The Betches Winter 2020-2021 Reading List

I don’t care what the calendar says (I feel like all my book roundups start this way), it is winter. And you know what that means: a winter reading list, because it’s that time of year again where we just cozy up with a good book. Or at least, that’s what I do. In honor of that, I’ve compiled my winter reading list. Please note that this is not a comprehensive 2021 reading list, which will be coming ASAP. (In more realistic terms, probably like, January.) But for now, here are 14 books you can dive into, from spicy romance to twisty thrillers to poignant historical fiction. 

‘A Princess For Christmas’ by Jenny Holiday (October 13, 2020)

I could have included this in a fall roundup, but given that Christmas is in the title, it didn’t feel right. If you already watched The Princess Switch: Switched Again and all the other Christmas movies on Netflix but still need your holiday romance fix, pick up a copy of A Princess for Christmas. It’s basically got everything you loved from Princess Switch or Princess Diaries: a fictional kingdom called Eldovia, a princess who’s in way over her head, finding love in unexpected places. Leo, a cab driver in New York City, picks up Princess Marie of Eldovia and ends up with more than he bargained for—namely, a gig driving Princess Marie around for the remainder of her NYC trip. He doesn’t expect to fall for the princess, or that he will end up in Eldovia for Christmas.

‘Every Last Secret’ by A.R. Torre (December 1, 2020)

What would you do for the “perfect” life? That’s what Cat and Neena, two neighbors in Silicon Valley, are duking it out over. Cat Winthorpe seems to have it all: a beautiful house, social standing, and William, her dreamy husband. And that’s precisely what Neena Ryder wants: Cat’s husband. Neena tries to scheme her way into William’s life; meanwhile, Cat has a secret of her own that could blow up her charmed life. While the ending may not completely take you by surprise, Every Last Secret is a fun and fast ride.

‘Heiress Apparently’ by Diana Ma (December 1, 2020)

If you, like me, are still sad you finished Last Tang Standing, Diana Ma’s latest novel serves up a similar dose of fun, relatable, hot mess fiction, with a Lizzie McGuire Movie-esque twist. Really doesn’t get more fun than that. Gemma Huang disappointed her parents by foregoing college to pursue an acting career, which is how she finds herself living in LA with three roommates, barely scraping by. Things start looking up when she takes a gig in a production of M. Butterfly in Beijing, only to realize she apparently is the doppelgänger of one of Beijing’s most notorious socialites. And there might be a reason for that…

‘How To Catch A Queen’ by Alyssa Cole (December 1, 2020)

If the name Alyssa Cole sounds familiar, good—it should! I’ve been raving about her new thriller, When No One Is Watching, and she also has a romance novel coming out. And I can’t even figure out how to do my job plus one hobby and still have a somewhat normal sleep schedule. SMH, some people can really do it all. Anyway, How To Catch a Queen is the first book in the new Runaway Royals series. Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, and with it, her dreams of becoming a queen finally come true. What she hadn’t imagined since she was a little girl? Nobody in the kingdom respects her. The King is equally perplexed, since Shanti has all the answers to solve Njaza’s problems… except nobody will listen to her.

‘This Time Next Year’ by Sophie Cousens (December 1, 2020)

If you want Love, Actually but in book form, this is basically it. It’s about Minnie Cooper, whose New Year’s birthday has always been a source of woe in her life—especially because her mother missed out on winning the cash prize for giving birth to the first baby of the year born in London, thanks to a guy named Quinn Hamilton, who was born just moments earlier. Even worse, he stole her name! When Minnie runs into Quinn at, where else, a New Year’s party, she’s surprised to find herself wanting more.

‘White Feminism’ by Koa Beck (January 5, 2021)

We didn’t stop reading antiracist books in the summer, and Koa Beck, former Editor-in-Chief of Jezebel, has a new book out that is a necessary read. Beck explores how feminism has been commodified, and how it excludes women of color, from the suffragettes to corporate feminism, and how we can fix it for future generations.

