she gave her daughter a “white” name, and how she hoped it would open up more chances for her. The book is so sweet but all I could think about for so much of it was how priviliged and lucky my own highschool days were. Emoni is working multiple jobs, dealing with racial bias (and bias + stares for having had a child so young) all while trying to juggle  the usual high school stuff (friend drama! boys! school work! applying to college!) She’s always loved to cook and gets into a culinary arts class (with a trip to Spain). I could honestly go on and on about this book and how sweet + moving it is!

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Grade: B

The Turn of the Key

Okay, this one frustrated me a little bit because the ending felt like a bit of a cop out (did you read this? Do you agree!?) but I still really enjoyed it. The novel opens up with the main character, Rowan, writing her lawyer from jail after being put on trial for murdering a little girl. But first, we must back up. We get to know Rowan as she stumbles across the job of her dreams, nannying for what seems to be the perfect family in the Scottish countryside. A beautiful home, an extremely high paying salary… it seems too good to be true. (If we learned anything from Lock Every Door), if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The parents leave her for weeks on end, ghosts seem to be haunting the place. One night, all the lights + loud music come on. And then there’s the charismatic handyman. And the elderly housekeeper.

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Grade: B+

The Friends We Keep

This book follows three best friends from college into their fifties. It’s a good look at growing older, facing disappointment, betrayal, and forgiveness. There’s Evvie, the beautiful model who starves herself to be successful. There’s Maggie, who married her college crush who turned out to be an alcoholic. And then there’s Topher, who followed his dreams to America to become a successful actor only to make a massive career-derailing mistake. I loved this book and the realistic portrayal of friendship; but I also loved the way it showed their friendships evolving over thirty years and how while each character faced horrible, life-altering events, they were always okay. That’s what I took away from this book – even when it doesn’t feel like it, even when we are in crisis, things will always be okay and work out.

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Grade: A-

How Could She?

This is the story of Geraldine (living in Toronto and reeling after the end of her engagement) and her two friends Rachel and Sunny, who live in New York. Rachel is drawn to New York after seeing how perfect her friends’ lives look… Rachel is a writer and Sunny is an artist/columnist and decides to move there. But when she gets there nothing is quite as shiny as it appears. The magazine where Rachel + Sunny work at is on the verge of folding, Sunny’s life is falling apart, and Rachel is struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Geraldine can’t seem to find a job to save her life. This book is so raw and real – by the end of the book I felt like I knew each of the characters. Loved it.

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Grade: B-

Waiting for Tom Hanks

I am going to be really honest/blunt here – I found the main character to be deeply unlikeable and annoying (SO much whining over what Tom Hanks would/would not do!!) and highly immature/unrelatable. (Maybe that’s because she’s 27 and I’m 37 but still – man, she was annoying and I hope I wasn’t like that when I was younger!!!) Anyway, I was going to put it down but powered through (mostly because it was the day after our live show and I just wanted to read something light and fluffy and only had “heavier” books with me). So I powered through, and I have to say, once the main character stopped whining so much, it got very cute and the ending was very satisfying. But still, it took a while to get there.

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Grade: B+

A Nearly Normal Family

18 year old Stella is suddenly accused of murdering a man 15 years older than her. Confusion within her family immediately ensues as she is taken into custody and isolated from her family. The book follows troubled Stella’s relationship with the victim and constantly keeps us on our toes as we try to decide who did what and who was right and who was wrong. Was 32 year old Christopher a psychopath? Was Stella prone to violence? Did she do it? This kept me guessing and while it was an unputdownable thriller, it also dealt with bigger stuff: morality… lying for your child… rape… it was dark, and definitely made me think!

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Grade: B

Evvie Drake Starts Over

This is the story of widowed Evvie Drake and Dean Tenney (a former NY Yankees pitcher). Dean finds his pitching arm out of sorts and decides to escape to Maine for a bit to regroup and get away from the city. He rents the apartment off of Evvie’s house and a cute friendship develops between the two of them. There’s the whole “will they or won’t they” energy which of course I loved, but there’s also this really nice storyline between Evvie and her best friend Andy and the complexities of male-female friendship but also trusting people and letting them in. It took me about halfway through the book to get invested in the characters, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.

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Grade: A+

American Royals

Imagine if after the Revolutionary War, George Washington became the king and not the president. And then, fast forward to modern day and write a book about the teenagers set to rule the palace. There’s Princess Beatrice (the heir), and her twin brother + sister Jefferson and Samantha. It’s deliciously good (reminiscent of the cast of The Thousandth Floor in the best way possible. Samantha is the wild child, Jefferson is the dreamy prince that every girl wants. We also get to know the two girls vying for Jefferson’s heart: manipulative Daphne, and down to earth Nina. This book is SO MUCH FUN, I read it in a day and now am deeply depressed that I have to wait for the second book!

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Grade: A-

The Silent Patient

Alicia Berenson has a perfect life. She’s a beautiful artist, married to a fashion photographer, living the life in London. One night she shoots her husband Gabriel, five times in the face, and decides never to speak again. She is institutionalized. Both her + her deceased husband’s artwork sky-rockets in value. Years later though, she still refuses to speak. The book is told from the perspective of criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber, who is fascinated (maybe to a fault) by Alicia. He becomes obsessed with treating her, and is led down a very dark path as he discovers the truth. There’s a HUGE twist and I guessed it literally one page before the big reveal which is the most satisfying!

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Grade: B+

The Unhoneymooners

When Olive’s twin sister (and entire wedding party) gets food poisoning, there’s a non-refundable honeymoon up for grabs. The only people that are well enough to go are Olive and her sworn enemy Ethan (the groom’s brother). And so despite hating each other, they head on the romantic trip of a lifetime… to Hawaii. Through a series of semi-predictable events, they fall for each other. Parts were a bit predictable and parts reminded me of The Hating Game a bit too closely but honestly? I loved The Hating Game so it was kinda nice to go down that “two people who hate each other fall in love” story arc again. That being said, the ending is quite different and there’s a fun twist + a really nice relationship between the sisters.

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Grade: A

American Spy

Marie Mitchell is a young black woman (in the eighties) working with the FBI during the Cold War. She finds her career stalling. It’s a good old boys club and despite the fact that she’s brilliant and always two steps ahead of everyone else, she’s tasked with menial jobs and constantly being underutilized. She finds herself tapped to join a task force dedicated to undermining Thomas Sankara (the communist president of Burkina Faso). But everything is more complicated than that. I don’t want to give too much away but I was unable to put it down and I felt really agitated/anxious the whole time (the sign of a good thriller). I loved that it was based on true events (it’s worth reading up on Sankara; he’s been called “Africa’s Che Guevara.”)

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Grade: A-

Necessary People

This is the story of two college friends, Stella and Violet. Stella is the rich and pretty one, for whom everything always comes easy. She’s your classic irresponsible party girl who just glides through life. Her best friend Violet is the hard worker. Violet’s always ready behind the scenes to fix whatever problem Stella has created. But then they go off to college and Violet finds herself succeeding at work, finally out of the shadows. She starts off as an intern for a network show and quickly climbs the ranks to producer. She’s finally built the life she wants – until Stella decides she wants her own career in TV.

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Grade: B+

Rules of Civility

Set in 1938 Manhattan, it’s told through the eyes of Katey Kontent, who grew up in Brooklyn and starts a career in a Manhattan law firm as a secretary. It’s the story of being young in New York. Of being let down. It begins when she and her roommate Eve meet Tinker Grey, a beautiful and exciting young man with and adventurous spirit. Suddenly she finds herself immersed in this very glamorous world of New York high society. But all that glitters is not gold. There are twists and turns and she finds herself let down (and shocked) time and time again. She also finds herself, learns to rely on herself (my favorite part), and begins to build a career.

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Grade: B+

That’s What Frenemies Are For

Julia Summers is your standard Upper East Side rich lady – she’s a little bit mean and obsessed with social currency, being the person who influences her friends, etc. When she finds herself stuck in the summer for the city, she discovers Flame – the hot new spin studio. She takes sweet Tatum (her instructor) under her wing as her “project,” but things don’t go quite as planned. Tatum isn’t quite who she thought she was, her friends begin to abandon her, and her husband finds himself in hot water at work. She finds herself unable to trust anyone, and discovering that “perfect” life of hers may not even be the life she wanted.

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Grade: A-

My Lovely Wife

This is a fun, murdery thriller (reminiscent of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, if you watched that). The unnamed narrator and his wife Millicent are good parents. They have a nice life. She sells real estate and he is a tennis instructor. Oh and they’re also serial killers. It’s twisted and dark and I don’t want to tell you too much for fearing I’ll give it away but I really really enjoyed this one. Enjoy might not be the right word – so I should clarify: I felt anxious and panicky and couldn’t put it down? I think that for me, the most disturbing part was how much they loved each other (and their children), yet could still do such terrible things.

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Grade: A-

Park Avenue Summer

This one is about Helen Gurley Brown, the first female EIC (editor in chief) of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Alice Weiss (an aspiring photographer, fresh from the Midwest) lands a job as her assistant – the perfect foot in the door! She’s not prepared for the craziness that ensues. The (mostly male) staff at Hearst is stuck in the past and determined to make Helen fail. Editors + writers are resigning left and right, takedown plans are put in place, but Helen somehow endures. This is light and fun but also a wonderful celebration of female ambition and friendship, with a side dish of steamy romance. I couldn’t put it down.

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Grade: A

The Idea of You.

I don’t really know where to begin with this book. Becca and Ashley (Spivey) had raved and raved (and raved!!) about it but it didn’t really sound very interesting to me. (Harry Styles fan fiction!? Hard pass.) I finally took the plunge and bought it. And oh wow. I got sucked in. It’s as spicy as everyone said it would be, but it’s also very sweet, and surprisingly well written. A chic French divorcee takes her daughter to an August Moon (think One Direction) concert and through a series of events, begin a love affair. At first it’s just sex but it quickly turns into more – they legitimately fall in love.

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Grade: B+

Daisy Jones & The Six.

I had been waiting forever for this one. We talked about it on the podcast in this month’s book club episode. Okay first of all, I didn’t love it as much as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. But that’s one of my favorite books of all time. That being said, I really really enjoyed it. It’s written as an oral history, so think of an old VH1 Behind the Music video where the band + their team/manager is all reminiscing back over the band’s heyday. It’s set in the seventies and has this Almost Famous kind of vibe to it. Daisy Jones is this stunningly beautiful singer who winds up working with The Six. We heard it’s based a little bit off of Fleetwood Mac. Daisy has a drug problem, Billy (the lead of The Six) is in recovery… but combined, they make magic.

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Grade: B-

The Perfect Girlfriend

Okay this book is so messed up to the point where I wasn’t sure if I liked it as parts were really really implausible. But that didn’t mean I didn’t spend an entire flight tearing through it. It was also fun/weird to read on the plane as so much of it takes part on planes as the two main characters are a flight attendant and a pilot. Elizabeth is dead set on getting her boyfriend back and goes to extremes to do so. Like, a lot of extremes. She has one of those personality types where she fixates on things (friends, boyfriends, etc) and it’s just SUPER creepy. You cringe and feel secondhand anxiety for her all the while being like “WOW IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!?” It’s not the best thriller I’ve ever read but it still definitely held my attention. Crazy stuff.

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Grade: B

The Last Book Party

Okay so of course I was intrigued by this one – books, summer, Cape Cod? It sounded right up my alley and it was set in the eighties in Truro, where my family vacationed when I was young! Eve (formerly a secretary for a publishing house) leaves New York and moves into her parents’ summer house in Truro where she takes a job working as a summer assistant for a prestigious author. She’s immersed into a world she’d always dreamed about (Truro’s creative elite) and all sorts of chaos ensues. I don’t want to give too much away but everything sort of explodes and falls apart – it’s an epic catastrophe. For that reason, I could see this translating very well to film. I really enjoyed this but it was a little bit slow for me.

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Grade: B+

Behind Her Eyes

Julia is struggling – she’s a single mom and a receptionist. Her husband has remarried and nothing is really going her way. But then she’s out one night and meets (who she thinks is) the man of her dreams; only to find out that he is her (married!) boss. So the book gets off to an awkward start. She then meets Adele, and strikes up an unlikely friendship with her. Adele and her husband are new to the neighborhood and they definitely have secrets. He’s controlling, Adele is always on edge. It has serious Couple Next Door vibes but it’s a completely different book. If you’re looking for something dark and twisty this is your perfect psychological thriller. I will say that it does venture into fantasy territory; something I’d ordinarily love but wasn’t prepared for, especially for a thriller. So the book becomes a bit implausible. 

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Grade: B

More Than Words

Nina Gregory is a wealthy hotel heiress who always does the right thing. Dates the right guys, does the right thing for her career, etc etc. But when her father passes away (leaving behind a couple massive secrets) her whole world falls apart and she finds herself changing. She’s torn between her boyfriend Tim (who was also her childhood best friend) and her sexy politician boss Rafael. If you’ve read her other book, you know Santopolo does a love triangle really, really well. It is an enjoyable for sure, but in my opinion fell a little bit flat. I didn’t love the ending and I felt like the characters could have been better developed… but that didn’t stop me from reading it in a single day.

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Grade: A-

The Mother-in-Law

Lucy marries Ollie and all she wants is to have a close relationship with her mother-in-law, Diana. But Diana is hard to crack. She’s polite and friendly but not warm and fuzzy, and she definitely has more of a tough-love approach with her kids. Fast forward years later and the mother-in-law is dead. Alternating between past and present it is the story of Lucy and Diana’s complicated relationship and ultimately a murder! What I liked about this book is that both characters come across as very endearing. I actually think that reading this book could be helpful for someone who has a strained relationship with their own mother-in-law. But there is a small twist (and a murder), and though I guessed who the killer was, I still really enjoyed this book, mostly for the complicated family dynamics!

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Grade: B+

The Seas

The writing is exquisite, almost like poetry. But also, I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake. It’s set in a northern coastal fishing town (In envisioned the most northern parts of Maine) and it’s the story of an (unnamed) nineteen year old narrator. She’s a misfit, living at home with her mother and grandfather. When she was young, her father disappeared (walking into the ocean and never returning); but he’s told her that she is a mermaid. She clings to this belief and water is an omnipresent theme throughout. She’s in love with an Iraq war vet, Jude – he’s thirteen years older than her. The romance ultimately lands her in jail. I struggled to understand what was real and what was a dream.

