The best—if we’re being honest, maybe the only good—part of the summer of 2020 has been the books. From twisty thrillers to steamy romances, we’ve had it all. Our summer 2020 reads are hot, sweet, evocative—kind of like a really good cocktail. And since you’re likely reading any number of these with a drink in your hand anyway, I thought I’d do the work of pairing some of the biggest summer reads with the perfect drink. You’re welcome.
‘Luster’ + Death In The Afternoon
I love a Death in the Afternoon—and no, that’s not just when my coffee crash hits—because this cocktail almost begs you to drink it. It’s so glamorous, yet kind of out-there (tell me the last time you saw one of these on a cocktail menu… exactly). Not to mention, it’s delicious. I think Raven Leilani’s Luster is just as compelling. So much of this book is about that all-too-familiar striving for satisfaction, electric and desperate and wry. Luster is the perfect accompaniment to this cocktail because it hits those same dark and quixotic notes. Another irresistible point of symmetry is that this drink has only three ingredients, mirroring the open marriage at the center of this story.
- ¾ oz absinthe
- 4 oz chilled prosecco
- 1 sugar cube
Pour the absinthe into a champagne glass. Slowly add the chilled prosecco; if you do it right, your drink will turn an enchanting, iridescent green. Drop in the sugar cube and enjoy that gratifying fizz while it lasts.
‘Hysteria’ + Tequila And Habanero Sour
This book burns with sensual urgency, sort of like the burn from the habanero in this twist on a sour. Jessica Gross’ immersive and dark debut is complex and beautiful, hitting every note in that virtuosic range between desire and shame. I couldn’t resist matching Hysteria with this spicy tequila sour, a drink that encompasses an equally impressive range of flavor and fragrance.
- 4 oz blanco tequila
- 2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ½ oz agave
- 2 dashes habanero hot sauce
Add the tequila, lemon juice, and agave into a shaking tin. Throw in the hot sauce and five to seven ice cubes, then shake vigorously for almost a full minute (if your arms can hold up). Fill two rocks glasses with ice and pour out the mixture through a strainer, dividing the cocktail between the glasses equally. Garnish each glass with a freshly sliced lemon wheel.
‘The Death Of Vivek Oji’ + Mezcal Aperol Gimlet
Akwaeke Emezi’s story about community and loss is the real deal. The masterfully rendered characters and shifting points of view create a poignant vision of the kaleidoscopic world surrounding Vivek. I found it nearly impossible to put this book down, which is why I had to pair it with a drink that I also find impossible to put down: this complex, bittersweet, vibrant mezcal Aperol gimlet.
- 2 oz mezcal
- ¾ oz agave nectar
- 1 ½ tsp Aperol
- ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- grapefruit zest for garnish
Combine the mezcal, agave, Aperol, and lime in a shaking tin. Add five to seven ice cubes and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain your cocktail into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a generous strip of grapefruit zest, if you have it.
‘Pizza Girl’ + Rum And Cherry Coke
Pizza Girl will take you for a ride in the very best way. Jean Kyoung Frazier so clearly, brilliantly—and almost harshly, because it’s so relatable it may feel like an attack—renders the mistakes, tragedies, and miracles of youth. I couldn’t resist going a little more literal with this one and pairing Pizza Girl with a riff on a rum and coke. This one’s hopefully a step up from what you were drinking in your high school friend’s basement while your parents thought you were studying, but it’s still a throwback to those days. (Not to mention, it goes great with pizza.)
- 2oz Flor de Cana rum
- 4 oz cherry Coke
- 1 maraschino cherry
You know this song, right? Fill a tall glass with ice and add your rum and cherry coke. Give it a little stir and add a maraschino cherry so you can practice tying the stem into a knot with your tongue when you’re finished.
‘Last Call On Decatur Street’ + Sazerac
Iris Martin Cohen’s Last Call on Decatur Street perfectly captures the blurry beauty of a long night out in one of the most bewitching cities in the world. (Ugh, remember nights out?) A Sazerac is really the only match for this dazzling ode to New Orleans, since the drink was created there in the early 19th century. The dreamy absinthe rinse along with a bold bolt of rye will bring you to the exact sort of summer night Cohen conjures in her page-turning second novel. Just maybe pace yourself with this drink, or you may find yourself having a blurry night of your own.
- 1 ½ tsp absinthe
- 2 oz rye
- 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 ½ tsp simple syrup
Pour the absinthe into a glass along with two ice cubes; swirl the glass and coat the interior. Set aside and add rye, both bitters, simple syrup, and ice to a separate mixing glass. Stir for about a minute. Then, empty the absinthe and ice from the first cup and pour—through a strainer—the contents of the mixing glass into the rinsed glass.
‘Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop’ + St. Germain
Aside from my friends and family, I probably miss traveling the most. Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a tonic for anyone craving adventure. For a more immersive experience, fix yourself a St. Germain champagne cocktail to go along with it. This drink is as lovely, effervescent and delightful as Roselle Kim’s transportive tale of Vanessa’s voyage to Paris. Plus, it’s French AF so it will really set the scene.
