We’re already a few months into the new year—how are you tracking your 2022 reading goals? Lagging behind yet? Was that #TBR list a little too lofty? What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet? That last question was one The New York Times posed to Outlander novelist Diana Gabaldon in a November interview amid the flurry of year-end best book roundups. It made my lip curl. The underlying sentiment, that there are books we should be embarrassed not to have read and that reading itself is a self-conscious act—a performance of one’s intelligence and cultural awareness—is one of the reasons I all but gave up books.
I have been a delinquent reader, a dormant bibliophile for much of my twenties and thirties. I went from child bookworm to adult with little desire to crack a spine. The book collection I cultivated as a teenager, dorkishly supplementing with titles I felt were missing from my high school curricula, was only occasionally tended after university. Were there years in which I read fewer than five books? Certainly. Under three? Maybe. Zero? I really don’t know—it’s not impossible. What I do know is books were not my go-to source of entertainment, not even close. When I needed to relax, I turned to the TV. Craving a sweeping epic, I watched a movie. Commuting to and from work, I listened to podcasts.
In 2019, something in me snapped. That year, I read over 50 books. Last year, it was around 90. It’s not that I suddenly found myself with an excess of free time or set myself an aggressive New Year’s reading goal. I haven’t learned how to speed-read. I don’t listen to audiobooks at double-time. And I certainly didn’t wake up one day, deeply embarrassed by all the books I had not yet read. I rekindled my love of books by reading what I loved. I say this like it’s simple, and I guess it is, but it didn’t feel simple. It felt radical. It felt like I became me again.
They say if you want to pick up a hobby as an adult, do what you enjoyed as a kid. So it only fits that my return to books was heavy on young adult fiction. I’m not precisely sure where I started, but I think it may have been with Jenny Han’s To All the Boys series, which I gorged on shortly after the first glorious movie dropped on Netflix. It was cozy and cute and clever. It was a faux fur blanket of a book, which is exactly what I needed in the winter of 2019.
At that point, I was on my thirteenth annual lap as an editor, and I was so tired. The previous year had been the most chaotic in my career thus far. Fresh off my maternity leave, I’d returned to work at a Canadian women’s magazine only to watch dozens of colleagues lose their jobs in an ugly corporate layoff known as the Rogers Red Wedding. Our editor-in-chief resigned, and I was offered her job ten minutes following the slaughter. I took it, but left the place soon after to launch Refinery29 Canada with a four-week timeline and an editorial staff of one: me. Then, as I started hiring, whispers came from R29’s New York headquarters: Was launching Canada a good idea? No sooner had I started Mission: Save Canada began. I’d been sick for months on end, and my toddler had too. I wanted to curl up and sleep forever, but I couldn’t fall asleep. So I read.
I read the three To All the Boys books and Han’s Summer series, and her book Shug. That led to more YA. Some of it dystopian: the Divergent books and Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series. I marveled at Nicola Yoon, Jennifer Niven, and Cath Crawley, authors with such beautiful words, big brains, and enormous empathy for teens. I mainlined Colleen Hoover. Every discovery seemed to lead to another: An author would recommend a book on their Instagram or thank another author in their acknowledgments. My library app would serve as a suggestion. I followed the book breadcrumbs, and soon they took me to romcoms and contemporary romances, to Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne and Talia Hibbert. I didn’t know many books as this existed: Stories about people who have to get over their shit to get it on and get together. I fell in love—with the banter and the dialogue and the happy endings, both the ones at the end of the book and the ones within. Reading became my ultimate form of self-care. Nothing soothed my brain the way these books did.
My book breakup is an all-too-familiar tale, set in my early twenties as a university student juggling a full course load and a part-time job pushing multi-layered tablescapes and rattan settees at Pier 1 Imports. I fell behind in my course reading and resorted to watching The English Patient on DVD, the kind of corner-cutting I’d never before engaged in. Novels became a source of grief, not pleasure. Books were work.
Then reading became literal work when I graduated and got a job in journalism; the idea of coming home and picking up a book after spending the day staring at words was wholly unappealing. Mainly because I was beginning to learn that books were not created equal. There were Big Important Books and Smart People Books, and those were the books worthy of consumption and discussion.
I was a junior-level editor at a magazine in Toronto when the second Twilight book came out. There was a copy of New Moon floating around the office that August, passed furtively between colleagues. One day, I remember returning from lunch to find the thick book with its black cover and ruffled red tulip on my chair, a secret pushed well under my desk. The message was clear: This was not a book you wanted to be seen with.
In December, I was reminded of our workplace subterfuge when a Reddit user posted a now-viral AITA after giving their coworker a fantasy novel for the holiday Secret Santa rather than the romance she’d asked for. “I felt kinda cringe buying her romance novels… I figure if she likes to read, then she’d be happy to broaden her horizons and branch out.”
I had this idea of what I was supposed to read for so many years, and books centering on love stories were so not it. Over time, books became something I couldn’t keep up with, something I felt I was on the outside of. Sure, I read here and there, but mostly, I was done with books. Or they were done with me. Funnily enough, the whole time I wasn’t reading books, I harbored a secret desire to write one of my own. After giving birth to my first child, I even gave it a shot. While my son napped, I spent a week or so tinkering with the first chapter of a novel. Frustrated and utterly bewildered by the process, I cast it aside. (I went back and read it recently. One paragraph is quite lovely.)
Maybe it’s that I had no fucks left to give in 2019, or perhaps it’s that every book I read felt like a bit of a fuck you, but immersing myself in the worlds of teenage drama and adult romances felt transgressive, which frankly, is kind of messed up. Many of the books I read may bear the label of “guilty pleasure,” a term almost exclusively applied to things beloved by girls and women. (Romance novels, UGG boots, PSLs.) Setting aside that these books are masterfully written (Tia Williams’s Seven Days In June and Beth O’Leary’s The Road Trip are gorgeous, full stop). And setting aside the fact that the romance genre has long been tough stuff while detractors make light—the most challenging book I’ve read recently was Helen Hoang’s The Heart Principle, a soul-crushing meditation on caregiving as much as it is a three-eggplant emoji romance. And setting aside the fact that we shouldn’t have to justify any of this to anyone. Don’t we all just have enough to feel guilty about?
