Recent Reads, May 2024

I had another great reading month in May. I’ve really been in a groove with audiobooks lately – I love having one book that I’m reading and one that I’m listening to at the same time. It also means I’ve been reading a lot more without even realizing it! There were so many standouts last month – here’s everything that I read in May.

How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang

I’d been seeing this all over social media, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up! Helen is a best-selling author whose book is about to be turned into a TV show, and Grant is one of the writers (and co-executive producers) on the show. But Helen and Grant also know each other from years earlier, when they went to high school together, and were connected by a tragic moment that affected both of them. Now years later, Helen is doing her best to be cool and indifferent to Grant, but finding it more and more impossible the more time they spend together. The two have to figure out if there might be a future for them, even with the hidden secrets in their past. This isn’t a light love story – the two main characters are tied together by a trauma – but it’s a very real, compelling story. I listened to this on audiobook and loved that there were different narrators for Helen and Grant.

Real Americans by Rachel Khong

This is an absolutely incredible generational story, and definitely going to be on my list of top books of the year. The story starts out with the love story between Lily, an unpaid intern at a media company, and Matthew, who sweeps her off her feet and introduces her to how the other half lives. Lily and Matthew fall in love despite being opposites in almost every way, and are happy – until Lily learns something that turns her world upside down. Years later, Nick, after feeling like he’s never quite fit in, decides to try to find his biological father, and ends up learning more than he bargained for. The story beautifully weaves together identity, generational trauma, social and class issues, nature vs. nurture, and so much more. I loved how the different generational pieces fit together perfectly in the end.

Such a Bad Influence by Olivia Muenter

(I got an ARC of this through NetGalley – it’ll be out TOMORROW, June 3!) I love listening to the podcast Olivia Muenter does with Becca Freeman, so I suspected that I’d enjoy this, and I wasn’t wrong – I couldn’t put it down! Evie is a super famous influencer who started as a child, when she went viral after her mom posted a bittersweet video of Evie that catapulted her into the public eye. Her sister, Hazel, stayed completely out of the family’s Instagram and online presence, and has always worried about Evie being so online. One day, in the middle of going live on Instagram, Evie abruptly cuts the video, and then just… disappears. Hazel is convinced that something terrible has happened, and drops everything in her life (which, admittedly, isn’t much) to try to hunt her sister down – and learns along the way that she doesn’t know her sister nearly as well as she thought she did. This book is such a fascinating, smart look on influencer culture, and the ENDING?! Incredible.

The Summer Will Be Different by Carley Fortune

I am basically making this book my entire personality this summer; I loved it that much. I’m convincing all my friends to read it too, so please count yourselves among that group and read this! It’s set on Price Edward Island, where Lucy goes to meet her friend Bridget one fateful summer. But before Bridget arrives, Lucy meets Bridget’s brother Felix… except she doesn’t know that this mystery man is her best friend’s brother. After sharing a night together, the two realize their connection to Bridget, and promise to never repeat that night. But both of them keep finding it very hard to keep their promise! This book is full of Anne of Green Gables references, and those books meant so much to me when I was younger (and honestly, they still do today!). Reading it brought me back to the magic of Anne and Avonlea in a new way, and I loved it so much. Pour yourself a glass of vinho verde to enjoy while you read.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I am not a huge Star Wars fan (I know, I know!), but this was one of my book club’s picks for the month, and I ended up really enjoying it! Carrie talks about her time filming the movies, and shares a lot of fun, behind-the-scenes tidbits about what it was really like for her for her world to be completely changed after the movies came out. She also goes into a bit of detail about her crush on her co-star, Harrison Ford, which is fun to learn about. There are also excerpts from Carrie’s journals that she kept during filming and promotion, which makes it a really personal look into her life. I listened this this on audiobook, and I feel like it was the perfect format for this for me.

The Paradise Problem by Christina Lauren

This is set on a super bougie private island, so if you’re looking for something to read on summer vacation, this is a great option. Anna and West got legally married in name only to give them access to housing at UCLA that they couldn’t otherwise afford, then quickly went their separate ways. Anna is an artist who just got fired from her job at a corner store, whereas West is one of the heirs of a family who owns a large chain of grocery stores. Anna is surprised, to put it mildly, to find West at her door, reminding her that they’re technically still married and asking her to come with him – as his wife – to his sister’s wedding before they divorce for real, all so he’s able to access his trust fund and do the work he really wants to do. Anna is quickly thrown into a world she couldn’t have ever imagined – in ways both good and bad – and starts to get to know West for real for the first time since she’s known him, and she finds out maybe being his wife would be a nice thing after all.