- 1 oz St. Germain
- ½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 oz chilled sparkling wine
- lemon zest for garnish
Add the St. Germain and lemon juice in a shaking tin over ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and pour into a champagne glass. If you want to get really fancy with it, chill the glass first. But if you can’t wait, don’t worry about it. Top with cold sparkling wine and garnish with a twist of lemon zest. If you don’t have a shaking tin, you can make this one right in the glass—just make sure you pour in the St. Germain and lemon juice first.
Image: Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com
Before this weird excuse for that season we used to call summer ends, it’s about time I publish my list of the best books to read solely for your IG aesthetic. That’s right, I’m talking about my annual Instagrammable books roundup! They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what we’re doing here. But don’t worry, because the books themselves are obviously worth reading.
‘Three Perfect Liars’ by Heidi Perks
(March 12, 2020)
This book has been described as Mad Men meets Big Little Lies, which is funny because the cover is very Little Fires Everywhere. And for good reason, I think! It starts when a fire (Little Fires Everywhere) destroys the office of a prestigious ad agency (Mad Men) and three ambitious women all find themselves under the microscope, since each of them has a motive for revenge.
‘The Golden Cage’ by Camilla Läckberg
(April 2, 2020)
Truthfully, I opened this book and was already not excited: woman marries super-rich, handsome guy who is clearly abusive but she’s too blinded by his looks and status to see it, then she’s left high and dry when he leaves her for a younger model? Yawn—or so I thought. What makes The Golden Cage not cliche, and, actually, a gripping page-turner, is that protagonist Faye is incredibly smart, with a dark past of her own. She won’t go down without a fight, and not before her ex-husband’s life is ruined.
‘A Burning’ by Megha Majumdar
(June 2, 2020)
Told through three different points of view, this beautiful novel is a debut for the ages that you’ll fly through in one sitting. Themes like class, fate, corruption, and justice make this book perfect for your summer reading list as three unforgettable characters with big dreams find themselves entangled in the wake of catastrophe in contemporary India.
‘Ordinary Girls’ by Jaquira Diaz
(June 16, 2020)
Fudging the requirements of this list a bit because the paperback is what’s new this summer, but I’m still counting it. And who wants to lug a hardcover to the beach anyway? Diaz’s debut earned her the 2019 Whiting Award, as well as a whole slew of critical praise, so you know it’s good. The memoir chronicles her upbringing in housing projects of Miami and Puerto Rico. She was, by her own admission, a runaway, a high school dropout, a suicide risk, and a street fighter. She was also the queer, biracial, displaced daughter of an absent father and a mother who struggled with mental illness.
‘Sex and Vanity’ by Kevin Kwan
(June 30, 2020)
From the king who brought us Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan is back with a dazzling love triangle that’s sure to spice up your summer. It follows Lucie Churchill, who is torn between her WASP-y fiancé and George Zao, the man she adamantly denies having feelings for (so relatable). This book gives those of us stuck inside our studio apartments a look at fame, fortune, and travel, all while taking a jab at racism and snobbery.
‘One To Watch’ by Kate Stayman-London
(July 7, 2020)
If you watch The Bachelor, this book is the takedown we’ve all been waiting for, and Stayman-London is hardly subtle about it, which I love (ABC is called ABS in the book, Fleiss is Faust, need I say more?). In One To Watch, plus-size fashion blogger Bea Schumacher gets drunk one night and writes a scathing hit piece on the
Bachelor Main Squeeze franchise’s lack of diversity, which goes viral overnight. But then, ABS does a surprising thing: they ask Bea to be the next Bachelorette Main Squeeze. Fun, sexy, and full of heart, you’ll devour this book in a day.
‘The Safe Place’ by Anna Downes
(July 14, 2020)
Emily Proudman just lost her job, her acting agent, and her apartment—all in one day. Rough. To say the least, she’s desperate. But when she runs into Scott Denny, the charming and successful CEO of the company she just got fired from, he offers her a summer job at his remote French estate that seems too good to be true. Her summer starts out totally Instagrammable, filled with plenty of day-drinking by the pool with Scott’s wife Nina and their mysterious daughter Aurelia, but soon, Emily realizes that Scott and his family are hiding something. If she doesn’t stop snooping, things may turn deadly.
‘The Boys’ Club’ by Erica Katz
(August 4, 2020)
I’m not even a lawyer, but this book feels so quintessential Big New York Law that anyone who even has one friend who went to law school will probably find this relatable. Alex Vogel has always been a high achiever who played by the rules: Harvard Law School, prestigious job at the biggest law firm in NYC, longtime boyfriend. But soon she gets seduced by the money of big law and the charm of her coworkers… and suddenly she might want to take a walk on the wilder side. When an incident reveals the dark culture of the firm (you can probably guess what), Alex is thrust in the middle and forced to decide between keeping her job and friends and doing the right thing.
