Recent Reads, June 2022

With my trips to DC and Cedar Point this month, my reading started out a little rocky… but then it definitely picked up nearer to the end of the month when I was overwhelmed by the news cycle and wanted to escape into reading to give my mind a little break. When I’m in a funk, reading can do a lot to help me get back to a better place. And I read some books this month that I really loved, too!

The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy by Jenny Han

So, after I started my third rewatch of The Summer I Turned Pretty on Amazon, I decided that it was time to read the books, too, and I finished them in about a day and a half! Just like To All the Boys I Loved Before, they’re very sweet, nostalgic stories of young love. In this series, Belly (Isabelle) is in a perpetual love triangle with two brothers who she grew up spending every summer with – Conrad, the older, mysterious brother, and Jeremiah, the younger, goofier brother. The books trade narrators between chapters, and sometimes even jump between years, too, while the story unfolds. I know the premise of a love triangle between brothers might sound a little off-putting, but the books just totally suck you in and they’re the perfect summer read.

Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester

I loved this YA book – it was the perfect reminder for me how much representation matters, and how poignant it is to feel seen in a book. In this book, Verónica is a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia who dreams of working as a mermaid at the local Mermaid Cove amusement park. She seems like a shoo-in – she’s been swimming for years as physical therapy – but her parents definitely don’t approve. With the support of her sister, best friend, and new (cute!) neighbor, she has to decide if she wants to risk it all and audition anyway. There’s so much in this book about grappling with your choices, decisions, relationships, and autonomy while being disabled – it’s done so well, and I’m so happy that young disabled people will have this book to read. But it’s not something that only disabled people should read, either – I highly, highly recommend it.

Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith

What would you do if your partner wrote a book about your relationship… without telling you ahead of time? In this book, Vincent (a woman!) reads her husband’s latest book, only to find out that it’s a fictionalized version of their relationship, and lays bare a huge secret about his life that he never told her. Feeling betrayed, she runs away to Paris, in an apartment owned by her parents, and teaches some classes at the local museum where she meets a younger man named Loup. While she’s trying to decide how she feels about her husband, she’s also deciding if she wants to explore something with Loup. It’s all about how life, and relationships, are messy and complex, and how sometimes, there are no easy answers.

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

This is a beautiful romance novel, but not at all in the way that you expect. Feyi lost her husband five years ago, and isn’t sure how to start dating again. Her friend, Joy, encourages her to put herself out there but keep things casual and light. In a series of events, a casual hookup leads to her dating one of her hookup’s friends, Nasir. Feyi and Nasir are taking things slowly, really building a relationship as friends first. Nasir helps connect her to a gallery on the island where he grew up, and invites her to stay with him on the island at his family’s house while her work in shown. While they’re there, Feyi meets, and finds herself falling for, someone who is definitely off limits – and she has to decide how far she’s willing to go for what could be love.

The Counselors by Jessica Goodman

This is a YA thriller that takes place at summer camp – I love “theme” reading! Summer camp has been Goldie’s happy place for as long as she can remember – while most other campers are rich kids, Goldie’s a “townie” whose parents work at the camp. Even so, she met her two best friends at camp, and the three of them are returning to work as counselors. But this summer is different than all the others because Goldie is keeping a big secret from her friends about something major that happened while they were apart. And then one morning, Goldie finds out a local teen was found dead on camp property. It sends her for a loop, and she suspects there’s more to the story than a drowning. She tries to keep her own secrets hidden while unraveling everyone else’s, but things don’t exactly go as she planned.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, and this book was no exception. Marimar’s grandmother, Orquídea, has never left her home in Four Rivers for as long as Marimar can remember. Though Orquídea’s children have all grown up and moved away, the whole Montoya family gets the message that Orquídea is dying, and they all need to come back to Four Rivers to collect their inheritance. They all come home, but Orquídea doesn’t exactly die… and the inheritance that she leaves is definitely not what her grandchildren expected. Marimar, her cousin Ray, her aunt Tatinelli, and Tatinelli’s daughter Rhiannon all begin to feel like they’re being hunted by someone, or something, and work together to unravel the mysteries of Orquídea’s past. It’s such a beautiful, magical, heartbreaking and heartwarming story.

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The (incredibly secret, incredibly selective) Alexandrian Society recruits only six of the most talented magicians into their fold. Once they’re initiated, they’re promised power beyond anything they could imagine. But of course, nothing is that easy – of the six chosen, they’re told, only five will be initiated. The six magicians begin to partner off, creating alliances and secrets from each other. But when some begin to grow suspicious of the society, and the magicians start to try to push the limits a bit, they have to decide what they’re willing to accept and how far they’re willing to go to become a member. I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel and cannot wait to find out what happens!

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

This is a really poignant story about friendship – especially about how friendships evolve as people grow and evolve. Fiona and Jane were best friends as teenagers – but when Fiona moves away and Jane stays near home, the two lose touch. But as years pass, Fiona and Jane find themselves growing closer again. It’s really a story about coming to terms with yourself, and who you are, outside of the bounds of what you were to your friends – and then how that can translate into a new, deeper friendship. It’s about honesty and identity. It’s a little bit slower, but a good read.

The Girl Who Outgrew the World by Zoje Stage

Zoje Stage is one of my favorite local authors. This novella is a dark, twisted take on a fairy tale, of sorts. Lilly is a young girl who goes through a growth spurt and then just… never stops growing. Desperate for answers, her dad wants her to undergo a pretty serious, and risky, medical procedure – Lilly is absolutely against it, and when he won’t give in, she runs away. As she tries to find answers herself, we find a feminist story about how the world treats girls and women.

Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory

I got an ARC of this book through Netgalley – it will be published on September 20, 2022. I read this book at the end of the month, and it was exactly what I needed to take my mind off the news and let me escape mentally for a little bit. Margot works with her brother for their family winery – the two took over after her uncle died, but she feels like he doesn’t think she deserves her part of the ownership. One night when she’s drinking at the bar her best friend works at, she meets a handsome stranger and goes home with him… only to find out the next day that he’s her new employee at the winery! Margot is determined to keep things professional – but with the chemistry and tension simmering between them, will she be able to? I love Jasmine Guillory’s books and this was no exception. It’s just the right amount of romance, family pressures, and discussions about race and identity.

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