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Grade: A-

Normal People

It’s hard to put this book into words but it really just captures friendship and dating (especially those weird relationships where you care deeply about a person but aren’t actually together). This novel is raw and real and also a little bit political. Connell and Marianne meet in high school. Connell is the popular one; Marianne is the outsider – the weird girl that no one wants to be friends with. They develop a secret romance of sorts; you can tell they both care about each other but don’t want to acknowledge it. The book follows them to college where the dynamics shift – suddenly Marianne is the popular one.  Throughout, they try being together and not being together. It’s depressing and sad at times but also so realistic – the characters are so relatable. I really loved it and I won’t spoil the ending but it had me thinking for days afterward.

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Grade: A+

So Here’s The Thing…

If you aren’t familiar with Alyssa, she was Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff and is now one of the co-hosts of the Hysteria podcast (from Crooked Media). What I love about her is how she manages to be so incredibly accomplished and aspirational; while also being refreshing and relatable. Essays cover everything from her friendship with Monica Lewinsky, to IBS, to how Jennifer Aniston got her through a breakup. Her real message is that you can be successful, you can be a badass (and work for the president if that’s what you want!) while still being yourself. And that’s a message I think women of all ages could really benefit from… we need more of this! This book is a must-read for women of all ages.

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Grade: A-

It Ends With Us.

I will start by saying that if you have experienced domestic abuse it could be triggering. This is the story of young Lily who grew up in a household with an abusive father. She moves to Boston and becomes immediately successful at just 23; opening her own successful flower shop. Then she meets dreamy, sexy Ryle. He’s a neurosurgeon and complicated – not wanting to be tied down. They ultimately fall in love but then her first love comes back into her life. It’s dramatic and upsetting and I don’t want to talk too much about the specifics of the plot to give anything away but it’s about domestic abuse; and hard to read at times – there are parts where I had to tell myself “Grace, it’s JUST A BOOK!”

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Grade: A-

An Unkindness of Magicians

This book did not disappoint. I wasn’t sure whether to classify it as YA or not, as it definitely felt more adult (kinda like the Discovery of Witches books.) This is set in modern day New York except there is this whole Harry Potter-like magical world that the “mundanes” cannot see. And every twenty years there is what they call The Turning, where a big tournament (a series of duals) between the magical houses. The Turning comes early this year. Our heroine Sylvia emerges from The Shadows (you will learn what that is), appointed champion by one of the smaller houses. She’ll face Ian Merlin and Grey Prospero (from two  of the larger, more established houses). Secrets emerge, and Sylvia has a score to settle.

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Grade: A+

Verity

Lowen is a struggling writer who receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to finish Verity Crawford’s best-selling series. Verity has been in a horrible car crash and will likely never recover from her accident. Prior to her accident, the family suffers terrible loss: losing one daughter and then the other. Lowen moves up to the family’s Vermont house to go through Verity’s office and find any material she can use to begin the remaining books. But then she finds Verity’s autobiography, containing horrible secrets. Lowen struggles as she finds herself more and more attracted to Jeremy (Verity’s husband) and contemplating whether she should tell him about the manuscript. This book was brilliantly executed and I STILL can’t think about it.

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Grade: A

The Story of a New Name.

I was a little bit nervous as several of you said you loved the first one and didn’t like this one. I actually felt the opposite. The characters are now in their late teens (through early twenties) and a lot more mature so I related to them more. Lila is now married – it picks up at the end of the wedding. I don’t want to say too much, but her husband is not who she thought she was. This follows Lila and Elena on totally different paths. Lila gets married and goes down that route; whereas Elena takes the scholarly route and heads to Pisa for university (a huge deal for her as no one really leaves their small town). It’s such an amazing look at female friendship (like the first one) and just brilliantly, beautifully written.

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Grade: B

The Seasonaires

This is a fun, fast paced novel set on Nantucket. It opens up with a murder on the fourth of July and then flashes back to the start of summer. Fashion giant Lyndon Wyld hires six beautiful “seasonaires” every summer… three guys, three girls. Basically the seasonaires are influencers, hired to promote the clothing all summer on social media. All of their expenses (for a summer on Nantucket) are paid and they’re also paid $20k. It’s a dream job of sorts. Wide eyed Mia with a sick mother (from South Boston) applies and gets the job and lots of drama ensues. The pace reminded me a lot of Little White Lies and it’s definitely a fun read. Parts are very implausible and the writing jumps around a lot but it’s YA.

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Grade: A-

Tell Me Lies

Oh god. I’m going to be honest, this book was a little triggering for me. If you’ve ever dated (or are currently dating) the bad boy, or the guy who you think/hope/wish will change and decide to settle down, read this book. This is the story of Lucy and Stephen; who meet in college. It follows them (and they’re torrid on-again off-again relationship) through Lucy’s freshman year all the way through after college, living in Manhattan. UGH. Stephen is charming and fun and wins Lucy over (despite him having a girlfriend at the time). There’s this magnetism and chemistry between them – even when he’s in a relationship. It’s pretty awful. It made me upset but I still loved it.

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Grade: B+

An Anonymous Girl

So I knew that this would be good as this is from the duo behind The Wife Between Us. And of course, it was excellent. Jess is a broke makeup artist who agrees to be a test subject in a professor’s psychological study about ethics and morality. It starts with innocent questions and seems like a great way to earn extra money. With time, things get more and more out of hand and she finds herself being manipulated. The book is fast paced and written in a similar way to The Wife Between Us, meaning that it keeps you on your toes the entire time. It’s packed with twists and turns. A few, I guessed… a few had me blindsided. I really loved this book and read it in just a couple days. It’s dark, twisty, and fun!

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Grade: A

Where the Crawdads Sing

This is the story of a little girl (Kya) who is abandoned by her family and essentially raises herself in a tiny shack on the marsh of North Carolina. With the help of her one friend, she learns how to read and slowly educates herself to become a respected marsh scientist; even publishing a book. Meanwhile a murder takes place in town and she’s put on trial for it. It’s the story of unfairness; of being treated cruelly for being different; and rising when everything seems to be against you. I read this book in about 36 hours. It’s beautifully written so I wanted to make it last longer but I couldn’t help myself – I needed to know what happened! I can’t recommend it enough. Just be prepared to cry.

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Grade: A-

The Banker’s Wife

This book follows three women as they investigate the biggest data leak (and money laundering scheme) in decades. Matthew Werner flies into a storm and disappears. He’s presumed dead and his wife Annabel is left trying to figure out what happens. She begins a search for answers. Meanwhile, there’s journalist Marina Tourneau who’s become recently engaged to Grant Ellis, whose father is running for president. Her mentor dies (we think it’s a murder), which causes her to launch an investigation of her own. The two investigations overlap. It’s a suspenseful thriller as we figure out what happened and who was behind it. I really enjoyed how much I learned about the world of finance- fascinating!

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Grade: A+

Becoming.

I inhaled this book. Michelle is such an eloquent, graceful, thoughtful writer. She takes us all the way through her childhood and early family life, through her Princeton years, to meeting Barack and their love story, the years before he ran for office, and their years in the White House. It’s so humbly and thoughtfully written and her realness is just incredible. I’ve never read a “political” book like this, and that’s probably because she doesn’t consider herself a political person. Reading this book reads a lot like sitting down with your good friend Michelle and how her and her ordinary family came to lead such an extraordinary life and do extraordinary things.

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Grade: A-

The Governesses

This was only 100 pages long but still took me a while to read. It felt a bit like reading a fairytale – you want to devour every detail. I will tell you that it is a bit weird (the governesses essentially attack strangers in the woods to have their way with them), but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I think it’s important to read more books that take us out of our comfort zones and makes us think a little. I really want to challenge myself to read more books like that this year. Books you can’t necessarily breeze through, and books that make you really think. The NY Times review of the book (they call it seriously weird and seriously excellent!) says everything better than I could say myself, so definitely read that!

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Grade: A

The Woman Inside

If you’re looking for the next Gone Girl-y thriller, I have found it for you. Rebecca and Paul have been married for twenty years and both have their fair share of secrets. Paul’s been unfaithful and Rebecca’s been fired from her job and has a nasty pill-popping habit. It all just unravels from there. Women in the neighborhood start disappearing, Paul & Rebecca’s lies and secrets intensify. It’s fast moving and fun, there’s a murder (and then another murder and a HUGE twist), and I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil it. If you’re looking for a thriller, order this ASAP – it’s the best one I’ve read in ages. It held my attention the whole way through, kept me guessing… so much suspense!!

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Grade: A+

My Brilliant Friend

This is the very simple, beautifully written story of two girls, growing up in the fifties in Italy. This book covers their childhood through adolescence and the remainder of the series will cover the rest of their lives. The second thing that struck me was that it’s a translation. The book was originally published in Italian and translated to English. It’s amazing to me how the translator (Anne Goldstein) was able to translate it and keep it so vibrant and beautifully told. Oftentimes when books are translated to English, they lose something and can feel a bit flat/harder to read. Not the case with this one. What I loved about it is the storytelling and how perfectly Ferrante (and Goldstein) captured the nuances of friendship.

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Grade: A

A Sky Painted Gold.

It’s 1929 and seventeen year old Lou is growing up in the English countryside of Cornwall… used to a simple life. She sneaks into a nearby mansion to read and write, only to have its occupants (the wealthy and fascinating brother + sister duo Robert and Caitlin) nearly catch her. An unlikely friendship transpires between the three of them and Lou is suddenly immersed in a glamorous world of parties, trips to London, beautiful clothes, and shiny new wealthy friends. But can she ever really fit in? It made me nostalgic for The Great Gatsby, had the MOST satisfying ending, and was just a very fun read. Please read this book, you’re going to love it!

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Grade: A-

My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Millie Morris has been one of the guys forever. She’s a little bit emotionally stunted and her and her four guy pals all work a lot. One night, her and her best friend Reid hook up. They immediately decide this was a bad idea, something that can never happen again. Meanwhile, with a big banquet coming up at work, the group decides they need to get dates so they all give online dating a try. And of COURSE (true to real life) the guys are met with quality matches whereas Millie gets dick pics and asked for her weight and cup size. Frustrated, Millie creates a new persona under a different name ands up matching with Reid. You an only imagine what happens from there.

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Grade: A-

Little White Lies

This YA read is totally my genre although it’s set in the South and not a dystopian society. Sawyer Taft grew up on the wrong side of the tracks when her estranged grandmother turns up out of nowhere offering her half a million dollars to participate in debutante season. I don’t want to give too much away (and we are talking about it on the podcast later this month!) but it is such a fun read. There’s a big mystery with a juicy set-up, there’s the friendship between four debutantes, and there’s Sawyer’s quest to find her father. I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t recommend it enough if you are looking for a fun YA read that you can’t stop reading.

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Grade: B-

The Other Woman

This one has gotten sooo much buzz. And while it definitely kept me up at night (I read it in under 24 hours while I was sick), I was kinda just meh on it!!! Emily thinks she’s met the perfect man in Adam, until she meets his mother Pammie. Pammie will do everything – absolutely everything – to ensure Emily and Adam don’t wind up together. The book takes us through Adam and Emily meeting, through engagement and a baby, all while Pammie does everything she can to ruin their relationship. Meanwhile Adam is totally oblivious to his mother’s bad behavior. There’s a big juicy twist at the end (and while it was totally satisfying, I did guess it).

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Grade: A

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t

I love Steven Pressfield’s style of writing. His books are always incredibly helpful and smartly written (he also wrote The War of Art), delivered in short, punchy “chapters.” This book is just under 200 pages and contains 119 chapters. Taking us through the different stages of his career (advertising, writing fiction, screenwriting, back to fiction, and self-help) he teaches us how to be a better writer: putting yourself in your reader’s shoes to create content that is interesting and inventive. This is described as developing empathy for your readers… switching back and forth as you write to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. For a business-y book this is a pretty short read but a valuable one and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone looking to become a better writer.

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Grade: A

One Day in December

This was was one of the sweetest love stories I’ve read in a while and I truly could not put it down. It’s such a realistic, relatable look at friendships, love, and loss. Laurie isn’t one to believe in love at first sight but spots Jack from the bus. They lock eyes and it’s that instant magical attraction – love at first sight. She spends the next year looking for him until they accidentally reconnect – her best friend brings him to their Christmas party and is already head over heels in love with him. The novel spans about ten years. All of the characters endure dramatic heartbreaks and a lot transpires between each of them. I loved the friendship between Laurie and Sarah but the male characters were really wonderful too.

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Grade: C

Nine Perfect Strangers

Frances is an aging writer who checks into Tranquillum House for a ten day reset of sorts (along with 8 other guests). Things slowly unravel and it gets a little bit crazy. The charismatic founder (Masha) seems to have all the answers after having a near-death experience. But does she? Anyone who has ever done a fitness/wellness retreat will get a good laugh here but for Liane Moriarty I just expected better. Not my favorite, but if you don’t have anything else to read, give it a go!

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Grade: A-

The Proposal

Nik is at a Dodgers game when the guy who she’s casually seeing proposes – on the Jumbotron, for all to see. When she says no, he flips out. Carlos and his sister Angie see her and decide to rescue her. Carlos and Nik become friends and then start dating, but they both agree to keep things casual. Slowly things begin to get more serious and a little bit of drama ensues. I loved this book but not just because of the romance (and the fact that it gets a little steamy!). I thought it was a testament to the importance of having great female friendships and maintaining our own independence… while also letting someone in (especially when you’ve been hurt before).

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Grade: A-

99 Percent Mine.

I had a harder time getting into this one at first as I didn’t really identify with the main character, Darcy. She’s very brazen and a bit of a badass, which I am not. Darcy is in love with her twin brother’s best friend, Tom. Darcy and Jamie (the twin) are renovating her grandmother’s house before they put it on the market and Tom steps in to do the build. Tom is single for the first time in years and Darcy is determined to make him (you guessed it) 99% hers. It’s the perfect light, feel good read… I couldn’t put it down!

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Grade: A

Lilac Girls

This book wasn’t good. It was amazing. It broke my heart so many times over and over again. Parts were really, really hard to read. It takes place during WWII with the Holocaust and tells the (intersecting) stories of three women: Caroline Ferriday (a real person), a socialite based in New York who advocated for a group of survivors called The Rabbits (they were the subject of terrifying experimental operations), Kasia Kuzmerick (a Polish teenager sent to Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration camp for women), and Herta Oberheuser (also a real person – a young doctor working at Ravensbrück). It was deeply upsetting but so beautifully written. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Grade: B

Our Kind of Cruelty

Mike Hayes grew up neglected by an alcoholic mother bought fought his way out to a successful banking career. Fixated on his ex-girlfriend, he becomes more and more delusional by the day (she’s getting married). He becomes convinced it’s all a game (or maybe it is, I won’t spoil it for you). The book opens with him in jail so you know something bad has happened… then it goes back in time sharing bits and pieces of his relationship with V, cut to modern day. It’s really, really disturbing and upsetting but a great read nonetheless.

