Happy October! I’m back to recap the books I read during Q3 (July, August, September), and there were a lot of good ones that made their way to my nightstand. The first quarter of this year, I read 21 books, in the second quarter of this year, I read 28 books, and in this past quarter, I read 22 books, bringing my total for the year so far to 71 books. The reading goal I set for myself at the start of the year was 75 books, so unless things go totally awry, I’m confident I’ll get there soon. (You can view my tips for reading often here.)
Before I recap all the books I read this spring, 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.
I keep track of everything I read in real-time over on Goodreads and via my Instagram Stories if you don’t want to wait for these quarterly book roundups.
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.
Can’t Look Away by Carola Lovering
This one was so good. I stayed up until 2am reading it and paid the cost — I was so tired, but I couldn’t put it down. If you liked Before We Were Strangers, Love & Other Words, or Every Summer After, I think you’ll enjoy this one. The pacing is just incredible.
The story flips between 2013 and the present day. In 2013, Molly finds herself locking eyes with the lead singer of a band, Jake Dinner, and after the concert, he tracks her down through friends. They quickly fall in love, and his song about her is what puts their band on the map. Fast forward to the present day, Molly is living in the suburbs with her daughter and husband — but is not Jake Dinner. While her life looks perfect from the outside, she’s struggling in an infertility journey and lonely. She finally meets a friend, Sabrina, only to find out she’s married to Jake Danner — which brings up old questions and secrets.
Gilt by Jamie Brenner
I loved this one — it focuses on the dynamics of a family with three sisters, so I found it super relatable in many ways. But don’t worry, my sisters and I are not fighting over our family’s diamond empire.
As the first jeweler to market the idea that diamonds should be used for proposals, the Pavlin family created an empire. But fast forward to the 90s and sales aren’t that great — so the patriarch of the family, Alvin, creates a little friendly competition: whichever of his daughters is engaged first will receive the Electric Rose, a rare pink diamond ring.
Fast forward to the present day, and we learn the diamond has torn the sisters apart: one is dead, one wants nothing to do with the family business, and one is unlucky in love. And to complicate matters, the next generation of the family, Gemma, comes looking for her rightful inheritance: her mother’s Electric Rose engagement ring. Only problem? No one knows where it is.
Blush by Jamie Brenner
Once I read Gilt, I knew I wanted to read more by Jamie Brenner. If you love Emily Henry, Elin Hilderbrand, and/or Christina Lauren, definitely check her out!
Hollander Estates was the first winery on the North Fork of Long Island and has a long, storied history. But now, the winery is in financial peril and with the threat of having to sell the estate looming, the women — Vivian, the matriarch, Leah, her daughter, and Sadie, her granddaughter — of the family step up in a big way.
Flying Solo by Linda Holmes *
I read this book in one sitting and it’s so cute! Laurie is back in her Maine hometown to handle the estate of her Great Aunt Dot. While she’s going through her aunt’s belongings, she finds a mysterious wooden duck at the bottom of a chest and a love letter that says, “and if you’re ever desperate, there are always the ducks, darling.” Laurie then goes on a quest to find out the significance of the ducks, with all sorts of hijinks and romance along the way.
The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand
I loved this one by Elin Hilderbrand, who is truly one of the best authors in the game. If you’re looking for a heartwarming beach read with a little bit of mystery, this would be a great pick.
The Hotel Nantucket is a historic property that has become an abandoned eyesore — and rumored to be haunted by a ghost. Xavier Darling, a London billionaire, purchases the hotel and hires Nantucket sweetheart, Lizbet, to run it for the summer. Lizbet, in turn, hires a staff and together, they drive towards the goal of getting an elusive five-star rating from a popular travel blog. Along the way, they face challenges and — mostly harmless — shenanigans from the ghost, who won’t stop haunting the hotel until her murder is acknowledged.
Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
My friend Abbi recommended this one to me and I’m so glad she did! It was a really engaging will they / won’t they story that was touching. It’s also free on Kindle Unlimited and there’s a sequel coming out at some point, which I’m excited for.
Naomi wasn’t just running away from her wedding — she was running to help clean up another mess made by her chaotic twin sister, Tina. And this time, Tina steals her car, her computer, and her clothes — and leaves her 11 year old daughter behind. The daughter that Naomi didn’t even know Tina had. Knox usually doesn’t do high maintenance women, but since Naomi’s life imploded right in front of him, the list he can do is help her get back on her feet — then he can go back to his solitary life. At least, that was the plan.
