It’s been a while since I did my last book round-up/review post (January to be exact!) and while I’ve read since then, I really haven’t read enough to warrant a full blog post. Think one-ish books per month! I’ve always been a big reader but the last few months have been so go, go, go, that at the end of the day, the only thing I’ve wanted to do is sit on the couch like a potato and watch TV. But alas, things are starting to slow down and I’m finally feeling that “I want to read and instead of watch TV” itch again.
This past month, I was really on a roll with my reading and ended up reading eight books. A few books that I truly could not put down were Emily Henry’s latest book, Book Lovers, along with Verity by Colleen Hoover and The Guncle by Steven Rowley. Have you read any of those yet?
What I Read in May
THE DINNER LIST BY REBECCA SERLE
We’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.
At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.
When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.
My Review: “Who would you want to have dinner with, living or dead?” This is an age-old question and is usually one used as an ice breaker to get to know someone for the first time. This one question is the premise of The Dinner List and unfortunately, it hit the mark for me. Rebecca Serle is such an amazing author and I loved how she navigated topics such as life, love, and loss and how the decisions we make impact our lives. But, I found that it wasn’t as intriguing as her other books and some parts were a little slow! I also found it hard to pick up and get into.
My Rating: 3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN BY LISA JEWELL
You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe.
But are they really?
Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
My Review: Lisa Jewell is known for her thrillers and I’ve had a few in my TBR stack for what feels like forever, but this one caught my eye at the airport bookstore last month so I figured I’d give it a try! I love that one jumps right into something terrible happening and then dives right into the time leading up to the incident and figuring out what happened. There were some twists that had me questionning what actually happened, but overall I found the story to sit a little flat and was quite anticlimatic.
My Rating: 3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
THE SECRET STEALERS BY JANE HEALY
Anna Cavanaugh is a restless young widow and brilliant French teacher at a private school in Washington, DC. Everything changes when she’s recruited into the Office of Strategic Services by family friend and legendary WWI hero Major General William Donovan.
Donovan has faith in her—and in all his “glorious amateurs” who are becoming Anna’s fast friends: Maggie, Anna’s down-to-earth mentor; Irene, who’s struggling to find support from her husband for her clandestine life; and Julia, a cheerful OSS liaison. But the more Anna learns about the organization’s secret missions, the more she longs to be stationed abroad. Then comes the opportunity: go undercover as a spy in the French Resistance to help steal critical intelligence that could ultimately turn the tide of the war.
Dispatched behind enemy lines and in constant danger, Anna is filled with adrenaline, passion, and fear. She’s driven to make a difference—for her country and for herself. Whatever the risk, she’s willing to take it to help liberate France from the shadows of occupation and to free herself from the shadows of her former life.
My Review: I can never say no to any historical fiction that takes place in WWII, especially if it’s written by Jane Healy. In The Secret Stealers, we follow Anna’s adventures after his husband tragically dies as a resourceful and assertive secret agent in France during WWII. I was hooked from the start as we follow Anna’s story and discovers what she’s capable of. I loved the strong female characters and their friendships so much!
My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
BOOK LOVERS BY EMILY HENRY
Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.
Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.
If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.
My Review: Emily Henry is one of those authors that I don’t even need to know what her books are about to buy them so when I heard she was coming out with a new book, Book Lovers, I knew I had to read it. And let me tell you, it was so good! While the enemies to lovers plot was quite predictable (she gives away a few hints in the first few pages!), I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters and Emily Henry does such a great job at throwing some curve balls in there. In Book Lovers, we also get a little bit of everything. The pressures of having a career as a female, society’s expectations of women and dating, relationships between sisters, and navigating loss. If Hallmark movies are the top of your favorite things, be sure to read this book!
My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD BY THERESE ANNE FOWLER
In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.
Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over a historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.
Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.
My Review: I have conflicted feelings on how I liked this one. On one hand, it was really well-written and I think the story overall was good, but I found a lot of parts were confusing and unnecessary. The book tackles a lot of racial issues but it took a while to get to that point (definitely a slow burner!) and I felt like the ending was really rushed. I also thought that Brad’s relationship with his stepdaughter Lily was kind of odd and it made me feel uncomfortable.
My Rating: 3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I KISSED SHARA WHEELER BY CASEY MCQUISTON
Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.
But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.
On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.
Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.
My Review: In Casey McQuiston’s newest book, I Kissed Shara Wheeler, we meet Chloe Green. After her moms uprooted her from her life in Southern California to a school in Alabama where she doesn’t fit in, she’s in competition with her fiercest rival Shara Wheeler for class valedictorian. Per usual, Casey McQuiston does a phenomenal job introducing each character and the hunt to find Shara after she disappears on prom night keeps you on your toes.
My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
VERITY BY COLLEEN HOOVER
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
My Review: This twisty, creepy thriller leaves you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire book. As one of Colleen Hoover’s most popular books, I cannot believe it took as long as it did for me to start it but once I did I couldn’t put it down. There are so many cliffhangers throughout the book and you’ll truly have a hard time putting it down until you figure out what happened. The constant surprises and twists make it a fast read. If you’ve been thinking about giving this one a try, I highly recommend it! TW: attempted at home abortion and discussion of the death of children
My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
THE GUNCLE BY STEVEN ROWLEY
Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.
So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting—even if temporary—isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.
My Review: I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but wow. I loved this one so much. It was the perfect feel-good, comedy feast that everyone needs in their lives. Steven Rowley did such an incredible job writing about grief and struggles in a way that was uplifting and made you want to keep powering through. Gay Uncle Patrick needed the children and the children needed them and their shared bond help them overcome the dark shadow in their lives. I cannot recommend this one enough.
My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️