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Grade: A-

Children of Blood and Bone

This takes place in a magical country that Becca and I both envisioned being a lot like Africa. It’s the story of Zelie and her family as well as the prince + princess of Orisha, which used to be a magical land. The king destroyed magic in their land (and killed all of the magi – including Zelie’s mother. Then an artifact (that could bring magic back) is discovered and it changes everything. It’s hard to put the entire plot of the book into words (it’s so good, and 500+ pages of magic and adventure). It’s going to be a trilogy (book 2 comes out in January) and I hope they make it a movie as I really, really loved it! I personally think that this could (or should!) be the next big YA fantasy trilogy.

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Grade: A-

Waiting at Hayden’s

This is the story of Charli and Jack – childhood best friends and college sweethearts. After college they’re madly in love but realize that they are young and need to follow their own passions (which lead them to opposite coasts). So they go their separate ways to follow those dreams (Jack heads off to play in the MLB; Charlie goes to Charleston to get her PhD). They promise to reunite in 5 years at their favorite restaurant. A lot happens along the way and we find out whether they actually meet up. Meanwhile there is Gianna, the 37 year old restaurant owner who is dating someone she’s not entirely sure about. (You know, the safe, perfect on paper guy.) Thinking of Charli and Jack and how in love they are causes her to question her own relationship. Is there something bigger and better out there?

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Grade: A-

Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win

This is about a Silicon Valley hotshot who takes a leave from her job, uprooting her family to Pennsylvania to run for senate. Her husband leaves her job to take care of the kids and this is a very real look at what running for office does to their marriage. It also shows the hugely sexist side of politics (especially in a more conservative state like Pennsylvania). The character development was so good. I kinda imagined Sheryl Sandberg as Charlotte, and her opponent was an almost caricature (in the best sense of the word) of an old school white male politician. I ate this up. Love everything Jo writes and this was no exception!

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Grade: A

The Towering Sky

This is is book 3 of The Thousandth Floor Series. If you read here regularly you know that I am obsessed with The Thousandth Floor. We’ve talked about it on the podcast (ep 6), and it’s one of my favorite YA trilogies. It’s set in 2118 and the premise of the series is that New York is now a futuristic tower, and the plot centers around rich, pretty Avery Fuller who lives on the top floor. It’s basically a futuristic Gossip Girl, which is high praise for me. This is the third and final book. I was simultaneously so excited for it but also sad to see this series wind down. It didn’t let me down.

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Grade: B

Save the Date

Charlie Grant is a high school senior with four older siblings. Her mom has a famous comic strip (about their family) and the family is (more or less) very tight knit. Her oldest sister is getting married and all hell breaks loose. Literally anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The wedding planner flees the country, the alarm system breaks, and so on and so forth. Honestly, it all felt very forced to me for a while. I felt like it was just TOO much stuff going wrong. But it grew on me by the end. It’s very sweet and I liked the little love triangle + the dynamic between the siblings.

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Grade: A-

The Girl Before

This is book will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s ultra creepy and ultra addicting. It’s the story of two women (the girl before, and the girl after) who move into a beautiful home in London. The architect of the home has all of these crazy rules for people who stay there; and the first girl ends up dead. Did she kill herself? Was she murdered? The plot unfolds. It’s a bit of a whodunnit and a bit creepy/psychologically thrilling. I really, really enjoyed it and stayed up all night to find out the ending!

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Grade: B+

The Stylist

This was described to me as The Devil Wears Prada for the red carpet set. And that’s exactly what this was! Amber Green is working for a posh London boutique. A happy accident leads her to getting hired by top celebrity stylistMona Green (think Rachel Zoe)’s new assistant. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, taking her to LA for awards season. But Mona turns out to be a bit of a hot mess. This was a really fun, light read, and I always tend to love these books that give you an inside look at what seems like a very glamorous job!

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Grade: A

Love and Other Words

This is the story of Macy and Elliot. Macy is in her late twenties and engaged to another man – when she runs into her childhood best friend/high school boyfriend, Elliot. They’d had a falling out and her entire world is shaken to the core. The book follows their story (in both present day and when they were young). I really loved it. Mostly because it made me remember what it was like to be in love (it’s been a while, ha ha). It’s very romantic and very sweet and I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend.

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Grade: B-

#FashionVictim

At first I really hated this book. It’s a (very) dark comedy where people keep getting killed (think of that TV show, Scream Queens). The main character (Anya, an editor at a top fashion magazine) is completely insane. Like, batshit crazy. Fixated on her perfect, beautiful coworker; she moves through the fashion world casually documenting her outfits, creating mood boards… and casually murdering anyone who gets in her way. I found myself frustrated with the cliches + how mean the women were to each other, but that’s part of the style of the book. Once I let that go, it was hilarious (and so dark!). This is a fun read.

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Grade: B

The Paris Wedding

10 years ago, Rachael and her boyfriend broke up so that she could leave school to take care of her beloved mother who had MS. Flash forward to present day and Rachael’s ex boyfriend is now getting married… and she is invited. Not just invited, but invited with a +1 – all expenses paid. She goes, drama ensues, she makes some unlikely friendships and learns a lot about herself and what she wants next in the process. I thought this book was really cute and well done and I really enjoyed it!

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Grade: B-

A Double Life

This is a psychological thriller (there are no twists or anything, but it really keeps you on edge). Claire is a hardworking doctor in London but has a huge secret – her father is one of the world’s most wanted criminals (and the first lord to ever be wanted for murder). He mysteriously disappeared right after a terrible crime. The book covers Claire’s search for her father (unclear whether he is guilty or not). It also gives a very real look at class and privilege. A page-turner for sure!

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Grade: A-

The Masterpiece

This book was excellent. I have read all of Fiona Davis’s books and love them all so so much. This one revolves around Grand Central Terminal (and art!) in the twenties/depression and seventies as it’s about to be torn down. It chronicles Clara Darden (an illustrator + art teacher during the twenties) and Virginia Clay (a struggling recently divorced mother who works in the terminal during the seventies). This book has it all… romance, mystery, and Virginia’s courageous plight to help save the terminal. I read it on vacation and could not put it down!

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Grade: A+

Circe

This is the story of the goddess Circe, Helios’ daughter. Growing up, she is the least favorite daughter. No one really knows what to do with her. She ends up getting in trouble with the higher gods and finds herself banished to a solitary island. From there, she realizes what she truly is – a witch! The book is an epic saga and introduces us to many of our favorite characters from Greek mythology – Hermes, Athena, Daedalus, Odysseus… even monsters like The Minotaur and Scylla. I could not love it more.

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Grade: A-

Marriage Vacation

Despite being a HUGE Younger fan (#teamCharles!!!) and glowing reviews from many of you, I had very little interest in reading this book as it seemed a little gimmicky. This is Charles’ ex-wife’s story (but if you don’t watch Younger you could still totally read this. Pauline is 40, and a burnt out Upper East Side mommy. She heads to a wedding solo and… doesn’t come back… opting to fly halfway around the world to Thailand. This is the story of a woman’s year off from being married. I thought it was very cute and well written but the story line does annoy me a bit – Pauline has such a martyr complex (This could also be because I didn’t really like her character on the show, too.) Still, it’s a cute fast read and as a die-hard Younger fan it was fun having this to read when new episodes can’t come quickly enough!

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Grade: B+

From the Corner of the Oval

After piecing together a life and working 5 jobs at a time, Beck gets a job as a White House stenographer (off of Craig’s List of all places).  The job takes her all over the world, introduces her to some of her best friends, and leads to some unfortunate decisions in her love life. I could not put it down. Beck is so relatable and someone I could see myself being friends with (at times you want to strangle her – though I’ve been there so again, she’s even more relatable!) I LOVED this book. It’s cute, charming, and a major page-turner. I will say that it made me very sad at time for two reasons: nostalgia for the Obama years (Miss him!) and missing having coworkers. The friendships she had with her coworkers made me a little jealous!

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Grade: A-

The Underwriting

Becca suggested this one to me, pitching it as The Knockoff meets investment banking. That’s the perfect description, although I also got Startup vibes from it. Hook (a dating app like Tinder) is about to go public and the book is the story of how it all goes down told via the perspective of several key people (including: a douche-y New York banker, a douche-y SF startup guy, a girl who dies, and several others). The male characters were so deeply unlikeable (but also spot on/akin to men I’ve met in the city). It’s a fun fast read but I have a real problem with the ending (hoping for a sequel???) as it really leaves you hanging!

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Grade: A-

The Dinner List

This book completely broke my heart. The first half of the was a little bit slow and I wondered where it was going but then there is a pretty big twist and I was all in. It’s Sabrina’s 30th birthday dinner. She and her best friend Jessica had each had a list of 5 people (dead or alive) they’d have a dinner party with, and hers comes true… she sits down for dinner and her list is all there: Audrey Hepburn, her estranged father, her old college professor, and Tobias (her ex that she had been with for then years). It focuses primarily on her relationship with Tobias (and what went wrong with that) but also on her friendship and relationship with her father.

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Grade: B

Beach House for Rent

My mom gave me this one to read and it is SO cute. If you’re looking for a nice feel good book to read on the beach, this is a good one. It takes place on the Isle of Palms (outside Charleston) which of course I loved, and the story is just very heartwarming and sweet. Cara rents her beach house to Heather, (a slightly eccentric but sweet artist who owns three canaries). When Cara experiences a personal tragedy, she moves back into the house with Heather and the two of them form an unlikely friendship. It’s a story of love and loss and recovery… it’s also a testament to the importance of strong female friendships.

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Grade: A

The Last TIme I Lied

This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in ages. I’ve been doing this thing where I usually end up guessing the twist (this starts to happen when you’ve read so many of these sort of books) and this one totally threw me! I really loved it. Emma Davis is an artist living in New York City. Years ago, she attended summer camp in Lake Placid and her 3 bunkmates all disappeared – no one ever found them or figured out what happened to them. When she is invited back (this time, to teach art), she sees it as an opportunity to get some closure (and poke around to figure out exactly what happened to her old friends). She heads up there and things slowly unravel. She becomes the token unreliable protagonist, she thinks she’s being watched, and she starts to discover secret after secret. This one had me terrified at times, and had two big twists. I loved it.

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Grade: A-

A Million Junes

I didn’t want this to end. It’s kind of like a magical Romeo & Juliet. It’s the story of June (short for Jack Junior) and Saul, who come from neighboring families that hate each other. On top of that there’s also a curse- whenever they get near one another it seems that something terrible happens. June runs straight into Saul at a carnival and the attraction is immediate. They resist at first but ultimately fall in love, over the course of some magical adventures (they discover that they can watch old family memories). This book is beautifully written. It’s YA but it’s a good, good book. I can’t say enough good things. Read it!!

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Grade: B+

The Intermission

This is the story of a couple that’s been married for five years. They’re both hiding secrets from each other, and they’ve slipped into a bit of complacency where things look good on the outside, but neither of them are actually happy. They decide to take a six month intermission; at the end of which, they will decide whether they want to be married. Honestly this is not a typical book for me (I don’t typically love books about marriage/babies/etc as I can’t really relate?) but I LOVED this. I thought the writing was excellent, the character development was great (they are both so selfish at times but also still very likeable), and the ending was satisfying. I would highly recommend it. It’s a little heavier than your typical beach read but just as addictive.

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Grade: A

Matchmaking for Beginners

This is one of the most heartwarming books I’ve ever read. Becca recommended it to me and it is the cutest, sweetest book I’ve read in ages. I will admit that I really related to the main character (if you’ve ever been on the receiving side of a terrible breakup, you will appreciate this book) which could be why I liked it so much but all of the characters are so deeply likable and relatable and you just fall in love with all of them. Marnie MacGraw just wants an ordinary life. She’s engaged to Noah (who is a bit of a privileged asshole) and meets his “crazy” great aunt Blix at their engagement party. The two of them feel a connection immediately. Blix passes away and leaves Marnie her Brooklyn brownstone (despite only having met her twice, and just as Marnie’s marriage is imploding after two weeks) and all sorts of magical stuff ensues.

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Grade: B+

Something in the Water

I really enjoyed this thriller! I had high expectations as it is one of Reese Witherspoon’s picks and I always love her picks. Mark and Erin are a successful London power couple (he’s an investment banker; she’s a filmmaker) and madly in love. They head to Bora Bora on their honeymoon and while out scuba diving they discover… something in the water. I won’t tell you what it is, but what they find causes everything to eventually unravel. You watch them make poor decision after poor decision…. (I had so much secondhand anxiety!)

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Grade: A-

Ghosted

This book is really cute. Especially if you are in the mood for a light read and a good love story. AND, there is a big juicy twist, too. Sarah meets Eddie and they fall in love almost instantly. They spend seven days together, friend each other on Facebook, and make plans to continue their romance. But then, after parting ways, Eddie just disappears. Stops responding to her emails and texts, defriends her… vanishes. Her friends tell her to forget about him but she can’t. And as it turns out Sarah and Eddie are both hiding pretty big secrets. It’s dramatic and the twist was (for me) pretty explosive… I really loved this one!

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Grade: C-

Listen To Your Heart

We picked this for the podcast and it really wasn’t very good. Usually if something is bad I will just stop reading it but we had to keep going for the sake of the pod! The premise is very cute, it’s about two girls taking a podcasting class (helllo!) and answering advice questions. There is a love triangle, etc etc. The ending is really cute. I liked that part. But the first 70% of the book is just SO SLOW. So much insignificant highschool drama. I was bored to tears.  But hey, at least it made for interesting podcasting banter (check out episode 18 of Bad on Paper) for the full download!

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Grade: A-

Therapy Mammals

Tom Pistilini’s life is falling apart. He may have killed his nanny but he can’t remember because of the blackouts he’s been having. His wife is sleeping with his motivational speaker neighbor and they’ve entered a “cooperative marriage” of sorts. And he just found out that he’s an unwitting investor in a tourism company that capitalizes on mass shootings. Meanwhile, his neighbors are out to get him, he stole a prosthetic leg, his son is cross-dressing as an old lady and there may be compromising photos of his daughter going around. How is all that for a crazy plotline. It’s a lot. But it somehow works. And it’s hilarious. It’s irreverent and satirical but also pretty heartwarming in the end. I found it highly entertaining and really loved it.

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Grade: B

Mine

Fran is a successful divorce attorney living in London when she meets Martin Joy, her latest divorce client. The two strike up an affair, and then Martin’s wife disappears. Did she flea a la Gone Girl? Did Martin kill her? Things get more complicated when we learn that he’d still slept with his wife whilst seeing Fran. We also learn that Fran followed them home from a romantic evening the night his wife disappeared. And that she blacked out drunk after being upset at seeing them together. So what really happened!? It’s a wild ride with a good twist at the end.

