Several more good titles to add to your list as you wrap up your summer reading (though for fellow Texans, we don’t see summer’s end in sight until October!). Here are my August titles.
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Oh, how I absolutely loved America for Beginners! It goes to the top of my favorites list for books published in 2018 (and, for that matter, of all time). The writing is exquisite; I simultaneously wanted to devour the text in one sitting and yet absorb it slowly by rereading passages several times to really soak in the beautiful language (the latter of which I did do a few times). I loved the strong plot, the great character development, the overarching messages about love and life, all of it. Bravo, Leah Franqui—can’t wait to read your future books!
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
I really enjoyed What We Were Promised. I loved the well-roundness of each of the characters—I liked that they weren't perfect, that they had relatable internal struggles, that they were all seeking a little something more out of life. I probably could have used a bit more of a climax/game-changing incident, although—no spoilers—there is a good twist in the plot that was engaging. I recommend this book, and I look forward to more of Lucy Tan's work.
The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner
The Husband Hour is an easy, entertaining read. I like Jamie Brenner and the stories she crafts. There was definitely some predictability in this plot line but there were also some good twists. I read this very quickly because it was fun and fast-paced, but I think if I had to choose between Brenner’s two most recent books, I preferred The Forever Summer.
There There by Tommy Orange
There There is all at once dark and poetic and heart wrenching and raw. Tommy Orange’s writing is beautiful; I had to read this book carefully and slowly, for if I got distracted for even a millisecond, I would miss something important. I loved the way the characters’ lives intertwined. The ending was difficult to process. This story and these characters will stay with me.
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
** Spoiler Alert **
I absolutely loved Charlotte Walsh and the journey this novel takes her on. I totally agree with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s praise for the book: “CWLTW is daring, confident, and ambitious, just like Charlotte Walsh herself. Jo Piazza has written a main character so honest she leaps off the page. Charlotte Walsh is a woman I won’t soon forget.”
Alisyn Camerota’s praise resonated with me, too: “Charlotte had me from her first feisty line. This novel is the perfect blend of propulsive plot and sharp detail. And it’s particularly timely. Piazza crafts a portrait of what it means to be an ambitious woman today. Charlotte Walsh likes to win, and she won me over completely.”
I also surprised myself by loving the unconventional ending. As someone who generally appreciates/prefers for a novel to be tied up at the end in some way, shape, or form, I was drawn to this book’s lack of conclusion—it was, in a way, more true to real life. Plus, Jo Piazza’s reflections on the ending in the Author’s Note were so poignant and clear that they almost served as an ending in and of themselves.
I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to get a copy for my personal library!
My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story by Luisa Weiss
Pros: I love the way Luisa Weiss writes so descriptively about food. I liked the depths of struggle she shares re: feeling torn between homes and settling vs. striving in a relationship.
Cons: I can’t quite identify why but this book just didn’t resonate with me; neither did most of the recipes, the majority of which didn’t really appeal to me. I thought the honesty with which Weiss wrote lost steam about halfway through; what was at first a compelling narrative became instead a string of anecdotes accompanied somewhat haphazardly with recipes.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
** Spoiler Alert **
My expectations for The Wedding Date were way too high. What I thought would be a rich novel about an impromptu date to a wedding was actually a silly, underdeveloped story about two very immature characters.
Alexa was likable enough but Drew was THE WORST. He was condescending, shallow, and really mean to his best friend, Carlos. He seemed so insecure, constantly seeking affirmation. Just, no.
The storyline was also so unrealistic. It started out okay but then just got nonsensical. Little side plots like Alexa’s city council proposal and Drew’s patient with leukemia seemed meant to create depth but really only served as under-baked distractions from a bad plot.
And YET. I like Jasmine Guillory a lot as a person, so I think I will be interested in reading The Proposal (a semi follow-up to this book that focuses more on Carlos) when it comes out. I know, kind of hypocritical of me after this review, but I imagine reading the sequel will be like reading The Wedding Date: it’s pure escapism, similar to watching terrible TV.
I loved this book and its sentiments for New York. The writing was rich and thoughtful and beautiful, and I really liked that each essay stood alone—it made it easy to pick up a few chapters here and there in between reading a novel. I liked savoring the chapters bit by bit, really letting them soak in. Some were funny while others were wistful, but all were poignant + filled with life lessons. I will definitely snagging a copy of this book for my personal library so I can reread these essays again and again!
The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
** Spoiler Alert **
There were many things I liked about The Book of Essie, including Essie’s bravery, the author’s ability to address very sensitive & difficult topics in a way that was profound, and the fact that the main character protected her baby daughter in a day and age when many women would have made a different choice. I loved the pace of the book and felt very engaged throughout reading it. It was very well written, too.
There were, however, significant sub plots that did not seem resolved; Liberty Bell’s plot line, for example, was a main focus throughout the book but then basically disappeared. Some of the plot lines were almost too thorough, so when instances occurred, I couldn’t quite grasp how they had happened. I would find myself rereading sections to see if I’d missed something, but I hadn’t. So in these ways, The Book of Essie was lacking a bit. I do recommend it, though.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is very well-written and intriguing. The subject matter and the main character are depressing; while on the one hand you can’t imagine anyone behaving as she does, on the other you can totally conjure up feeling the way that she does if things in your life had gone really, really wrong.
I am glad I read this book because the writing was so good but I didn’t love it because of the dark, often crass content. But there something real about the darkness touched a nerve with me, and that made me appreciate My Year of Rest and Relaxation in a unique way. Also, as despicable as she was, there was something that made me look forward to the scenes with the awful Dr. Tuttle character.
I thought this book offered wonderful sentiments about grief and healing. Kate Spencer really encourages readers to embrace their feelings, no matter how dark and maddening they may be, which I loved. While I thought the content was great, I dropped a couple of stars from the rating because writing wasn't my favorite and I could have done without some of the cursing/bad language.
Startup by Doree Shafrir
I absolutely loved Startup! I thought it was an extremely well-written, descriptive, captivating story, and I thought all of the characters, even the unlikable ones, were relatable. I read this in two days, stealing away pockets of time to finish it. I'm hoping, based on the ending, that a sequel is in the works—I would totally read a Katya + Sabrina + Isabel follow-up piece!
Image via My Domaine