Last year, my goal was a book a week. I just beat it: 53 books in 52 weeks. This post has been sitting in my drafts since the holidays, but life and Dad’s death happened, and I’ve been keeping busy by working with my hands rather than writing. But in the event you’re traveling for Spring Break, I’m back with some of the best suspense novels, chick lit and other fun reads I’ve finished this year.
I’ve also been listening to audiobooks on my long drive. I bought a subscription to LibroFM last year, which allows me to listen when I’m in the car or on the road. A few books I’ve been listening to include Cultish, A Promised Land, Parable of the Sower, Maid and Greenlights. I love LibroFM because my money goes to independent bookstores and not Amazon. You can try out a subscription here and cancel at anytime.
FYI: I signed up as a LibroFM affiliate but pay for all my own books.
Here are the novels I’ve read since my last book review roundup in the fall. I had a lot of sleepless nights in the weeks immediately following Dad’s death and found that I could only really concentrate on suspense novels. Anything else went in one eye and out the other without being absorbed.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Penned by the author behind Kitchens of the Great Midwest, this novel about a pair of sisters in Minnesota follows their estrangement as their paths diverge: Helen goes on to run a big beer company, eventually becoming one of the industry’s most respected breweries, while Edith becomes a homemaker and baker who doesn’t realize her full potential until later in life. When her granddaughter Diana decides to go into the brewing industry, the sisters’ paths may just converge once more.
I’m a big fan of Stradal’s writing style and quirky characters and absolutely loved this book. Read it!
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
While I thought Beach Read was one of the worst books I’ve ever read in quite some time, I rather liked People We Meet on Vacation about a travel writer and her best friend from college who go on one epic vacation together a year on the company’s tab (very unrealistic as that’s not how the media works, but I digress). Then something happens and they stop speaking—though it will take to the end of the book before we learn what.
I think what I loved about this book was all the different places they visited: Nashville, Palm Springs, British Columbia, the Mediterranean coast. It was like being on one long virtual vacation in the coldest, dreariest days of winter.
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland
A few pages into this book a bout a pair of old-money families who owns a failing resort in the Catskills, and you can’t help but feel like you stepped behind the curtain of Dirty Dancing. There’s plenty of family drama, scandal and in-fighting as the kids decide if the resort is actually worth saving—or if they should sell it to be bulldozed by a development company instead.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
You know I love a good war novel. This one was informative, but honestly there were too many characters and storylines; I almost wish the author had broken it up into a series, one character per book, because it was that hard to follow. A Polish family is split up at the beginning of the war: some sent to work camps, others to the front lines, others left at home to save their house. It’s sad and heartbreaking, but also a tale of resilience and how deep family bonds run.
While I sometimes got bogged down by trying to keep up with all the names and towns, I appreciate the amount of work Hunter put into researching her family history and interviewing so many people who intersected with the siblings throughout the course of the war.
The Guncle by Steve Rowley
If you know me in real life, I’ve probably forced you to read this endearing story about a gay actor in Palm Springs with zero experience with kids whose niece and nephew are sent to live with him after his sister-in-law dies from cancer. It’s hilarious, it’s sweet, it will warm you from head to toe. It will also make you want to go to Palm Springs; in fact, Mom and I booked a trip there (for next week!) hours after I finished it. FIVE STARS ALL THE WAY.
Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday
I read this lovely chick lit novel over Christmas before our lives started spiraling out of control, and it gave me American Royals vibes. Dani, a newly single New Yorker in her 30s, is set to be the best woman in her best friend’s wedding abroad. The catch? He’s marrying a princess. When she flies abroad to begin her wedding duties, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the princess’ ex, a duke, and the fun and mischief unravel from there.
If you love royals and romcoms, you’ll dig this sweet little book.
Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey
The author of Duke, Actually recommended Window Shopping on her social media, and what started out as a fun story about a woman fresh out of prison given a career shot as a window designer quickly veered into soft-core p*rn with zero substance. I don’t even want to merit this book with a review, so if you planned to read it, save yourself the $5 and remove it from your list. It was terrible, and I typically love a good indulgent chick lit novel.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
As far as a suspense novel goes, this one checks all the boxes. Big tech fraud. Woman whose husband mysteriously disappears. A single cryptic note left behind that reads Protect her.
The Last Thing He Told Me opens with Hannah Hall, a woodturner in Sausalito, finding out her husband Owen’s company has gone the way of Enron. He disappears and cuts all communication as she and Owen’s daughter Bailey try to figure out what happened and where he’s gone. I highly recommend this novel for all those who love psychological thrillers.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty is very hit or miss for me. Loved Big Little Lies (the book and the show); didn’t care for Nine Perfect Strangers (the book or show). Similarly, I haven’t been wild about many of her other books. However, this one was different. I loved it.
Maybe it’s the fact that this story chronicles a famous, fictional tennis family, the Delaneys, in Australia—and I was a college tennis player so I loved that facet of the book—or perhaps it was just more riveting as a stranger shows up on the parents’ doorstep and winds up moving in with them, only for the mom to go missing the next year while the four children, all of whom harbor their own secrets, set out to find what happened to Joy.
We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
Emily and Kristen are on one of their epic adventures—this time backpacking in Chile—when a fellow backpacker dies. This eerie psychological thriller jumps back in time to another time the duo was backpacking in Thailand and accidentally killed someone.
As Emily returns to the States and tries to cover her tracks so they can’t be traced back to the scene of the crime, things get harrier for her as she tries to navigate a new relationship and balance the overbearing attention of a jealous best friend.
The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle
Another day, another book about a royal-adjacent falling in love with a commoner. Only this fictional read puts Megan and Harry-like characters in a small town in Canada, escaping the scrutiny of the crown, and their bodyguard Harrison front and center as our leading man who falls for the next door neighbor Piper Evans, a school teacher with a terrible track record when it comes to dating.
This book was a cute interlude between more serious novels, but definitely not a priority read.
The One Hundred Years of Lenni & Margot by Marianne Cronin
This was the last great book to give me an extreme hangover in terms of not wanting to let it go. The premise: 17-year-old Lenni is in the hospital with a terminal disease when she befriends octogenarian Margot and they set out to chronicle their combined 100 years of life in an art series. While the subject matter may be sad, this book gave me so many lovely feels—the writing is truly next level, and the story line so charming and bittersweet.
If you haven’t read Lenni and Margot, drop everything and make it your next read. I absolutely can’t wait to read what Cronin writes next.
The Husbands by Chandler Baker
Successful attorney Nora Spangler is searching for her next home when she falls into the community of Dynasty Ranch, where the women hold all the power and the men are the perfect Stepford husbands—in fact, everything seems a bit too Pleasantville-esque. Something, of course, is not right, but it takes the course of the book for Nora to unravel just what is going on.
I love Chandler Baker’s writing style and the fact that she specializes in feminist thrillers with smart female protagonists taking down skeezy men, but I wish this suspense novel had gotten to the meat of the story more quickly as I got a little bored by it somewhere in the middle.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
While Husbands wasn’t my favorite, Whisper Network gets 4.5 stars from me. My college roommate Ashley sent it to me after Dad’s death and it was a great respite from grief. The story follows a quartet of female attorneys for a big Outdoor Voices-like retailer in Dallas and an anonymous list of sexual assault perpetrators that’s floating around town, as the book works backward to find out what happened to the incoming CEO who allegedly jumped to his death from atop corporate headquarters.
A little bit Big Little Lies, a little bit Me, Too, this book turns out to be a power woman anthem and I’m here for it. I would not be surprised to see Reese Witherspoon adapt this book for a streaming service.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year so far? Bonus if it’s a suspense novel or psychological thriller.