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel

Okay, this is just an incredibly fascinating wild ride of a book. It tells the true story of Stéphane Breitwieser, who worked with his girlfriend to steal over 300 objects from various museums and cathedrals across Europe in the over 200 heists they carried out. It all went shockingly well until it didn’t, and it all unraveled spectacularly. It was incredibly interesting in so many ways – getting into Breitwieser’s head, learning about museum security (or lack of it) and how surprisingly easy it was to sneak out many of the objects, and to try to find out what happened to the art, too. I can’t stop thinking about this!

Dateable by Jessica Slice and Caroline Cupp

(I got an ARC of this through NetGalley – it will be out July 9.) I saw a promo post for Dateable a month or so ago online, and immediately knew it was something that I wanted to read. It’s a book that is sorely needed – looking at dating through a disabled lens. Part dating advice for younger disabled people, part cathartic read for older disabled people, it covers all things intersectional between dating and disability in our current app-based dating age. It covers safety while dating, self-worth and abuse in disabled relationships, and many of the logistical challenges that come along with dating while living a disabled life. The book goes into this, but there’s very little out there for disabled people to read or look to when it comes to dating and relationships, and I’m SO glad this book exists!

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

I’m a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows series, but I think this is my favorite yet. It’s a bit of a mix of historical fiction and magical realism, and follows Luzia, a scullery maid who secretly uses little pieces of magic she learned as a child. But one day her mistress catches on to Luzia’s magic, and her life is changed forever. Luzia is introduced to a patron and entered into a competition being held to find the most powerful person who can perform “miracles.” Luzia must pass her magic off as miraculous (and hide her and the spell’s Jewish heritage in the process), and learn to stay alive in this new, dangerous world… possibly with the help of the mysterious Santángel, who she can’t seem to stay away from. This is a truly beautiful story, about love and heritage and what you’re willing to lose, and the ending was just absolutely perfect.

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

This book was both un-putdownable and disturbing. It’s loosely based on the first “famous” serial killer, Ted Bundy, but instead of focusing on him, it focuses on the stories of the women whose lives he took away. It’s also an incredible look into our current obsession with true crime, and what that can mean for the real people whose lives are forever entangled in the stories. We start with Pamela Schumacher, a sorority girl who wakes up one night to find a murderer running out of the door of the sorority house, and many of her sisters now dead. In the following weeks, Tina Cannon, who believes her “friend” was murdered by the same man, finds Pamela, and the two begin to work together to do what the police will not – find the real murderer. The book spans decades, covering the lives of the different women who were killed by the serial killer, and unraveling the mystery of who he is. This isn’t always easy to read, but I definitely recommend it.

The Main Character by Jaclyn Goldis

(I got an ARC of this through NetGalley, but it’s out now!) I’m not always a huge mystery/thriller reader, but I really enjoyed this book! It’s kind of like a modern take on an Agatha Christie story, so it’s a little more of a slower burn thriller. Rory has just finished serving as Ginevra Ex’s “muse” – Ginevra is a famous author who writes by basing all of her best-selling books on a real person, whose life she mines for details and spins into fiction. As a final “gift,” Ginevra sends Rory on an all-expenses paid trip on the newly-renovated Orient Express… but when Rory boards, she finds that her best friend, brother, and ex-fiance are also on the train, all sent by Ginevra too. Hidden secrets start to come to light, and after reading an early copy of Ginevra’s book, Rory starts to believe that this train trip isn’t a vacation after all.

From Hollywood With Love by Scott Meslow

I’m such a fan of rom-coms, so obviously I couldn’t resist reading this deep-dive on their rise, fall, and renaissance. It covers so many rom-com classics, in both movies and actors / actresses – Pretty Woman, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Judy Greer, Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon – and ends a few years ago with the push for more diversity and representation with Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It’s part analysis and reflection, part behind-the-scenes facts, and part interview collection. If you’re a movie fan, it’s definitely worth a read. I listened to this on audiobook and thought that was the perfect format for this.

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