‘You Have A Match’ by Emma Lord (January 5, 2021)

Protagonist Abby signs up for a DNA test and gets more than she bargained for: she finds out she has an older sister. But not just any sister: Savannah Tully, an Instagram model. Abby’s plan to find out how tf this happened? Meet up with Savannah at summer camp and find out the truth. But there are a few problems, or else this would be a sentence and not a book: Savannah is a total narc, so getting the truth isn’t as simple as it seems. Plus, Abby’s crush works at the camp. Oh, and Abby’s parents are hiding a secret that could blow everything up.

‘Lana’s War’ by Anita Abriel (January 12, 2021)

Ok, so. I think we’ve maybe reached a point where WWII fiction is an escape again and not a harbinger of things to come? Fingers crossed it stays that way. With that said, Lana’s War is set in 1943 Paris, where Lana Antanova witnesses her husband being executed by the Gestapo—right when she was about to tell him she was pregnant. A few months later, Lana is approached to join the resistance, putting her face to face with the man who killed her husband. Taking up residence with a wealthy Swiss industrialist in a villa, Lana helps Jews escape. Obviously, the Nazis want to stop her, and Lana has to try to protect herself, everything she’s worked for, and the people she’s beginning to love. 

‘The Perfect Guests’ by Emma Rous (January 12, 2021)

From the author of The Au Pair comes another suspenseful read set in a creepy Gothic manor. Raven Hall is a sprawling manor in a coastal plain in eastern England. In 1988, 14-year-old Beth Soames is taken there by her aunt to stay with the Averell family. Beth quickly becomes like one of the family, until the Averells ask her to play a twisted game, and nothing is the same after that. Cut to 2019, when Sadie Lawson, a struggling actress, shows up with a suitcase and a dossier of the role she’s meant to play: a weekend guest. Can’t be too hard, right? Right, except the house feels haunted, the party guests feel off, and the host is not what they seem.

‘Waiting For The Night Song’ by Julie Carrick Dalton (January 12, 2021)

Julie Carrick Dalton’s debut gives me serious Where The Crawdad Sings vibes. Its protagonist is forestry researcher Cadie Kessler, who’s on the verge of a breakthrough that could help prevent serious damage to the wilderness. But then she gets a message from her estranged childhood best friend, and the two have to face a dark secret that they’ve kept hidden for over 25 years. As drought, foreclosures, and wildfires spark tensions between locals and displaced migrant farm workers, Cadie has to decide how far she’ll go to protect herself and the forest she loves.

‘Your Corner Dark’ by Desmond Hall (January 19, 2021)

Hall’s debut tackles gang life in Jamaica and pushes the limits of how far a teen will go for his family. Frankie Green gets a coveted scholarship letter, which should be his ticket out. Until his father gets shot, and he finds himself joining his uncle’s gang to pay for his father’s medical bills. Is there such thing as a point of no return? And is it too late for Frankie to build the life he’s always wanted?

‘The Obsession’ by Jesse Q. Sutano (February 2, 2021)

Think of The Obsession like the YA book version of You. Instead of Joe, we have Logan. Instead of Beck, we have Delilah. Some might call Logan a stalker, but he just thinks he’s romantic. Besides, nobody likes Delilah like he does, and they’re meant to be together. All he needs is the right moment to convince her they’re meant to be. When Logan witnesses Delilah kill her abusive stepfather, she may not have much of a choice but to be with Logan.

‘Wild Rain’ by Beverly Jenkins (February 2, 2021)

A little bit of romance, a little bit of historical fiction, Wild Rain tackles women’s rights, suffrage, and Black American history in Reconstruction-Era Wyoming. Did you know Wyoming was a pioneer in women’s rights and women’s suffrage? I didn’t either, but its territorial legislature passed a law in 1869 that gave women the right to vote. So with that in mind, Spring Lee, a property-owning Black female rancher, moves to Paradise, Wyoming. She has one rule: she does not need a man. Until she meets Garrett McCray, a Washington reporter who escaped slavery. When a dark spot from Spring’s past comes back to light, her ranch, her safety, and her newfound love are all on the line.

