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On My Nightstand: Fall 2023

Happy New Year! I’m back with the books I read in Q4 this year (October, November, December) and there were a lot of good ones that made their way to my nightstand. In Q1, I read 22 books, in Q2, I read 17 books, in Q3, I read 26 books, and in Q4, I finished out the year by reading 25 books. The reading goal I set for myself at the start of the year was 75 books, and I exceeded that by reading 90 total books (!!!).

Before I recap all the books I read this summer, I wanted to remind you of my book rating system:

  • Five Stars: an amazing book I could not put down and/or stop thinking about once I finished it; would highly recommend reading it!
  • Four Stars: a great book that stands out above your average read that I would highly recommend reading.
  • Three Stars: an average book that I generally enjoyed, but if you asked me for a book recommendation, I’d probably recommend another title first.
  • Two Stars: a terrible book that was hard to finish; I would not recommend reading it.
  • One Star: a book that was among the worst I’ve ever read. You probably won’t see too many of these because I usually DNF (do not finish) these books and don’t count them towards my yearly reading goal.

For 2024, I decided to sunset these quarterly reading recaps in an effort to better prioritize where I spend my time on my creative projects (more to come on this soon!) — but will continue to share everything I read in real-time over on Goodreads and via my Instagram Stories.

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 am really grateful for the opportunity to partner with Random House in this way. And, as always, you can follow along with what I am reading in real time over on Goodreads.

Happy reading — and please let me know if there’s been anything good on your nightstand lately! x

FIVE-STAR READS

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

This is the third and final book in Abby Jimenez’s Friend Zone series — all the stories are loosely connected and characters overlap between stories. I didn’t love the first book, but I really enjoyed the second and third one (this one!), so I am glad I kept reading!

When Vanessa Price quit her job to pursue her dream of traveling the globe, she wasn’t expecting to gain millions of YouTube followers who shared her joy of seizing her every moment. For her, living each day to its fullest isn’t just a motto. Her mother and sister never saw the age of 30, and Vanessa doesn’t want to take anything for granted.

But after her half sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her baby daughter, life goes from ‘daily adventure’ to ‘next level bad’ — now with bonus baby vomit in hair. The last person Vanessa expects to show up offering her help is the hot lawyer next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. No one warned her that he was the Secret Baby Tamer or that she’d be spending a whole lot of time with him. Now she’s feeling things she’s vowed not to feel. Because the only thing worse than falling for Adrian is finding a little hope for a future she may never see.

The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead

This is one of my favorite books I real all year — I stayed up too late one night reading it, which is one of my simple joys in life. It’s loosely connected to Fool Me Once — the main protagonist in this book is the younger sister of the main protagonist in that book. It’s probably best to read them in order, otherwise, you will have some minor spoilers.

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Alexis decides she needs a change. So she takes herself out to a hotel bar one night to try and find a one night stand. Enter a cute guy named Logan who helps her maneuver away from a creepy old guy and then buys her a drink. Just as they’re about to hookup, the hotel catches fire in a freak lightning storm. In their rush to escape, Logan carries her into the street and finds that people are waiting with cameras — so he promptly flees, leaving Alexis alone wondering what just happened.

Things start to make more sense when pictures of her and Logan fleeing at the fire are posted all over the internet. Turns out, Logan is none other than Logan Arthur, the hotshot candidate challenging the Texas governor’s seat. The salacious scandal is poised to sink his career _ and jeopardize Alexis’s job — until a solution is proposed: he and Alexis could pretend to be in a relationship until Election Day – in two months. What could possibly go wrong?

The Good Part by Sophie Cousens

loved this book — it was so cute! It reminded me a lot of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, which I read and loved years ago.

Lucy is 26 years old and tired. Tired of fetching coffees for senior TV producers, sick of going on disastrous dates, and done with living in a damp flat with roommates who never buy toilet paper. After another disappointing date, Lucy stumbles upon a wishing machine. Pushing a coin into the slot, Lucy closes her eyes and wishes to skip to the good part of her life.

When she wakes the next morning to a handsome man, a ring on her finger, a high-powered job, and two storybook-perfect children, Lucy can’t believe this is real — especially when she looks in the mirror, and staring back is her own forty-something face. Has she really skipped ahead like she’s always wanted? Or has she simply forgotten a huge chunk of her life?

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

I did this one as an audiobook and Michelle Williams is such a good reader — at points I almost forgot it was her narrating and not Britney! I had read a lot of the online coverage about Britney’s memoir, but I’m glad I read it myself — it’s very short and made me sad for everything she has been through. I am glad she is free of the conservatorship and hope she continues to get the support she needs. What a talent!

FOUR-STAR READS

The Christmas Orphan’s Club by Becca Freeman

I’ve been a longtime fan of Becca Freeman’s work and Bad on Paper podcast is always on my weekly rotation. The Christmas Orphan’s Club is her debut novel, and it really made me excited for the holidays. I also loved that the main story was about the love we share with friends, and how that can be just as important as the bonds we share with family or romantic partners.