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Grade: B-

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

This is not my typical book in that it’s a YA romance and I tend to prefer more sci-fi-esque YA books. BUT, I’m glad I read it as it was a cute, easy read (and a nice palette cleanser after all the non-fiction books about Cuba I had been reading). Lara-Jean is your average middle school student – a bit studious, very responsible, a good older sister. Whenever she gets over a boy she had a crush on, she writes him a love letter – but doesn’t send it. She pours out her heart and soul and tells them all the things she’d never say in real life. One day, her letters mysteriously get sent and suddenly everything explodes. It’s very cute.

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Grade: A-

The Hating Game

This was a reader recommendation. A few of you have borderline harassed me (I say that lovingly!) on Instagram stories for not having read this. Now I see why as it’s just the cutest. It’s perfect for the beach or vacation (I read it in two days while in Asia) and perfect when you want a cute romcom type of book. I loved it. It’s about two coworkers who are nemesis- and vying for the same promotion. They absolutely hate each other, until they don’t. It’s cute and fun and so perfect for when you just want something light and feel good. I had major feel good vibes from this – and wished I had an office crush!!

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Grade: B+

A Nantucket Wedding

I LOVE all of Nancy Thayer’s books… their always like a comforting bowl of chicken soup! This one is a story of 55 year old Alison, who is planning her third wedding – and her two daughters. It’s set in beautiful Nantucket (in an incredible beach house) and is a really intimate look at relationships and families. I really liked how realistic it was – looking at the dynamics between the two daughters and their husbands in a really imperfect way. It was very sad at points but also very heartwarming and uplifting. I love all of Nancy Thayer’s books and would highly recommend this one – it’s the perfect beach book!

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Grade: B

Vicious

Vicious is, without being stereotypical, a YA novel for boys. (Which I very much enjoyed but I am saying this as most YA novels that I read are told from the girl’s perspective. This one is sci-fi meets comic book, and it’s very fun to read (also there is a sequel coming out in September ’18!) It’s the story of two boys at college who figure out that superheros (aka ExtraOrdinaries aka EOs) are made, not born. Alternating between ten years ago (at school) and in modern day when when of them has just escaped prison and the other is hell bent on killing all EOs, it’s a fun and fast read. I really enjoyed this one as it felt a bit like stepping into a modern day comic book.

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Grade: B

The Oracle Year

Will Dando (a struggling musician) wakes up one morning able to predict the future. He wakes up from a dream with 108 predictions about the world in his head. Suddenly he goes from struggling to pay rent to selling predictions for millions (sometimes billions) of dollars. He’s the most powerful man in the world. The book chronicles his struggle to stay anonymous (going by The Oracle and putting his predictions up on a heavily guarded website) as a wild chase from the US government and an evangelical minister ensues.

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Grade: A-

Social Creature

A part of me thought that maybe I was just really desperate for a good thriller but I just really loved this one. I started it on Saturday, went to a dinner party, read it when I got home, and then spent Sunday morning + afternoon finishing it. This one has serious Talented Mr. Ripley vibes (with a bit of Gossip Girl mixed in). It’s the story of two girls: Lavinia, who has it all… and Julia, who has nothing. Julia is struggling to make ends meet when she meets Lavinia and she is suddenly introduced to a glamorous world of parties and champagne. But of course, it all goes wrong. I won’t tell you everything that happens but I will tell you to read it if you’re looking for a good (dark) thriller to tear through.

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Grade: C

The Favorite Sister

Wanted to love this book as I LOVED her other one, but I was disappointed which is a bummer as I had been so so excited to read it. It was really disjointed – there were so many characters, all deeply unlikeable. I persisted through and am glad I did because it did get better but I was frustrated and annoyed for the first 40-50% of the book. It’s the story of a group of millennial women, all a part of a reality TV show Goal Diggers about a group of successful, cut-throat women. Maybe if I liked Bravo/reality TV more, I would have enjoyed it? I will say that she threw in some really good twists toward the end (I really liked the ending) but it was still tough to get through. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it too!

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Grade: A-

When Life Gives You Lululemons

This is the cute follow up to The Devil Wears Prada, told from Emily’s perspective years later. Emily is now 36 and a master celebrity fixer, but has fallen out of popularity with her clientele. When ex-model Karolina Hartwell is arrested for a DIY (but swears she wasn’t drinking), Emily steps in (alongside her lawyer friend Miriam) to to clear her name. It’s fun and nostalgic for anyone who loved Devil Wears Prada and even has a little cameo from Miranda Priestly. I totally pictured Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep the entire time I read this and I really, really enjoyed it. I’d read the other sequel to Devil Wears Prada and was underwhelmed but this one was good.

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Grade: A+

Educated

I don’t remember the last time I read a book that affected me so dramatically. This  is Tara Westover’s memoir, and it is so so good. She grew up in the mountains of Idaho with parents who belonged to a radical subset of the Mormon church. They were anti-government, anti-medical establishment, anti-school. Tara never saw a doctor or a nurse, didn’t get a birth certificate until she was 9 years old, and did not set foot inside a classroom until she was 17. This book is really hard to read at times – it’s also hard to believe that it’s all true because it’s one of those cases where the truth is stranger than fiction.

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Grade: B

The Summer of Jordi Perez

Seventeen year old Abby Ives is fashion-obsessed, gay, running a plus-size fashion blog… and just landed her dream job as an intern at her favorite boutique. The book covers several relationships – with her friends (the friend drama is seriously relatable… even though I’m twice Abby’s age I could totally relate), with her mother (who runs a healthy living blog/food empire), her new friend Jax, and (most importantly) her co-intern Jordi Perez who she ends up falling in love with (while competing with for a part time job). What I loved most about this one was how complex + relatable each of the relationships were.

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Grade: A-

Next Year in Havana

This is the story of Elisa (growing up very wealthy in Cuba during the Batista era – her father, a sugar baron) and Marisol – her granddaughter. Marisol sets foot in Cuba for the first time in her life at age 31 to scatter the ashes of her beloved grandmother. She gets to know the city, she meets an alluring man, and she uncovers some huge secrets that her grandmother had been hiding. The author’s description of Cuba is so perfect that it made me feel like I was right back there. And the plot itself was really good. There were (two!) love stories and quite a bit of mystery. If you’ve been to Cuba, it will make you nostalgic, if you haven’t, you’ll still enjoy it. Highly recommend!

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Grade: A

Waiting For Snow in Havana

If you’re thinking about going to Cuba (or just interested in Cuba), this is a must. It’s a Cuban boy’s memories from growing up in an affluent family in Havana in the fifties before he was a part of the Peter Pan Project where 14,000 Cuban children were airlifted out of the country in 1961. The original plan was to be reunited with family in 3 months; no one thought Castro would stay in control for as long as he did. It ended up taking three years for his mother to join him and his brother (his father stayed behind; refusing to leave his possessions). He lived with a foster family and then in an orphanage; ultimately ending up with his uncle. The kids, growing up were so wild and violent with each other. Constant fighting, going car surfing… it was definitely something different. And his memories are just beautifully written. I really, really enjoyed this one.

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Grade: A-

All These Beautiful Strangers

This is a Gossip Girl meets Gone Girl style thriller, set at a prestigious boarding school in New England. Of course, I couldn’t put it down. Charlie Calloway is 17 years old but her mother disappeared when she was only 7. The book explores the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance (everyone suspects her father), and her boarding school experience as she is tapped by “The A’s,” an exclusive secret society at her school. It’s a fun, fast read (told from the perspectives of Charlie, her mother Grace, and her father Alistair) with lots of twists.

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Grade: A-

All We Ever Wanted

Set in Nashville, this is the story of two families: the well to do Brownings and their son Finch; and the less fortunate Tom Volpe and his daughter Lyla. One night, Finch makes a terrible mistake which effects Lyla. The story covers so much. There’s a little bit of a mystery for parts of it. It talks a lot about bullying. And it shows all the ways a marriage can go wrong and the fact that material things don’t matter as much as we think they do. Like all of Giffin’s books, this one is heartwarming and sweet. Her books always just feel great to read (she’s an excellent storyteller!) and leave you feeling warm and cozy inside when you’re done.

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Grade: B

Famous in Love

Paige Townsen is an obscure high school student in living in Oregon when she decides to audition for the movie adaptation of a major blockbuster book series (think Harry Potter or Hunger Games!) Within weeks, she’s off in Hawaii starring opposite Rainer Devon (her gorgeous and dreamy co-star, also one of People‘s sexiest men alive). Soon though, she finds herself in a little love triangle – having to choose between Rainer + her other co-star, Jordan. These books are fun and silly, and who doesn’t love a good love triangle.

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Grade: B

Truly Madly Famously

This is the sequel to Famous in Love and it’s just as addicting as the original. Paige is now one half of the world’s most famous couple but everywhere she goes, somewhere is watching. She finds herself (again) torn between beautiful Rainer Devon or his more mysterious co-star, Jordan Wilder. This series is exciting and delicious and the sequel is a really fun read. You’ll finish it in a day!

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Grade: B

People Like Us

This is the story of a girl (Kay Donovan) attending Bates Academy (a super exclusive boarding school in New England). Kay comes from humble roots (unlike her peers) and has skeletons in her closet but has managed to become the captain of the soccer team and a part of the popular crowd. Then a dead body shows up in the lake and the dead girl sends her on a computer-coded scavenger hunt where Kay will ultimately isolate all of her friends and implicate herself in the murder. The plot is witty and brilliant; and besides the narrator being a bit annoying (as teenagers can be) I couldn’t put it down. I definitely didn’t guess the ending and there was a really heartbreaking twist at the end.

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Grade: A

Then She Was Gone

It’s reminiscent of The Lovely Bones (anyone else read + love that one??) where a beautiful girl (Ellie) disappears. She was the perfect daughter, student, etc. and just disappeared into thin air on her way to the library. The story takes place ten years later (though it also goes back in time) as her mother Laurel tries to piece things together. She ultimately meets the perfect charming man, Floyd… only to meet his daughters – the youngest of which looks JUST like missing Ellie. It’s both incredibly disturbing and addicting; and I could not put it down! It was one of those mysteries where I suspected everyone… and if I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about it! You definitely must read this one.

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Grade: A-

The Good Liar

This was a really awesome thriller. Set in Chicago, it’s the story of the aftermath of a giant explosion – and the families of the survivors. There’s Cecily who lost her husband; Kate who fled the scene and is now living far far away; and Franny who lost her birth mother to the explosion. The funny thing is, they’re all very much interconnected and they all have pretty giant secrets. This one kept me on my toes the whole time with twist after twist after twist.  I love those books where you feel that amazing rush/satisfaction of having guessed the twist, only to be shocked and surprised by yet another big twist.

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Grade: B

Royals

Daisy Winters’ sister Ellie is engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. After constant tabloid attention, her family decides to uproot her for the summer (moving from America to Scotland to be near her sister and hopefully out of the press). If Ellie and Prince Alex are Kate and William, Sebastian (Alex’s charming younger brother) is Harry – wilder and unruly. Daisy is in for a wild ride (along with the Royal Wreckers – Sebastian’s friends). There’s a cute little love story and lots of adventures. This is the sort of book you can read in one or two sittings – it’s a fun read and perfect for the beach.

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Grade: C

Paper Princess

Ella Harper is poor and orphaned and supporting herself via stripping until rich Callum Royal shows up – he’s her (deceased) father’s best friend and has been looking for her. He moves her into his mansion, alongside his five sons. At first the 5 sons are terrible to her, but ultimately a romance develops. This book is weird as it’s definitely YA but there’s quite a bit of sex. It’s pure guilty pleasure… totally trashy but also totally addicting.

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Grade: C

Broken Prince

This is the second book in The Royals Series. Reed made a big mistake and has lost Ella – possibly forever. Again, don’t want to share too much but this is Book 2 of the Royals series. It’s trashy and twisty and kind of like the millennial’s version of Cruel Intentions. You’re going to be totally addicted but you’ll also hate yourself for it. Consider yourself warned?

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Grade: C

Twisted Palace

This is the third book in the Royals Series. I don’t want to write everything that happens as it will be a spoiler to the first two books, but Reed is in major trouble and Ella has had someone important come back into her life. This is the conclusion to the series – like the other books, it’s totally trashy but also totally addictive!

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Grade: A-

The Secret to Southern Charm.

Last year, Kristy reached out and sent me her first book and I grew so attached to the characters that it felt like actual  agony to have to wait a year to find out what happened to them next. Now here I am again, slightly satisfied, but dying for the next one. This series is SO GOOD. If you love Elin Hilderbrand, you’ll love Kristy’s books. This is the story of a big family (grandmother, mother, three daughters + lots of grandchildren) living in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia. It’s heartwarming and sweet and she is just one of the best storytellers.

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Grade: B

One of Us is Lying

This is a super fun read-in-one-day mystery. Five students get detention, during which, one of them dies. Each student is pretty much your stereotype (the brain, the beauty, the jock, the troublemaker) and of course it is the outcast that dies. As it turns out, the outcast in the group has a Gossip Girl style blog that was about to reveal juicy secrets about each of those four students. Immediately, the remaining four students are called into question. One of them is lying… or is someone else the killer! I finished it in a day.

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Grade: B+

The Great Alone

This one is sad uplifting at the same time. It’s set in the seventies – the story of Leni and her parents, who move from Portland to Alaska. Her dad is a Vietnam vet (suffering from major PTSD which went undiagnosed at the time). There are so many messages within the book, but really it’s the story of survival – and the strength that Leni and her mother find. In between there is a love story, a murder, and so much more. What I took away from it (and loved) most were the strong female characters – and their unbreakable relationships.

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Grade: B

Not That I Could Tell

It was described to me as Big Little Lies meets Gone Girl, and that’s pretty much exactly it.. maybe just add a little Desperate Housewives to the mix. 5 women (neighbors) meet for wine one night and the next day, one has disappeared. Everyone is a bit foggy from the night before, and the investigation quickly centers around Kristin (who’d always seemed the perfect mother/friend/PTA member)’s husband Paul. Did he kill her? Was he abusive? Did she run? That’s the question and I will just leave it at that.

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Grade: A

The Alice Network

This was an amazing read – alternating between WWI and post WWII. It’s partially based on the true story of  Louise de Bettignies who managed a WWI spy network. The book is the story of Charlie (a young, pregnant American, in France – looking for her cousin in the WWII aftermath) and Eve (a former spy). It alternates between 1915 and 1947… telling Eve’s story as a young girl turned spy (working for the mesmerizing Lili/Alice; the things she did to get secrets) and Charlie’s as she hunts for their cousin.