‘The Death of Vivek Oji’ by Akwaeke Emezi
(August 4, 2020)
When a mother in southeastern Nigeria opens her front door to find her son’s body wrapped in colorful fabric, it sends a shockwave through the family. The Death of Vivek Oji explores the electrifying story of one family’s struggle to understand their mysterious child and a heart-stopping act of violence that changes their lives forever.
‘Love After Love’ by Ingrid Persaud
(August 4, 2020)
After her abusive husband dies, Trinidadian native Betty Ramdin and her son, Solo, take in a lodger, Mr. Chetan, and the three eventually pull a Modern Family and form an unconventional bond. But one night, Solo overhears his mom spill a secret, causing him to flee all the way to NYC. Mr. Chetan continues to love and support his adopted family—until a secret of his own is revealed.
‘Luster’ by Raven Leilani
(August 4, 2020)
New Yorkers, I dare you to not find this novel relatable af. Edie is stumbling around her 20s, sharing an apartment in Bushwick, hooking up with the wrong people, working a job she doesn’t care about. But then she meets Eric, a digital archivist in an open marriage with a woman who performs autopsies for a living. (I always said the next time I’d open up to someone would be on an autopsy table…) Edie then finds herself unemployed and invited to stay in Eric’s home—though not by Eric, by his wife. And then sh*t gets compliated.
‘You Had Me at Hola’ by Alexis Daria
(August 4, 2020)
Telenovela lovers unite! For those of us who have felt empty since Jane The Virgin ended, You Had Me at Hola is the cure. After Jasmine Lin Rodriguez goes through a messy public breakup, she returns home to New York City to star in a new bilingual rom-com. Jasmine is determined to be a leading lady who doesn’t need a man, but when she gets partnered with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez, they both end up with more than they bargained for. Will their mounting feelings for each other upend their lives?
‘A House Is A Body’ by Shruti Swamy
(August 11, 2020)
Even people who are “not short story people” (me tbh) will find themselves captivated by A House Is Not A Body, which has stories ranging from a young painter living alone in San Francisco who begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities to an exhausted mother who watches as a California wildfire approaches her home and more.
‘The Heatwave’ by Kate Riordan
(August 18, 2020)
The cover is so gorgeous I can’t stop staring at it. And once you pick up this gripping thriller, you won’t want to put it down. Sylvie Durand has tried to forget La Reverie, her paradoxically named country home in the French countryside. Let’s just say, bad things have happened there. But when a fire calls her back to care for the property, she’s forced to confront the past she wants to put behind her. And that means confronting the memory of her first daughter, Elodie: beautiful, manipulative, reminiscent of one of the Manson girls, gone by age 14.
‘His Only Wife’ by Peace Adzo Medie
(September 1, 2020)
So this isn’t out until September, sue me. That’s what preorder is for!! So. Set in Ghana, His Only Wife is like a Crazy Rich Asians for West Africa. It follows Afi Tekple, a young seamstress, who is arranged to marry Eli, the successful son of her family’s benefactor. Score. Eli’s family agrees to the marriage because they want to get him away from his mistress, and Afi and Eli marry sight unseen (*Love Is Blind voice*), meaning Eli isn’t even at the wedding. Afi moves into his luxury apartment, gets used to her fancy new lifestyle, and finally meets Eli. The problem? Eli doesn’t magically stop caring about his mistress just because he’s married. *Pretends to be shocked*
Images: Jairph / Unsplash; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (3); Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Gallery Books; HarperCollins (2); Knopf Doubleday (3); Penguin (2); Random House (2); St. Martin’s
The summer solstice happened last weekend, meaning it’s officially summer (even if we all think summer begins on Memorial Day). That means we have a whole new bunch of books to get through! Guess the f*ck what, even if we can’t get drunk on rooftops, we have so much time to read. Wow, okay, I sound like a middle school librarian, but it’s true. From gripping thrillers to LGBTQ romances, from vivid historical fiction to empowering memoirs, there are so many good books coming out this summer (or that are already out). If there were ever a time when we needed an escape, it would be the middle of a goddamn pandemic. So here are some books coming out this summer that you need to read, whether on the beach (wearing a mask, six feet from others) or just in your bed.
‘The Summer Set‘ by Aimee Agresti
May 12, 2020
Attention theater kids, you’ll love this charming read that takes place at a theater camp. Once upon a time, Charlie Savoy was the hottest actress in Hollywood, destined for superstardom—until she got too caught up in the partying (you hate to see it). Ten years later, she’s forced to spend her summer volunteering at the summer theater in the Berkshires that launched her career. Even though Charlie is born to do this, it’s not smooth sailing. The artistic director of the camp is none other than her former flame aka ~the one that got away~, and when Charlie’s old rival gets brought on set, her summer threatens to turn into a tragedy real quick.