Live Your Life by Amanda Kloots
Like many of you, I followed along with Amanda’s Instagram in real time during those early days of the pandemic — and her husband Nick’s story made me realize just how serious Covid can be. I had seen a lot of chatter about the book when it came out that Amanda lied to her audience about going to the hospital and was given special treatment. After reading her memoir, I think a lot of that narrative is unfounded — from the way she told it, while yes she was allowed to see Nick, in the early days, she was only allowed in when they thought he might die; the same policy applied to the families of other patients at Cedars Sinai. The hospital had also asked her not to post about visiting, so I totally get her not wanting to jeopardize that.
This memoir was just such a poignant reminder of the hell the Kloots family went through, but somehow through it all, Amanda finds a way to remain positive. Definitely have tissues nearby for this one!
Too Good to Be True by Carola Lovering
Skye’s older boyfriend, Burke, proposes after a whirlwind romance and she is thrilled. While she is wealthy, gorgeous, and has a great group of friends, she has struggled with OCD since her mother died and it long impacted her romantic relationships.
But the second voice in the story shows that Burke isn’t who he claims to be. Interspersed throughout the plot are letters to his therapist that reveal he’s married, has kids, and is using Skye for her money. And, of course, despite warnings from her friends and family about moving too quickly — she doesn’t see it, or a huge twist, coming.
Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan
I read this book in one sitting — and what I liked about it was that even though it’s a romance in the traditional sense, it’s also a story about why it’s important to fall in love with yourself, too.
Sewanee is the most in-demand audio book narrator, but she has one rule: she won’t do romance anymore. But when her grandmother needs to be moved to memory care, to help pay the bill, she agrees to take on a romance project. She’s paired up with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest male voice. And as the two work on the project in their respective cities, they start to trade texts back and forth and a real connection is forged. But when the wall of anonymity comes down, Sewanee is forced to reckon with the past in a way she hasn’t before.
Sway by Matthew John Bocchi
Matthew’s father worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died in the 9/11 attacks. In this beautifully penned and raw memoir, he talks about the obsessive quest he began as a fourth grader to figure out exactly how his father died — was he a jumper? As Matthew strives to answer this unthinkable questions and cope with sexual abuse at the hands of an Uncle, he spirals into a bottomless pit of drug abuse — all in an attempt to forget the past.
I can’t recommend this one enough. I also thought it did a great job illustrating how much was taken from us in the attacks — not just those that died, but those that lost the futures they were supposed to have.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
I kept seeing this book everywhere and while I could care less about video games, I wanted to read it to see what all the hype was about. I really enjoyed this book. I don’t think I loved it as much as some people did — BUT it was so beautifully written and had me invested from start to finish.
The story follows friends Sam and Sadie over the span of 30 years — how they first met in a hospital playing video games to building their first successful video game that made them overnight stars and rich at just 25 years old to how they both handle the success. It’s a love story, but in a different way than your typical romance novel — it’s more of an exploration about friends, identify, and our need to connect with others.
The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams
The two best Beatriz Williams books I’ve read are A Hundred Summers and Along the Infinite Sea — both were five star reads in my book. This one was a four star read for me — I liked it a lot, especially since I’ve always been fascinated with Newport since my family first visited in 2005 — but the others still rank higher for me.
This story is told across three timeframes. In 1899, Ellen is hired to give singing lessons to Maybelle Sprague, an heiress who summers in Newport. Maybelle’s step brother is determined to marry her off to an Italian prince, but things go awry. In 1958, we meet Lucky, who felt Italy with her Italian grandmother when she was young, and now feels like a bit of an outsider in Newport, where she lives at Sprague Hall. And, in 2019, And is the host of a popular reality show called Mansion Makeover and her newest project is Sprague Hall. All three women’s stories intersect in such a brilliant way — it’s part history and part mystery.
Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein
This is my favorite of Hannah Orenstein’s books that I’ve read so far — I liked it better than Head Over Heels and Playing with Matches. Edie’s grandmother, Gloria, has a special talent — she can predict the exact day when people meet their soulmate. And Edie’s day is June 24, 2022. She’s 29 and she’s ready! As she boards a plane, a handsome stranger sits next to her — and she knows it is meant to be. But she can’t fight the nagging suspicion that there might be something wrong with her Mr. Right — could her grandmother’s timing be off for the first time?