For her part, Gabaldon was unfazed by the question of what books she was embarrassed not to have read yet. “Um. I don’t really consider books as social accessories. I don’t care in the slightest what people might think of what I do or don’t read.” Regardless of what or how much we devour that’s the energy we should all adopt when it comes to our reading habits.
So yes, set your ambitious reading goals. Try a new genre. Seek out BIPOC authors and storytellers whose experiences are different from your own. Crush your #TBR and then build it back up again. But above all: Have fun.
Image: Lucas Ottone/ Stocksy.com
What a year, huh? Thank god this flaming tumbleweed made of discarded trash has finally come to a close. And while I don’t think that the world just magically improved the moment the clock struck 12:01am on January 1, 2021, at least we have some things to look forward to, like all the good books that are coming out. From highly anticipated debuts to new works from fave authors, here’s what we’ll be reading in 2021.
‘Be Dazzled’ by Ryan La Sala (January 5, 2021)
This Queer YA romance is like Project Runway meets ComicCon. Raffy has a passion for fashion design and is determined to win the cosplay competition at ComicCon. He has some stiff competition, though: Luca, his ex, who broke his heart. Which would be bad enough to deal with, except the two end up partnered together for the contest. This is gonna get messy.
‘The Push’ by Ashley Audrain (January 5, 2021)
The Push just might be the book of 2021. Its TV rights have already been sold, if that tells you anything. Blythe Connor survived a traumatic upbringing, which has left her unsure if motherhood is the right path for her. When her daughter Violet is born, it only brings Blythe’s fears to the surface—especially since, from the moment Violet enters the world, bad things start happening. Blythe struggles to love and understand her daughter, who keeps pushing them away. When tragedy strikes her family, Blythe is forced to finally come to terms with who her daughter really is.
‘What Could Be Saved’ by Liese O’Halleran Schwarz (January 12, 2021)
Alternating between Bangkok, 1972 and present-day Washington, D.C., What Could Be Saved follows Laura and Bea Preston, two sisters dealing with their mother’s dementia, who are contacted by a stranger who claims to be their brother who vanished 40 years earlier. Laura flies to Thailand to meet him and ends up with a lot more questions than answers.
‘Wings of Ebony’ by J. Elle (January 26, 2021)
Elle’s debut fantasy is perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. Rue, a Black teenager in Houston, has her entire world turned upside down when she finds out she’s half-god. And just in time, too, because evil forces are trying to take over the world. Naturally.
‘Do Better’ by Rachel Ricketts (February 2, 2021)
Need another book for your anti-racism education? Pick up a copy of Do Better, which offers mindful and practical steps to dismantle white supremacy on a personal and community level. Ricketts combines her experiences as an attorney, grief counselor, and anti-racism educator with her certifications in yoga, Reiki, and mindfulness to provide heart-centered and spirit-based practices.
‘Finlay Donovan Is Killing It’ by Elle Cosimano (February 2, 2021)
This is part fun read, part suspense. Finlay Donovan is newly divorced, barely making ends meet after her husband ran off with his secretary (so cliche). She’s behind on her book deal and dodging calls from her agent. Until one day when she meets her agent to discuss progress on her new novel, about a hit man, and a rich housewife overhears and thinks she’s actually a murderer for hire. Finlay would chalk it up to a misunderstanding and go on her way… but the money the woman’s offering might be too good to pass up.
‘Girl A’ by Abigail Dean (February 2, 2021)
Lexie is known to the world as Girl A, after escaping a horrific childhood of abuse and rescuing her siblings from her parents’ house of horrors. She’s fine with that and prefers to leave her past in the past, which is usually easy since she relocated to the other side of the world, her father died, and her mother was sentenced to life in prison. But when her mother dies and Lexie is named the executor of her will, she’s forced to return and unbury her past, which means coming to terms with the fact that she and her siblings don’t remember their childhood the same way.
‘The Kindest Lie’ by Nancy Johnson (February 2, 2021)
It’s Chicago in 2008. Barack Obama is ushering in a new wave of hope. Enter: Ruth, Ivy League graduate and Black engineer, who’s about to start a family with her smart, successful husband. There’s one problem: Ruth can’t let go of feeling like she needs to make peace with the baby she abandoned as a teenager. She returns home to start digging into the past and befriends Midnight, a white teenager. When a traumatic event brings the town’s simmering racial tensions to a boiling point, Ruth and Midnight’s friendship—and lives—get pushed to the breaking point.
‘The Project’ by Courtney Summers (February 2, 2021)
Fans of Courtney Summers and Sadie can finally breathe now that her new novel is coming out. Just like Sadie, The Project has a true crime element, though this time we’re not just dealing with a missing sister, but a sister who’s run off to join cults. The cult in question is a group called the Unity Project, which has undeniably done a lot of good in the community. Some, in fact, don’t even think it’s a cult. Lo Denham, though, is determined to uncover The Project for what it really is. When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works at claiming the Unity Project killed his son, Lo just might have the chance to prove to everyone what she’s been saying all along.
‘The Removed’ by Brandon Hobson (February 2, 2021)
Ever since Ray-Ray was killed in a police shooting 15 years ago, the Echote family hasn’t been the same. They rarely talk about Ray-Ray and each member of the family muddles along in their own silo of grief. Their annual family bonfire is the one opportunity they get to talk about his memory. As this year’s bonfire approaches, each family member finds the line between the normal and spirit worlds blurring—to bizarre ends.
‘The Gilded Ones’ by Namina Forna (February 9, 2021)
I’ve literally been waiting for this book since 2019, so yeah, it deserves a spot on the “most anticipated” list. The first book in the Deathless series, The Gilded Ones follows Deka, a 16-year-old who lives in fear of the blood ceremony that will decide whether she can become a member of her village. But the blood ceremony doesn’t go her way, and Deka knows she faces a fate worse than death. That is, until a mysterious woman presents her with the choice to leave the village to fight the emperor with an army of girls who are just like her.
‘Quiet In Her Bones’ by Nalini Singh (February 23, 2021)
When socialite Nina Rai disappeared one night, everyone assumed she’d just grown tired of her life and run away. Until 10 years later when her bones turn up in the forest surrounding her tony neighborhood. Nina’s son, Arav, is determined to find out the truth—but suddenly nobody wants to talk.