Hannah and Finn have spent every Christmas together since college when neither had anywhere else to go: Hannah’s parents died, and Finn’s disowned him when he came out. When the pair starts their adult lives in New York City, they add stylish Priya and mysterious Theo to their Christmas tradition, solidifying a found family and sense of belonging they’ve always craved.

But when Finn announces a move to LA, this Christmas may be their last. Hannah is terrified of losing the family she’s built for herself, even as her boyfriend nudges her toward commitment. Meanwhile, Finn struggles with the things he’s about to leave behind — namely, his unexpressed feelings for Theo. But, it turns out, this Christmas may just change these friends in the way they need the most.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

After reading Ashley Winstead’s romance novels, I knew I wanted to go back and read her other books as she is an amazing writer. This was a great thriller — somewhat predictable, but I loved the tit was set around friends at college and their ten-year reunion at a thinly veiled Duke University.

Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, for her class reunion. And she’s ready to show off how successful she’s become since leaving campus after Healther Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.

But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night — and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.

If You Would Have Told Me by John Stamos

My sister and I did this one as an audiobook on a recent roadtrip — and if you grew up on Full House like we did, I think you’d really enjoy it! He talks a lot about the show, Bob Saget’s death, and his friendship with Lori Loughlin. He also talks a lot about his career before and after Full House and his first marriage to Rebecca Rominjn. As far as celeb memoirs go, this is a great one.

The Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

In 1945, when the critically wounded Captain Cooper is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Told over three timelines — the two other timelines introduce you to Kate’s grandmother and mother — I loved this mystery and could not put it down.

Maybe Once, Maybe Twice by Alison Rose Greenberg

Y’all know I love a second chance romance — and this one provided not one, but two. If you’re looking for a cute rom com read, I really enjoyed this one!

At 34, Maggie’s life isn’t what she wants it to be — neither her dream of becoming a mother or her dream of becoming a musician is panning out. So when Garrett, her old friend, comes to her 35th birthday party with the intention to kiss her, it feels like one piece might click into place. Except he’s engaged to someone else, and Maggie knows she won’t fit into the cookie-cutter life he’s building for himself.

Enter Asher Reyes. Her first boyfriend  from summer camp, turned into heartthrob actor, he’s lived a successful, yet private, life ever since he became famous. When a career-changing opportunity is presented to Maggie after he reconnection with Asher, it feels like everything  — music, love, family — will fall into place. But her past won’t let her move on without a fight.  t

Before I Do by Sophie Cousens

I realized I somehow missed another one of Sophie Cousens’ books, so I had to read it! Of the books of hers I’ve read, my ranking is: The Good PartJust Haven’t Met You YetThis Time Next Yearand then Before I Do (this one!).

Head-in-the-stars Audrey is about to marry down-to-earth Josh. Though they are polar opposites, they have a healthy, stable relationship — but as the big day approaches, Audrey found herself wondering if Josh really is “the one.”

So, when Josh’s sister shows up to the rehearsal dinner with Fred, Audrey’s ‘what if’ guy — the man she met six years ago and had one amazing day with — Audrey finds herself torn. Surely Fred’s appearance the night before she is due to get married can’t be a coincidence. And when everything that could go wrong with the wedding starts to go wrong, Audrey has to ask herself: is fate trying to stop her from making a huge mistake?

Snowed In by Catherine Walsh

Catherine Walsh is one of my favorite authors that I discovered in 2023, and I loved this one. It’s loosely connected to her holiday book from last year, Holiday Romance, as there are some overlapping characters, but you could definitely read both as a standalone.

Megan is dreading going home for the holidays. She’s the village pariah, who left local golden boy Isaac at the altar four years ago and ran away to the big city. She could really do without the drama.

Christian’s fed up of being on his own every Christmas. He doesn’t mind being alone, but he hates his family’s pity.

So when Megan literally bumps into Christian in a Dublin pub, they come up with a pact to see them through the holiday season. They’re going to be the very best fake dates for each other, ever.They will sit through each other’s family gatherings and be outrageously in love until freed from their annual obligations. After all, it’s only for a few weeks.

Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane

I love Mhairi McFarlane books, and was excited to read this one, her latest title. I loved it — it was a bit darker than some of her other books, with a good mystery, which kept me engaged throughout!

When Roisin and Joe join their friends for a weekend at a country house, it’s a triple celebration — a birthday, an engagement, and the launch of Joe’s shiny new TV show. But as the weekend unfolds, tensions come to light in the group and Roisin begins to question her own relationship. And as they watch the first episode of Joe’s drama, she realizes that the private things she told him — which should have stayed between them — are right there on the screen.

With her friend group in chaos and her messy love life on display for the whole world to see, Roisin returns home to avoid the unwanted attention and help run her family’s pub. But drama still follows and the looming question: what other parts of her now-ex’s show are inspired by real events? Lies? Infidelity? Every week, as a new episode airs, she wonders what other secrets will be revealed.

The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren

This was my last book of the year, and I ended on a high note — I loved this book and stayed up too late one night to finish reading it!