Attached by Amir Levine
This was the first audio book I’ve ever listened to (!). I love listening to dating podcasts like U Up and Girls Gotta Eat, and they often talk about attachment theory. As such, I thought it’d be interesting to read the ‘source material’ for these many conversations. It was a super interesting and helpful listen. Regardless of your relationship status, I think this could be a helpful read as the author provides a lot of actionable takeaways.
Quarterlife by Satya Doyle Brock *
If you enjoyed Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb and are between the ages of 25-35, I think you’d really enjoy this one. I personally tore through it because I found it to be a relatable read told in a really engaging way. The thesis that Stay lays out is that there are basically four pillars of development in your quarter life: separate, listen, build, and integrate. By going through this process, you can break past habits and wounds that are no longer serving you, and instead grow something new. She uses real client examples from her own therapy practice to bring this thesis to life.
Rivals by Katharine McGee
This is the third book in the American Royals series, which takes place in a fictional world where the US is ruled by a monarchy instead of a democracy. The stories follow the present day branch of the Washington family, and especially focus on Beatrice, the first queen of America, her twin siblings, Samantha and Jefferson, and all their love interests.
Like the other two books, this one ends on a big cliffhanger. I do enjoy this series a lot, as predictable as it is. In the second book, the author pretty much undid all the pairings from the first book, which I found to be a little jarring, but I thought this book was a much more natural extension of the plot. I do wish there was a quick summary at the beginning of each new book about what happened in the previous book as it took me a minute to catch up. As such, I think you’d find this series more enjoyable if you could read them back-to-back—versus reading them as they came out like I did.
Inheritance by Katharine McGee
This is the prequel novella of the American Royals series. It gives some backstory to the plot that happens in the first book, but I personally don’t think you need to read it to enjoy the series.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
This book has been everywhere — including on Obama’s summer reading list. I really enjoyed it, though I will say, it was a slow burn for me. The first 50ish pages, I was ‘meh’, but after that initial hump, I got more invested.
Byron and Benny’s mother dies, and she leaves behind a puzzling inheritance: a black cake, made following the family recipe she brought from the Caribbean, and an audio recording. She leaves instructions with her lawyer that her children must listen to the entire eight-hour tape together and they will know when to eat the cake. While listening to the audio, everything Byron and Benny know about their family history is challenged.
Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins
I read a bunch of Kristan Higgins books back in 2018/2019 and hadn’t picked one up in a while — they’re great, somewhat saccharine, reads if you like chick lit like I do.
Lillie’s excited to be an empty nester as her son heads off to college — but then her husband unexpectedly dumps her for a younger, wealthier woman named Melissa, who just moved to Cape Cod. Lillie isn’t heartbroken, she’s furious — and for the first time in her life, she acts out as she copes with this unexpected plot twist.
Each chapter alternates between Lillie’s narration and Melissa’s, which gives her reader a lot of great backstory on each of the women — and I found myself rooting for both of them to find happiness.
Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane
Mhairi McFarlane is one of my favorite authors — I still rank other books of hers higher than this one, but the epilogue of this one had me in tears.
Harriet is a wedding photographer on assignment when the groom walks out of the wedding, leaving his bride high and dry minutes before the ceremony. Fast forward to when Harriett and her boyfriend, Jon, break up, and she desperately needs a place to live, she accidentally becomes roommates with the groom who left his bride at the alter. And as time goes on, it becomes clear they’re both running from something.
The Beach Trap by Ali Brady
This one was cute, albeit predictable — but I think there are better reads out there! Kat and Blake are BFFs at camp as 12 year olds — but everything falls apart when they realize they aren’t just best friends, they’re also half sisters. Fast forward 15 years, and their father leaves them each half of the family beach house in Florida. Blake is desperate to sell the house as she needs the money, whereas Kat wants to keep the house as she has fond memories of childhood summers spent there. Either way, the house needs work — so they team up to renovate the house, but quickly realize the harder project is learning how to become sisters.
Why Didn’t You Tell Me? By Carmen Rita Wong *
Carmen has always craved a sense of belonging — growing up half Chinese, half Latina, she never felt like she belonged anywhere. When her mom marries a white man and has four more daughters, their relationship becomes even more fraught. Years later, Carmen discovers a secret her mother had kept her entire life that makes her mother’s behavior make even more sense — only she wishes she could ask her about it now.
Adding a bunch of these to my list! Thanks!
Of course — happy reading! xo
I always love your book suggestions! I’ve seen Gilt on 2 separate blog posts this morning, so I think at this point I just have to read it!
Gilt is SO good – I hope you love it as much as I did!