‘The Lost Apothecary’ by Sarah Penner (March 2, 2021)
The past and the present meet in Penner’s debut novel. In 18th century London, a female apothecary secretly doles out poison to women who need permanent solutions for the toxic men in their lives. She has two rules: every recipient must be carefully tracked in her logbook, and she will never do harm to another woman. In present day London, Caroline takes a solo trip to London after learning of her husband’s infidelity, and ends up discovering a vial from the apothecary.
‘Too Good To Be True’ by Carola Lovering (March 2, 2021)
I could not be more excited that the author of Tell Me Lies is back, this time with a psychological suspense. Skye Starling seems to have it all: beautiful, smart, a doting boyfriend who proposes. What she doesn’t show is that she’s battled crippling OCD since childhood. And what she doesn’t know is that her devoted fiancée is anything but. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, Lovering will throw another curve ball at you.
‘The Jigsaw Man’ by Nadine Matheson (March 16, 2021)
Matheson is a criminal defense attorney-turned-author whose debut tackles race and sexism in the legal system. In Jigsaw Man, Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley is her unit’s sole Black female detective. She’s racing to catch an infamous serial killer and his copycat before more people turn up dead.
‘The Dictionary of Lost Words’ by Pip Williams (April 4, 2021)
Based on actual events, The Dictionary of Lost Words is set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement. As a group of male scholars puts together the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of the scholars’ daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they deem not suitable for the dictionary. The result is her own dictionary of lost words.
‘The Last Exiles’ by Ann Shin (April 6, 2020)
Inspired by true events, The Last Exiles is a portrait of a young couple, Jin and Suja, who fell in love in university and whose relationship is put to the test by Kim Jong-il’s regime. Suja is an aspiring journalist from a well-off family, and Jin is from a humble family in a small village. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, he makes a split-second decision that will change the course of his life forever. Suja, knowing nothing about what Jin has done, risks her family, her privilege, and her life to find him.
‘You Love Me’ by Caroline Kepnes (April 6, 2021)
The third book in the Joe Goldberg series opens with Joe leaving city life behind and moving to an island in the Pacific Northwest to be one with nature. He gets a job at the library and that’s where he meets Mary Kay, the librarian. This time, Joe tells himself he won’t obsess or impose. But this is Joe Goldberg, so we all know what’s really going to happen.
‘Dial A for Aunties’ by Jessie Q. Sutanto (April 27, 2021)
What do you get when you accidentally kill your blind date? Well, most of us would probably get arrested, but Meddelin Chan’s aunties come to the rescue to help her, um, dispose of the evidence. All would be well except the body is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the billionaire wedding all the ladies are working. As if pulling off the wedding of the century isn’t hard enough, now the Chans have to do it without getting discovered in the process.
‘The Woman With The Blue Star’ by Pam Jenoff (May 4, 2021)
In Krakow 1942, an unlikely friendship forms. 18-year-old Sadie Gault was living in the Krakow ghetto until the Nazis liquidated it, forcing its residents to live in the sewers. Well-to-do Eliza Stepanek wanders the streets aimlessly after her fiancé goes off to war. When she spots Sadie hiding beneath a grate in the street, she decides to help her, and the two form a friendship that faces the most difficult of tests.
‘People We Meet on Vacation’ by Emily Henry (May 11, 2021)
If you loved Emily Henry’s aptly named Beach Read, get ready for another sizzling romance that will thaw your cold heart. Poppy and Alex are total opposites and best friends. They have a tradition of taking a trip together every summer, until two years ago, when it all went to sh*t. With her life going downhill, Poppy decides to throw one final Hail Mary and convinces Alex to take another vacation with her. Is a week long enough to fix everything that went wrong with them?
‘The Hunting Wives’ by May Cobb (May 21, 2021)
ATTN anyone who loves Big Little Lies, Mean Girls, and Desperate Housewives: May Cobb’s upcoming suspense novel is for you. Sophie O’Neill moves from her big-city life in Chicago to a small town in east Texas with her husband and young son. Looking for a little more excitement, Sophie meets Margot Banks, who is a part of an elite clique known as the Hunting Wives. She immediately feels drawn toward Margot and her mysterious world full of late-night adventures and reckless partying… until she lands in the middle of a murder investigation. Suddenly this group is not so fun.
‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid (May 25, 2021)
Author of the sensation Daisy Jones and the Six is back with a new novel about four famous siblings who throw an end-of-summer party where the roof is on fire… literally. Told over the span of one unforgettable night in August 1983, this novel has it all: love stories, secrets, sacrifices, and much more.
‘The Maidens’ by Alex Michaelides (June 1, 2021)
From the #1 NYT bestselling author of The Silent Patient comes the latest tale of suspense from Alex Michaelides. Mariana Andros knows the charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge, Edward Fosca, is a murderer. Except he’s untouchable—he even has a secret society of female admirers called The Maidens. When another body turns up, Mariana becomes determined to expose who Andros really is, no matter the cost.
‘The Other Black Girl’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris (June 1, 2021)
When two young Black women get jobs in publishing, the resulting novel is like The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out. 26-year-old Nella is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner books, and when Hazel starts working next to her, it seems like a dream come true—until Hazel is promoted and Nella is left behind. Then Nella starts getting notes on her desk urging her to leave Wagner. It seems like obvious sabotage from Hazel, but as Nella starts investigating, she realizes there’s a lot more at stake than just her job.
‘Razorblade Tears’ by S.A. Cosby (July 6, 2021)
On the surface, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee have little in common. They’re both ex-cons, and when their sons get married, they become in-laws (who struggle to accept their sons’ relationship). When their sons are murdered, Ike and Buddy must move past their differences in order to figure out what happened.
‘Mona at Sea’ by Elizabeth Gonzalez James (June 30, 2021)
Mona Mireles is a millennial perfectionist who nonetheless finds herself unemployed, living with her parents, and single at the height of the recession in 2008. This isn’t a gripping page-turner, but it’s a witty and relatable read—perfect for vacation or the beach (provided we can go there in summer 2021).