‘Happy & You Know It‘ by Laura Hankin
May 19, 2020
Have you ever said a hilarious joke that got no laughs, only to have your friend repeat it a little louder and get all the credit? I imagine that’s a small-scale version of what Claire Martin feels when she gets kicked out of her band right before they get super famous for a song she wrote. Dejected, Claire takes a gig as the playgroup musician for a group of young Manhattan moms. As she befriends the moms, she discovers these ladies have much bigger problems to worry about than which Lululemon leggings to wear that day. The perfect summer read, Happy & You Know It is basically like The Assistants but with rich moms, or like Mean Girls mixed with The Nanny Diaries.
‘The Prettiest Star‘ by Carter Sickels
May 19, 2020
It’s 1980, and 18-year-old Brian has just moved to New York City from his suffocating hometown in Ohio with hopes of a free, bright future. Soon, the AIDS epidemic ravages the city, taking the lives of his partner and many of his friends. It leaves Brian to contemplate staying in New York, where he can embrace his sexuality but is surrounded by death, or returning home to Ohio, where his family’s ignorance prevents him from being his full self. Cue the more heartbreaking songs on the RENT soundtrack.
‘Parachutes‘ by Kelly Yang
May 26, 2020
Claire is a “parachute,” a teenager from China sent to study abroad at an American high school and live with a host family. Claire’s host family includes smart and shy Dani, who’s being raised by her single mom. Though they’re going to the same school and living under the same roof, Claire and Dani couldn’t be more different. Claire is beyond wealthy, while Dani is on scholarship, working at her mom’s house cleaning business to make extra money to keep the family afloat. They spend most of the year avoiding each other, until an act of violence forces them together and they realize they’re not as different as they think.
‘Something To Talk About‘ by Meryl Wilsner
May 26, 2020
Berkley’s first queer romance book is here, and it’s about damn time. Anyone who loves celebrity gossip and is fascinated by the ins and outs of Hollywood will enjoy this tale of a high-powered Hollywood producer who falls in love with her assistant—smack dab in the middle of the #MeToo era.
‘Again Again‘ by E. Lockhart
June 2, 2020
So, We Were Liars is one of my top five favorite books, which is why I’m so excited E. Lockhart is back with another fun read that’s full of surprises. Adelaide Buchwald survives a near-fatal family catastrophe and a breakup, after which she spends a summer falling in and out of love a thousand times (me after going on one date), all while confronting her ideas about love and her own secrets.
‘A Song Below Water‘ by Bethany C. Morrow
June 2, 2020
If you like fantasy but prefer your fantastical elements to be injected into a real-world setting as opposed to a completely new world, then A Song Below Water, which is about teen mermaids who live in Portland, will be just the thing for you. Tavia is forced to keep her siren identity a secret, and what makes it even harder is that Portland doesn’t have many Black people, let alone Black people with magical powers. But she has her best friend Effie, and together they navigate crushes, family secrets, and the ins and outs of high school. That all changes, though, after a siren murder trial, and when Tavia and Effie’s favorite fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, tensions start escalating.
‘The Guest List‘ by Lucy Foley
June 2, 2020
Want to get the thrill of watching Knives Out again? Lucy Foley’s latest page-turner is the next best thing. Very reminiscent of Agatha Christie, The Guest List takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland, where unsuspecting friends and family have gathered to celebrate a wedding. You can probably see where this is going: choppy waters, spotty cell service, and then one of the wedding guests turns up dead.
‘The Vanishing Half‘ by Brit Bennett
June 2, 2020
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers comes a new novel about two twins who grew up in a small southern Black community and ran away at age 16. As adults, one twin finds herself back in the very community she tried to escape, while the other secretly passes for white, her white husband knowing nothing about her past. But you can’t run from your past forever, which will become evident when the twins’ daughters’ paths cross.
‘#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE‘ by Nicole Byer
June 2, 2020
We’ve all heard celebrities called “#brave” for Instagramming with no makeup or filter (never mind their lip fillers and Botox injections). In this book, Byer reclaims the hashtag to detail her personal journey towards body confidence and to advise her readers on how to say f*ck you to the trolls and haters.
‘You Should See Me In A Crown‘ by Leah Johnson
June 2, 2020
Liz Lighty has never felt like she fit in at her small, rich, prom-obsessed Midwestern high school. She’s just counting down the days until she can GTFO of there. Her grand plan? To get accepted into the elite Pennington College, play in the orchestra, and become a doctor. NBD. When Liz’s crucial financial aid falls through, her plan starts to crumble—until she remembers her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. Liz doesn’t want to open herself up to all the judgment and social media trolling that running for prom queen would bring (her school even has its own gossip app, Campbell Confidential, so you know it’s catty), but she has no choice if she wants to get into Pennington.