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Grade: B-

Do Not Be Alarmed

Two families go on a cruise, bringing their kids along. Everything is going swimmingly until they go on an excursion and everything goes to hell. The adults end up separated from the kids, and the kids end up getting kidnapped. The story alternates between the perspective of both the adults and the children. It was anxiety inducing and scary but it just kind of left me wondering why I’d spent hours reading. I didn’t get much out of it, there weren’t any twists, and it dragged for long stretches. This book is just okay.

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Grade: B

The Perfect Nanny

This is not a whodunnit, but more of a “Why did she do it?” From the start, we know the crime (two children are brutally murdered), and we know who did it (their nanny). It’s the story of Myriam and Paul – two working executives, their children, and their nanny Louise. Louise starts out as “the perfect nanny…” taking wonderful care of the children, cooking elaborate meals, keeping the house perfectly clean. Paul and Myriam wonder how they ever lived without her. Over time, things just go very very wrong.

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Grade: A

The Wedding Date

Drew and Alexa meet in a hotel elevator and he convinces her to be his date for a wedding (his ex gf’s wedding, at that). A whirlwind LA/SF romance ensues and it’s really cute. I read it over Valentine’s Day which was maybe a good thing and maybe a bad thing as it made me feel a little lonely (but it was also super cute and left me thinking maybe I’d meet my soulmate in an elevator.  It’s light, refreshing, and fun… and while I did find myself a little frustrated at times , I couldn’t put it down and definitely teared up at the ending.

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Grade: A

10% Happier

If you’ve ever thought about meditation, but it sounds too woo woo or spiritual, this book is for you. It’s part memoir, part self-help how-to. Dan Harris is a Good Morning America co-anchor who suffered a (nationally televised) panic attack years ago. This is his personal journey with meditation, all while seeming totally 100% sane. He swears, he makes fun of Deepak Chopra, he entertains us, but he also teaches us a LOT. It’s one of the best books I’ve read.

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Grade: A

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

This book is, for lack of a better word, a saga – following the story of one man’s life (from before he was born up until right before he dies). Cyril Avery is born to a teenage girl out of wedlock (we learn her story too; as she’s cast aside from her Irish family and moves to Dublin on her own) and adopted by a wealthy Dublin couple. The book follows Cyril from his coming of age and growing up gay (but closeted) through middle age and ultimately old age. It is beautifully written and absolutely fascinating. It breaks your heart at times, makes you laugh at times, all of the things. Highly, highly recommend this one!

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Grade: A

An American Marriage

Celestial and Roy are a year and a half into their new marriage when Roy is wrongfully convicted of a terrible crime. Roy is sentenced to twelve years in prison, but gets out after five. A lot happens while he’s gone. And when he gets out early, what is Celestial to do? Let go, or rebuild her marriage? The characters were all so raw and real, each struggling with their own family problems + heartaches. One of those situations where you don’t really know what to do, or who to root for. All is (sort of?) resolved in the end but man… this is an emotional rollercoaster (and, a beautifully written rollercoaster at that).

 

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Grade: B+

If I Die Tonight

This is a fun mystery that had me hooked. A teenage boy is run over during a carjacking involving a former 80’s pop star. The main suspect becomes another boy (Wade Reed) from the same town – a boy who’s a bit of an outcast – unpopular and friendless. The story is told from four perspectives: Jackie Reed (Wade’s mom), Connor Reed (Wade’s younger brother), Pearl Maze (a young police officer with a traumatic past), and Aimee En (the former pop star). It kept me on my toes. and the ending is super satisfying and it’s a fun little mystery, reminiscent of Big Little Lies meets Varsity Blues.

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Grade: B+

Two Girls Down.

I read this book in just a few short days. It started a little bit slowly, and then I could not put it down. It was one of those situations where I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep… so I just turned the light on and finished the book. I couldn’t stop. A single mother’s two daughters disappear without a trace from a strip mall in Pennsylvania. The cops prove to be unhelpful so her parents enlist the help of bounty hunter Alice Vega. Vega partners up with an ex-cop and the book is the story of their wild chase to find the girls.

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Grade: A

Ready Player One.

This took me a little while to get into but once I did, I was hooked. It takes place in 2045 and Earth is an awful place. We’ve diminished most of our natural resources and the only escape is a virtual reality system called OASIS. The founder of OASIS passes away and puts together a challenge… the winner of which will receive his (billionaire!) fortune. It becomes something that people will kill for. Our hero Wade Watts (who we know from the start won the challenge) is a lonely teenager living in the stacks (stacks of trailers) of Oklahoma City.

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Grade: A-

The Woman in The Window

Anna Fox suffers from agoraphobia and has not left her house in over a year. She’s estranged from her husband and daughter, and spends her days drinking, popping pills, visiting online chatrooms, and spying on her neighbors. One day she witnesses something terrible – but we have the case of the unreliable protagonist… what really happened!? It’s a chilling journey with multiple twists and turns. I kept thinking I’d guessed what really happened, only to have something else happen. It’s the sort of book you’ll wake up to read at 6am before work (or stay up all night).

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Grade: A

Little Fires Everywhere

This was one of the best books I read all year. It’s the story of the Richardson family – a well to do family in Shaker Heights (a quaint little town outside of Cleveland), living in their perfectly planned out bubble. And then bohemian, artist. single mother Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl show up and everything changes. There’s so much in here. Family dynamics, coming of age stories, a custody battle, secrets… so much. Celeste Ng is a master story teller. I couldn’t put it down and you won’t be able to either!

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Grade: B+

Still Me

This is the third book in the Me Before You saga. It follows where After You left off. Jojo Moyes is one of my all time favorite authors… I just love how she writes. And she always makes me cry. It picks up as Louisa moves to New York City to work as a companion to the much younger, very depressed wife of a billionaire. The new job (and life in New York) is a huge adjustment for her (keeping up with her long distance boyfriend, adjusting to the pace of life in New York). In true Louisa fashion, she prevails… befriending her crotchety old neighbor, the girls at the vintage store downtown, and a handsome banker (who looks exactly like Will). I liked this one better than After You, but of course not nearly as much as Me Before You. But really nothing will be as good as the first one!

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Grade: A

The Last Mrs. Parrish

This is pure, delicious trash. It’s such a fun read and I couldn’t put it down. Set in Connecticut, it’s the story of Amber Patterson who (very disturbingly) has laid out a very intense plan to steal Jackson Parrish (the ultra rich, handsome, successful husband of beautiful, blonde Daphne Parrish) right out from under his wife. You’re totally horrified and hate her so much but then there’s a big twist. I will warn you that the twist (and plot) is VERY similar to another book I’ve reviewed here. It isn’t great literature, (I mean come on let’s be real most of the books I love aren’t) but I loved it nonetheless.

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Grade: A

The Year of Magical Thinking

I just love her writing. She is one of the most talented authors I’ve read, and one of my all time favorites. I find myself reading and re-reading anything she writes about New York over and over again. I started this one not knowing what it was about (it’s about the year after her husband passes away suddenly) and oh man, it did an emotional number on me. It gutted me. I cried more than once reading it. If you’ve experienced a big loss, I wouldn’t read it right now… but add it to your list as it’s beautifully written and touching.

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Grade: A-

The Identicals

Elin Hilderbrand’s novels are like Chicken Soup for the Soul – they always leave me feeling so good! My mom passed this one along to me over the holiday break and I devoured it in just a few short days. It’s the story of Harper and Tabitha Frost – two identical sisters, living on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. They endured a feud years ago and no longer speak but the death of their father brings them back together and they manage to in a way, switch lives for the summer. It’s incredibly heartwarming and I could not recommend it enough!

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Grade: A

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

This book will probably change your life. I am not going to try and do his words/advice justice, but it honestly made me look at pretty much EVERYTHING in my life very differently. One thing in particular that really resonated with me is the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions/reactions to situations. So sure, someone can do something terrible to you but how you respond to it is entirely your own responsibility. There is a lot of tough love in here but it’s something I really needed to read.

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Grade: A

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

This book was all around hilarious, depressing, and ultimately heartwarming. I realize that’s a strange combination but it’s the truth. In a way, it reminded me quite a bit of A Man Called Ove. The main character (Eleanor Oliphant) has been through a lot. Like, a LOT. I won’t tell you all of her struggles and childhood terribleness as it will give things away, but things take a serendipitous turn and she befriends a kindly IT man at work. At age 30, this is her first friend. I laughed, I cried, I felt uncomfortable, I loved it.

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Grade: A

The Wife Between Us

This is the story of Nellie and Vanessa… the young, happy, bride to be vs. the disturbed and bitter ex-wife. I knew from the jacket of the book that I should “assume nothing,” so I read and read and read trying to guess every twist and turn. I ended up guessing the big twist slightly early, but still in a way that hit me over the head the way that only a great thriller can. But then there was another really big twist at the end. I could not put it down and really loved it. If you are looking for a great page turner, I highly highly recommend this one.

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Grade: A

The Selection (Book 1)

I am REALLY embarrassed to recommend because it’s terrible (in the best way) but am also REALLY excited to recommend because if you are looking for a young adult series to tear through, this is it. Guilty pleasure reading at it’s best. It’s basically The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor – set way in the future in a dystopian caste system, where 35 women (one from each district – sound familiar?) compete for the attention of the prince and ultimately become queen. It is not great literature, but it sure is fun.

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Grade: A-

The Elite (Book 2)

This is the second book of The Selection trilogy.  I also read this one in a day. #shame The selection process is now down to just 6 “elite” girls, and America is still stuck between her two loves… Prince Maxon, and her childhood boyfriend, Aspen. I could not put it down. I hate myself for loving these books so much but they are truly the perfect thing when you want something mindless and fun!

 

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Grade: A-

The One (Book 3)

This the third book of The Selection trilogy. Similar to the others two books, I read it in a day… staying up late reading and getting up early the next morning to keep going. This book is so annoying but I had to know what happened. There are so many ups and downs and twists and turns and the ending is predictable but like I said… this book is (fantastic) junk food. Totally satisfying and wonderful… the perfect mix of The Bachelor and The Hunger Games. Sometimes you just need a break!

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Grade: B+

The Dark Lake

A local woman (the beautiful, magnetic teacher Rosalind Ryan) turns up dead in a lake and her old classmate Gemma (now a detective) is put on the case to solve the murder. The book takes us through the case, as well as Gemma + Rosalind’s past… with lots of secrets. It’s well written and interesting, and kept me guessing. And the ending threw me. BUT once I had finished it I realized that there was so much information in the book that wasn’t really necessary. I still liked it a lot but that part annoyed me a little.

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Grade: B+

Devil in Ohio

If you are looking for a fun YA thriller that will keep you up all night reading, pick up this one. What’s probably ultra crazy is that it’s all based on a true story! Jules is a fifteen year old growing up in a small Ohio town. One day, she arrives home to find that her psychiatrist mom has taken in a girl her own age (one of her patients). It is supposed to be for just a few days but she stays and stays… flirting with her crush, wearing her clothes, basically doing a little SWF. We come to learn that Mae ran away from a devil worshipping community – enduring unbelievable violence and abuse. A wild ride ensues.

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Grade: A

Unbelievable

This is a really important read. I could not put it down. It was indeed, unbelievable, but sadly all true. Katy Tur is a journalist for NBC who was assigned to cover Donald Trump’s campaign from the very early days when no one thought he was actually serious. It is fascinating… alternating between the night of the election and moments along the campaign. You get a firsthand look at how volatile his behavior is – we see it on twitter, but it was really interesting reading Tur’s account, experiencing it herself.

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Grade: A-

The Silent Sister

Oh my goodness, if you want a thriller that you won’t be able to put down, this is your book. I stayed up until 4am one night just to finish it. Elements remind me a lot of Gone Girl. The main character, Riley, grows up thinking that her older sister Lisa committed suicide. After her father passes away, further details unwind and we learn that the older sister may still be alive. I don’t want to spoil anything for you but there are tons of great plot twists… just when you think you’ve guessed it, another twist arises. I really, really loved this one!

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Grade: A

The Address

If you’re into historical fiction, you’ll love this. Similar to The Dollhouse, it takes place in a historic building in New York City, alternating back and forth between two different time periods. In this case, it’s the 1880’s and the 1980’s. There’s a bit of a murder mystery going on and it alternates between the story of Sarah Smythe (the “managerette” of the building in 1885) and Bailey Camden (a struggling interior designer in 1985). The characters are incredibly likable and relatable and I could not put it down!

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Grade: B

The Power

I’m really torn here. The idea is pure brilliance. Like, I hope they make it a television show. But I felt like the writing could be better. Suddenly, teenage girls discover this new power inside them… with a flick of their fingers, they can send a jolt of electricity.. hurting, even killing others. The whole world goes into chaos. It alternates between the stories of an ambitious politician + her daughter, a down and out girl from London, a foster child who runs away, and a Nigerian boy who leaves home to document it all. I loved the story, I loved the feminist angle and the way that gender roles end up totally reversed.

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Grade: A-

The Dazzling Heights

This is the sequel to The Thousandth Floor which I read and and LOVED. This trilogy is one of the best YA series I’ve read in a while – I just tear through them. It’s like Gossip Girl, but set in the future, a hundred years from now in 2118. It picks up right where the first one left off (I don’t want to give away too much in case you haven’t read the first one!!) after the death of one of the main characters. I just love it. It’s juicy, guilty pleasure YA at it’s best. Basically a slightly sci-fi, futuristic version of Gossip Girl. If you love YA and/or Gossip Girl you have to get started on this trilogy ASAP!!

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Grade: A+

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

I know not all of us share the same political views so if you aren’t an Obama fan go ahead and skip this one but I personally LOVE and MISS the man every day so this was fun for me. I also just took such a liking to Mastromonaco. She seemed like the funny, smart, humble old sister I always wished for. She held so much power as his deputy chief of staff yet manages to be humble and realistic, mixing in the serious stuff with stories about bathroom problems and splitting her pants. I found myself entertained and inspired at once.

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Grade: A

The Thousandth Floor

This was recommended to me by so many of you in the comments of previous reading lists…. THANK YOU! It is a part of a trilogy, and many of you described it to me as a futuristic Gossip Girl. So obviously, I had to check it out! I TORE through it. It’s the story of five teens in a futuristic world (Manhattan, 2118) where there is now a giant tower spanning nearly the entirety of the city (42nd street upward through Harlem). The thousand floor tower spans 2.5 miles, with the most expensive, exclusive apartments being on the higher floors.

