Sometimes I just get in moods where all I want to do is read, and this month one of those moods hit me. I think it was the combination of warmer weather, school ending, and just the general energy and time-to-relax vibe that the beginning of summer brings that made me want to make time for as much reading as possible.
I managed to squeeze in six books this month and I’m excited to talk about them all so let’s get right to it!
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
You know how in made-for-TV holiday movies, the plot is always some version of a Serious Big City PersonTM traveling to a quaint small town and falling in love with both the charming area and the Wholesome Small Town PersonTM? This book is what happens to the Career-Oriented Significant Other in the CityTM they leave behind.
Nora is a NYC-based literary agent who keeps getting dumped when her boyfriends travel to small towns and fall in love with the quiet, slower-paced life (and the baker/florist/owner of a Christmas tree farm they meet there). But Nora doesn’t want the small town life. She wants lively and bustling, not country and quaint. When her younger sister Libby begs for a girls-only getaway to the small town that inspired Nora’s client’s bestseller, Nora reluctantly agrees. Libby creates a small town bucket list for a transformative experience like the heroine in the book, but with each item checked off the list, Nora pines more and more for life back in the city. The only person she runs into that seems to feel the same way is Charlie Lastra, an editor that Nora has encountered before in NYC. It turns out Charlie is originally from this tiny town and while they might not have had the greatest first (or second) impressions, Charlie and Nora can’t seem to help running into one another again and again. Is it possible for them both to actually find happiness? And if so…where?
This book is both filled with tropes and written as a parody of tropes, which I found to be a clever and delightful mix. I loved that Nora didn’t apologize for who she was and stayed true to her actual self throughout the story. I relished Nora and Charlie’s chemistry and felt like both characters were written in such a realistic, layered way. Their banter is amazing, their romantic development is believable, and they just seem to fully get one another and accept the whole person. I mean really, isn’t that the best formula for a fun rom-com? The only part that felt a little forced was the “enemies” part; it’s such a strong word and didn’t feel quite right. It was more like…unpleasant initial encounters? Regardless, this was a winner for me and I smiled so many times while reading. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s warm and fuzzy, it’s satisfying, it’s just right. It pokes a little fun at tropey romance while also embracing tropey romance and that in a nutshell is how I also feel about tropey romance, so I found it very refreshing and entertaining. If tropes aren’t your thing, stay away, but if you can hang with them, I highly recommend this one!
Rated R for steam and language.
Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
Bee Königswasser is a brilliant, purple-haired neuroscientist who just landed a career-making lead position in a joint NIH/NASA backed project. It is a dream project in every sense except one: the co-leader of the project is none other than NASA engineer Levi Ward. Sure, he’s fairly dreamy himself, but their paths have already crossed back in grad school and Levi made it clear at the time that he had no interest whatsoever in working with Bee. Nevertheless, she isn’t going to let her nemesis ruin this chance of a lifetime . . . unless, of course, it’s already being ruined since her equipment hasn’t shown up and her emails are going unanswered and she’s dangerously close to getting kicked off this project. She needs Levi, her sworn scientific enemy, to get in her corner – but as she gets to know him more and more she realizes he may have already been there all along.
I happened to find this book at a Little Free Library while we were strolling the streets of New Orleans and just had to grab it. I started reading it practically right away, as we found a bar with an outdoor patio a few blocks away where Justin could watch playoff basketball and I could start reading. #fate
This ended up being a great choice for a light vacation read – perfect for reading at the bar, at the pool, lounging in the hotel, etc. If you’re going to do a rom com with only one character’s point of view, you have to make their inner thoughts entertaining and Bee’s are humorous and quirky and full of personality. I really like that Ali Hazelwood writes about women in STEM and not just in a fluffy, it’s a blip on the radar of the plot line kind of way – Bee’s love of science and career in academia is central to the entire plot. She’s an approachable, fun main character to root for! I also liked Levi as a solid male lead with a softer side. I do have a few critiques that keep this from being a runaway hit for me. First of all, I read The Love Hypothesis by this same author and honestly, the books are very similar in plot, characters, conflicts, etc. so it felt a little like deja vu. There is also absolutely nothing surprising – not to say there aren’t “twists” but there is not a single one I didn’t guess immediately. I don’t think that’s just because it was similar to The Love Hypothesis, I think it’s just because they’re all very obvious. The misunderstanding trope is not my favorite one (it always feels so juvenile!) but once that finally got out of the way, I appreciated Bee and Levi’s dynamic. All that being said, I still enjoyed this read because I didn’t expect too much from it. I didn’t need a twisty book full of surprises; I was in vacation mode and wanted fun, light, and easy to fly through so this one was very satisfying for me!
Rated R for steam and language.
Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan
“It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here. In her New York Times bestselling memoirs, Corrigan distilled our core relationships to their essences, showcasing a warm, easy storytelling style. Now, in Tell Me More, she’s back with a deeply personal, unfailingly honest, and often hilarious examination of the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.” – Description taken from Goodreads
This book is small but mighty. Over the course of twelve short story-style chapters, the author shares personal recollections of various experiences relating to phrases like “I Don’t Know,” “Good Enough,” “I Was Wrong,” and “It’s Like This.” It’s incredibly compelling, yet easy to digest. Some chapters are long and some are short, but they’re all standalone in a way that makes it easy to set the book down in between chapters so you have time to process and think if you want (which I did!) I want to re-read the “I love you” chapter again and again and again. I cried reading the “Onward” chapter. Each chapter feels a little bit like you’re sitting down to lunch with the author or lingering on the porch with a glass of wine just talking about family and failure and triumph and life. It’s deep and thought-provoking and relatable and funny. I texted my friend afterwards to tell her to put it on her TBR list and said: “It’s a good one for when you want to read something but just can’t decide what, or if you don’t want to settle in to a big book, or if you need a quick win after either a dud or a book that was long and took a lot of energy.” I highly recommend it.
Rated PG-13 for strong language
Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano
The Finlay Donovan series follows a divorced mom of two who is struggling as a writer . . . until she’s overheard describing the plot of her next book and inadvertently gets hired as a contract killer. In this book of the series, Finlay and her nanny Vero sign up to attend a citizen’s police academy – it’s the perfect place to get inspiration for her latest book deadline, try to learn the identity of a real contract killer, and provide a safety net from the mob boss who landed in jail thanks to them.
To be honest, this story felt dragged out and really didn’t move the overall plotline along much. So much happened, and yet nothing much happened in terms of providing any answers from the previous books. Like the second book, this one very much felt like a middle book to me. I do love Vero and I loved the entertaining little side plot with her friend Javi (and wanted way more of it!) That fun dynamic aside, I think I’m over this series. The books are comical but in an I Love Lucy kind of way where it’s slap-sticky and over the top. I found it charming and fun in book one and was willing to suspend some reality, but book two and three don’t have the same magic. Nonstop zany shenanigans that somehow perfectly work out every time have grown stale for me. This one picks up right where book two left off, but since I read that over a year ago it was hard to remember the plotlines and all. the. characters. (there are so many!) It’s possible I would have enjoyed it more if I jumped right in from book two. I read it quickly, skimmed a bit when I grew tired of the plot, and just kind of felt meh at the end. Fans of the first two books will likely enjoy this one, as it’s very similar, but for me the magic has faded and I’ll only be reading the 4th book if I’m sure it is the final one and everything will wrap up. If you do try this series, just know that the books are not standalones at all and you’ll need to read them all in order to have any sort of idea of what’s going on.
Rated PG-13 for mild language and a mostly closed door scene.
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
The Stockton family is living off a tremendous amount of generational wealth in the fruit streets neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. Darley is the oldest; she married for love but may have bargained away too much and lost some of herself in the process. Sasha married into the family and is struggling to feel like she belongs -not only within the family itself but within the museum they call a home that she now lives in. Georgiana is the youngest and at 26, she still has a lot of growing up to do, both romantically and with the direction she wants her life to take. Told in alternating POV chapters, we take a deep dive into the inner workings of this family and see how wealth, love, and class weave together throughout all their lives.
This book is a slow burn, character-driven novel so if you’re looking for a fast-paced plot or a lot of things going on, this is probably not going to be a satisfying read for you. I found it fascinating though! Because chapters alternate between the three Stockton women it’s a fairly easy one to set down and pick up when you want, although I kept wanting to read one more chapter, one more chapter. The characters have just enough growth and development to keep them from being truly unlikeable, but they’re absolutely portrayed in a way that feels deeply human and personal. In a family, you see the best and worst parts of each other and that’s what this book gives us a glimpse into. This family is relatable in ways, out-of-touch in others. They can be selfish, but they’re also loyal. The dynamics within the family feel both familiar and strange. As I read, I would be frustrated one minute, then laughing the next minute. I found some characters to be more redeemable than others, but ultimately thought the book felt satisfying. It just feels like real life in the 1% and I enjoyed this intimate, escapist look into a wealthy, WASPy family.
The Personal Assistant by Kimberly Belle
Alex is a social media influencer who wakes up from a drunken night celebrating one million followers only to realize she’s going viral for the worst reason: a vicious rant was posted to her account last night and toxic, threatening comments start pouring in. Alarmed and confused (can she actually remember writing that post??) she reaches out to her assistant AC to help with damage control but AC has vanished without a trace. Now police are showing up asking questions, online comments from trolls are never-ending with threats that are becoming too real, and worst of all, a dead body is discovered on Alex’s property. Through it all, AC is still missing and it begs the question: who exactly did Alex trust with the most personal details of her life?
The premise of this book was enticing to me because honestly, this is the best and worst of social media. Alex has shared inspiration and found success, but in just one post, it all crashes down and hatred and vitriol spread like wildfire. On top of all that, her assistant is gone and her husband may be keeping secrets from her – it has all the components of a great domestic thriller. I will say, the characters aren’t particularly likeable so it’s hard to know exactly who to root for through the alternately narrated chapters, but it’s still a compulsive read. I devoured it up until the last maybe 20% but things kind of unraveled from there and not in a good way. I guessed a few of the twists and the ones I didn’t felt off to me for reasons I can’t elaborate on because I don’t want to spoil anything. Unfortunately, I ultimately was pretty unsatisfied with the ending. Ugh – I hate when that happens! It took this from a “definitely recommend” to a “pretty decent” thriller. Meh.