‘The Boyfriend Project‘ by Farrah Rochon
June 9, 2020
Think John Tucker Must Die, but with an uplifting, female-empowerment twist. In The Boyfriend Project, three women learn they’re all dating the same man. But instead of ruining his life, they band together to invest in themselves: no men and no dating for the next six months. Samiah, a software developer, is finding it particularly hard to put herself first (can relate). But just when she’s on track to finally start developing the app she’s been dreaming of bringing to life, she meets her hot new coworker who’s hard to resist. Ugh, why does it always happen that way?
‘Last Tang Standing‘ by Lauren Ho
June 9, 2020
If you loved Crazy Rich Asians then you’ll want to put Last Tang Standing in your cart immediately, because it’s like Crazy Rich Asians, but more relatable and funnier.
Living in Singapore, 34-year-old Andrea Tang is still single, which, as far as Andrea’s well-to-do family is concerned, may as well be a crime. Andrea is married to her job, though she is keenly aware of her family’s pressure. Told through diary entries, Andrea tries out dating apps, gets wasted (see, I told you it was relatable), falls in love with a rich businessman, dukes it out with a newcomer at her law firm, and navigates the laser minefield that is her family’s intricate dynamics and expectations.
‘Head Over Heels‘ by Hannah Orenstein
June 23, 2020
Head Over Heels is Orenstein’s third romance novel, and she’s really nailed the millennial romance market. Avery Abrams trained her whole life to become an Olympic gymnast, but when an injury crushes those dreams, she’s forced to reassess her life and move back to her hometown. She begins training a promising young local gymnast, and you know sparks are going to fly. But when a scandal rocks the sport, as well as Avery’s past relationships, she must reevaluate her world and her past relationships.
‘Mexican Gothic‘ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
June 23, 2020
Set in 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic is “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” according to Kirkus Reviews. Noemí Taboada receives a letter from her cousin, begging someone to save her from some sort of mysterious peril. Noemí heads to High Place, a house in the Mexican countryside. There she meets her cousin’s scary yet handsome husband, his father, and the shy yet mysterious youngest son. Oh, and the house is probably haunted. Will Noemí be able to leave the house?
‘Party Of Two‘ by Jasmine Guillory
June 23, 2020
Fans of The Wedding Party, Jasmine Guillory is back this summer with yet another steamy romance, this one set in L.A. Lawyer Olivia Monroe flirts with Max Powell, who turns out to be a senator. Their whirlwind romance leads to them going on secret dates and trying to ditch the paparazzi, until they’re forced to go public with their relationship and Olivia faces a ton of scrutiny, which causes her to question if the relationship is really right for her.
‘Take A Hint, Dani Brown‘ by Talia Hibbert
June 23, 2020
One of Oprah Magazine’s 21 Romance Novels That Are Set to Be the Best of 2020, Take a Hint, Dani Brown is another charming romantic novel from Talia Hibbert. Danika Brown is over romance—it only brings disappointment (relatable). What she wants is a no-strings-attached, friends with benefits situation. Which is what she thinks she’s found in Zafir Ansari, the hunky security guard at her workplace. That is, until he rescues her in a fire drill gone awry, and the video of that rescue goes viral and people from all corners of the internet start shipping them. So Dani thinks, what the hell, might as well fake it for the publicity for a little while. We all know where this is going to go! Should I start fake-dating more people “for the publicity”?
‘A Woman Alone‘ by Nina Laurin
June 23, 2020
If you liked The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney, then get ready for more robots behaving badly in Nina Laurin’s newest thriller (and if that name sounds familiar, it’s because Laurin’s The Starter Wife landed on my reading list last summer). But this one is like Smart House, but deadly. After a brutal home invasion, Cecelia, her husband, and 3-year-old daughter move into a new house with a complex AI-operated security system. All is well and good, until Cecelia starts suspecting that the system has killed the occupants of the house, and she’s next.
‘Self Care‘ by Leigh Stein
June 30, 2020
Fans of Diet Starts Tomorrow will love this one! Millennials Maren Gelb and Devin Avery create Richual, a wellness app for women that’s founded on the principle that women being happy with themselves and practicing self-care are forms of resistance against the patriarchy. Devin is the perfectly toned body and face of the app, while Maren is the behind-the-scenes cynic who makes everything work. Self Care is a smart critique of the wellness industry and how toxic, fake, and white-washed it is—but it’s also a very fun read.
‘Someone Else’s Secret‘ by Julia Spiro
July 1, 2020
This one starts out as a breezy beach read, then gets real dark, real quick. Lindsey graduates from Bowdoin at the height of the recession with dreams of working in art galleries and a mountain of student debt. She ends up working as a nanny for a rich family on Martha’s Vineyard for the summer, where she befriends Georgie, the 14-year-old girl she babysits along with her 5-year-old brother.