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Grade: B+

Amanda Wakes Up

This is the story of a morning news anchor who goes from the local news to a channel called “FAIR News,” dedicated to (supposedly, at least) providing news coverage from both sides. An election in which the characters are a qualified senator – and a hollywood actor. Sound familiar? Throughout the book there are a lot of ups and downs, misunderstandings, and massive parallels to this past November’s election. What I really loved was that she managed to cover something really serious and make it light and enjoyable to read.

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Grade: A-

The Rules of Magic

I was *so* excited when this arrived in the mail. Not only is Alice one of my absolute all-time favorite authors (my mom’s too!), this is the prequel to Practical Magic which I read years and years ago and absolutely loved. It’s the story of Jet and Franny (and their brother Vincent) who later on become the elderly aunts in Practical Magic. It’s a wonderful story (set in New York in the sixties) and I’ve always been fascinated by anything pertaining to witches and/or magic. If you feel similarly, you will LOVE this.

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Grade: A

The Hate U Give

So many of you suggested this one and I am so grateful for that as it’s probably the most important book I’ve read all year. Starr Carter is a black teen straddling two worlds: the poor neighborhood she grew up in, and the fancy (mostly white) prep school she attends. When her best friend is shot by a police officer, her entire world explodes. The story chronicles the thirteen weeks that follow his death – from all sides… how her friends react, how she has to hide the fact that she was the witness, to the grand jury’s decision.

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Grade: B+

The Child

An old home is demolished and a construction worker finds the skeleton of a tiny baby. A journalist is determined to get to the bottom of what happened, and in the process she uncovers some pretty major secrets of three women. It alternates back and forth between the different women and their stories (including a couple very unreliable characters). It’s a great thriller, with a major twist. I will say that I did guess the ending, but I have this problem reading thrillers lately where I become determined to figure out what happens.

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Grade: B+

The Silent Girls

I will be honest, it took me a little while to get into. That isn’t a bad thing, but I can be really impatient when it comes to my thrillers… I want to devour them, whereas this was a little slower to read. That being said, I really enjoyed it. The plot line is extremely gory… more horror story than thriller and there are several little subplots and mysteries that keep you going. It centers around a detective (whose sister was brutally murdered years and years ago) and a string of ultra grotesque murders that seem to be connected.

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Grade: B

Party Girls Die in Pearls.

I had been in the mood for something fluffy and juicy and while this one was that (it’s a fun Nancy Drew style mystery set in the eighties at Oxford), it was more complex than I had anticipated. It was a really fun read, and I could not put it down. And, I didn’t guess the ending which has been happening quite a bit lately. In the beginning I had a hard time following along (all of the characters – mostly aristocrats had funny nicknames, so it was a bit confusing) but once I got them all straight, I was hooked.

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Grade: A+

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

I absolutely devoured this one – reading it in all of 24 hours. Evelyn Hugo is an aging old Hollywood star (think Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe) and commissions a rather unheard of journalist to do an interview with her. Her story is a wild one – heart warming, glamorous, deceitful at times… you won’t be able to put it down. As her story unwinds, it becomes obvious that Evelyn + Monique (the journalist) have intertwined lives. It’s shocking and raw and real and I can’t say enough good things about this one.

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Grade: B

Startup

Okay this isn’t a great book, but it’s good… and if you’ve ever worked at a startup or tech company, you will love it! This one didn’t remind me of BaubleBar which was (lucky for me) female-founded and a very girl-power culture, but rather the startup “bro” world. I loved this story which involves a young female journalist who manages to take down the (overconfident, egotistical) founder of one of the big NYC startups. It’s satire at it’s finest… funny and empowering, all at once.

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Grade: A-

The Lying Game

This book is about four women who were high school best friends and endured a traumatic event during boarding school. Something happens that brings them all back to the town they went to school in, and a little Agatha Christie-style mystery ensues. I really enjoyed it and read it in two days. I will say that I liked The Woman in Cabin 10 a little better, but this is definitely still a great followup. Ruth Ware is definitely becoming one of my favorite authors in the thriller/mystery space!

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Grade: A-

Hello Sunshine.

Sunshine Mackenzie is a beloved lifestyle expert and chef with millions of followers on Youtube and social media. The only problem is, she’s living a lie. Oops. And then… she gets hacked. Within two days, she loses her career, her husband, even her home. She’s forced to return to her childhood home in Montauk (and her estranged sister). The book is a tale of her healing process.. and getting back to her old self. I loved it and read it in a twenty four hour period.

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Grade: B

Goodbye Vitamin

This took me a while to get into but once I was into it I was sad that it was almost over (it’s a quick read!) It’s heartwarming, sad, and also very clever. My grandmother had dementia so I could relate to the main character – I was very young at the time but really, it made me think of my mom and what she went through when my grandmother was sick. I loved the writing though.. the author is very smart and had so many amazing little zingers and narratives.. you’ll find yourself re-reading certain bits bc they’re so spot on.

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Grade: B-

Girl in Snow

This one is really really dark. It took me a while to get into it as there are so many different characters. The story is told by three misfit characters – all very unique and (in the beginning at least), not particularly likable. A beautiful, popular girl is murdered (found in the snow). The story itself is very eerie and rather unsettling. I thought what made the book particularly good was her character development. Each characterhad so many complicated layers. She really nailed that part. And while it’s slow at first, I ended up loving it.

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Grade: A

Final Girls

Oh my. This was by far, one of the best thrillers I’ve read in ages. It’s sort of like a horror movie meets mystery… flashing back and forth between a horrific event from the past vs. a modern day mystery; with tons of twists and turns along the way. I kept thinking that I had it all figured out, and I kept being surprised. That’s the sign of a great thriller to me!!! The main character, Quincy, endured a horrible massacre where 5 of her friends were killed, but she survives, making her a “Final Girl.” I could not put it down and finished it off within a couple days.

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Grade: B

Commonwealth

This took me a really long time to get into. Like, halfway through. I thought something was wrong with me as this book received SO much praise but I was just “meh” about it. I felt like something was wrong with me as it’s received so so much press! That being said, once I got into it, certain elements of the story started to unfold and I found myself enjoying it more. What I did like about it was it’s complicated, realistic portrayal of family… and how important that bond is.

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Grade: A

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

This was recommended to me by two of the people I respect most when it comes to taste in books. My mom, and Victoria. It follows the story of Li-yan, a young girl living in the remote Chinese mountains. Her family is is tea farmers and we watch her grow up (enduring some of the most incredible difficulties but ultimately persevering – leaving her village to seek an education). Anything I write isn’t going to do it justice so I will just say that what I loved most about it is how much I learned (about Chinese culture and tea farming) but also the way that everything comes together in the end.

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Grade: A-

Fitness Junkie

From the team that brought you The Knockoff, this is a funny, witty takedown of New York City’s obsession with crazy wellness trends. I mean, it’s a little crazy how obsessed we’ve all become with wellness. This takes you on the main character Janey’s journey to lose a little weight. It starts with green juice and turns into cultish workout classes, spiritual healers, naked yoga.. the works. There’s also (of course) a cute little love story. It’s fun, it’s light… I read it in a couple days and could not put it down to save my life!

 

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Grade: A-

Miss You

This is one of the best love stories I’ve ever read. It’s the story of Gus and Tess, who meet when they are 18 and continue to just *miss* each other for years and years and years (the story ends when they’re 34). It’s one of those stories that is just so wonderful as it is romantic and beautiful but also very real. Both characters go through huge losses and incredibly difficult times… but there’s also this wonderful romantic element. I couldn’t put it down and cried at the end. A bit like The Light We Lost in that way, except this month I was crying happy tears.

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Grade: A-

How to Fall in Love With Anyone

I was overjoyed to receive a copy of this book as I loved Mandy Len Cantron’s Modern Love piece. Her book is part memoir, part cultural study – drawing upon her own relationships, her parents’ + grandparents’ relationship, other books and even fairy tales (her takedown of Cinderella is kind of epic). I really loved it, as I really enjoy reading about love and share a lot her beliefs about love. It’s really smartly written, fun to read, and I’d absolutely recommend it no matter what your romantic status might be.

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Grade: A-

Tuesday Nights in 1980

This book probably the most accurate and real depiction of life in New York I’ve seen… though it is technically set before I was born, ha ha. Reading it made me wish I lived here way back then. It centers around the art world, and three main characters. There’s a synesthetic art critic (synesthesia is when your senses get crossed… you hear colors, see colors when you taste flavors, etc – it’s fascinating!), an emerging artist, and a young girl who moves to the big city from the midwest. The book tells all three of their intersecting stories… love, loss, and so on and so forth. It’s a must-read.

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Grade: B+

Into The Water

This is Paula Hawkins’ highly-anticipated next book after authoring Girl on the Train. Okay so this was hard to follow at first, and I didn’t know exactly where it was going. It was told from the perspective of at least eight or nine different people, so I found myself flipping back and forth. But once I got into it, I was hooked. I will admit that I did guess the ending, but there were twists along the way that I hadn’t thought of. If you are looking for a dark thriller that you can devour within a couple of days, this is it!!!

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Grade: A

The Light We Lost

I think that everyone in some way or form can relate to the main character, Lucy – she’s torn between her free-spirited (selfish) ex, and the more reliable man that she ends up marrying. Don’t we all have one of those… the Big, the Aiden… the guy who makes us feel alive and young but know we can’t depend on versus the reliable guy? Anyway, this is her story… it felt so real and true (and reminded me of stories so many of my married friends have told me), and I will just say that I sobbed the entire last chapter. It’s an absolute must read.

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Grade: A-

Fake Plastic Love

This is the story of two college best friends. There’s M – a practical investment banker who puts work over love and prefers corduroys and loafers. And then there’s her bestie, Belle – a wide-eyed and whimsical fashion blogger. The book follows them through college and into their thirties, alongside adventures with their new friend Jeremy. What I loved most about it was the lesson underneath… the importance of living your life as opposed to performing (Belle) or being afraid of taking chances (M). The story is told in a modern-day Gatsby-esque way; you won’t be able to put it down.

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Grade: B

How to Be Married

I will admit, I put reading this book off. I am not married, and being married is not particularly high on my list of priorities now. Reading an entire book about marriage felt kind of… miserable? Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. Piazza writes in a way that is realistic, self-deprecating, and funny. My issue with everyone’s idealization of marriage and “the one” is that everything – movies, books, etc. makes getting married feel like the ultimate goal in life, but then what happens afterward!? What I liked about this book was the realistic depiction of love (she writes, lovingly, about how awful her honeymoon was), and also all of the fun little bits of trivia woven throughout.

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Grade: A-

Romancing The Throne

This one, by Nadine Courtney Jolie was so much fun to read. I don’t know why I love reading about the royals so much but I do… maybe because it’s a bit of an escape, especially given our own political climate? If  you loved The Royal We, you will love this one! It details two sisters… best friends.. who fall for the same guy – the Prince! It could easily be Kate + Pippa Middleton fan fiction (who knows!?) and it’s the perfect light, fun, summer beach read. You won’t be able to put it down.

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Grade: A-

The Rules Do Not Apply

I knew before opening this book that it would tear me apart but I wanted to read it all the same. It deals with love and loss in a major way. I am not someone who cries a lot but this made me cry. First we learn about her feminist/slightly unconventional upbringing, and then it tells the love story between her and her ex-wife Lucy… from there she experiences a series of devastating, dramatic losses. I don’t want to tell you everything that happens or I’ll ruin it, so I will just tell you it’s really sad… but also, I think, an important read. If you’ve ever felt like you were watching your whole life unravel, you will be able to relate. It’s messy, heartbreaking, and deeply moving.

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Grade: A-

Secrets in Summer

Nancy Thayer is one of my favorite summer authors… her books are easy and fun to read (and usually take place in Nantucket, where Thayer has lived for 32 years!) They’re like a pint of chocolate ice cream – you’ll want to sit down with them and gobble up the whole thing. Last summer, I read (and loved!) The Island House – her books are light and fun. This one has the main character (Darcy) happily living on Nantucket when her ex-husband and his new family move in next door. Drama ensues!

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Grade: B

This Must Be The Place

So, this took me a while to get into. I think it’s because there are so many characters, all with very complicated relationships. So it took a while but once I was in, I was in. The main character Daniel lives in Ireland with his (recluse of an ex-film star) wife. Meanwhile he has his own children who live in California. Things surface from the past and he has to go back to America. It’s a love story, and it’s a little bit all over the place, but it’s worth taking the time to read because the story is really beautifully written.

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Grade: A

Sweetbitter

I love love loved this book, by Stephanie Danler. It was so real and I could relate to it on so many levels. No, I did not move to New York and get a job waiting tables but I did grow up in a restaurant and work every single job a person could do (from busing tables to waitressing to even yes… dishwashing!) So I related/felt very nostalgic to that part a lot, but also the feeling of what it’s like being really young in New York (not the case anymore) and living in Brooklyn (the main character lived in Williamsburg which is where I just moved). It’s gotten mixed reviews amongst my friend circle but I could not put it down. It’s so real and raw and just wonderful.

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Grade: A

Slightly South of Simple

I knew when I saw that Elin Hilderbrand had called the author “the next major voice in Southern Fiction” that I was in for a treat, and I was. This is the story of three sisters (all in very different stages of life) who return home to their mother’s home in a little town in Georgia. It’s part of a series of three books and I cannot wait for the next one to come out. All of the characters are very endearing (and relatable) and you really do fall in love/invest in each one of their stories. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a few days. This is your perfect vacation book/beach read.

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Grade: A

The Wicked City

If you loved The Dollhouse, you will love this. It alternates between modern day and the twenties during Prohibition. I fell in love with both of the main characters.In present day, you have Ella – who just discovered that her husband had been cheating on her with a prostitute. Back in the twenties, you have Gin (short for Ginger) who has been charged with helping to take down her sadistic stepfather who is also one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers. When I was finished I felt a little bit sad, as though I was saying goodbye to two close friends.

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Grade: A-

All The Missing Girls

What I loved most about this psychological thriller is that it’s sold in reverse. Nicolette returns home to care for her ailing father after ten years. Ten years ago, her best friend Corinne had disappeared. Shortly after arriving back home, another girl goes missing. Throughout the course of the book, Nicolette unravels the story of what happened to both missing girls… revealing secrets about her family and friendships. Megan Miranda writes very similarly to Gillian Flynn and there have been a lot of comparisons between the two.

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Grade: A+

The Book Thief.

Oh man – this book was beautifully written. Set in Nazi Germany and told from the perspective of Death, you can imagine that you will need tissues. All of them. It follows the story of the main character Liesel (aka the book thief) from age nine to fourteen and what her life was like during Hitler’s rule. It’s heartwarming and funny at times but also heartbreaking. Over 10 million copies have been sold – it’s a classic, I’m not sure how I read it so much later. Be prepared to laugh and cry… it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read in a while!