Images: @laurachouette / Unsplash
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
Oh, hi. Didn’t see you there. It’s me, your friendly Betches Vanderpump Rules recapper and occasional book reviewer, here to talk about what I’ve been reading. Now, truthfully, I’ve been reading a lot less since quarantine started, since I’m one of those psychos who gets all her reading in during her daily subway commute. Now that I have to actually make time to sit down and read a book, I usually end up accidentally watching true crime documentaries instead. Oops!
Anyway, I’ve heard that reading is making a comeback—only took a little pandemic to get people to read things other than their phone screens. So in the spirit of books being a thing again, and also us not really having a summer so I don’t want this to be my summer reading list, here are the best books that came out during quarantine that you should read while in quarantine.
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (March 3, 2020)
This is a thriller, but it’s not a typical thriller. It is a cool thriller, but really, I would describe it more as a writer’s thriller. The focus is more on the striking prose and crafting vivid scenes than about having a fast-paced, action-packed read. Picture this: it’s Atlantic City, circa whatever year Atlantic City went to sh*t (I could Google it, but I’m not a historian). Two unlikely women meet and become friends: Clara Voyant, a teenage psychic, and Lily, an aspiring art curator who moves back to her hometown after being chewed up and spit out by the Manhattan art scene. Throughout all this, sex workers are being murdered and dumped in AC, and no one even notices. Told through multiple perspectives, including the “Janes” who are murdered, it’s an extremely compelling read.
BLACK WIDOW: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title by Leslie Gray Streeter (March 10, 2020)
We’re all going through a sort of grief right now, and this “sad-funny journey through grief” just might be what we all need. Leslie Gray Streeter lost her husband to a sudden heart attack, and finds herself slapped with a label she doesn’t want: a widow. She doesn’t want pitying looks or whispered sympathies, she doesn’t want to wear a black dress and a big hat to her husband’s funeral. Black Widow takes readers through the more unexpected aspects of grief, “from coffin shopping to day-drinking, to being a grown-ass woman crying for your mommy, to breaking up and making up with God.”
The Herd by Andrea Bartz (March 24, 2020)
Yes, I know I’ve written about The Herd before, but I’m covering it again because it’s just that good. (But actually, if you remembered that I have covered it before, DM me @sarafcarter because you deserve recognition for your photographic memory of useless facts.) This thriller takes place in a famed all-female coworking space… no, not the one you’re thinking of, this one’s fictional. When the beloved founder is found dead, her best friends have to figure out who killed her, without compromising the future of the coworking space. And if you can’t get enough of Andrea Bartz’s writing, check out her articles for Betches.
A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel (April 7, 2020)
Beth has spent her entire adult life running away from her past, ever since she narrowly saved her daughter from being abducted. But the thing about the past is that it, and the people from it, don’t really like to stay buried. And when those people from Beth’s past include her two grifter parents, whom she never told her daughter about, let’s just say, sh*t goes off the rails. Just a warning if you do buy this book: you may finish it in a day (speaking for myself).
The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (April 7, 2020)
It’s the adult debut from the author of the Divergent series, and if that didn’t sell you right there, I don’t know what to tell you. Okay, I do. An evil force called the Dark One tried to end humanity as we know it, and a group of elite teenagers called the Chosen Ones were called into battle to save the world. (Tbh, would be great if we oculd get a couple of supernatural teens to save us right about now.) Fast-forward 10 years, and the Chosen Ones are trying to resume normal lives—that is, until one of their own winds up dead, and they quickly realize the world still needs saving. Told through narrative and enhanced with magazine articles, government briefs, scholarly papers, and even stand-up comedy routine transcripts, the format is really fun and inventive.
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle (April 7, 2020)
Need something lighthearted? You Deserve Each Other is like Bride Wars meets How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. In it, Naomi Westfield is about to get married to her picture-perfect fiancé, Nicholas Rose. The only problem? She can’t stand him. Oh, and that they have an agreement that whoever calls off the engagement has to foot the entire bill. So when Naomi finds out that Nicholas wants out too, they are forced to go head-to-head in a battle of wits, emotional warfare, and pranks to see who will crack first.
Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan (April 14, 2020)
Tilly was a bright, carefree little girl, and when her father suddenly disappeared, she and her mom moved into Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel in Brighton. She eventually falls in love with all the other quirky people there, including Queenie. But when Tilly’s mom sends her away to boarding school without warning or explanation, Tilly is betrayed and heartbroken to leave her makeshift family. As a woman, and after her mother’s death, she returns to the Paradise Hotel, determined to find out what really happened to make her leave the hotel, and the type of person her mother really was.
The House Of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland (April 21, 2020)
While most residents of River Bend, Michigan, never imagine leaving, it’s precisely the place three women were desperate to escape. Linda Williams is perpetually dissatisfied. Her mother, Paula, is the opposite—always too sure. Beth DeWitt is one of the town’s only black daughters, now a mother of two. Linda, Paula, and Beth’s paths collide and a scandal forces Beth to deal with her past. If you just binged Little Fires Everywhere, you’ll want to pick up this debut that examines family ties, racial microaggressions, and the power of intergenerational trauma.
Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster (May 5, 2020)
Heddy Winsome is a working class girl from Brooklyn who wants nothing more than to live among the wealthy. She gets a taste of that life in the summer of 1962 when she lands a gig as a nanny for a rich family out on Martha’s Vineyard. But as she falls in love with someone on the island, she’s forced to reckon with the fact that what you see on the outside (glitz, glamour, nice houses, perfectly coiffed hair) isn’t always what’s going on on the inside.
The Paris Hours by Alex George (May 5, 2020)
Sicily, 1912 Paris, 1927, between the two World Wars. While the city teems with artists and creatives, four regular people are searching for what they’ve lost. Camille, Marcel Proust’s maid, who was supposed to burn all his notebooks but hid one for herself. Souren, an Armenian refugee, who performs puppet shows for children. Guillaume, a lovesick artist who’s hounded by debt until Gertrude Stein walks into his studio. And Jean-Paul, a journalist who tells others’ stories so he can avoid telling his own. The Paris Hours is told over the course of one day in 1927, when all four characters’ stories collide.