First Comes Like’ by Alisha Rai (February 16, 2020)

The third book in Rai’s Modern Love series, First Comes Like is about Jia Ahmed, a 29-year-old beauty influencer who doesn’t have time for love. But when a Bollywood legend slides into her DMs… well, that only happens once in a lifetime. Meanwhile, Dev Dixit grew up as Bollywood royalty, but his world was rocked by his brother’s unexpected death, and Dev finds himself as the guardian for his teen niece. Unable to deal with the constant public scrutiny, Dev sets off for America, where, one night in Hollywood, he meets a beautiful Instagram influencer. He’s surprised that he’s intrigued by her, and all the more surprised to find out someone has been catfishing her, posing as Dev. Who tf is catfishing Jia? And is Jia and Dev’s relationship doomed from the start?

‘Honey Girl’ by Morgan Rogers (February 23, 2021)

Twentysomething Grace Porter is a straight-laced overachiever who just got her PhD. Which is why it’s totally out of character when she goes to Vegas, gets hammered, and gets married to a woman whose name she doesn’t even know. After that trip, Grace does yet another unexpected thing and goes to New York for the summer to spend time with her new wife. But you can’t run from your problems forever, and soon, Grace’s come knocking at her door.

Images: Sincerely Media / Unsplash; Bookshop

The Betches Fall 2020 Reading List

Labor Day has officially come and gone, my friends, which effectively means summer is over. I know, it’s sad—especially because I don’t think any of us accomplished a single thing we thought we would. Hot Girl Summer is but a distant memory, and F*ckgirl Fall will likely not happen either. But you know what we do get this fall? An amazing new reading list. It’s the little things.

‘Loathe At First Sight’ By Suzanne Park

(August 18, 2020)

Helen Hoang, author of Kiss Quotient, calls Suzanne Park’s rom-com “bursting with humor, heart, and great energy”. Melody Joo lands her dream job as a video game producer, but it’s not all a walk in the park. She deals with an insufferable CEO, sexist coworkers, and the hot intern who got hired because of nepotism. But things get better when a game Melody creates on a lark becomes an overnight sensation, and suddenly she’s the boss. That means Hot Intern works for her—and the more they work together, the more Melody realizes she may have been wrong to write him off so quickly. This fun, flirty novel also tackles tough themes like microaggressions, sexual harassment, and the misogyny in the gaming industry.

‘American Royals II: Majesty’ By Katharine McGee

(September 1, 2020)

If you didn’t read the first book in Katharine McGee’s series, American Royals—set in an America where we never declared independence from England—then you need to catch up. If you’ll recall, prim and proper Beatrice (who’s got a secret of her own) was thrust to the throne at the end of book one. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace—and Prince Jefferson—at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans.

‘His Only Wife’ By Peace Azo Medie

(September 1, 2020)

This book is being hailed as a “Crazy Rich Asians for West Africa, with a healthy splash of feminism”. If that didn’t hook you, His Only Wife features independence, obligations to family, class divides—and a love triangle. Talk about juicy! Afi Tekple, a young seamstress, 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. Uh-oh.

‘Jenna Takes The Fall’ By A.R. Taylor

(September 1, 2020)

This is not a spoiler, because the book opens with protagonist Jenna agreeing to position herself underneath the dead body of Vincent Hull, her insanely powerful boss who’s kind of like a Rupert Murdoch character. Why? That’s the multi-million dollar question. But this book isn’t a thriller—it follows Jenna, a naive Ohio native who moves to New York to become Hull’s assistant and quickly gets swept up by all the money, power, glitz and glamor New York’s publishing industry has to offer.

‘The Last Story Of Mina Lee’ By Nancy Jooyoun Kim

(September 1, 2020)

How well can you really ever know your family or the people you love most? That’s what Nancy Jooyoun Kim attempts to answer in her debut. Margot Lee and her mother Mina have always had a strained relationship, struggling to understand each other. At 26, Margot is surprised when her mom isn’t returning her calls—until she pays a visit and discovers her mother has suspiciously died. This sends Margot digging into the past, learning about her mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and undocumented immigrant. Told through alternating perspectives, The Last Story Of Mina Lee explores the gap between immigrants and their first-generation children, the differences between how we view our parents and how much we really know them, the difficulties of being a working-class immigrant in the U.S., and more. 