‘Cinderella Is Dead‘ by Kalynn Bayron
July 8, 2020
Pretend we live in whatever world Cinderella takes place in. It’s 200 years after she found Prince Charming, and now teenage girls are required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select their wives. If they do not find a suitable match, the unchosen girls are never heard from again. Harsh. Enter: 16-year-old Sophia, who would much rather marry Erin, her best friend. At the ball, Sophia flees and finds herself face-to-face with Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella. They team up to bring down the king once and for all. This fantasy-meets-queer romance-meets-patriarchy smashing novel is a fun read for everyone waiting for their fairytale ending.
‘Crooked Hallelujah‘ by Kelli Jo Ford
July 18, 2020
Taking place in 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, 15-year-old Justine is part of a family of tough, loyal women, presided over by her mother and grandmother after Justine’s father abandoned the family. Justine’s mother becomes heavily involved in the Holiness Church, a community Justine finds kind of terrifying and definitely restrictive. Justine tries her best to be a good daughter and devoted follower until an act of violence changes her thinking forever. As an adult with a daughter of her own, Reney, Justine tries to find stability in Texas amidst the oil bust of the 1980s—which is easier said than done.
‘10 Things I Hate About Pinky‘ by Sandhya Menon
July 21, 2020
Need a fun, flirty YA novel that takes on the “fake-dating” trope Netflix loves to push on us in all their teen movies? Look no further than NYT bestselling author Sandhya Menon’s latest release, which follows two frenemies, Pinky and Samir, who each have their quirks. After Samir loses an internship, Pinky invites him to be her fake boyfriend, offering a new internship if he accepts. He needs something to do; she needs her parents to stop coming at her over her life choices. What could go wrong? Well, aside from them bickering constantly and struggling to sell their relationship…
‘He Started It‘ by Samantha Downing
July 21, 2020
Samantha Downing’s highly anticipated novel He Started It is finally here! If you’ve read any of my book roundups in the past, then I feel like you can recite my little summary from memory, but here we go one more time. He Started It follows a family of liars and grifters who are on a road trip to disperse their grandfather’s ashes, and at the end, collect a big insurance payout. But as you can guess, when scamming runs in your blood, you can’t even trust your own family members.
‘The Woman Before Wallis‘ by Bryn Turnbull
July 21, 2020
The Woman Before Wallis is historical fiction, but stay with me! It’s so dramatic you’ll think you’re reading a tabloid, or like, watching The Crown, I guess. Picture this: the summer of 1926. Thelma Morgan, the daughter of an American diplomat, marries Viscount Duke Furness and becomes a member of the British aristocracy (sounds familiar…). Because she’s now a member of the ~elite~ she meets the handsome young Prince of Wales, with whom she starts having an affair. This is already precarious AF, and only gets more wild when Thelma’s sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, gets embroiled in a scandal of her own.
‘A Star Is Bored‘ by Byron Lane
July 28, 2020
First of all, love the title, even though it has now knocked one potential off my prospective memoir titles list. But anyway, influenced in part by the author’s time as Carrie Fisher’s beloved assistant, A Star Is Bored is about Kathi Kannon, a famous actress known for her role in a blockbuster sci-fi movie, and Charlie Besson, her new assistant. They laugh, they cry, they go on late-night shopping sprees, and they form a friendship that goes beyond that of the typical boss/assistant relationship.
‘The Wife Who Knew Too Much‘ by Michele Campbell
July 28, 2020
After A Stranger On The Beach, Michele Campbell is back with her latest thriller, The Wife Who Knew Too Much. Tabby is a waitress living a fairly modest life, but she never forgot her high school summer love, Connor. He was handsome, kind, and extremely wealthy—which was why his family hated her, and broke them up. So when he shows up back in her life, it seems like a miracle, except there’s a catch: he’s married. And not just married—married to the incredibly wealthy and powerful Nina Ford. But he of course assures Tabby they’re getting a divorce (sure, Jan), but there’s another catch: if he’s caught cheating, he gets nothing in the divorce settlement. So Tabby and Connor continue their affair in secret, until Nina winds up dead. Guess who’s the number one suspect?
‘This Is My America‘ by Kim Johnson
July 28, 2020
17-year-old Tracy Beaumont diligently writes letters every week to Innocence X, asking the organization to look into her father’s case. Her father is an innocent Black man on death row, and after seven years of begging Innocence X, Tracy’s father only has 267 days left to live. Then, things get even worse for Tracy: her brother Jamal is accused of killing a white girl. With Jamal on the run and her father on death row, it’s up to Tracy to investigate what really happened and try to save her family.
‘Today Tonight Tomorrow‘ by Rachel Lynn Solomon
July 28, 2020
Named a most-anticipated book of 2020 by Entertainment, Today Tonight Tomorrow is an instant classic rom-com. This enemies-to-lovers plot involves Rowan and Neil, two high school students who have been bitter rivals on everything: test scores, student council elections, and even gym class. When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan’s last chance at victory is to defeat him in Howl, a senior class scavenger hunt. Of course these two decide to form an alliance, and I think you can guess where this alliance ultimately takes them.