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One of the main activities in my day during this quarantine is going on my Daily Walk. It really gets the blood flowing and my mind in a different environment. Also, it’s a good marker for when I need to change from sleeping pajamas to light activewear, so that when I return from my walk I can change into my lounging pajamas for the rest of the day (it would be ludicrous to simply go from pajamas to pajamas, I need to break it up somehow). Seriously, I have to go on a walk every day or I’ll go insane. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Even if the streets and parks are too crowded to properly follow social distancing protocols, or you don’t live in a place that is necessarily walkable, you can still get all 10,000 steps in your apartment. It’s a proven fact.
However, the problem with going on a walk every single day is that eventually you’ll catch up with all your podcasts, and walking without anything to listen to gets a little boring. God forbid I have to actually listen to my own THOUGHTS. That will just not do. The solution? Audiobooks. They last forever and are so easy to get into. I love them because you can multitask while listening, and it’s all the satisfaction of reading a book without any of the work. If you’re not sure where to start, we rounded up the best audiobooks that are coming out this month and next month that you can look forward to, as well as some extra long ones to last the entire quarantine for you to choose from.
Read by a full cast, with an introduction by Kumail Nanjiani. Out March 17, 2020.
Not sure if anyone actually has a subscription to Apple TV+ (if you do, then I apologize, I just have literally never heard of anyone getting it). Anywho, the trailers for the Apple Original Shows still show up in all my YouTube ads, and Little America makes the whole subscription seem worth it. Luckily for us, the stories that inspired the series are available in a new audiobook. Little America is a collection of stories lived by and told by America’s immigrants. These stories form a portrait of the immigrant experience, and in turn, a portrait of America itself.
Alicia Keys, read by the author. Out March 31, 2020.
I already thought the world was ending at this year’s Grammys, but little did we know that was just the beginning (seriously, can you believe that that was this year?!). The saving grace of everything was the angel that is Alicia Keys. I became a bigger fan of hers than I already was, which I thought impossible, but now I am at the point where I will do anything she says and read anything she writes. At the end of the month, Alicia is releasing her audiobook, More Myself, which has been described as part autobiography, part narrative documentary. More Myself tells of Keys’s struggles with her father, the media and paparazzi, and the unreachable expectations for a female celebrity.
Gill Hornby, read by Juliet Stevenson. Out April 7, 2020.
Some of us went through a huge Pride and Prejudice phase, some of us might still be in it, and some want to enter that phase but don’t know where to begin. Whatever stage you’re at, you will certainly enjoy how Gill Hornby has imagined the life of Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister and closest friend. The story takes place in England in 1840—Cassandra has survived her sister by two decades and lives a quiet life, unmarried and alone. When she uncovers a trove of Jane’s old letters, long-forgotten memories arise and the sisters’ legacies are at stake. Cassandra must decide how to move forward and what to do with the letters: burn them to save face, or keep them to preserve her sister’s legacy. Hornby uses Jane Austen’s real letters to tell this story, and it becomes one you won’t be able to turn off.
‘Let the People Pick the President’
Jesse Wegman, read by the author. Out March 17, 2020.
We all know the electoral college isn’t really working these days. But just exclaiming that statement at Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t really get you anywhere. Let The People Pick the President is a nuanced and deeply researched argument against the electoral college by Supreme Court journalist and New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman. Wegman argues the case for a true democracy, starting at the roots of our country with a history of the founding era, and moving through time to the politics, campaigns, and elections of today. So if we make it to this Thanksgiving, you’ll finally be able to defend yourself.
Susanna Moore, read by the author. Out April 14, 2020.
Writer Susanna Moore is kind of a legend, and she’s finally writing down and recording her own story so everyone knows it. Moore’s mother died when she was 17. It was 1963. Moore’s only choice was to set off from Hawai’i, where she grew up, to go live with her grandmother in Philadelphia. But after a mystery donor sends her trunks of expensive clothes, Moore is well-dressed and ready to take over the world (basically). At age 17, my greatest challenge was trying to figure out how to parallel park (still don’t know), so this story of how Moore had to find herself and fend for herself is amazing to me. Miss Aluminum answers all the questions about how Moore got from there to here, what Hollywood was like in the 70s, and everything she did in her life before she became a writer.
Frank Smyth, read by the author. Out March 31, 2020.
Gun control has been a huge topic for debate for as long as I can remember. And my response to it for as long as I can remember was to wonder “how did we get here?” and “why does every other country seem to have figured out a solution?” and “WTF is going on?” The answers, unsurprisingly, lie in the history of the National Rifle Association, one of the most controversial nonprofits in America. Frank Smyth narrates his own book, The NRA, and dives into the post-Civil War beginnings of the association in order to tell this story. Smyth explains how the NRA arrived at what it is today, and which events and people caused it to shift so far from what it once stood for.
‘The K Team’
David Rosenfelt, read by Fred Berman. Out March 24, 2020.
Mysteries are one of the most fun genres to listen to on audiobooks, because the narrator is able to create suspense in a way that you might not be able to do in your head. Bestselling mystery author David Rosenfelt is back with The K Team, in which familiar characters from his Andy Carpenter series, Laurie Carpenter and her partner Marcus, reunite in their own spin-off investigation when they are hired by Judge Henry Henderson to investigate why he is being blackmailed and extorted. A good spin-off is pretty hard to pull off, but this one seems like a true page-turner (or whatever the audiobook equivalent of that is).
‘A Bad Day For Sunshine’
Darynda Jones, read by Lorelei King. Out April 7, 2020.
A Bad Day For Sunshine is the perfect easy and engaging listen. Sunshine Vicram has returned to her normally sleepy hometown of Del Sol, New Mexico as the new sheriff. She expects a relatively easy job, with the biggest crime she can picture being an elderly flasher. But as soon as Sunshine arrives on the scene, Del Sol becomes the epicenter of a nationwide manhunt. A kidnapper is allegedly loose in the town, and Sheriff Sunshine must track him down before things get more dangerous. Sounds like a classic action book plot, but let’s not forget that a return to one’s hometown almost always means the re-ignition of old flames.
‘Hiding in Plain Sight’
Sarah Kendzior, read by the author. Out April 7, 2020.
