August 22, 2022

What I Read In July 2022

July was a reasonably solid reading month – I read 10 books this month, including several on the plane coming back from my trip to France. I’m still reading mostly light novels, though I snuck in a non-fiction book on heartbreak to try to clear my head after a breakup that’s had me pretty upset for months.

Fortunately, I found some solace in the page turning thriller “Verity”… this was such an excellent read!

5 stars:

Verity, by Colleen Hoover: I had read one Colleen Hoover book before, and it was quite the opposite of this – but I loved this! Lowen is an aspiring but broke writer who is offered the chance of a lifetime: to ghostwrite the final books in a popular series when their original author, Verity, has a tragic accident and is comatose. Verity’s husband Jeremy invites Lowen to their home to read through Verity’s notes and drafts… and then things get creepy and weird. Since I wasn’t expecting this to be a suspense novel (I thought it would be a rom com), I initially found myself annoyed by Lowen’s paranoia, but then I embraced the genre and couldn’t put it down. It’s super dark and twisted, and I loved that the ending kept me guessing what was real and who the victims and villains truly were.

4 stars:

Home in Carolina (The Sweet Magnolias #5), by Sherryl Woods: Annie had a crush on her friend Ty since they were kids; in college, they finally dated and fell in love, until Ty started cheating on her with many women while he was away from home playing pro baseball… and one of those baseball groupies got pregnant and had Ty’s baby. Three years later, Ty has been raising his son alone, and when he moves back to Serenity, it reopens the possibility for reconciliation between Annie and Ty. This was okay, and there were some cute moments, but I didn’t love it. It was a bit disconcerting how the timeline from the first few books jumped way forward and the kids were all grown up, though on the flip side, it gave a fun glimpse into how the original Sweet Magnolias characters are doing well beyond their own original plotlines.

In a New York Minute, by Kate Spencer: Franny is having the worst day: on her way home after getting fired from work, her dress gets caught in the subway doors and rips open. A hot businessman, Hayes, donates his jacket to (literally) cover her butt, and another passenger posts pictures of the encounter on social media – and the pics go viral with the hashtag #SubwayQTs. The book alternates between Franny’s and Hayes’ perspectives as the two keep bumping into each other, and while it’s predictable, it’s a light and fun easy read. My only quibble is that the transitions from one perspective to another were a bit abrupt, and sometimes it would take me a few paragraphs before I realized that the perspective had changed.

By the Book (Meant to Be #2), by Jasmine Guillory: Izzy is an editorial assistant living at home with her parents and pretty miserable with her career – or lack thereof, as it feels like she has no path forward. When her boss complains about a difficult celebrity author not delivering his manuscript, Izzy volunteers to go to his Santa Barbara mansion and talk to him in person – but that turns into an extended stay at Beau’s lonely house to help him write. This is so silly of me, but I didn’t realize until reading the reviews that it was meant to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast – and I enjoy it even more now that I’m reflecting on those allusions! (There were a few times I thought “this is like Beauty and the Beast” but it didn’t occur to me that the whole thing was a retelling… duh!) The romance was extremely slow burn, but I saw it coming from a long way off, and I still enjoyed the build up to get there. I also enjoyed the inside view of the writing / publishing process, which was really interesting. My only disappointment is that the ending was a bit abrupt, so I wasn’t convinced the romance would last.

An Island Wedding (Mure #5), by Jenny Colgan: Flora and Joel are planning their wedding; he wants something small, and to donate the money to charity, but Flora won’t tell him she secretly wants a big wedding. Meanwhile, as the owner of The Rock hotel, Flora is planning an extravagant blowout wedding for a rich Instagram influencer – making her even sadder that she’s not getting the wedding she wants. This was a cute novel, and I was happy to get to continue following the characters, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the other Mure books.

3 stars:

Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey, by Florence Williams: I heard about this book on the Jillian Michaels podcast, and expected it to be a social psychology book about how to deal with heartbreak. Instead, it was more of a memoir of one woman’s experience with divorce, peppered with anecdotal research that supported the various things she tried to get through her own heartbreak. Although there were a lot of interesting tidbits, I found them overshadowed by the personal sections detailing the author’s river rafting trips and other personal endeavors. There was an oft repeated theme that being out in nature is a fantastic way to cure heartbreak, but as the author’s previous book was about the curative power of spending time in nature, I was a bit skeptical whether this was truly the best cure or if it was cherry picked due to the author’s previous expertise. In all, this was interesting, but not a stellar read. I think it would have been much better approached as a pure research book with the personal anecdotes left out.

Booked on a Feeling (A Sweet Mess #3), by Jayci Lee: Lizzy is a successful partner up for promotion when she has a panic attack and faints at the end of a big trial. She heads to the small town of Weldon to try to recuperate, helped by her best friend Jack, a bookkeeper at his family’s brewery in town. Unbeknownst to each other, Jack and Lizzy both have huge crushes on each other, but they’re afraid to go for it and risk losing their decades-long friendship. Although it was fun to go back to the town of Weldon where Jayci Lee has set her other novels (which I adored), the characters in this one fell a little bit flat for me, seeming rather immature, and I found the storyline too predictable. It was still a sweet read, but I just didn’t love it as much as the first two books in the Sweet Mess series.

The Seat Filler, by Sariah Wilson: Juliet agrees to be an award show seat filler as a favor to her best friend, and is surprised to find herself next to her childhood celebrity crush, Noah. Since he seems like kind of a jerk, Juliet pretends she doesn’t know who Noah is – and he metaphorically chases after her until the two become friends and kind-of-dating. However, Juliet has a serious phobia of kissing (as in, has panic attacks / faints / throws up when she kisses someone) that she needs to overcome before she can actually be in a relationship – so most of the book is a will-they-won’t-they actually date. That monkey wrench in this romance was SO weird and hard to believe that I found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit throughout, even as I wanted to love this book and its interesting take on what it’s like to decide to date someone in the public eye. Overall, this was sweet, but even more farfetched than a lot of romance novels.

Election, by Tom Perrotta: Set in the 90s, Winwood High School is having their annual student government election – but this year’s election will have a lot of impacts beyond which student gets elected president. The author sets a sense of foreboding from the beginning about the consequences of what’s to come, but by the end, I kind of felt like it was a bit overblown. The story is told from several perspectives: a few teachers and students, plus the three students in the race (Tracy, the driven achiever who’s been working toward this for years; Paul, the jock; and Tammy, Paul’s younger brother). The multiple perspectives were really well done – they kept the story moving quickly, and because they were all adding detail to the same story / chronology, it didn’t pull me out of the plot. This is a pretty quick read, and while I didn’t love it, it’s made me curious to watch the film as well as read the sequel.

2 stars:

The Clasp, by Sloane Crosley: This was bizarre. Three college friends are reaching age 30 and meet at the wedding of another former classmate: Kezia is a jeweler’s assistant, Nathaniel is an aspiring screenwriter, and Victor is a recently-fired software engineer. There’s a weird love triangle vibe that I found very confusing (who likes whom??), and the first half of the book has so many characters that it took me a while to figure out who is a main character and who is tertiary. In a similar way, I had no idea what the plot was until about the last quarter of the book – it seemed like disconnected narratives of everyday life rather than a plotline leading to some sort of outcome. The writing was good, but without a real plot to follow or any likable characters, I found this really boring and hard to get through.

Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.


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