‘Caste‘ by Isabel Wilkerson
August 4, 2020
In her latest work of nonfiction, Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson demonstrates, through deeply researched stories about real people, how America has been shaped by a hidden caste system. She traces the caste systems of India, America, and Nazi Germany, exploring eight different criteria that link them all. In addition to diving deep into how this insidious system affects us every day, she offers ways America can break these divisions and try to move past them.
‘The Comeback‘ by Ella Berman
August 4, 2020
In a fiction debut that’s all too timely, The Comeback is about Grace Turner, a young actress who returns to Hollywood after retreating from the public eye. Nobody but Grace knows the reason for her disappearance from Hollywood: the manipulation and abuse from a director who controlled her life. When she’s asked to present this same director with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Grace must come back into the public eye to demand justice.
‘The Night Swim‘ by Megan Goldin
August 4, 2020
If you read Sadie and binged Serial, then The Night Swim was basically written for you. Rachel Krall started a true crime podcast that became a viral sensation and set an innocent man free. Her podcast’s success has turned her into a go-to figure for people hoping to be exonerated for crimes they didn’t commit. Now, her podcast has taken her to a small town torn apart by a rape trial: a golden boy—a swimmer destined for the Olympics—is accused of sexually assaulting the granddaughter of the police chief. But as Rachel investigates this case, she’s also getting mysterious notes sent to her by someone who claims their sister who officials say was drowned, was in fact murdered. When Rachel starts asking questions about the drowning, suddenly everyone in town clams up, and the past and present collide as she investigates both cases.
‘The Silent Wife‘ by Karin Slaughter
August 4, 2020
New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter is back this summer with her 20th novel, The Silent Wife. In Atlanta, a young woman is attacked and left for dead. The case goes cold until FBI investigator Will Trent gets an assignment that brings him to a prisoner who recognizes the M.O. of the attack—because he’s been falsely sitting in prison for it. Now, Trent must solve the old case in order to solve this new one.
‘Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop‘ by Roselle Lim
August 4, 2020
If you enjoyed Lim’s debut, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, then get ready for her follow-up, which is just as full of heart, heritage, and food. Lim’s latest tells the story of Vanessa Yu, a fortuneteller who’s been able to see people’s futures at the bottom of their teacups for as long as she can remember. Try as she might to avoid using her powers, people’s fortunes seem to find their way into Vanessa’s life to f*ck things up. When Vanessa sees death for the first time after an appointment with a matchmaker (because, oh yeah, her romance life is also nonexistent), she decides she needs to get rid of her abilities, so she jets off to Paris. There, she learns more about her gift, and comes to realize that knowing your destiny isn’t a curse, but not being able to change it is.
‘Color Me In‘ by Natasha Díaz
August 11, 2020
In this coming-of-age novel, 16-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial identity as a girl with a Black mom and Jewish dad, until her parents split up and she moves to her mom’s home in Harlem. There, she gets sh*t from family members who think she’s too privileged, pampered, and white-passing to relate to the injustices Black people face. On the other hand, her dad wants her to have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet 16, which would earn her sh*t from the privileged kids at her private school. You can’t win! Neveah stays silent until a secret from her mom’s past, falling in love, and witnessing the racism her family faces firsthand forces her to find and use her voice.
‘Raybearer‘ by Jordan Ifueko
August 18, 2020
Need a good YA fantasy read? Look no further than the debut from Jordan Ifueko, which is already getting buzz from Seventeen, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, and now me, and is based on West African traditions and mythology. Protagonist Tarisai was raised in isolation by an absent mother called The Lady, but she has always longed for a family. The adventure begins when The Lady sends Tarisai to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If chosen, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood—what Tarisai has always wanted. But The Lady has other plans, and wants her to kill the Crown Prince. Will Tarisai be strong enough to stand up on her own?
‘Winter Counts‘ by David Heska Wabli Weiden
August 25, 2020
When the American justice system consistently fails you and your people, you become a vigilante of sorts—or at least, that’s what Virgil Wounded Horse does for the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Things get personal, though, when heroin enters into the reservation and finds its way to Virgil’s own nephew. With the help of his ex-girlfriend, he decides to find out where the drugs are coming from and how to make them stop. As Virgil starts to put the pieces together, he’s forced to come to terms with his own demons and grapple with what it means to be Native American in the 21st century.
Images: Dan Dumitriu / Unsplash; Barnes & Noble (36)
Summer is fucking here, and no I don’t care that it’s not June 21st or whatever. If it’s between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it’s summer. Anyway. With summer comes long days at the pool or beach (or stuck on the subway because Governor Cuomo can’t get his fucking act together. You may @ me). While you spend extended amounts of time on your ass, you’re going to need some new reading material. So I bring to you, the Betches summer 2018 reading list. The books on this list all offer something different, so you could legit buy each and every one of them. Actually, you probs should.
‘Text Me When You Get Home’ by Kayleen Schaefer
Look I am fully aware that I’ve sung the praises of this book too much already. But I’m just passionate, okay? This is a really good summer read to make you appreciate your friends. So just pick up a copy and you can finish it at the pool in like, a day. Just try not to cry in public.