‘Punching The Air’ By Ibi Zoboi And Dr. Yusef Salaam

(September 1, 2020)

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Amal Shahid is an artist and a poet, but even at his diverse art school, he feels the effects of a biased system, where he is often seen as disruptive and unmotivated. Then, one night, an altercation in a gentrified neighborhood turns deadly, and Amal is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison.

‘The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes’ By Elissa R. Sloan

(September 1, 2020)

If you liked Daisy Jones & The Six, then you’ll love Elissa R. Sloan’s debut, which is basically that—but with 90s nostalgia. Um, say no more. 

JK, I’ll say a little more. The novel follows Gloss, the hottest girl group of the 90s. When Cassidy Holmes, a beloved member of the iconic group, is found dead by apparent suicide 20 years after the group’s heyday, the world is shocked. That includes her former bandmates, who examine what happened, why, and if they played a role.

‘When No One Is Watching’ By Alyssa Cole

(September 1, 2020)

A romance author who is now turning to thrillers, Alyssa Cole is the embodiment of the “get you a girl who can do both” meme. Cole’s first domestic thriller is being called Rear Window meets Get Out, and I don’t know what more you need than that description. Protagonist Sydney Green is born and raised in Brooklyn, a neighborhood she hardly recognizes anymore as a result of the gentrification. She connects with her neighbor Theo, in whom she finds an unlikely ally. The two dive deep into history, where they discover that the push to “revitalize” the community may be more deadly than either of them realized.

‘Modern Madness’ By Terri Cheney

(September 8, 2020)

You may know Terri Cheney from her heartbreaking Modern Love essay that was adapted for Amazon’s miniseries (Terri’s character was played by Anne Hathaway). In her new work of literary nonfiction, the author, former attorney, and mental health advocate presents an unflinching “owner’s manual” that details her battles with bipolar disease, revealing how it touches all aspects of her life from dating to socializing to work and more. It’s gripping, shocking, at times funny, and all-around real.

‘The Night Portrait’ By Laura Morelli

(September 8, 2020)

Ah, 1492: Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and 16-year-old Cecelia, the breathtaking daughter of a disgraced family, wins the Duke of Milan’s affections. Her grand prize? The chance to sit before Leonardo da Vinci (ever heard of him?) for a portrait. Not just any portrait—his famed Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine. The Night Portrait follows the story of da Vinci’s painting and its fictional muse, all the way through World War II Germany when Nazis attempt to seize the painting, and the Allies’ attempt to thwart them.

‘Don’t Look For Me’ By Wendy Walker

(September 15, 2020)

Molly Clarke is not a good mom—or that’s what she’s been telling herself, ever since she killed her daughter Annie in a horrible accident. Grief-stricken, Molly considers just walking away from her life. Which is precisely what everyone thinks she’s done when she mysteriously disappears the night of a horrible storm—everyone, that is, except her daughter Nicole, who’s determined to bring her mother home, even if she doesn’t want to be found.

‘FURIA’ By Yamile Saied Méndez

(September 15, 2020)

In Yamile Saied Méndez’s YA debut, the Argentinian-American writer tackles tough issues like feminism, personal growth, abuse, and more. Camila Hassan lives a double life: at home, she’s an obedient daughter, but on the fútbol field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse with real potential. She dreams of getting an athletic scholarship to a North American university, but her parents, who have no idea of her passion for the sport, would never allow it. At the same time, the guy she loved, Diego, is back in town after becoming an international fútbol star. Camila is forced to choose as her two lives threaten to collide. Although FURIA is not autobiographical, much of it is based on Méndez’s own life—except instead of playing fútbol, Méndez decided to study the sport instead.