Personally, I try to avoid things that stress me out. One of those so-called “things” is Donald Trump and the great looming question that is how he became POTUS. However, some of you might not be stressed by that, or maybe you are too curious to look away (or maybe you love American political history). If any of these are the case, Hiding In Plain Sight looks like it will blow your mind. Author Sarah Kendzior explains how Trump has been gaining power since the 1980s, conveniently at the same time as the American political system begins to erode to what it is today. His rise to power is, essentially, not at all unexpected if you look at the details. Kendzior knows what it feels like to see a crisis coming, but in Hiding In Plain Sight, she confronts how we could have prepared ourselves better, and what we can do to move forward.
‘A Hundred Suns’
Karin Tanabe, read by Angela Dawe and Emily Ellet. Out April 7, 2020.
Set in the 1920s and 1930s in both Paris and Vietnam, A Hundred Suns is a story about a tenuous friendship between two women, Jessie and Marcelle. Jessie recently married into the Michelin fortune, and stands to benefit greatly from the increasing colonialism that is exploiting and implementing rubber plantations in Vietnam. While the rest of the world plummets into The Great Depression, Michelin is finding a way to make a fortune. That is, until Marcelle gets involved. Marcelle is an ex-pat who already lives in Vietnam, and upon Jessie’s arrival, she sees an opportunity. She becomes Jessie’s enthralling and exuberant guide to colonial life, dazzling her with parties and the best Vietnam has to offer. What Jessie doesn’t know, however, is Marcelle is on a mission to return the colonized land to its original and rightful owners—starting with the Michelin plantations. We love a sneaky double-crosser. This historical fiction novel sounds suspenseful AF and I want to start listening right away.
Tanya Selvaratnam, read by the author. Out April 7, 2020.
The story entrenched in Assume Nothing is absolutely terrifying, and what makes it worse is that it is true. It is written and narrated by the author, Tanya Selvaratnam, and it recounts a scary period in her life. Tanya and Eric were the power couple. They fell in love quickly and helped each other’s careers, Tanya a writer and Eric a lawyer. As his political power grew, however, Eric became more controlling and abusive towards Tanya. The scariest part, though, is that Tanya had nowhere to turn. Eric was New York’s Attorney General, and she worried that filing any sort of formal complaint would anger him and make her situation worse. Tanya uses her story to shed light on what is a common, but largely unspoken issue in America: domestic violence that is happening at all levels of society. By speaking out about it, Tanya hopes to help readers recognize, expose, and end domestic violence where they encounter it.
‘The Mirror & the Light’
Hilary Mantel, read by Ben Miles. 38 hours and 12 minutes.
If anyone else took AP Euro, then you would agree Thomas Cromwell is one of the most fascinating characters in British history. Cromwell was the minister and lawyer to King Henry VIII (best known for his six marriages and inventing the Church of England, so that he could get divorced). Cromwell was a man who identified somewhere in between common and royal, who was both fearful and feared, a cunning politician and a shrewd voice of the people all at once. Hilary Mantel tells how he came from nothing and managed to reach the height of power. The Mirror & The Light is eight years in the making, and is the third and final book in the trilogy, following Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The audiobook is narrated by Ben Miles, who played Thomas Cromwell in the play adaptations of the book for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
‘The Eye of the World’
Robert Jordan, read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. 29 hours and 57 minutes.
Any fantasy fans out there surely remember The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. After 20 years of legal battles, production on a TV adaptation of the series has finally begun, but if you want to jog your memory or start the story before the show comes out, you should start listening. The first novel in the series, The Eye of the World, is available on audiobook, and at 30 hours long is certainly one you can settle into. The book is centered around five protagonists, whose village Two Rivers is unexpectedly attacked by Trollocs. The five friends are forced to flee and discover a brand new world with unbelievable new dangers and challenges.
Gregory David Auster, read by Humphrey Bower. 42 hours and 59 minutes.
Shantaram is the epic and insane novel that is inspired by and based on stories from the author’s own life. Lin, the protagonist (and the name Auster uses for himself) escaped a high-security prison in Australia and finds himself in Bombay. He enters the underground societies that are flourishing in the city, made up of people who have nowhere else to turn: rings of beggars, gangsters, sex workers, soldiers, exiles, and more. Lin’s search for love and meaning leads him to both terrible and beautiful events and people, and he befriends the most unlikely of characters. Shantaram is an inspiring and thrilling book about life in India and what it means to be human, and luckily it’s super long, so it will keep you entertained during quarantine for weeks to come.
‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’
Susanna Clarke, read by Simon Prebble. 32 hours and 19 minutes.
In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, Susanna Clarke reimagines a detailed account of historical England, in which magic, magicians, and fairies all existed. Mr. Norell is one of the few magicians in England who still knows how to practice magic, and spends his time helping the government to win a war against Napoleon Bonaparte. When a rival magician, Jonathan Strange, appears, Mr. Norell agrees to teach him what he knows, despite the two being complete opposites. As it turns out, Strange is much more concerned with the mysterious Raven King, allegedly the most powerful magician of all. His hunger for knowledge and power put everything in his life, including his relationship with Mr. Norell, at stake. This book sounds so good, and I love a period piece, so that doesn’t hurt either.
If you’re tired of TV and want something else to entertain you during this quarantine, seriously consider audiobooks—you know what they say, there’s no time like the present to try new things. If you already love audiobooks, hopefully something on this list inspires you, but even if that isn’t the case, Audible has literally thousands of books to choose from. And if you’re nervous about paying for more stuff when you’ve already bought the subscription workouts from your favorite fitfluencer, Audible has your back. They recently announced a brand new initiative called Audible Stories to get us through this quarantine. Audible Stories is a resource with hundreds of free titles to listen to because they know we need our favorite stories more than ever right now. Happy listening, everyone!
Images: Element5 Digital / Unsplash, Audible (15)
Raise your hand if you’re a messy b*tch who thrives on drama and other people’s misfortunes. If you didn’t raise both of your hands and feet, then you might want to get out now because this post is for gossip mongers only. You’ve been warned. Now that that’s been handled, welcome, bottom feeders, to the book round-up you never knew you wanted! Celebrities are literally always trying to sell a memoir about their innermost secrets and are constantly disappointing me and the register girl at Barnes & Noble when she sees me coming to return a book five days after purchase. Most times, these so-called “tell-alls” are just a way to revive a career, promote a new season of their show, or just generally cling to their relevance for another five seconds. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m not shelling out $27 for a hardcover version of information I could’ve tracked down through a semi-intense dive into their social media. So, for those of you craving the real tea and gossip that’s juicier than whatever your Aunt Linda is about to spill at the Thanksgiving dinner table, these are the celebrity memoirs for you.
