Recent Reads, June 2024

I had a really great month of reading in June. I love being able to sit outside in the beautiful weather and read on the patio, and I feel like I’ve also really gotten into audiobooks more than I ever thought I would be, too. I don’t struggle to follow a story in an audio format anymore, which really helps me read a lot more each month. Especially this month, when I went through all the Bridgerton books quickly, one after another! But I didn’t just read the Bridgerton books – I had a mix of romance and litfic, with a little bit of magical realism, too. Here’s everything I read in June.

The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings

This book is dystopian, but in a way that feels alarmingly possible right now. In this world, women have to marry by the age of 30 or enroll in a registry where they’re monitored closely for signs of witchcraft – because witches are real, and are not treated kindly. Josephine is approaching 28, and has never really felt any desire to get married. She’s spent the last few years grappling with the disappearance of her mom, who disappeared one morning and was never seen again. Just as she feels ready to move on, she gets one last request from her mother via her will, and goes off to maybe, finally, get some answers. Other than the magic aspect, many parts of the monitoring of women, and the issues that they face will feel very familiar to many of us, I think, which made everything feel a bit more ominous and menacing. I didn’t always love the pacing and the way the timelines were handled – we’d jump from present day to a memory, and it could be hard to keep track of sometimes! But overall, I still enjoyed it.

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

This is such a weird little book, but I loved it! Lauren comes home one night to find herself greeted by her husband… a man she has never met before. But there are signs of him all over his place, text messages to and from him, and all her friends know who he is, too. Then he goes up into the attic to change a lightbulb, and when he comes back down the stepladder, it’s a different husband. Lauren kind of feels she’s gotten a little loophole to life – when she gets bored, or wants to change something she just did, she just sends the husband back up and poof, a new one (and a new life) appears. But how do you know which husband is the right husband – and which of your lives is the “right” one – when you don’t have any of the backstory? It’s such a strange yet fascinating thought, and I loved how the book handled it, too. It was a delight to read.

Little Rot by Akwaeke Emezi

I love Akwaeke Emezi’s books, and this one was no exception. Little Rot is a dark story, though – check the content warnings before you read. The whole story takes place over just one weekend in Nigeria, in the underbelly of the city full of sex and drugs and violence. Aima and Kalu have just broken up – Aima is unhappy that their relationship isn’t moving forward, and Kalu doesn’t understand what has changed recently. Aima goes to spend the night out with her best friend, and Kalu decides to go to one of his friend Ahmed’s infamous sex parties. Both Aima and Kalu make decisions that set off the paths of their nights – and, really, their lives – and both need to figure out a way out of the danger they’ve unknowingly thrown themselves into. The way Emezi writes is just beautiful and evocative – I felt the dark and the creeping rot the whole time I was reading. The feeling of reading this will be with me for a long time.

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

I had heard about this book for a while now, but put off reading it because I thought it was going to be too cheesy. I was so wrong! There’s a little bit of cheese, but it’s actually a lot deeper than I ever thought it would be. Gay Uncle Patrick (or GUP for short) unexpectedly finds himself being names as the caretaker of his niece and nephew, Maisie and Grant, after their mom passes away. Patrick has been kind of floating through life after the loss of his partner years ago, and has no idea what to do with the kids long-term, and how to help them deal with their loss and sadness. But the more time the three spend together, the more they start to figure out a rhythm – and maybe the kids can help GUP while he tries to help them, too. It was a really sweet book to read, and I love how it handled the real-world issues so deftly. I’ll definitely be reading the sequel.

Business Casual by B.K. Borison

(I got an ARC of this through NetGalley, it will be out on July 16, 2024.) This is the last book in the Lovelight Farms universe, but you don’t have to have read the others to enjoy this one. Nova has been working hard to get her tattoo shop ready to open in her small town of Inglewild – she wants everything to be absolutely perfect, and doesn’t want to let anyone down. Charlie, an investment banker from the city, is staying in town to help take over his sister’s business while she’s on her honeymoon. Charlie has always been flirty with Nova, and Nova decides that what they really need is to “get it out of their system,” just once! (Has that ever worked??) It’s a cute story, and Inglewild reminds me of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls – every character is so much fun, and the small-town vibes are perfect.

Honey by Isabel Banta

(I got an ALC of this book through, but it’s out now!) I was really excited about this book, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It’s modeled after the girl groups and boy bands of the 90s – Amber Young is ecstatic when she finds out she’s been picked to be a member of a new group, Cloud9. She meets another member who becomes her best friend, Gwen, and also meets a boy band member, Wes, who she immediately starts to crush on. Gwen decides to go out on her own, and so Amber does, too, but things are a little more challenging for her. She’s immediately pinned as the sexy one, and the media just pushes her harder and harder into this role. I thought the points about the reality of stardom vs. what it looks like from the outside were great! I just never felt like I fully connected to the characters. It was a middle-of-the-road book for me.

An Education in Malice by S. T. Gibson

I got this off of a BookTok recommendation, and I just didn’t really enjoy it. It’s a dark academia story with bonus vampires – kind of a retelling of the classic vampire story Carmilla. Laura starts at a tiny school in New England and meets Carmilla in an exclusive seminar, who she is both immediately drawn to and pitted against, academically. Soon, the two of them are fighting for the attention of their professor, De Lafontaine, who has her own obsession with Carmilla. It’s not long before you realize De Lafontaine is not just interested in Carmilla’s brain, but her blood, too. I just never really understood why the characters were making any of the choices they were, and there was a “spicy” scene thrown in that just… did not work for me. The second half is better than the first, but overall, it was just not for me.

