We’re well through the warm months, and I’m making headway on my must read books for summer. I’m on my 27th book of the year, which puts me right on track for my 52-book annual reading goal.
For the past year, I’ve been supplementing my nighttime reading with listening to audiobooks on commutes or long drives. I love my subscription to LibroFM as it includes one book a month, the proceeds of which go to my chosen independent bookstore: Parnassus. In the past year, I’ve listened to Cultish, A Promised Land, Parable of the Sower, Maid and Greenlights and several others. You can try out a subscription here and cancel at anytime.
American Royals III: Rivals by Katharine McGee
This is the third in a series of what’s considered young adult fiction but is really well-suited for any age. My mom, my sister and even my dad before he died all loved this series that imagines an American monarchy, as do I. Spoiler alerts ahead if you have not read American Royals or Majesty (you need to start with those).
After her father died, Beatrice assumed the throne, and this book begins with a global meeting of monarchs and dignitaries. It’s very clear they don’t take her, a young woman, seriously, and she has to do what she can to nip that in the bud (I love the feminism aspect of these books). Meanwhile, her sister Sam is struggling with a relationship with a duke that would require he give up his people and his land for her, while Nina continues to wonder where her relationship with Jefferson stands. I cannot wait for the conclusion to this four-part series and hope it comes out very soon!
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
What if you woke up knowing it was your last day on Earth but had no idea how or where it was going to end? That’s the premise of this dystopian novel where the Big Brother-esque Death Cast calls you when your End Day has come. Last Friend Inc., a Tinder-like app where you can connect with others to get you through your final hours, is how Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio meet on their End Day, but neither of them could have predicted how the day would pan out.
I loved this book, its originality and its LGBTQ+-friendly concept. While obviously there’s a bit of sadness at the end (um, because they die), there is a lot of beauty in this novel, too.
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
I read this book and I cried and I cried and I cried some more at the end. It was lovely. It was my first book after Dad’s death, and it couldn’t have been more timely.
Wallace is positively awful, so when he dies, nobody cares. But when he finds himself at a sort of way station between life and whatever comes next, he finds himself surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, friends even, who teach him exactly what he missed out on in his mortal life. If you loved The House in the Cerulean Sea, I think you’ll be even more enamored by this sweet fantasy novel.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
This spicy novel was on Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club list, and I tore through it in a matter of hours. A classic tale of star-crossed lovers who will always have those seven days in June from their youth, this novel toggles back and forth between the past and present day, when they’re both well-known literary figures who cross paths again after almost two decades. If you loved The Idea of You, which I did, this read is right up your alley.
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
Like the rest of the world, I loved The Girl on the Train, but Hawkins’ follow-up Into the Water was disappointing at best. I was happy then to pick this one up and find her writing chops to hook a reader in the opening pages are still there.
Laura is a trouble young woman who may or may not have gruesomely murdered a man living in a London houseboat after they had a one-night stand. She’s the obvious culprit, but there are others the author brings into question: the nosy neighbor, the grieving aunt, the aunt’s cheating husband. This had all the elements of a great suspense novel.
In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
My friend and fellow travel writer Lola published her first novel, which follows three Black women in Sweden and how their lives intersect: One is an American flight attendant who was swept away to Europe by a mysterious male passenger who owns a big agency, another is a Somali refugee trying to rebuild a new life on unfamiliar land, and the third is an ad agency wunderkind from the U.S. trying to find new footing in Stockholm.
The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda
While this post is my must read books for summer, I can’t get them all right, and I had three books in a row that were complete duds. Why feature them? So you don’t waste your time when there are so many great books out there!
I like Megan Miranda’s other psychotic thrillers, so I was eager to read the newest, but it was just so slow and boring—nothing ever happens!—and I eventually gave it up. The protagonist, Olivia, trips over a body in her yard, and we’re suddenly catapulted back in time when she was six years old and sleepwalked right into a storm drain, where she was trapped for days. And … that’s it. That’s the Tweet.
Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda
I then tried another book by Miranda, and same thing. A whole lot of nothing happens the first half of the novel. In Such a Quiet Place, a murder takes place in a Stepford-style community, and we don’t know who to trust—or if the cops arrested the right person. This is another skip for me; instead, read Miranda’s All the Missing Girls or anything by Mary Kubica.
The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fish
I did not finish this book—and judging from the Amazon and GoodReads reviews, I’m not missing anything—so I can’t accurately tell you what it’s about, but from what I did read, a 67-year-old woman with failing health moves in with a mysterious family who isn’t what they seem. The writing was just bland and didn’t pull me in within the first few chapters.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley
And finally, we’re onto a book I highly recommend! You most likely have seen this cover floating around as it’s been on so many must-read book lists this year—and for good reason. It’s a whodunnit? Clue-style where every time you think you’ve figured it out, a new suspect comes into question
The book starts with a murder, and we don’t know who is possibly dead—or what their motive is. Meanwhile, Jess shows up at the apartment building to stay with her half-brother Ben, who is missing when she arrives. Is he dead? What exactly is going on with his mysterious neighbors? Everyone is a suspect in this thriller. While I read and enjoyed Foley’s The Guest List, this one was far better in my opinion.
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
While I did finish this one, unlike a few previous psychological thrillers, I’ll be honest and say I didn’t care for Flicker in the Dark so much that I had to go back and read about how it actually ended despite it only being a month since I finished it.
Chloe Davis is a psychologist in Baton Rouge with a haunting past: When she was younger, her dad was convicted of murdering several teens. Fast forward a couple decades, and the murders start happening again—and to people she knows at that. Only her father is still in jail, so who’s the culprit? She starts to question everything and everyone as the story unfolds. I would have liked this book had it not taken until two-thirds through it for their to be any action whatsoever.
The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner
Sometimes life requires a palate cleanser, and that’s precisely what Jennifer Weiner’s books are for me. Her latest, which just came out last month, is set during the pandemic and highlights just how much the past couple years have taken their toll on relationships. Toggling back and forth between both time and locations—Cape Cod and New York—the book chronicles the lives of several family members and their various entanglements, culminating with a wedding at the family hope on the Cape that does not go down how anyone expects.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
This is historical fiction at its best. Belle Greener comes from a fair-skinned Black family out of Washington D.C. who decides to move to New York and pass as white; she’s now Belle da Costa Greene. The era is early 1900s; the price of being Black is high. The price of being discovered if you pass? Even higher.
Armed with a Princeton degree, Belle is hired by the JP Morgan to acquire rare books and manuscripts for his personal collection; she goes on to become one of the most prominent figures of her time in the industry, all the while harboring a huge secret and constantly worried about it being exposed and her losing everything. I loved this book and cannot say enough about how it should be a must read for everyone.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
If you read and loved The Vanishing Half, Bennett’s 2016 novel, The Mothers, is just as engaging. Following a trio of teens ensnared in a love triangle and balancing complicated relationships to their own moms—not to mention, the meddling of all the church ladies at the Upper Room who also try to fill that novel—this novel touches on the Black experience while focusing heavily on how our relationships shape who we are.
Trigger warning: abortion. Ironically, I finished it this weekend, though I had started it on audiobook a month ago.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh
I flew through this British thriller about a celebrated marine biologist and her hidden past over the weekend. It was the exact kind of escapism I needed in light of recent events. Emma is enamored with her husband Leo, an obituary writer, and her three-year-old daughter Ruby, but when she starts acting strange, Leo begins digging in her past only to find she isn’t who she says she is.
What are your must read books for summer?
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