It's hard to believe that I read all these books in May. It felt like I read THE GUEST LIST 100 years ago but it was just 30-ish days. I managed to get through nine books this month despite having finals, going to Tennessee and then starting up summer classes. Keep scrolling to see what I read this month and read my reviews!
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
On a remote Irish island surrounded by 150 other people, someone at a high-profile wedding is murdered. The ushers go to investigate and are shocked at what they find. Woven in with the scenes of the search for the body are the stories from a bridesmaid, a plus one, the best man, the bride and the wedding planner from the day before to the day after, recounting the events of the weekend and the secrets they hold close. And you'll never guess who the killer is. I will admit that I was disappointed by this book. It was (obviously) the first one I picked up for May since I had heard so many people rave about it and felt like I really needed a thriller. But this was honestly anything but thrilling for me. It was an interesting story and I liked the different viewpoints, but something about it fell flat for me. I just didn't really connect with the story and felt myself just feeling like, "oh, okay," at key moments where pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't really get into the book.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
January Andrews’ life was a sparkling fairytale. Happy, married parents, a beautiful boyfriend who is the very definition of a leading man, and a successful career writing romance novels. But her life dims dramatically when her father suddenly dies. At his funeral, January finds out that her dad had a mistress, and now she has the key to their house together in North Bear Shores, Michigan, right on the lake. Under different circumstances, the house could be the perfect summer vacation spot, but couple the truth of the house and the fact it's right next to her college enemy, January is not going to have a good summer trying to write her next romance book. After meeting the coffee shop/bookstore owner and getting tricked into attending a book club with her nemesis, January and Gus begin to develop a relationship far past what they had in college. This enemy-to-lovers trope had me hooked from the first page and I could. not. put. this. down. It's been really hyped up online and it was really worth the read. Not only do you have the romantic aspects of the storyline, but also parts that deal with January's grief and reassessing everything she knows about her life. Pain and healing go hand-in-hand with the romance in this perfect *beach read* by Henry.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
Daphne is fat and she tells it like it is. Why mess around when you know what you are and how people see you? But she's capitalized on this by moving into the plus-size influencer space on Instagram after a video of her telling off a guy went viral. Now, years after the incident, her former best friend is coming back and begging Daphne to forgive her... and be a bridesmaid at her huge Cape Cod wedding in June. It would be a great opportunity for Daphne to get some shots of the new clothes she landed from a deal with a designer, and it would gain her some more followers. So Daphne says yes to the high school It girl/mean girl/former BFF Drue. All is well until someone ends up dead on the morning of the wedding. I didn't see it coming AT ALL. I think that's what really turned me onto the book. I already love Jennifer Weiner's writing. I read one of her other novels, Mrs. Everything, back in February and absolutely loved that one, too. I knew I needed to read more and I couldn't wait to receive this newest novel in my May BOTM. If you're looking for a summer beach read with a murder mystery tied in and a strong female to carry the story, this one is absolutely 100 percent for you.
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Joe Talbert just wants to go to school and forget his past, but his mother won't let him. When she gets arrested for a DUI, Joe has to go get his brother Jeremy, who is autistic, and bring him back to stay at his apartment until their mom is released... which doesn't happen until Joe coughs up the $3000 required for her bail. On top of that, he has this English assignment due at the end of the semester where he has to interview an older person and tell their story. His person is Carl Iverson, a man convicted of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl in the 1980s, and who is now out of prison to spend his dying days at a nursing home. Carl claims he didn't do it, but the evidence is all against him, except for one photo that proves someone is lying. Joe then embarks on a mission with his neighbor Lila — who could really care less about Joe in the beginning — to clear Carl's name before he dies. This psychological thriller and amateur sleuth story was a really enjoyable read for me. I'm starting to think that this is truly one of my favorite genres because I can't always predict where it's going to go. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but then the plot took a turn. It seems to be the first in a series so I'm interested in checking out the following books from the library to see how Joe's story continues on.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
This non-fiction work by journalist Lisa Taddeo follows three different women at various points in their lives. There's Lina, the married woman who is unhappy and rekindling things with her high school boyfriend; Sloane is a business owner who's husband likes to bring other people — men in particular — into the bedroom for her; and then there's Maggie, a teenager involved in an illicit relationship with her high school English teacher. Throughout the novel, her story in particular is interwoven a lot with both the time of the affair and the trial a few years later when she reports the relationship. Hers was the story I was most interested in because of the legal aspects involved in it as well. It was a very powerful picture of how a woman can be beaten down and thrown away when a more powerful man says she's a liar.