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Grade: A

Free Gift With Purchase

If you’ve been reading here for long then you know that Jean Godfrey-June is one of my favorites. I’ve followed her writing for years and read her memoir ages ago when it came out. I was reminded of it more recently (while reading Cat Marnell’s memoir) and re-inspired to pick it back up. I’m glad I did. Even ten years later, it’s such a fun read – and an amazing look into the glamorous beauty industry + world of magazines. Jean is such a wonderful story teller, and does so in such a humble (self-deprecating) and relatable way.

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Grade: A

The Dollhouse.

Fellow historical fiction nerds, you will love this! SO many of you recommended it to me, so thank you for that! There are two strong women (both in New York) and the book tells their parallel stories (taking place in modern day as well as the fifties). It’s set at the glamorous Barbizon Hotel (referred to back then as The Dollhouse, as it was where all of the aspiring models, editors, and secretaries lived back in the fifties… now it’s condos). There is a dark secret and a big mystery to untangle, which happens as the novel progresses. Such a good one.

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Grade: A-

Since She Went Away

A superbly written thriller. You will definitely get Gone Girl vibes, reading it. Jenna Barton’s best friend Celia disappears from thin air out of her Midwestern town… leaving behind her husband and child. At the same time, Jenna’s son’s girlfriend also disappears. Shady things are going down. Jenna, blaming herself for Celia’s disappearance, dedicates herself to doing everything she can to finding her missing friend. If you loved Gone Girl, you will absolutely love this and won’t be able to put it down.

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Grade: A

How to Murder Your Life.

Holy Moly. Cat Marnell’s memoir is amazing. I was a big fan of hers when she was an editor at Lucky but didn’t learn about the darker side of her life until much later. Cat writes about her life as a beauty editor and her secret life as a drug addict. She recounts crazy story after crazy story in a tone that is relatable, irreverent, and funny. It’s almost like you are talking to your best friend – except your best friend has been in and out of rehab, mental hospitals, etc. It is hard to read at times but such a page turner.

 

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Grade: A-

Behind Closed Doors

I will warn you that this book is very emotionally draining and upsetting. That’s your warning, and that being said, I devoured it. It’s incredibly twisted. Think of that perfect couple we all know… a beautiful house, movie star good looks, seemingly perfect in every way. It didn’t help that the main character’s name is Grace, either. It may seem as though I am complaining, but I’m not. It is is one of the most horrifying and terrifying psychological thrillers I’ve read in a while. I read it in 24 hours – needed to know the ending!

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Grade: B+

Commander in Chief

The steamy sequel to Mr. President. In January’s reading list I confided that I was a bit embarrassed that I read and enjoyed this so much (the series is basically 50 Shades meets West Wing) but I couldn’t put it down! Not every book I read and write about here is going to save the world. The plot line is pretty implausible (if you can even get past the part where the president is 35 years old and having an affair with a 23 year old), but it really doesn’t matter… it’s fun to read and sometimes that is all that matters.

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Grade: B-

Local Girls

This book is the story of four close friends, living in Central Florida. They’re working dead-end jobs, unmotivated, and mostly unhappy. The story alternates between a chance encounter with their favorite movie star (on the last night of his life) and a past incident that broke up their group of friends. What I enjoyed most about it was the accurate depiction of friendships at that age (they were 19) and the nostalgia it made me feel (my childhood wasn’t anything like theirs but I had similar situations in my friendships).

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Grade: A

The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector, by Kathleen Tessaro is one of my favorite books. It was a Christmas gift from my mom, and she has the best taste in books. It follows Grace Munroe as she mysteriously inherits an apartment and a large sum of money from a stranger. The tale weaves through London, New York, Monte Carlo + Paris over several decades. It starts out very slow (albeit mysterious so you are still drawn in) but before you know it, you’re taken on all sorts of twists and turns. Perfume plays a big part of the story, which I loved as I spent the first half of my career working in the perfume business!

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Grade: B+

Mr. President

Okay, I am embarrassed to admit that I read Mr. President by Katy Evans but you know what? It was a fun read. I was going through a little bit of a rough time at the end of December and I wanted something totally mindless and silly to read. It’s sort of like, Scandal/West Wing meet 50 Shades of Gray. Yeah. I know. Not exactly highbrow and yes, a little bit (scratch that – quite!!) smutty. But it was fun, and sometimes you just need a fun book. If you’re looking for a mindless but steamy romance, pick this up.

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Grade: B+

Watching Edie

This book, by Camilla Way, is in a single word, very creepy. I had a lot of anxiety reading it and felt a little sick to my stomach at times. It explores the darker side of female friendships and is also pretty upsetting, but I would still recommend it. It alternate between the stories of two girls (at age 17 and then in their early thirties). You’ll find yourself nervous and a little disturbed but you also won’t be able to put it down. If you loved The Girl on the Train, this one is for you.

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Grade: A-

Modern Romance

I was certain that Modern Romance would be full of laughter as it was written by Aziz Ansari (one of my favorite comedians). Instead, it took a really well-thought out, scientific approach to looking at dating and what has changed since our parents’ generation. You’ll certainly laugh quite a bit, but you’ll learn a lot as well. If navigating the world of online dating has you down, I would definitely recommend this book!

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Grade: A

Attached

Attached is one of those books that will really change how you think. It’s different than the typical self-help book in that it’s founded upon extensive research and science. Basically, half of the population can be classified as “secure;” and the other half are either “anxious” or “avoidant.” The book deals with how identifying your own attachment style and how to interact with the other styles. For me, it really made me think a lot about past relationships from an objective and unemotional perspective.. and develop a better handle on what I’d like in a partner going forward.

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Grade: A-

The Couple Next Door

This is another creepy thriller (my favorite!) and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. A young couple goes over to their neighbors’ house for dinner… and something terrible happens. There are several twists and turns (I guessed one, the others I did not). It reminded me a little bit of a mix between Truly Madly Guilty and The Widow. I will say that I did not find any of the characters to be particularly likable (this was done intentionally, I think), but still.. the plot was really, really good – and eerie. Don’t read this one before bed!

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Grade: B

The Regulars

This was a reader recommendation, thank you! It really surprised me. The pink cover leads you to think it’s going to be fluffy chick-lit or a fun beach read. I love a good beach read… but this one turned out to be surprisingly smart + feminist, which was a nice surprise. Three best friends discover a drug called “Pretty”, which makes them absolutely beautiful (think of Limitless, but just for looks). Doors open (and close) based upon their newfound prettiness… but it’s not as predictable as you might think. I really enjoyed it and think that it sends a really nice, empowering message to its readers.

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Grade: A

The Nightingale

This book left me emotionally wrecked and devastated, for lack of better words. SO many of you recommended it (thank you, thank you!!!) I was up very late two nights in a row reading it and rushed to finish my work this past Monday so that I could sit down and spend Monday night reading. Set during World War II, it chronicles the stories of two sisters, living in a Nazi-inhabited France. One of the sisters is a rebel and the other is more of a rule follower but they both leave their mark and help to save lives in their own ways. Please, please read this. You will laugh and cry and be on the edge of your seat. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in ages and I really truly hope they make a movie out of it.

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Grade: A

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

This book was so, so good. So good. It’s one of those books that leaves you feeling really good when you finish it. It was definitely a change of pace as I’ve been reading so many thrillers. The plot centers around a famous musician (Frankie Presto) who dies on stage. The story is narrated mostly by “Music” (yes, the gift of Music, personified…) as well as the other people in Frankie’s life (agents, managers, even modern day celebs you may recognize.. like Ingrid Michaelson). The story takes you through Frankie’s childhood + later years, from birth all the way to his death. The author, Mitch Abom (he wrote Tuesdays with Morrie) is one of my faves when it comes to heartfelt, sweet novels. Everything in the story is connected, and I found myself completely enthralled with it! I really, really loved this one.

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Grade: B+

I Let You Go

The publicist for this book noticed my disappointment in The Widow (also one of their books) and said that based upon my feelings there, I absolutely had to read this! Anyway… it really kept me on my toes with one crazy twist and then another. The first twist is in the middle and completely threw me off my game. The second came later. I highly, highly recommend this. As I write this, I wish I could re-read it. If you loved Gone Girl and/or all of the Liane Moriarty books as much as I did, you will love this! Order immediately.

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Grade: B

The Girls

This was another reader recommendation and was so creepy! The actual plot isn’t something I would choose for myself (it deals with a Northern California cult in the sixties and a murder). What stood out to me about this one is the way it was written. The author, Emma Cline, has a really beautiful way with words – you’d never believe it was her first novel.

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Grade: A

We Were Liars

Oof. This one really threw me. It’s a shorter book (and from the Young Adult section), and I only picked it up because one of you recommended it in July (THANK YOU, Marisa!) It started out so innocently, detailing a wealthy family’s charming existence on a family island off of Martha’s Vineyard. And then everything sort of just goes to hell, and there is this massive twist. I had the misfortune of reading it right before a party and was so distraught over the ending + twist and had no one to talk to about it!!!

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Grade: A-

The Light Between Oceans

This book will break your heart. It is a great book (and an older-ish one, though the paperback just came out) but I picked it up because I had been invited to an advanced screening of the movie, and I always read the book before seeing the movie. I wish I didn’t… it left me in tears. Then again, the movie is pretty heartbreaking as well.

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Grade: A-

The Woman in Cabin 10

This might have been the summer of 2016’s big thriller (everyone I know is raving about it!) and I will say that it completely lived up to the hype (with a big twist… yes!) I will say that it’s extremely dark. I got to a point where I couldn’t read it before bed as I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep (I live by myself). But I loved it, everyone loved it, it’s kinda just mandatory that you read it to talk about it!

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Grade: A-

Eligible

I love Curtis Sittenfeld and this one took me all of one day to read. Literally. It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon and I was supposed to be working on my blog. Instead, I was reading this. I couldn’t put it down. I just loved it so much. It’s a modern day telling of Pride & Prejudice which wasn’t particularly compelling to me, but I love the author’s work. She does such a great job describing the dynamic between families (especially sisters) and the love stor(ies) involved are also very raw and real. I had to know what happened next and kept reading right on through til the evening, which to me is the sign of a great book.

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Grade: B-

Truly, Madly, Guilty

This was the latest from Liane Moriarty, one of my all-time favorite authors. Okay, hear me out. I have read all of her books and this is her worst one. But it’s still really good. I ended up really enjoying it, but it took me a very long time to really get into it. I had a hard time relating to the characters until the plot got juicy (which was about 40% through the book). That being said, I still liked it. It deals with three couples that hang out at a BBQ. Something terrible happens. You see how they all cope, then you find out what happens, then things get resolved, and you learn a few more juicy bits. Her portrayal of the relationships between both the couples and the female friends are very real. I just wish it didn’t take so long to get to the good part.

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Grade: A-

Here’s to Us

Elin Hilderbrand’s Here’s to Us is another great beach read. I don’t know how, but I’ve never read any of Hilderbrand’s books and she has written SO MANY! (So many of my girlfriends are die-hard fans). Anyway, this one deals with the death of a celebrity chef and his crazy family (consisting of his three ex-wives and three children from each marriage). Could you imagine, three wives living together in a beach house for a long weekend? Oof. With lots of different stories and plot lines going on with each character, I found myself immersed in this one… I (again) read it in a day.

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Grade: B+

The Assistants

I absolutely LOVED The Assistants, by Camille Perri! This was such a fun read that I read it in under a day. If you loved The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll love this. The characters are incredibly real (and likeable) and the story is (while a bit implausible at times) totally crazy and fun. I really hope that they turn this one into a movie as I could completely envision it being such a good one.

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Grade: C+

The Widow

Okay okay, I hate saying it, but I was very disappointed by The Widow from Fiona Barton. I am including it here because I still enjoyed it… it was well-written and intriguing to read… but everyone was hailing it as the next Gone Girl. So I read and I read, the whole time, expecting a big plot twist. There was no twist, and I was bummed out. It’s still a good book… but it wasn’t Gone Girl. A word to the literary critics out there – just because a book is ultra dark doesn’t make it the next Gone Girl.. it needs to have a good twist!

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Grade: B

Pretending to Dance

I really enjoyed Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain. It alternates between the protagonist (Molly)’s upbringing in a small North Carolina town + her life in present day San Diego as she tries to adopt a child (whilst dealing with some pretty heavy issues from her own childhood). Although there were a lot of times throughout the story that I was very annoyed/frustrated with Molly, (I’m sure this was intentional on Chamberlain’s part), I eventually warmed to her and I really loved the ending.

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Grade: A

A Man Called Ove

I checked out A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (several of you had recommended reading it), and I loved every minute. It was one of the sweetest, most heartwarming books I’ve read in ages. I am not a big crier, but this one had me choking up (poolside, glass of rosé in hand… causing a lot of confusion to my friends). I can’t say enough good things about it… it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read all summer. It will make you look at the older, grumpier people in your life a bit differently.

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Grade: A-

What Alice Forgot

I guess it’s safe to say that I’m really, really into all things Liane Moriarty right now. The main character (Alice, of course), wakes up at the gym. She’s fallen off of her spin bike and has forgotten the past ten years of her life… the years between 29 and 39. A lot has changed. She’s estranged from her husband, has three children who she does not remember, and finds all of her new friends to be… rather annoying and obnoxious. I thought it was especially interesting how the book explored the relationships between the characters… managing to portray such a realistic look at what can change in all types of relationships (family, friends, marriage) over time… and the work that you have to put in to repair them.

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Grade: A

First Comes Love

First was Emily Giffin’s First Comes Love. I should note that Emily Giffin has been one of my favorite authors for as long as I can remember. I devoured Something Borrowed and Something Blue and subsequently read every single one of her other books. It had been a little while since her last book so I was very excited to get my paws on this. I read it in a matter of two days. If you have sisters then you understand the complicated bonds between siblings. She hit the nail on the head with this one. I really, really loved it.

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Grade: A

Valley of the Dolls

Valley of the Dolls was just re-released for it’s 50th Anniversary. While I never read it the first time around, I am so excited to sit down and read the new edition. That will be my classic, this time around.

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Grade: A

Red Rising

Red Rising is OMGERRRRD my latest YA obsession. It was recommended to me by one of my friends while at a wedding in Hawaii this past September. I ordered it on the spot per her instructions. But my book pile was so high that I only just got to it now. So good. So, so very good. I am reading the second book (Golden Sun) in the trilogy to read while at home this week, and the third book is waiting for me when I get home to New York.

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Grade: A

The Husband’s Secret

The Husband’s Secret was recommended to me by some of you (thank you!!) and I loved it. This also deals with the bonds of family. It kept me on my toes and guessing the whole time. This was my first time reading one of Leane Moriarty’s books so now I’ve ordered Big Little Lies, next!

