Hi y’all—I was originally going to publish this post last week, but wanted to save the space to amplify Black voices and the more important conversations going on. As I said over on Instagram, while normal content may come back—the work continues, and I am excited to learn more about the history of racism in America and be better at calling it out when I see it in my everyday life. I saved everything I posted in a new “BLM” IG Stories highlight, including five books by Black authors I would highly recommend. And, if your looking to support Black owned bookstores, THIS is a great resource. (I usually borrow my books from the library, but will be using this list when I need to buy a book moving forward!)
In May, I read six books, so a few less than previous months, partially because I didn’t read as much and partially because some of the books were longer than my normal reads. However, I am still six books ahead of meeting my 2020 reading goal of 72 books. I think I’ll be able to hit it no problem, and am optimistic I might even be able to exceed it. I’m heading to the beach next week and have a big stack of books I am bringing with me that I am so excited to tear through!
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!
You can always follow along with what I am reading in real-time over on Goodreads—feel free to friend me there!
BECOMING KIM JONG UN // JUNG H PAK*
I took a break from lighter reads at the beginning of May in favor of reading this biography about Kim Jon Un, written by a former CIA officer. This is an excellent look at the myth and origin story his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, created, his father’s rule, his transition to power, and how the Hermit Kingdom operates using propaganda, fear, and torture to maintain control.
Would I recommend it? Yes—especially if you’re interested in North Korea. It’s written in a really approachable way that isn’t dry.
A LOW COUNTRY CHRISTMAS // MARY ALICE MONROE
Set at Christmas time, all ten-year-old Miller wants for Christmas is a puppy. But his father has fallen on hard times, as his shrimp boat can’t compete with commercial fishers. His parents are honest and tell Miller that they can’t afford the dog. But on the flip side, his brother, Taylor, returns home from Afghanistan just in time for Christmas—only the family quickly realizes he has PTSD and needs help. A service dog arrives to help Taylor, and Miller’s jealousy boils over. He takes the dog out on a walk to find the perfect Christmas tree, and finds himself lost in the woods—as the family looks for him, they find the true meaning of Christmas.
Would I recommend it? I’d pass on this one—I liked the other books in this Lowcountry series a lot better. I’d probably skip this one in lieu of a better book out there.
THE BOOK OF LOST FRIENDS // LISA WINGATE*
Given the discussion of racism and race relations in our country we’ve had the past week, though written by a white woman, The Book of Lost Friends shines a lot of light on the atrocities slaves faced at the hands of their masters. As y’all know, I usually write my own book descriptions for these posts, but given the topic, I couldn’t do this book justice, so wanted to share the one provided by Goodreads instead.
“A new novel inspired by historical events: a story of three young women on a journey in search of family amidst the destruction of the post-Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who rediscovers their story and its connection to her own students’ lives.
Lisa Wingate brings to life stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold off.
Louisiana, 1875: In the tumultuous aftermath of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia’s former slave. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following dangerous roads rife with ruthless vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and eight siblings before slavery’s end, the pilgrimage westward reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the seemingly limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope.
Louisiana, 1987: For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt–until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Mississippi River town. Augustine, Louisiana, seems suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled oaks and run-down plantation homes lies the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.”
Would I recommend it? YES! I loved this book—and if you loved Before We Were Yours, I think you will like this one a lot, too.
BIG SUMMER // JENNIFER WEINER
Daphne and Drue were friends in high school, but had a falling out six years ago. Since then, Daphne’s become a plus-size influencer, while Drue, born into a powerful family, and heiress to a large fortune, went onto Harvard and now works for the family firm. Drue comes back into Daphne’s life one day out of the blue, and asks her to be Maid of Honor in her upcoming society wedding on Cape Cod. She even offers to pay Daphne for her time—just more proof that Drue has everything, except the ability to hold onto her friends. Daphne can’t resist her friend’s siren song, but of course, a disastrous wedding ensues.
Would I recommend it? I feel like this book has been everywhere recently, and while I liked it a lot, I’m not sure if it 100% lives up to the hype. I would definitely recommend it, I would just temper your expectations.
IF I NEVER MET YOU // MHAIRI MCFARLANE
This was my first book by Mhairi McFarlane, but it certainly won’t be my last. Laurie has been married to Dan, her high school sweetheart, for the last ten years when he dumps her out of the blue. The cherry on top? They practice at the same law firm so she has to see him everyday. Soon thereafter, Laurie finds out Dan has a new girlfriend—and she is pregnant, and Laurie is angry. She decides to get revenge. That’s where Jamie Carter comes in—he’s another lawyer at their firm and needs a steady relationship to prove to leadership he’s stable and a solid choice for partner. Laurie and Jamie make a pact to date for a few months until they both have accomplished their goals. But time will tell if they can’t stick strictly to their pact, or if real feelings get involved.
Would I recommend it? This is SUCH a cute read and one that I stayed up late for because I couldn’t put it down.
GIRLS OF SUMMER // NANCY THAYER*
Set on Nantucket, like many of Nancy’s books, the story follows, Lisa, who married her college sweetheart. While Lisa comes from a more blue collar background, her new husband, Erich, has wealthy parents and is used to running in society circles. Erich travels all the time for work, and eventually, leaves Lisa and the children because he doesn’t think Lisa is accommodating enough to his lifestyle, even though she is doing the hard work of raising her kids alone. Now Lisa’s two kids are grown and living off the island. She realizes her house is falling apart, so she hires a contractor to help her restore it to its former glory. She begins falling for her contractor, and one night when something is about to happen, her adult daughter bursts in. Soon, Lisa’s son is home, too, and everyone has quite the summer of drama and romance.
Would I recommend? This was just a so-so read for me; if you’re heading to the beach and this one is around, I say go for it, but otherwise, I think there are better books out there—like Surfside Sisters by the same author.