‘Grown’ By Tiffany D. Jackson

(September 15, 2020)

Fans of Monday’s Not Coming and Allegedly, Tiffany D. Jackson is BACK with her latest YA mystery! GROWN is a ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that starts with aspiring singer Enchanted Jones waking up with no memory of the night before, and blood on her hands. Literally. Her new friend, legendary R&B star Korey Fields, is dead—and all signs point to Enchanted. Did she do it? As she reflects on Korey’s hidden dark side, Enchanted grapples with her own potential involvement in his death.

‘Legendborn’ By Tracy Deonn

(September 15, 2020)

This new fantasy series by debut author Tracy Deonn is all about Black Girl Magic—literally. It kicks off with 16-year-old Bree running away from home after her mother’s death, to a program for gifted high schoolers at UNC Chapel Hill. But her plan to escape the tragedy of her past doesn’t go so well, when she witnesses a magical attack her first night on campus. Talk about a rough start. A teenage magician (who calls himself a Merlin) tries, and fails, to wipe Bree’s memory, which causes another one to come flooding back: the night of her mother’s death, where Merlin was, too. Armed with some newfound abilities and a powerful ally, Bree resolves to find out the truth about her mother’s death.

‘The White Coat Diaries’ By Madi Sinha

(September 15, 2020)

In a time where we all think of doctors and other essential workers as superheroes, physician-turned-novelist Madi Sinha’s debut is all the more important. When, on her first day of residency, Norah Kapadia accidentally pricks herself with a needle used on a sick patient, she suddenly realizes how dangerous her profession can be to her own health. Despite pouring years (and lots of money) into studying to become a doctor, she’s almost ready to quit: in part because of the incident, and in part because of the long hours, rude patients, and pressure from her parents to be the “perfect Indian daughter”. It doesn’t help that her chief resident, Ethan, is everything Norah wishes she was. Soon, their working relationship becomes something more. But when a fatal mistake is made and Norah is asked to participate in a cover-up, she has to decide what’s more important: her relationship or her career?

‘Shine’ By Jessica Jung

(September 29, 2020)

It’s been a big year for K-pop stans, and now that’s even more true with the release of SHINE by Jessica Jung, a former member of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time. And the plot is a little bit meta, which I find fun. 17-year-old Rachel Kim was recruited six years ago by DB Entertainment, one of Seoul’s biggest K-pop labels. In exchange for all her dreams coming true (and, you know, a shot at fame and fortune), she has to give up dating, train all the time, and be perfect. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out, as the industry’s dark underbelly becomes exposed in the mainstream, and Rachel wonders if she has what it takes to really make it. Add in a love interest who is a K-pop golden boy in his own right, and you’ve got the makings of a juicy debut.

‘Ties That Tether’ By Jane Igharo

(September 29, 2020)

I don’t know about you all, but I need to get lost in a good romance this fall (since cuffing season is a long-lost memory), and Ties That Tether delivers just that, with a perspective that’s much needed in the literary world. Azere Izoduwa promised her dying father she’d preserve their Nigerian culture even after moving to Canada, which ends up being one of those “easier said than done” cases. After yet another disaster date, she meets Rafael Castellano, who is tall, handsome, and decidedly not Nigerian. Azere ends up in his hotel room, but ghosts the next morning… until a month later, when work forces them together again, and Azere has to weigh her family commitments with the possibility of ~true love~.

‘Goodnight Beautiful’ By Aimee Molloy

(October 13, 2020)

The novel starts out with Dr. Sam Statler, a hot therapist, going missing after a storm. But let’s rewind: Annie Potter isn’t super thrilled to leave behind her life in NYC to move with her husband Sam to his hometown upstate. Especially because she has nothing to do while he sees (mostly female) clients all day. Little does Sam know, every word of his sessions can be heard from a room upstairs. Just when you think you’ve got this book figured out, it will throw another curveball at you—even the most avid thriller readers won’t predict these surprises.

