Recent Reads, May 2022

This was a great month for reading! I read so many books that I really loved, and so I flew through them extremely quickly. I’m very excited to have so many good books to talk about this month – here’s everything that I read in May.

Mean Baby by Selma Blair

(Content warning: sexual assault, alcohol abuse.) I’ve been following Selma Blair more closely since she publicly shared her MS diagnosis a few years ago. Obviously, I’d seen her in movies before (Cruel Intentions, Legally Blonde), but I didn’t know much about her otherwise. Seeing her publicly and brazenly use mobility aids on the red carpet – and coordinating her outfits with them at times! – was just so cool to see. And this memoir is incredible – it’s hard to even put into words how amazing it was. Selma is so thoughtful about looking back at her life, and not shying away from the hard parts. She’s so bold, and honest, and funny! I loved so many books this month, but this one tops the list.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

In this book, Alice isn’t unhappy about the direction her life has taken, but she does wonder about some of her choices. She works at the same school that she graduated from, and when a parent of a prospective student is someone she went to high school with years ago – and had a crush on – she questions her life even more. After celebrating her 40th birthday at dinner with her life-long BFF, she stops at a bar she frequented (with a fake ID) in high school, goes to her childhood home to sleep it off, and wakes up on the morning of her 16th birthday… and finds out that this time travel only lasts for 24 hours. She has the chance to find out how different choices at 16 affect her life at 40. It’s a sweet story about friendship, about family, and about realizing what matters.

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

This was a perfect summer romance – it had me feeling so nostalgic for high school summers and how absolutely magical and infinite they felt. The story is split between the present and summers of the past. When Percy (Persephone) gets a phone call from her ex’s brother, she makes the decision to return back to the little town on the lake where she spent her summers growing up. She spent six summers at this little town, becoming friends with her next door neighbors Charlie and Sam… and eventually, become more than friends with Sam, until something major broke them up, and they haven’t spoken since. But now, years later, they’re brought together again. It’s such a sweet story of young love and second chances. A great read by a beach or a pool (or, in my case, in your backyard).

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

This book was a combination of Pretty Little Liars and every teen drama show on the CW, but full of queer romance, and it was so fun! Chloe is a high school senior who, after moving to Alabama from California, has been “competing” with her classmate Shara for valedictorian. A few weeks before the end of the school year, Shara grabs Chloe in a hallway at school, kisses her, and then… disappears the next day. Chloe is determined not to be named valedictorian by default (and also, she has some questions about the kiss…), so she tries to look for clues about where Shara might be in Shara’s bedroom, only to find out that Chloe wasn’t the only person Shara kissed! So Chloe forms an alliance of sorts with Rory, Shara’s neighbor, and Smith, Shara’s boyfriend, to try to find Shara leaving clues that she left for the three of them. It’s such a fun read and, of course, it’s great to see queer couples get their own romantic plotlines.

Groupies by Sarah Priscus

(Content warning: assault, abuse) I got an ARC of this book through NetGalley – it comes out on July 12, 2022. This book is being compared to Daisy Jones and the Six and The Final Revival of Opal & Nev – they’re all coming-of-age stories of sorts of music groups, but to me, this one was a little bit darker. After her mother dies, Faun decides to drop out of school and move to Los Angeles, where she reconnects with her friend Josie. Josie, it turns out, is dating Cal Holiday of the band Holiday Sun, and Faun wants to be a photographer, so she takes her Polaroid camera and starts tagging along with Josie and the band, getting behind-the-scenes, candid shots of the group. She starts partying with them, too – getting totally lost in their world. While Josie and Cal’s relationship looks perfect from the outside, Faun soon starts to suspect – and then learns – that partying with rock stars has a darker side, too. It’s a really immersive read and is a true coming-of-age story.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

This is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I hilariously did not realize until after I had finished reading the book! It makes total sense in hindsight, but the story also stands on it’s own. A few years after getting what she thought was her dream job at a publishing house, Izzy feels kind of stuck. She wants to be moving forward, but she’s still an assistant, and a coworker recently told her that the draft of her novel was… not something she should keep working on. So when, at a conference in California, she hears her boss complaining about an author who has gone radio-silent on his long-overdue manuscript, she volunteers to go in person to persuade him to finally turn it in – hoping that she can impress her boss and turn it into a promotion. Of course, he comes across gruff and brusque and rude at first… but there’s a little hint of “something there that wasn’t there before,” and what was supposed to be a weekend task turns into a weeks-long project, with lots and lots of slow-burning, romantic tension!

