9.8.21

On My Nightstand: August 2021

Happy September! This year is flying by—I can’t believe summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner. I feel like the year just started, all the while, I just finished my 50th book of the year! I finished six books in the month of August, and probably could have read more—but, I was really, really sick the last few days of August and just didn’t have the energy to do anything, including read. (That’s how I knew I was really sick! I am never one to sit still, and I always find time to read.) All that to say, I read some great books in August and am excited to share them with you below.

As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and that’s not lost on me.

Happy reading! x

PEOPLE LIKE HER | ELLERY LLYOD

Emmy Jackson is an “instamum”—an influencer with over a million followers. She’s made a charmed life for herself with her husband Dan and their two adorable kids. As Emmy and Dan’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of Emmy’s growing success, her moral compass begins to point away from north. Around the same time, Emmy and Dan realize someone is stalking them, posting pictures of their kids on the internet they’ve never publicly shared.

Would I recommend it? I could not put this one down—there was a lot of really good suspense, and I found it a really interesting look at influencer culture, social media, and how we look to strangers for validation. I would definitely add this one to your reading list.

THE PARIS WIFE | PAULA McCLAIN *

Hadley is living in Chicago in 1920 and has all but given up on love—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind romance, they get married and move to Paris where they begin to hang out with F. Scott Fitzgerald and the like. Though they’re in love, the pair are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and free-loving life of jazz age Paris. As Ernest struggles to write, Hadley struggles to hold onto her sense of self—and her husband.

Would I recommend it? I wanted to like this one since it came so highly recommended to me, but I just couldn’t get into it. I almost put it down 75% of the way through, but wanted to see how it ended—I can’t recommend this one in good faith.

PASSING | NELLA LARSEN*

Irene is living an enviable life with her family in 1920s Harlem. One day, she runs into an old friend from childhood, Clare. Clare has been “passing” as a white woman and is married to a racist man who doesn’t know her true identity. Irene is fascinated and repulsed by Clare’s secret—and their complex relationship sets off a chain of events that dynamically alter both women forever.

Would I recommend it? Originally published in 1929 to much critical acclaim, there is still so much relevance in this text today. Like The Vanishing Half, which I read last year and loved, this one explores what it means to transcend race and identity. This would be a great book club pick—it’s short, but there is so much to unpack.

NOWHERE BUT HERE | RENEE CARLINO

Kate feels a little lost in life, but after confiding in her boss at the popular Chicago newspaper she works at, he gives her an assignment to jumpstart her career. She needs to interview the famously reclusive RJ Lawson, a wealthy tech genius who disappeared for several years and re-emerged as a Napa Valley winemaker. RJ refuses to give her the material she needs for a story, so she turns to Jamie, one of the vineyard hands, to try to get the inside scoop. They have a fling, and then Jamie disappears, too—and Kate is left to figure out the stories behind both men.

Would I recommend it? I’ve been slowly working my way through the Renee Carlino canon, but this one was one of my least favorites of hers. I thought the plot was a little trite and the characters weren’t super developed. I would pass—but make sure you pick up Before We Were Strangers if you haven’t yet.

THANKS FOR WAITING | DOREE SHAFRIR*

Doree spent a lot of her time in her 20s and 30s feeling out of sync with her peers: she was an intern at 29 and didn’t meet her husband on Tinder until her late 30s, after most of her friends were on their second or third kid. After a long infertility struggle, she became a mom at 41. She now hosts the Forever 35 podcast, which I’ve actually never listened to—but now definitely will.

I loved how candid Doree was about how we feel pressure to hit certain milestones by a certain time—and if we don’t, we often feel like a failure, when in reality, we aren’t.

Would I recommend it? I loved this one and finished in less than 24 hours—I can’t recommend this one enough. It was the best book I read all month!

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN CUBA | CHANEL CLEETON

Set at the end of the 19th century, this book follows three revolutionary women and their fight for freedom. It’s based on the true story of Evangelina Cisneros.

The Journal and The World  are at war, and Grace finds herself in Hearst’s newsroom, trying to be the next Nellie Bly. And it’s a story about Cuba that changes her life. Unjustly imprisoned for turning down the advances of a Spanish General, Evangelina dreams of a Cuba free from Spanish oppression. Hearst’s newspapers splash her face all over their papers and call her ‘The Most Beautiful Woman in Cuba.’ With the help of Marina Perez, the book’s third heroine, Evangelina escapes from prison and becomes the rallying cry for American intervention in the Cuban / Spanish conflict.

Would I recommend it?  I will always read whatever Chanel Cleeton writes—I liked this one a lot, but my favorites remains Next Year in Havana and The Last Train to Key West.

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