Inside Out by Demi Moore
We’ve talked about this one before but, y’all, Demi Moore’s new memoir is actually bonkers. Not only does she finally open up about her marriage to Ashton Kutcher (#tbt) and the wild threesomes they used to have to try (in vain) to save their marriage, but she also talks about her meteoric rise to fame and struggles with addiction. She doesn’t just come for her ex Ashton Kutcher, either (though that in itself is messy as hell and way worth the read). She comes for ALL of Hollywood: she dishes on her other ex-husband Bruce Willis and one-time flame Rob Lowe. She even speaks to that one time Jon Cryer publicly declared she took his virginity, claiming he’d been with other women before and that he was just “bad at sex.” HE WAS JUST BAD AT SEX. I’m dead. Deceased. This isn’t just a book, it’s a Hollywood hit list and a petty work of art. Basically, a must-read. We bow down to you, Demi.
My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams
In another article I wrote for this site, I made a bold statement when I compared those who are actively not following the Anna Delvey story to mole people, and I still stand by that statement. When news broke about Anna Delvey, the fake German heiress who somehow managed to con $200K out of Manhattan’s elite party scene, I was completely captivated. How did she get away with this? And do any of her friends understand how Venmo works? These were the questions that kept me up at night. My Friend Anna focuses on those friends, the people she scammed, and how she got away with it—one friend in particular, who arguably got hit the worst by Anna’s cons. Written by her former friend Rachel Williams, whom Anna personally scammed out of $62,000 during one lavish vacation, this book reads like a twisty thriller about a sociopath, except everything actually happened IRL. For those looking to familiarize yourself with the story before Shonda Rhimes’ new Anna Delvey Netflix series drops, then I URGE you to pick up this book. Rachel answers probably every single question you’ve ever had about Anna.
Coreyography by Corey Feldman
For those of you who are like “who tf is Corey Feldman” just know that I’m marking you for the youth you so clearly are, and I hope you can feel my shame through this screen. Corey Feldman was one of my FAVORITE child stars and starred in cult classics such as The Goonies and Stand By Me. He was the height of ‘80s fame and also a childhood crush of mine. I still secretly harbor ill wishes towards that trollop Stef for getting to make out with him during The Goonies. I will say, post-child star fame, Corey has not fared well. He’s battled with drug addiction and, to my knowledge, has not landed an acting role since we entered the 21st century. His memoir, Coreyography (great title tbh), sheds light on this. In his book he talks about the dark underbelly of Hollywood for child stars: from getting hooked on drugs at a young age to the rampant sexual abuse he experienced during his time in the lime light and his “innocent” friendship with the late Michael Jackson. This book can be pretty heavy and, at times, even triggering, but it’s definitely worth the read.
It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman
This one is for all you Bachelor Nation fans out there. Andi Dorfman, ex-Bachelorette and Mike Fliess’s worst nightmare, wrote a tell-all back in 2016 about her time as The Bachelorette. Not only did she give us an inside look at what actually happens during the fantasy suite dates, but she wasn’t afraid to talk sh*t about her exes Nick Viall and Josh Murray. You love to see it. It is the ultimate burn book for all things Bachelor and Nick Viall, which should be reason enough to pick this one up.
Darkness to Light by Lamar Odom
I, personally, have been waiting for Jordyn Woods to set her NDA on fire and break the internet by releasing her own tell-all about the Kardashians, but until then I’ll settle for Lamar Odom’s memoir. Former NBA player and ex-husband to Khloé Kardashian, Odom spilled all the tea when his memoir came out at the beginning of the summer. Tbh I feel like the Khloé Kardashian drama is the least exciting of all the bombshells he dropped in this book. Like, for example, did you know that he used a FAKE PENIS to pass a drug test before the Olympics? HOW?? Or that he was a host to multiple orgies when he lived in Miami? For people who Keep Up, or those who just really want a wild read, then you need to binge this one ASAP.
A Song For You: My Life With Whitney Houston by Robyn Crawford
This book was just released this week, and it’s already everywhere. The author, Robyn Crawford, is the late Whitney Houston’s longtime best friend, and in her memoir she comes clean about the romantic rumors that swirled for a long time regarding her friendship with Houston. Crawford confirms that her and Houston did have a romantic and sexual relationship in the early 1980s, but called things off when Houston started to get famous because Houston said it would “make our journey even more difficult.” It’s been rumored for a while that Houston was bisexual (her ex-husband Bobby Brown made a comment about it in 2016), but nothing has been confirmed, as Houston passed away in 2012. Whitney Houston is an absolute legend and this book shines a light on aspects of her life that have never been released to the public.
Open by Andre Agassi
Even if you’re not a big tennis fan, or your idea of being “sporty” consists of going to a bar on Sunday in your ex-boyfriend’s stolen jersey, you’ll still love Andre Agassi’s memoir if you’re a fan of juicy gossip. Agassi, who was known early in his career for his giant hair, admitted that he actually wore a wig on the tennis court once his hair started to thin. Impossible beauty standards at it again!! Honestly, he looks better with a shaved head anyway. Over in the personal life department, we also get an inside look at his failed marriage to Brooke Shields. He comes clean about testing positive for meth (yikes) in 1997, and basically says he did drugs because he was scared to marry Brooke (double yikes). He also admits that he blamed his assistant to avoid the consequences of said positive drug test. Weird, this reads a lot like my last boyfriend’s explanations for why we broke up.