It took me a little bit to get into the book because I felt that the writing was very clinical, but as I went deeper into the stories, I found myself getting in the flow of reading and even saw some stylistic things that I use in my own writing. I think it's the journalistic part that really helped me through. Overall it's such an interesting telling of three different women's sexuality in a world that doesn't care and doesn't want to hear about it. Men are free to share, but women aren't, and this book shows that they have their own thoughts and desires just like the opposite sex.
This is Not a Fashion Story by Danielle Bernstein
Just as mega-influencer, tech founder and all-around business mogul Danielle Bernstein says, this is not a fashion story. As a follower for years of WeWoreWhat, I was really anticipating this inside look at the beginnings of Danielle's life and successful career (so far). And it did not disappoint. You get to read about her club nights and riding the LIRR home at 3 in the morning, failed relationships and partnerships with brands — both good and bad. I was invested in every page and wanted to know even more at the end of this two-hour read that I COULDN'T put down (well, at least until I went to bed). It was a great inside look at Danielle's life that really goes along her brand lines of transparency.
Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin
Claire is, quite frankly, down on her luck. She got kicked out of her band only for them to reach superstardom after bringing in a new member to replace her. Now she's the newest musician for a mom and baby playgroup in New York City... not exactly the glamorous music gig she was searching for. But as she begins to become entwined with the group, dangerous secrets threaten to take them all down, even Claire.
At the beginning of the story, I wasn't really sure where it was going. I figured that with Claire making connections with the moms, she was bound for her own successful solo career at the end of the novel, but it really took a different turn than I was expecting multiple times. Once I hit that first big twist about 200 pages in, I could not put the book down.
What really struck me about this book, though, was its commentary on motherhood. I started underlining and marking entire pages of the book because I felt so seen and understood, especially through Amara's character. It's a uniquely hard job to be a mom today and have to project that everything is lovely and perfect while secretly trying to hold it together. My feelings about being a mom were put on paper and that really made the book for me.
A quote that I highlighted and particularly struck me:
"That was one of the strangest things about motherhood. You could love your baby to pieces, be thankful every day for his ten tiny toes and his piercing wail and his all-consuming existence, and yet still mourn the life you'd had before. And somehow it wasn't cool to say that, to treat the birth of a baby as the death of something else. You had to be all joy, all gratitude."
The Gown by Jennifer Robson
This historical fiction novel set at the end of the war and the months leading up to the wedding of then Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, as well as 70 years later, follows three characters: Ann, Miriam and Heather. Ann has lived in England all her life and has worked at Norman Hartnell's when she is joined by Miriam, an immigrant from France with a harrowing past. Together, the two of them become the senior embroiderers on the princess's wedding gown. Almost 70 years later, in 2016, Ann has died and left her granddaughter, Heather, samples of the embroidery that was done on the train of the gown. Heather then goes on an adventure after losing her job to discover her grandmother's secret past in England before she suddenly emigrated to Canada at the beginning of 1948.
I honestly knew out of the gate that I was going to enjoy this one. Historical fiction is my preferred genre, and this one even had some fashion involved with the wedding gown of the 20th century being a central plot point. I did feel at the beginning that I was going to be annoyed by the three different narrators. I've been noticing a lot more lately that a lot of books have gone to this format instead of sticking to one central character to push the story along. Surprisingly, though, I was looking forward to each new chapter and narrator because each of them had something interesting to add to the novel and the plot.
Overall, this was a great, quick read but nothing super mind-blowing!
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
This family novel focuses on the Strick family — Astrid, the matriarch; Elliot, Porter and Nicky, the now-adult children; and Cecelia, Nicky's child. Surrounding them are a cast of supporting characters like Elliot's wife, Wendy, and their twin toddler boys, and August, Cecelia's friend at Clapham Junior High School, where she now attends after getting kicked out of her Brooklyn school.
At first, I was really enjoying this novel and moving quickly through it. But the deeper I went, the more bored I felt myself getting. I think this novel had great insights into family dynamics and the different thoughts and worries people have at various ages, but the story didn't really seem to have anything propelling it forward. August's storyline was one small aspect that kept the story moving, but other than that, there wasn't anything necessarily compelling about it. And why is Astrid so obsessed with Barbara? I thought it was because Astrid was faced with her own mortality but I wasn't really sure by the end of the book.
And now onto June!
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