Inheritance by Katharine McGee

I love the American Royals series, so I was so excited to read this little prequel novella. It got me really excited to read the next book in the series, that comes out today! If you’re not familiar, the series imagines what America would be like today if George Washington had become king of America rather than president. This book takes place before the first book in American Royals, and we get to learn a little bit more about Bea and Sam, and learn what really happened at Sam and Jeff’s infamous graduation party. It’s the perfect little teaser, and gives a little more insight into the people behind the crowns. Just as a heads up, it’s only available as an ebook or an audiobook.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

From this title, I thought this would be a cute rom-com, but it was actually completely different than I expected! It was a romance, but not at all a stereotypical one. Elizabeth is a chemist – and a brilliant one, at that – but as a woman in the early 60s, she’s not exactly respected or even liked in her field. But she meets Calvin, a genius but slightly reclusive, chemist while at work and learns about the chemistry of love, too. Only… sometimes life doesn’t turn out as you planned, and Elizabeth finds herself out of work, and then in a new job hosting a cooking show on local television. She shows women how cooking is chemistry, but also shows them how the work they do has value and worth. It’s a fiercely feminist story and it’s so unique – I can’t really think of anything I’ve read that’s similar.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

I always think that Emily Henry writes cute rom-coms, but this is, by far, my favorite of hers. Nora is a type A, her work is her life literary agent, who cares about nothing but her work and her younger sister Libby. Nora loves her sister so much that she agrees to take a month-long trip with her to Sunshine Falls, a tiny town that’s the setting for a popular romance book. Libby has plans for Nora to have a love story inspired by the book; instead, Nora keeps running into Charlie, a serious and brusque editor who she had a sort-of disastrous meeting with right before she left for her trip. But of course, there’s more to the story – more to the reason that Libby wanted to take this trip, and more to Charlie, who Nora ends up working with on a manuscript by one of the authors she represents. I love a rom-com set around books, and I’m adding Charlie to my list of fictional men who I wish were real!

Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie

(Content warning: sexual abuse, guns) I got this as an ARC through NetGalley – it will be released on August 23, 2022. I love a cult-ish story, and this was no exception! Nicole has devoted herself to working up the ranks at a high-powered law firm – not an easy feat when you’re working in what still operates very much as an old boys club. After a bad review that has her position at the firm tenuous as best, she gets a mysterious invitation from a group calling themselves Panthera Leo, ostensibly a women’s networking group – though a secretive, anonymous one. Nicole sees this as a possible answer to her problems at work, and decides to go to the retreat in Colorado, where things are kind of strange, but she decides to join anyway – and it works! Things start going right for her at work once she’s home. But then things start to go very wrong, very quickly, and she has to figure out what exactly Panthera Leo is and what they want from her. It’s a fun, twisty thriller!

True Biz by Sara Nović

It’s rare for me to find a book that has d/Deaf or disabled characters who aren’t just trite stereotypes. But this book, written by a Deaf author, does such an incredible job of creating nuanced, layered characters. Set in a Deaf boarding school, the story jumps between a few different characters – Charlie, a new student who has never met another Deaf person, Austin, who is sort of Deaf “royalty” in the school and community, and February, the headmistresses who is a CODA (child of Deaf adults). There’s typical teenage drama, but also questions about identity and community and belonging – and how far people will go to hold on to those things. Plus, the chapters are interspersed with little lessons about ASL and Deaf culture. It’s a great book AND will help you learn more about Deaf history and culture, too.

Anna by Amy Odell

If you are at all into the world of fashion, this new biography of the infamous Anna Wintour is a must-read. I think that Anna Wintour is probably one of the most gossiped-about people in fashion; there’s even an entire book and movie (The Devil Wears Prada) allegedly based her. But she’s also an intensely secretive and private person, so it’s hard to know how much is real and how much is a made-up persona that’s grown larger-than-life over the years. This book does a deep, deep dive into Anna the person – starting back at her younger years and following Anna and her ambition to the icon that she is today. While Anna didn’t agree to an interview, many people close to her did, giving a much more revealing look than anything I’ve ever read about her before. It’s fascinating!

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Honestly, this was probably my least favorite book from the month. I’m a fan of V.E. Schwab – The Secret Life of Addie LaRue blew me away – but this one didn’t do it for me. Olivia has grown up at the Merilance School for Girls, with no family and as an outcast because she’s not able to speak. One day, a mysterious letter arrives from an uncle she didn’t know existed, inviting her to come home to Gallant. When she arrives, though, no one claims to have sent her the letter, and things are very, very weird. When Olivia is exploring the house and estate and trying to figure out what exactly is going on, she finds herself in a version of Gallant that reminded me of the upside down from Stranger Things… and things get even weirder. It’s a gothic mystery that just wasn’t for me.

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

I got this as an ARC through NetGalley – it’ll be released on July 5, 2022. This is a twisty, twisty political thriller from the same author as An Anatomy of a Scandal, and I can totally see the parallels. Emma is a Member of Parliament who has had to sacrifice a lot for her job – her marriage, and even time with her daughter, Flora. Emma seems to be making an impact, though – she works with a journalist to get the story spread of a bill she’s working to get passed that protects young women from online abuse. That same journalist is found dead at her home a few weeks later, and after it gets out that Emma spent a mistaken (and drunken) night with him, she’s arrested for his murder. But as the trial goes on, we learn more and more about what really went down that night, and there are (lots of) surprises along the way.

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