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ by Kevin Kwan
Crazy Rich Asians came out in 2013, which might as well have been last century for some of you, but the movie is coming out this summer, so now you really are running out of time to read the book first. And trust me, with a cast like Constance Wu and Henry Golding, you’re gonna want to see the movie, ergo, you’re gonna want to read the book. Crazy Rich Asians is about an American Chinese girl named Rachel, who goes to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. Only nobody warned her that her boyfriend, Nick, is well… crazy rich, and his family is crazy judgmental. It’s fun, it’s smart, and it’s chock full of sarcastic footnotes. How many books can you say that about?
‘Vox’ by Christina Dalcher
Vox is about a not-too-far-off future where women are given a quota of 100 words per day that they are allowed to speak. Any more, and they are punished with a series of painful shocks delivered to the device they are all required to wear around their wrists. Yeah. Not gonna lie, I don’t feel great that Christina Dalcher gave the Republican party an idea they will surely work into the 2020 election campaign, but for the time being this a thrilling, if terrifying, read that will hook you from page one. It’s basically the new Handmaid’s Tale.
‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang
The Kiss Quotient is a romance novel, and I just need you all to know before we proceed any further that “romance novel” is actually a euphemism for “sex book”. I did not know that, and thought I was genuinely opening up a love story, then proceeded to get annoyed (and ok, slightly aroused) by all the sex I was reading. Anywhooo, as far as romance novels go (yes this was my first, if you couldn’t tell), this one is pretty different. It’s about Stella, a super smart economist with Asperger’s, who hires Michael, a male escort, to teach her about sex. They both end up getting more than they bargained for, in more ways than one. Wink.
‘Tell Me Lies’ by Carola Lovering
It’s a classic tale of girl meets boy. Boy turns out to be a fuckboy. Fuckboy ghosts in and out of girl’s life throughout college and her 20s like a manipulative, lying Casper. This book is so relatable it’s upsetting. Plus, it takes place in New York, so it’s an extra-urgent must-read for all you New York betches. But what makes Tell Me Lies different from your diary is that we also get insight into the fuckboy’s perspective and his version of events. I’d advise you to delete that guy’s number before picking up a copy of Tell Me Lies—you know exactly which guy I’m talking about.
‘The Masterpiece’ by Fiona Davis
This fiercely anticipated novel that I am positive is going to be made into a movie follows two women, Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, during two different time periods, 1928 and 1974, respectively. Grand Central Station and art link these strangers together, when Virginia finds one of Clara’s old paintings and sets out to learn more about her. But Virginia’s not the only one who wants to know more about Clara Darden and the enigmatic painting. A little mysterious, a little historical, a little feminist, and a lot exciting, this is one book everyone in your book club will love.
‘The Favorite Sister’ by Jessica Knoll
The author behind Luckiest Girl Alive is back with her second thriller. This one’s about two competitive sisters who sign onto a reality TV show together, along with three other equally successful and jealous women. All want the spotlight. All have secrets to hide. And then somebody ends up dead. You’ve got to pick up this one before it becomes the next plotline of Unreal—hopefully not Bachelor in Paradise.
‘Into The Black Nowhere’ by Meg Gardiner
Full disclosure, this is part of a series, but I have a feeling you can pick this up on its own just fine. I read UNSUB by Meg Gardiner earlier this year, and I was fucking haunted for days. Into The Black Nowhere is the sequel, and it follows Detective Caitlin Hendrix of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (yeah, like in Criminal Minds) as she tracks an UNSUB who is hunting female victims, then posing them in white nightgowns, surrounded by Polaroids. It’s inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, and you’ll devour this faster than you can binge a season of your favorite crime TV show. Let’s just see if you’ll be able to solve the crime before Detective Hendrix.
‘Hey Ladies!’ by Michelle Markowitz and Carolina Moss
Y’all remember that book TTYL we all read in middle school that was told entirely through instant messages? Those were the days. Even though AIM is dead (RIP), we’ll get to relive the glory days with the new book Hey Ladies! It’s based on the column in The Toast of the same name, and it follows a fictional group of twenty- and thirtysomething women through one year of summer houses, disaster dates, brunches, breakups, and weddings. And the most interesting part: it’s told completely via emails, texts, DMs, and other forms of communication. I know, I kinda buried the lede there. Doesn’t it sound fun?
‘I Had A Nice Time And Other Lies’ by The Betches
If you haven’t read our dating advice book, you need to get on that shit before our third book comes out (v soon). We’ll give you the brutally honest dating advice your friends won’t and give you a no-bullshit guide to dating from figuring out if you’re ready to date to online dating to how not to sound psycho during the beginning stages and beyond. Trust us, your friends are sick of hearing you bitch about the last fuckboy who screwed you over.
Images: Angello Lopez / Unsplash; Amazon (10)
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