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Grade: A-

The Singles Game

The Singles Game, by Lauren Weisberger (author of The Devil Wears Prada) is such a fun read. Lauren Weisberger is another one of my favorite authors in that I’ve read everything she’s written and usually read her books in under a day or two. I devoured this one in all of two days. This one detailed an up & coming tennis star’s rise to fame (and all the complicated stuff that comes with it). It’s a light, fun read.

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Grade: A-

Beautiful Ruins

Lastly, there is this month’s book club book, Beautiful Ruins, which we will be discussing tonight.  I really, really loved this book. It was beautifully written and takes you on a whirlwind adventure (alternating between a tiny coastal town in Italy during the sixties, and modern day America.) Richard Burton makes an appearance and you get a really incredible sense for the film industry… but more importantly, it’s just lovely to read and the character development is exquisite. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while.

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Grade: B+

Unfriending my Ex and Other Things I’ll Never Do

I just started reading Unfriending My Ex and Other Things I’ll Never Do (I started it right before The Book of Life came in the mail) and it is laugh out loud funny… especially if you work in social media. The author, Kim Stolz is a true Internet addict. It’s smartly written and a fun read, but as entertaining as it is, it is a great reminder that we can (temporarily, of course) live without our phones to live in the moment… and that all that connectivity actually leads to us feeling disconnected in real life.

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Grade: A-

The Book of Life

This one is for the geek girls. Admittedly, I’ve only just started The Book of Life but have been so. excited. for. it. all. summer. So I had to include it here. Naturally, it isn’t for everyone, but if you are into witches + vampires (like me) and haven’t read the All Souls Trilogy, you must. Unlike most books about witches, it actually isn’t a young adult book. It’s smartly written, rich in historical fiction, and (though I found that the first book started out slowly) a page turner once you get into it.

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Grade: A-

The Circle

My book club read The Circle last month, but I couldn’t make it. To be honest, this book freaked me out a little bit.. mostly because I could see it being real. It also made me really think about how much and how often I’m sharing on social media. The main character gets her dream job at a company (that bears a striking resemblance to Google or Apple) and madness ensues. She finds herself going from someone who doesn’t feel comfortable sharing her life online to sharing everything… eventually isolating her family, friends, even some of her coworkers. I found it fascinating. If you work in social media (or for a tech company, it’s a must-read.

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Grade: A-

The Last Letter From Your Lover

I tore through this in just a few days. I could not put it down. I needed to know what happened! I’ve loved her other books too.. they’re all beautifully written, and they all make me cry. Similar to The Girl You Left Behind, this one contained two intersecting stories from both modern day and past. In this one, a young woman wakes up… not remembering a thing. Looking for clues about who she is, she begins to find letters hidden around her house from a man she loved (not her husband.) I became obsessed with knowing their fate (hence how quickly I devoured it), rooting for a happy ending. If you’re looking for a book that will make you stay up all night, this is it.

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Grade: A

The Goldfinch

I will tell you that I have not yet finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but that as I write this, I’m rushing to get off of the computer because I cannot wait to sit down with it.  It’s exquisitely written {and over 700 pages long}  but you just want to take your time and soak up every word.  This is the sort of book that will turn you into a recluse.

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Grade: B+

With Malice

With Malice is one of those fun YA thrillers that you can power through in a single day. There’s a good twist (one that I did not see coming). I am not sure why but the plot line of this one really disturbed me… more than with my usual thrillers. Probably because the characters were so young, and one of them did something really awful and then couldn’t remember it. You really hurt + feel for her. This is worth picking up, especially if you have a long flight. You’ll fly right through it and be entertained the entire time.

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Grade: A

The Girl You Left Behind

My mom gave me this book by JoJo Moyes for Christmas a couple years ago.  I devoured it in a matter of days, and cried my face off at the ending {in a good way.}  I really love historical fiction and loved that this one told two women’s stories… one set during the war in France, and one set in present day.  It was my first JoJo Moyes book, and may be my favorite!

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Grade: A

Faithful

I finished this one within a day. I (literally) could not put it down. It’s a coming of age tale in a weird sense – the main character Shelby is in a terrible car crash (she is the driver) that destroys her best friend. She blames herself for the accident, wishes it were the other way around, and is completely and utterly emotionally devastated by it. Gradually pulls herself together… moving to New York City, getting a job, going back to school, and finding love (a few different times). The realness and rawness of the characters is incredible, and with all of Alice Hoffman’s book, a little magic is involved.

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Grade: A-

Small Great Things

This is Jodi Picoult’s latest and this time around, she deals with race. It takes place in a hospital + centers around Ruth, a black nurse; and white supremacist parents. The parents don’t want Ruth to touch their child and so she’s reassigned. Something terrible happens, and before you know it Ruth is charged with a terrible crime. Picoult writes (believably) from the perspectives of Ruth, the supremacist father, and Kennedy (Ruth’s white lawyer). It’s beautifully written, a page turner, but most importantly, it will make you think a lot about race and privilege.

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Grade: A

Water for Elephants

Ever dream of running away to join the circus? Okay me neither, but you’ll still love this book. An orphaned, penniless Jacob Jankowski finds himself running away during the Great Depression… jumping onto an old train that is home to the Benzini Brothers circus. It ends up turning into a job (one that he both loves + hates) along with two love stories (one with Rosie the elephant, one with Marlena – the star of the show). I found it hard to put down. It’s now a movie, but the book is even better!

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Grade: A+

The Devil in the White City

This is my favorite book. Hands down, favorite. It’s centered around the Chicago World’s Fair (and the history + making of that) so you learn a lot. But also, a very clever serial killer (masquerading as a charming doctor), who uses the fair to lure in his victims. It’s both magical and horrific… and the crazy part is that it’s a true story! If you’ve never read it, it is an absolute must!!

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Grade: A

Leaving Time

I read Leaving Time over two years ago and I still think about it all the time. First of all, I love elephants (and they are central to the plot here). Secondly, the big twist at the end is so major. And of course, Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. Jenna Metcalf is a teenager, searching for her mother who disappeared from an elephant sanctuary. Along the way, she consults a psychic and a private detective, forming a makeshift family. The ending is really, really good!

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Grade: B

After You

This is the sequel to Me Before You, everybody’s favorite. It picks up where we left off after Me Before You… Louisa is an absolute wreck. Everyone I talked to either LOVED it or was not impressed. I personally really loved it. I felt like I got a little bit of closure and liked knowing what Louisa was up to after Will’s death… and I thought the plot + character development were both really interesting. As a character, Louisa can be pretty annoying at times, but if you loved Me Before You as much as I do you will enjoy this.

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Grade: A

But What if We’re Wrong

I am a big fan of Chuck Klosterman (the man is a genius and I just love how his brain works!) I don’t read enough non-fiction so when I do, it tends to take me a long time to get through it. I’m plowing along through this though… it takes an interesting perspective, looking at the present and future through the lens of the past. It will change your perspective and help you remember how little we actually know!

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Grade: B

Rich and Pretty

This book is great – it’s a much lighter read, but it was fun. It’s the coming of age story of best friends from middle school through middle age. (One is very rich, and one is very pretty). I thought it did a really great job capturing the intricacies of close female friendships, which we all know can be both very rewarding and very difficult. It is a little bit slow at times but overall I really enjoyed it.

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Grade: A-

Follow Me Into The Dark

This is written by my brilliant friend Felicia Sullivan. I love a good twist (and I know you do too)… this one has TWO. It’s sort of a cross between Gillian Flynn’s work and The Silence of the Lambs, but better written. It deals with two generations of women (both terribly mistreated by their mothers). So you have these fascinating mother-daughter relationships (both wrought with disturbing abuse), as well as the complicated relationship between Gillian and her brother Jonah. Buried in there, there’s a serial killer, the two big twists, and a lot of pain + sadness. It is a masterpiece.

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Grade: A-

The 24-Hour Wine Expert

This book is genius! Wine can be so intimidating but this book does an incredible job breaking down all of the important elements and make you more confident in ordering wine (from the different varietals and regions to ordering at a restaurant). You won’t be an expert in 24 hours (simply because you can’t taste that much wine in 24 hours) but you will learn a LOT.

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Grade: A-

The Career Code

I read the Career Code in just a few days and I have to say, it has some of the best practical advice I’ve read in a career-book in a long time. It provides advice that everyone can benefit from (like, always look put together as you never know who you will see… and making standing reservations at your favorite restaurants). It deals with everything from the interview process to interacting with colleagues, getting a promotion, etc. The WhoWhatWear girls hit it out of the park with this one!

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Grade: A+

The Crossroads of Should and Must

The Crossroads of Should and Must is a must-have book for everyone. This sounds trite but whenever I am feeling at all lost or stressed, I will pick it up and thumb through it. It’s a great reminder of the things in life that are actually important. The things you should do, vs. the things you must do. It always gets me back on track and has really helped me a lot in life in terms of finding meaning in my life and work… and making those tougher calls.

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Grade: A-

Half Bad

I bought this book because Eva Chen had it on her instagram, and I could not put it down! It’s set in modern day England where there are two warring factions of witches (one good, one bad) and the main character Nathan is the son of the world’s worst witch, Marcus. He has to track down his father to find out his three gifts and get his own magical powers, before it’s too late. Easier said than done.

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Grade: A-

Silver Bay

Jojo Moyes is a favorite of mine and I devoured this one. Set in Silver Bay, an old seaside town… a stranger arrives and romance ensues. But it’s complicated as everyone involved has secrets. I find that many of Jojo Moyes’ books follow a similar pattern (rich man rescues woman who is sad and/or a bit of a mess) but still, they never get old. This is one of her best ones.

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Grade: A-

One + One

This felt a little bit like the movie Little Miss Sunshine (quirky family, crazy roadtrip) but only if you add on a single mom and turn it into a romance. Make sense? It’s a classic Jojo Moyes romance… you won’t be able to put it down!

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Grade: B+

Eleanor & Park

I thought this book was really, really cute. It’s a refreshing look at young love and made me remember what it was like to be young. This one is supposedly written for teens, but I think it might be written for grownups just for the very reason that it takes us back. It chronicles a slow-budding romance between Eleanor and Park from the day they sit next to each other on the bus (ignoring each other, at first).

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Grade: A-

The Maze Runner

Everybody raves and raves about Hunger Games and Divergent, but this series is just as good! The unsung hero of the YA adult world, if you will. A boy wakes up in a box and in an unknown land… unable to remember anything. Craziness obviously ensues. There are three books in the trilogy and I guarantee you’ll be hooked. I didn’t love the movie but the book is so good!

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Grade: A

The Tipping Point

This is one of those books I just reach for again and again. Malcom Gladwell is a genius and I love his thoughts on how the world works, and how the littlest things can make such a big difference. It’s a must for marketers, but really just for anyone who wants to understand the world + how people work a little bit better.

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Grade: A

Big Magic

This is the latest one from Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love). I really enjoyed it, possibly more than I enjoyed Eat Pray Love as it’s packed with useful information. If you’re in a creative rut, looking for ways to be more creative, or feeling out of ideas… this is a good one to read!

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Grade: B-

Charlie, Presumed Dead

This one was a little bit weird, but still pretty good. It follows two girls (both girlfriends of Charlie, who yes… is presumed dead) on a wild goose chase around the world as they try to figure out what happened to their (presumably dead) boyfriend. It’s strange and weird but fun all the same.

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Grade: A

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Sloane Crosley is one of my favorite authors and I really loved her book of hilarious + witty essays. I bought it years ago when it first came out and pick it back up from time to time when I want a good laugh.

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Grade: B

Straight to Hell

This one was authored by John LeFevre (the genius behind the legendary Goldman Sachs Elevator twitter account.) I couldn’t put it down and found myself gasping more than once because I couldn’t believe some of the things he wrote could possibly be real. It’s amusing and terrifying all at once. If you loved The Wolf of Wall Street, read this.

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Grade: A

The Royal We

I could not put this book down. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did as I’m not particularly Royals-obsessed, but I read it in 36 hours and then convinced all of my girlfriends to read it. It’s Kate Middleton fan-fiction in the best sense of the word. Be prepared to fall in love with the characters!

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Grade: A-

The Luckiest Girl Alive

This book was hailed as 2015’s Gone Girl, and while I won’t say that it quite lived up to that level of hype (has any book actually succeeded in being the next Gone Girl?) I really enjoyed it. It takes you on a wild journey; alternating between growing up in Philadelphia + the protagonist’s life in New York.

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Grade: A

The Knockoff

You know a book is really good when you are late to dinner because you got out of the shower, sat down in your towel, and thought to yourself… “I’ll just read a few more pages…” only to finish the entire book. This happened. As someone who spent the last four years working in fashion/tech, I really enjoyed this one. If you work in the industry you’ll find yourself nodding your head and laughing as you pick up on uncanny resemblances for some of the characters. It’s like The Devil Wears Prada, but better.

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Grade: A-

Everybody Rise.

I’ve always been fascinated by New York society and the social-climbing that (I would imagine) comes with it. This was juicy. You find yourself loving and hating the main character all at once as she tries to pass herself off as old money… making some really terrible decisions along the way. Clifford has been called a modern day Edith Wharton and I can totally see why. It’s set in Manhattan in 2006 and provides an inside look at the Upper East Side, designer wardrobes, debutante balls, society etiquette, and so much more. I was transfixed, and couldn’t put it down.

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Grade: A

A Discovery of Witches

So this book is not exactly Young Adult in the sense that it’s written really well. It’s sort of like, Young Adult for grownups. My friend Hitha recommended it and all of my girlfriends + I devoured it! Diana Bishop is a scholar (descended from a family of witches but unaware of her powers) who unlocks/discovers a hidden manuscript. A wild ride ensues. Bonus points for a really, really hot vampire… Matthew Clairmont, we love you!

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Grade: B+

Summer Secrets

I’ve been a big Jane Green fan for years now, ever since reading Jemima J, and was excited that she had a new book coming out. I read it in one day. It follows the main character from her late twenties into her forties, dealing with her battle with alcoholism + single motherhood…  after a shocking family secret is revealed. Similar to Everybody Rise, she makes a lot of mistakes… but you really come to root for her. I fell in love with both of the main characters.

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Grade: A-

Eight Hundred Grapes

I read this one while in Sonoma, which was fun as the book is actually set there. Do you know when something goes wrong in your life, and then you expect things to get better and they just keep getting worse? That’s what happens here. The author has a life changing event, and returns home only to find secret after secret unraveling at her family’s winery. I thought it was very real and raw and managed to perfectly capture the complexity of relationships. That being said, I still managed to finish it within an afternoon.

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