One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon

(I got an ALC of this book through, but it’s out now!) I don’t exactly know how to categorize this book – it’s kind of a psychological thriller, kind of a satire, and a social commentary all in one, and it was so good. It set the mood so well, where you know something is off but you’re just not sure exactly what. Jasmyn and King have just moved to Liberty, an exclusive all-Black neighborhood. Jasmyn isn’t sure how she feels about it – when (another) video of police violence outside of Liberty comes out, she expects outrage within the community, but gets nothing but complacency instead. King, however, is loving it there, and starts spending more and more time at the elusive Wellness Center at the heart of the community. Jasmyn does manage to start a small Black Lives Matter group, but one by one, her new friends start to change. Jasmyn starts trying to figure out what really is going on in Liberty, but her race to uncover the truth might be too late. This is a book that will stay with me for a while – I saw the end coming, but kept hoping it would somehow, maybe, hopefully turn out differently.

Bridgerton Books (The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer From a Gentleman, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, To Sir Phillip, With Love, When He Was Wicked, It’s In His Kiss, On The Way to the Wedding) by Julia Quinn

I read the first Bridgerton book at the beginning of the month, and then I just… couldn’t stop! And I read the rest of them one after another. (The first few are on Kindle Unlimited, and audiobook versions of them all are on Everand.) I’m going to talk about them all together, because they all follow the same basic format. They’re all set in Regency-era England, and each book follows a different sibling from the Bridgerton family – Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth, named in order alphabetically. In the first half of the book, the would-be couple meets and falls in love, and the second-half has them together, but with some issue or stumbling block in their way. They’re obviously not deep or serious books, but they are incredibly fun to read! I think my favorites were Francesca’s and Hyacinth’s books, but really, they’re all a delight to read.

Not in Love by Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood tends to be hit-or-miss for me, and this one was a miss. Ali called it an erotic romance, rather than a rom-com, and I think that’s right, but I didn’t really love the way the steamy scenes were written, either. Rue is a sticks-to-herself, someone cold and standoffish scientist. She doesn’t really do relationships, just one night stands that she finds through a dating app. After an interrupted one-night-stand, she finds out that the man in question is named Eli, and is actually part of a company who is trying to take over the start-up she works at, the thing in her life that she’s truly passionate about. Rue can’t seem to stay away from Eli, but she’s also extremely protective of her work and her boss, who has mentored her for years, and she doesn’t know how to handle these conflicting emotions at the same time. I loved the STEM and start-up representation, I just didn’t feel connected to the characters. Also note, this book does deal with some more traumatic topics, so check the warnings before you read.

Margo’s Got Money Troubles by Rufi Thorpe

This book was a standout of the month for me! Margo is a community college student who has an affair with her professor, gets pregnant, and decides to keep the baby somewhat naively, and because she feels like it’s what a good person would do. Her life is, unsurprisingly, completely changed, and when she struggles to find consistent childcare and loses her waitressing job, she needs a way to make money fast. So she decides to make an OnlyFans, and takes some character-creation ideas from her dad, a pro-wrestler who is newly back in her life. And with the help of TikTok, her OnlyFans takes off! The book is so funny and so insightful about what jobs we value (and don’t) and the lack of support for mothers. It’s also really interesting in the way it plays with the narrative voice and point-of-view, often switching between first- and third-person, which was confusing at first but actually worked really well for the story. I loved this one.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

This is such a weird but beautiful story. Lewis and Wren are newlyweds, but shortly after their wedding, Lewis gets the unfortunate news that he is slowly going to turn into a shark. Genetic mutations like this, across all animal species, occur in this version of reality, often skipping generations. Lewis and Wren try to live as normally as possible, until that’s not an option anymore, and then try to keep Lewis as comfortable as possible at home, until that’s not an option anymore, either. The book alternates between now and both Lewis’s and Wren’s past, giving more insight into how they’re both handling this change, and their own experiences and baggage. It’s really beautiful, and is a story about love and loss, about grief and identity and family, about memories and moving on. The weirdness, of course, is being able to accept a world in which people can mutate into animals, but if you’re like me and you like weird, it’s an incredible read.

All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

This is kind of a mix of suspense and litfic – Ky returns home to Cabramatta, a town outside of Sydney, when she learns her brother has been killed one night while out celebrating his high school graduation. When she gets back, she realizes no one is giving her answers about what really happened that night, and she decides that if the police won’t give her answers, she’ll find them herself. This investigation takes her back, talking to the people who also shaped her as she was growing up, and coming to face with the classism and racism she dealt with as she was raised. Ky does eventually get answers, but the real story is more about Ky’s own internal journey than anything else. This wasn’t a standout for me, but I read so much this month – it was still a solid read.

Sociopath by Patric Gagne

This book was incredible. I kept seeing this book everywhere – a real-life account of a sociopath – and I don’t know exactly what I expected, but it wasn’t this. The book was so much better than I ever could’ve anticipated. The book isn’t steamy or wild, or at least not in the ways you’d think. It really is an account of the author’s life as a sociopath – a way to normalize a term that we throw about wildly, and almost often negatively. And yes, some of the things she did surprised me, but only because I can’t imagine doing some of the things she did an attempt to “treat” her own sociopathy, because no real treatment protocols existed. This is a book I think that everyone should read – it gives so much insight into mental health disorders. I listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author, and I highly recommend that.

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