I’m wildly late with this post, but I’m writing it anyway for consistency’s sake! Here’s the books I read in July:
SHE REGRETS NOTHING
by Andrea Dunlop
When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.
Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world?
I liked this book okay! I read it because I saw it on Instagram, and I’m glad that I borrowed it from the library, because I think I would have been more frustrated if I spent money on it. The cover is gorgeous, but like The Queen of Hearts, that was my favorite part of it. It was fun to step into Laila’s world, so different than mine, but it was hard for me to like any of the characters.
PLAYING WITH MATCHES
by Hannah Orenstein
Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.
Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.
Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.
I wrote a full post about this one here!
by Julie Murphy
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does.
I read about this one on #bookstagram and knew I needed to check it out. I loved this story because self-proclaimed “fat girl” Willowdean has always been comfortable in her skin, even when people tell her she shouldn’t be. But then she develops a crush on a boy who somehow likes her back, and she starts to doubt herself. This features beauty pageants and new friends and old friends and, unexpectedly, Dolly Parton. I really liked it.⠀
LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT
by Becky Albertalli
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
After I watched Love, Simon (and read the book it’s based on immediately after I got home) I kept saying that I wanted to know more about Leah, Simon’s long-term best friend. Enter this sequel that’s all about Leah. Leah is bisexual and hasn’t been able to find the right way to tell her friends – not even Simon, who she knows would be cool with it. I loved this book for its portrayal of high school and feeling like there’s an invisible wall between you and other people. I think it would be a good movie. Definitely a good one to get from the library if you can (this is basically my code for “I wouldn’t spend money on it but I liked it!”).
by Sophia Amoruso
Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school—a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.
Flash forward to today, and she’s the founder of Nasty Gal and the founder and CEO of Girlboss. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.
#GIRLBOSS proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.
I’m trying to read more biographies + memoirs, and I liked this because it was inspiring to read about how Sophia built her brand Nasty Gal from the ground up, without even really meaning to. It inspired me to work a little harder and not let failure stop me. I don’t actually know much about the brand itself apart from what I read here and the billboards I’ve seen in LA, but this was a short read that was good for some motivation when I needed it. Definitely a good library read!
GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT
by Jaye Robin Brown
Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?
This is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who’s been out as long as she can remember – until she moves to a new town and her dad asks her to pretend to be straight to fit in. It’s hard enough to move somewhere new as a teenage girl, but what if you’re asked to hide an essential part of yourself? Truthfully, it’s been a number of weeks since I read this, but I remember that I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. It was entertaining, but it dragged a bit in the middle. I liked the relationships between the characters. I still found it realistic and thought provoking.⠀
COME MATTER HERE
by Hannah Brencher
Life is scary. Adulting is hard. When faced with the challenges of building a life of your own, it’s all too easy to stake your hope and happiness in “someday.” But what if the dotted lines on the map at your feet today mattered just as much as the destination you dream of?
Our hyper-connected era has led us to believe life should be a highlight reel—where what matters most is perfect beauty, instant success, and ready applause. Yet, as Hannah learned, nothing about faith, relationships, or character is instant. So she took up a new mantra: be where your feet are. Give yourself a permission slip to stop chasing the next big thing, and come matter here.
I love Hannah Brencher’s writing so much. This book is exactly what I needed to read in this season of uncertainty and wanting to run away. It’s all about staying put where you are so you can grow roots and be known. Hannah’s struggle of depression is heartwrenching but also one I identify with, so at times this was a hard read. It’s important, though, and I know I’ll be rereading this one.⠀
by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.
When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
This is an engaging memoir of a woman who didn’t go to school until she was 17. Instead she stayed home with her family, devout Mormons who attempted to homeschool their kids but really just made them work on a farm. It was so different than my upbringing and parts of it seem too crazy to be true – which means that they must be. After reading it, I found out that some of her family members are suing her for her portrayal of them in the book! It’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I definitely recommend this one.⠀
I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
by Michelle McNamara
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
I’m not usually one for true crime, but I’d heard so much about this that I had to request the ebook from the library. I read it in 24 hours, starting it on a redeye flight to the east coast and finishing in the next night before I fell asleep. Finishing it at night in a strange-to-me place in the middle of the night was probably a bad idea, but regardless, I loved reading this book. It’s told in such a gripping, specific way that’s like a cross between a novel and a textbook. It was never boring and I couldn’t stop reading. I definitely recommend it!⠀
RICH AND PRETTY
by Rumaan Alam
Sarah, the only child of a prominent intellectual and a socialite, works at a charity and is methodically planning her wedding. Lauren—beautiful, independent, and unpredictable—is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries and questions about her life and future by trying not to think about it herself. Each woman envies—and is horrified by—particular aspects of the other’s life, topics of conversation they avoid with masterful linguistic pirouettes.
Once, Sarah and Lauren were inseparable; for a long a time now, they’ve been apart. Can two women who rarely see one other, selectively share secrets, and lead different lives still call themselves best friends? Is it their abiding connection—or just force of habit—that keeps them together?
While this was a great beach read that I read in two sittings, I honestly didn’t understand it. It was pretty boring, but since it was about two friends growing up and growing apart, maybe that was the point. Sometimes life is boring! I liked glimpsing their rich people lives, so different than mine, and found the friendship aspects realistic, but I’m not sure I can recommend this one.⠀
In total this month:
Total number of books: ten
Number of fiction books: six
Number of nonfiction books: four
Books by people who are not white dudes: ten
Total number of books this year: fifty eight