Fizzy Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached.

Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But Love? No.

Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work but when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element. Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass — unless he agrees to her list of demands. When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too.

THREE-STAR READS

My Magnolia Summer by Victoria Benton Frank

This was Victoria Benton Frank’s debut novel — and her name might sound familiar to you because her mother was Dorothea Benton Frank, a bestselling author. This one was a cute beach read, and she’s going to continue to bring these characters to life in a second book — so there are some loose ends.

Maggie’s a proud Charlestonian living in NYC, working at a tough restaurant job when she gets a call from her sister, Violet, that her beloved grandmother has been in a car accident. When Maggie arrives home, she finds her Gran lying comatose, her mother’s alcohol addiction rearing its ugly head again, and her sister, Violet, busy trying to trap a man. On top of it all, Maggie’s family’s restaurant, The Magic Lantern, is in a state of disarray. What used to be a beautiful restaurant on Sullivan’s Island loved by locals has turned into a tourist trap. But when three generations of South Carolina women come together, anything becomes possible.

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

This was a cute read, but I am not the biggest fan of time travel plots because I have a hard time suspending my disbelief. So if that’s also you, I’d probably recommend passing on this one.

Clementine’s beloved aunt dies and she inherits her apartment. One day when she gets back from work, she finds a strange man standing in her kitchen — but as she gets to know him, she realizes he could be the kind of man she could fall for. Except, he exists seven years in the past, and she lives seven years in his future.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

I feel like people either love this book or are on the fence about it. I’m probably more in the latter camp — I’m glad I read it, but I felt like it was a little overhyped. I’ve heard the audiobook is amazing though with Meryl Streep reading it.

In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shred both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead

I have been on a huge Ashley Winstead kick as of late. I loved her two rom com reads, Fool Me Once and The Boyfriend Candidate, and really enjoyed In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, but this one was way too dark and disturbing for me. There is an entire paragraph of content warnings at the start of this book — TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY.

While in college, Shay and her best friend met a captivating older man who eventually grooms them into submission. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay’s built a new life in a Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel’s death — delivered, of all ways, by her favorite true-crime podcast crusader — she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators are more dangerous than ever.

For Twice in My Life by Annette Christie

This one was cute, but there are definitely better reads out there — I was kind of bored by the end, so I would probably pass.

Layla’s boyfriend, Ian, breaks up with her out of the blue, and she is stunned. But then, Layla gets a call from the local hospital. Ian’s had a biking accident. He’s okay, but he needs someone — and he’s requested Layla — to get him home safely. As it becomes clear Ian doesn’t remember he ended things, it also becomes clear that the accident has given him a new outlook on life — and Layla a second chance to get things right.

A Winter in New York by Josie Silver *

Josie Silver’s One Day in December is one of my favorite books, so as long as she is writing, I will keep reading.

Iris’s best friend, Bobby, drags her to a famous street fair in Little Italy, and as they walk through the food stalls, a little family-run gelateria catches her eye — could it be the same shop that’s in an old photo of her mother’s?

Curious, Iris returns the next day and meets the handsome Gil, who tells her that the shop is in danger of closing. His uncle, sole keeper of their family gelato recipe, is in a coma, so they can’t make more. When Iris samples the last remaining batch, she realizes that their gelato and her gelato are one and the same. But how can she tell them she knows their secret recipe when she’s not sure why Gio’s uncle gave it to her mother in the first place.

Lovelight Farms by B.K. Borison

I love reading Christmas-y books around the holidays — this one was cute, but I think there are better holiday reads out there.

In an effort to save the Christmas tree farm she’s loved since she was a kid, Stella enters a contest with Instagram-famous influencer Evelyn St. James. With the added publicity and the $100,000 cash prize, Stella might just be able to save the farm from its financial woes. There’s just one problem. To make the farm seem like a romantic destination for the holidays, she lied on her application and said she owns Lovelight Farms with her boyfriend. Only…there is no boyfriend.

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

I wanted to like this one a lot because it sounded like a cheesy Hallmark movie, but it ended up really dragging and I wasn’t super invested in either character. I’d probably pass in favor of other books!

When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell—both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.

With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined.

You Again by Kate Goldbeck *

Unpopular opinion, but I hated this book — I found the characters and insufferable and there was too much gratuitous sex for me. But a lot of people on the internet love this book, so I may be in the minority!

When Ari and Josh first meet, the wrong kind of sparks fly. They hate each other. Instantly. They have absolutely nothing in common, except that they happen to be sleeping with the same woman.

Ari and Josh never expect their paths to cross again. But years later, as they’re both reeling from ego-bruising breakups, a chance encounter leads to a surprising connection: friendship. Turns out, spending time with your former nemesis is fun when you’re too sad to hate each other. As friends-without-benefits, they find comfort in late-night Netflix binges, swiping through each other’s online dating profiles, and bickering across boroughs. It’s better than romance. Until one night, the unspoken boundaries of their platonic relationship begin to blur.

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