Recent Reads: Vol. 23

January 6, 2020

Well hello there and happy 2020! As per usual I am very behind on sharing what I've been reading so some of these aren't so recent after all. There are some really good books on this list though and a lot of them are by women of color so definitely worth supporting these amazing authors!

Three Women. It feels like this was the “it” book of 2019. Lisa Taddeo spent years interviewing several women and narrowed it down to three that she followed for this book. There’s Maggie, who had a relationship with her high school teacher. There’s Lina, who is in an unfulfilling marriage. Finally, there’s Sloane whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other people. The book explores all of these women’s love lives and sexuality over the course of eight years. We read this for my book club and it definitely lead to a lot of great discussion. However, I overall did not like this book. I felt like it had the opportunity to be really great and interesting and empowering but it was mostly just sad. All three women were dealing with a lot of trauma and unhappiness in their lives and it just wasn’t enjoyable. 
Rating: B-

Park Avenue Summer. This is the novelization of Helen Gurly Brown becoming the Editor in Chief of Cosmo in 1965. It’s told from her fictional assistant Alice’s POV. Alice comes to New York from the midwest hoping to become a photographer and lands a job as Helen’s assistant. At this point in time Cosmo was a magazine for men and women but Helen is the one who built it into what it is today: a magazine for women. I didn’t know anything about Helen Gurly Brown so this was a fun way to read about her and it definitely had some Mad Men vibes, which was a bonus. 
Rating: B+

Her Royal Highness. This is the second book in the Royals series by Rachel Hawkins. You guys know I love a good royal novel! Millie is an American teen who applies to go to boarding school in Scotland and is thrilled when she is accepted. Upon arrival she finds that she is rooming with Princess Flora of Scotland and things do not get off to a good start. Flora and Millie can’t stand each other...that is until they start to develop feelings for one another. This book wasn’t amazing but it was pretty cute! A great beach read.
Rating: B

American Royals. I guess I spoke too soon about the “it” book of 2019 because this was definitely a contender as well! This is by Katharine McGee, who also wrote the Thousandth Floor series which is one of my favorites. American Royals reimagines what America would be like if George Washington was the first King of America and not the president. The book centers around Princess Beatrice, who will become queen one day, Princess Samantha, Prince Jefferson and the people who surround them. I really enjoyed this book even though it was very predictable at times. 
Rating: A-

An American Marriage. We read this for my book club as well and again had some really great discussions come out of this one. It explores what happens to a marriage when someone is wrongfully convicted of a crime. Celestial and Roy have only been married for a year when Roy is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The book is told from both of their perspectives as they try to navigate an extremely unfortunate situation. The book takes a look at race, marriage, family relationships and the criminal justice system in a really interesting way. I was definitely invested and wanted to know how it ended but I was really annoyed by all of the main characters. They were all pretty unlikeable. 
Rating: B+

American Spy. Apparently I was very into books with “American” in the title this fall! Marie is an intelligence officer for the FBI in the ‘80’s where she is often overlooked because she is a young black woman amongst a lot of old white men. One day she is approached by a task force that wants her to get close to Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso who has Communist leanings. America sees him as a threat and wants Marie to get close to him, seduce him and pass along any information. The book is based on true events so it was fun to learn something new. I had basically zero knowledge about Burkina Faso or Sankara so I really enjoyed this and found myself doing a lot of googling while reading it. 
Rating: A

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Imagine what it must be like to be a therapist going to therapy. Lori Gottlieb is a real-life therapist who starts seeing a therapist after a personal crisis sends her into a tailspin. Her memoir is a combination of stories about her patients and her own experience as a patient. I really loved this book and it made me think about my own experience with therapy a little bit differently. Would definitely recommend!

Royal Holiday. I have read several of Jasmine Guillory’s books and thoroughly enjoyed every single one. This was no exception! Vivian is a native Californian in her 50’s who has only left the U.S. once. So when she has the opportunity to accompany her daughter Maddie to the U.K. over Christmas she jumps at it. Maddie is a stylist and has been selected to help the Dutchess (a thinly veiled Meghan Markle) pull looks for all of her Christmas events. Vivian and Maddie are staying at the Duke and Duchess’ cottage in Sandringham when Vivian meets Malcolm, a private secretary to the queen. Vivian and Malcolm hit it off and have a whirlwind holiday romance. It was the perfect holiday book but it wasn’t too Christmasy so you could enjoy it any time of the year!
Rating: A

My Sister the Serial Killer. After Korede’s sister Ayoola kills her third boyfriend in a row Korede must acknowledge that she is officially a serial killer. Worst of all she’s been protecting her by helping clean up and get rid of the bodies. Once Ayoola sets her sights on Tade, who Korede has been in love with for years, she is forced to deal with her complicitness and has to figure out how far she’ll go to protect her sister. I don’t think I would have ever picked this book for myself but I really enjoyed it. It’s a quick read and the chapters are short so you can really breeze through it. 
Rating: A

American Princess. One last book with “American” and something royal in the title! This book came recommended by Hitha and I checked it out from the library without really looking at the plot summary. It’s the novelization of Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s very interesting life. Alice was Theodore Roosevelt’s first daughter with his first wife who died during childbirth. She grows up in the white house while her father is president and everyone is enraptured by her, the press has even dubbed her Princess Alice. Another case where I didn’t know anything about the subject and loved learning something new in a novelized format. This book was a long one but I really liked it!
Rating: A

Unmarriageable. Another recommendation from Hitha! Unmarriageable is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan circa 2000. Alysba Binat is one of the five unmarried Binat sisters, much to their mother’s distress. After Alys meets Valentine Darsee at a wedding it’s hate at first sight and yet they keep running into each other. I wasn’t a huge Pride and Prejudice fan when I read it, granted I was a sophomore in high school, but I love retellings of the classic story. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield was amazing and obviously Bridget Jones’s Diary is excellent. Anyway, I couldn’t put it down and just really really loved this book. 
Rating: A+

xo Catherine

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