Ladies Who Punch by Ramin Setoodeh
I haven’t watched The View in years, mostly because I’m not a middle-aged housewife, but I still couldn’t put this book down. Journalist Ramin Setoodeh somehow managed to interview basically everyone involved with the show in its 20-year history, and the behind-the-scenes drama is messier than your Sunday brunch that turns into “one more drink” at a bar nearby. This book has the tea on how basically everyone who has ever left the show was fired, even though they acted like leaving was their choice. You’ll read about how Star Jones used the show to get her entire wedding free, and of course, all the drama with Rosie O’Donnell. But for me, the craziest thing was that Barbara Walters basically had to be pushed out when she retired, and the producers had to forcibly stop her from extending her contract. What a way to go.
Images: Amazon (8)
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At a certain point, you start to feel like if you’ve read one thriller, you’ve read them all. The characters bleed together, even the most “shocking” of twists can be seen from 200 pages away, and if you have to read one more word in the first person narrative, you’ll scream. I know because I’ve thought this many a time. Even the titles of every thriller are the same. The ____ Girl. The _____ Wife. Are we as a society just out of new ideas? Fortunately, no. I’ve rounded up the best thrillers I’ve read this year with an ending you actually won’t see coming. And I promise, no spoilers. Stock up just in time for Halloween, because these reads will seriously haunt you.
‘The Starter Wife’ by Nina Lauren
I know, I know The ____ Wife. I was suspicious myself because the title is so overdone, but let me tell you, this is nothing like the Debra Messing USA original series of the same name. It’s kind of like Gone Girl but not (you’ll see why once you read it). But, even though the ending of this book was one I’ve read before, the ride was not predictable. This one’s about Claire, who marries hot English professor Byron. Claire is seemingly happy with her husband, but finds reminders of his late first wife, Colleen, everywhere. When she suddenly gets a call from Colleen, she tries to find out what exactly happened and how deeply implicated her husband is.
‘I Know Everything’ by Matthew Farrell
I Know Everything was seriously haunting, and even though the twist itself has been done before, I promise you haven’t seen it done in this way. Also, there were so many twists that even if you predicted one of them, there’s no way you figured out every single one. When a rich woman dies in a car accident, it seems like an open-and-shut case for Detective Susan Adler. But then details start emerging about the accident, and the woman’s husband, who stands to gain everything from her death—and suddenly, things aren’t so simple. I can pretty much guarantee you that you won’t solve the murder before Detective Adler. Warning, though: do not finish this book at night, or else you will not be able to sleep.
‘A Stranger on the Beach’ by Michele Campbell
In this tale of alternating perspectives, you’ll be constantly questioning who’s telling the truth and who’s an unreliable narrator. In this novel, rich Caroline hooks up with blue-collar Aidan after finding out her husband is lying to her, and possibly having an affair. To Caroline, her affair with Aidan is just physical, an escape from her marital problems. But Aidan falls hard and fast—and doesn’t want to let go, either. How hard will he hold on?
‘The Perfect Wife’ by JP Delaney
So I read on the back that this was about A.I. and I was like “ugh, pass,” but then I gave it a try and was really pleasantly surprised. The book opens with Abby Cullen-Scott waking up in the hospital—only to quickly learn that she’s not actually Abby Cullen-Scott, but a robot made in her likeness to replace the real Abby Cullen-Scott, who died in a mysterious accident. Or did she? A.I. Abby has to race against the clock to find out what happened to Human Abby before the same thing maybe happens to her.
‘The Runaway’ by Hollie Overton
If you want a thriller that feels more grounded in reality than others, pick up The Runaway by Hollie Overton. Taking place in LA, it toggles between the POV of Ash, a formerly homeless foster teen, and Becca, her soon-to-be-adoptive mother who also works as a psychiatrist for the LAPD. All seems to be going well until Ash up and disappears, and it’s up to Becca to find her, with or without the LAPD’s approval or help. What at first seems to be a normal expression of teenage angst quickly reveals the dark underbelly of life on the streets.
‘Tell Me Everything’ by Cambria Brockman
Protagonist/narrator Malin starts college at an elite private school, and finds herself friends with a pretty diverse group of kids who all seem fun, but they all have their secrets. At the end of the book, someone will wind up dead. Throughout the book, you’ll discover what everyone in this group that seems to have it all is hiding. There are so many surprises in Tell Me Everything that I’m pretty sure it’s mathematically impossible for anyone to get them all.
‘The Perfect Son’ by Lauren North
Following her husband’s tragic death, Tess Clarke wakes up in the hospital after her son Jamie’s 8th birthday. She knows he’s gone missing, but nobody believes her. Nobody is there for Tess except her best friend Shelly, who suspiciously became a huge part of her life right after her husband’s death. Alternating between the past and the days leading up to Jamie’s fateful 8th birthday, Lauren North takes the reader on a race against the clock.
‘Lost You’ by Haylen Beck
Libby has wanted a baby for as long as she can remember. Her dreams finally come true when Ethan arrives, even though it’s at the expense of her marriage. A hardworking and dedicated mother, Libby never gives herself a break. But when her friends convince her she deserves a vacation, she thinks “why not?” and books a trip with Ethan to a resort. The first few days of the trip go great, until the end of the third day, when Ethan is kidnapped. Libby’s worst fear has officially come to life. But she can’t find Ethan without confronting her past and risking losing him forever.
‘The Swallows’ by Lisa Lutz
This isn’t a thriller in the traditional sense, but there is mystery and intrigue and by the end of the novel, someone ends up dead. Also, Lisa Lutz is one of my favorite writers and wrote one of my favorite thrillers, The Passenger, so I’m going to show her some love here regardless. Anyway. The Swallows takes place at a New England prep school that has a secret underground subculture fueled by misogyny. Sound familiar? But the girls at the school are getting tired of this system. When a new teacher comes, she gives the women hope that they can finally end this gross culture once and for all. But where there’s a boy’s club, there are generations of men who have benefited from a system of misogyny, and they don’t want to give that up without a fight. And boy, is there a fight—and, like I said, someone winds up dead.
‘Take It Back’ by Kia Abdullah
Take It Back is more of a legal thriller than a true thriller with, like, murder, but there’s plenty of suspense and mystery nonetheless. In this classic tale of she-said-they-said, the victim is a teenage girl with facial deformities, and the accused are four good Muslim boys from hardworking immigrant families. The quest for justice becomes the trial of the decade. As the accuser’s story unravels, readers are left trying to figure out what the truth is.
Images: Clever Visuals / Unsplash; Amazon (10)
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