‘Three Little Truths’ By Eithne Shortall

(October 13, 2020)

I’m honestly down for pretty much any title that gives me Big Little Lies vibes. Three Little Truths follows three women who are looking for a fresh start on idyllic Pine Road. We have Martha, who used to the cool, calm, collected HBIC until moving her family to Dublin under mysterious circumstances. Now, she’s unraveling. Then there’s Robin, who used to be the cool girl in high school, now living with her parents and a 4-year-old son. Finally, we have Edie, who seems to have it all, except for a baby and friends in the neighborhood. When these three women find an unlikely friendship in one another, it will change all their lives and reveal some deep, dark secrets.

‘Cobble Hill’ By Cecily Von Ziegesar 

(October 20, 2020)

 

If the name Cecily Von Ziegesar doesn’t ring a bell, I’m going to need you to tell me what it’s like being an actual child. The author of Gossip Girl (yes!) is back with a tale of four families living in—you guessed it—Cobble Hill. First, there’s Mandy, new mom and former groupie, who is so unfulfilled by motherhood that she fakes a debilitating disease to get her ex-boyfriend Stuart’s attention. Next up, we have Peaches, the school nurse who marches to the beat of her own drum, and also Stuart (same Stuart)’s crush. A few blocks over lives Roy, a well-known British novelist, whose next novel and marriage are simultaneously slipping away. And finally, Tupper, the introverted industrial designer who casually has a warehouse of prosthetic limbs, struggles to connect with his artist wife Elizabeth. Oh ,yeah, and there’s also two teenagers, a ten-year-old pyro, a drug dealer masquerading as a doctor, a lot of hidden cameras, and one figurative bomb waiting to detonate.

‘Memorial’ By Bryan Washington

(October 27, 2020)

In this work of literary fiction, National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree Bryan Washington pens a humorous-yet-poignant portrait of family in its many less-than-functional forms. Benson and Mike are two young adults living in Houston. Benson is a Black day care teacher and Mike is a Japanese-American chef. They’ve been together for a few years, and they love each other, but they can’t help but feel like maybe it’s not enough. Everything changes when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Japan, and he drops everything to say goodbye—right as his mother has arrived in Texas for a visit. While Mike uncovers some life-changing family truths in Japan, his mother and Benson become de facto roommates, to some pretty hilarious ends.  

‘The Flip Side’ by James Bailey

(November 10, 2020)

Male-authored rom-coms aren’t common, so I had to show this one some love. If you thought you had a crappy year, be glad you’re not Josh, the protagonist of The Flip Side, whose girlfriend turns down his marriage proposal. After this, Josh loses his job and the flat he and his ex shared. In a true “f*ck it” moment, Josh decides that, come New Year’s, he’ll make all his decisions by the flip of a coin. But when he meets the love of his life by chance and tries to track her down through multiple European cities, he realizes that not everything is as easy as a coin toss.

‘Murder in Old Bombay’ By Nev March

(November 10, 2020)

A little bit of mystery, a little bit of history, March’s based-on-a-real-crime novel has a little something for everyone. In the 1890s, two young Parsi women are murdered, leaving Captain Jim Agnihotri to play Sherlock Holmes (his idol) to solve the crime. As he travels across India investigating, he becomes ~involved~ with someone close to one of the victims. Scandalous!

‘Pretending’ By Holly Bourne

(November 17, 2020)

Pretending Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne’s North American debut novel begins: “I hate men. There, I’ve said it. I know you’re not supposed to say it. We all pretend we don’t hate them; we all tell ourselves we don’t hate them. But I’m calling it. I’m standing here on this soapbox and I’m saying it. I. Hate. Men.” and if that just isn’t the most relatable sentiment, then IDK what is. And you’ll probably relate to its main character, April: pretty, nice, fairly normal, but she just can’t get past the fifth date (more like second for me, but sure). April is frustrated, until she devises an alter ego, Gretel. Gretel is basically a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who’s also a Cool Girl: no baggage, no problems. When April becomes Gretel, she finally finds herself in control—until she meets Josh and genuinely falls for him, and isn’t sure how long she can (or should) keep pretending.

Image: Andrew Le / Unsplash