My goal for this year is to read 50 books, and I’m keeping a record of all the books I’ve read including their reviews right here. Keep coming back to this post for all my recommendations as I read them!
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Recent grad Sophia Young gets fired from her job at an investment bank, but finds herself working as a paralegal in a law firm that specializes in IPOs. From there, she finds herself working for genius (but difficult personality) Scott Kraft as his VP of Investor Relations.
There are a decent amount of financial terms in this book, so you may have to look some of them up if you’re unfamiliar. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book for the first half. And then it just kinda got repetitive. Sophia is smart and has a lot of sass, and most of the book is her sassing her bosses, who are all “complicated” or “challenging” and frankly sound like terrible managers. And then there’s this weird sub-thread about Sophia dating and wanting to get married but she really doesn’t want to get married - i lost the plot a little there. And then the final 20% of the book is kinda a throwaway.
Overall grade: B-
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
I listed to the audiobook for this one and it is over 25 hours long!!! This is book four in J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and well, I’m invested.
Like her other stories under this banner, they start off slow, but her writing keeps me engaged from the start. The book usually picks up midway, and then there’s a rush to all the revelations at the end. I don’t recommend picking up this book unless you’ve read the others in the series - this really needs to be a sequential read.
Overall grade: A
Help Me by Marianne Power
I started reading this book thinking it was a humorous story of one woman’s attempt to live her life as dictated by self-help books, and oh my god, this is not that book.
So, it’s true that our author Marianne initially believes it will be the aforementioned story, but turns our Marianne’s life is way more complicated and the self-help books don’t do a whole lot to help her at all. In an age when we’re all seeking health, happiness and success, what role do self-help books play in our lives, and do they even work?
Overall grade: B+
Confess by Colleen Hoover
Auburn Reed has a complicated history, and randomly walks into an art gallery owned by Owen Gentry, who hires her on the spot. The two grow close, but they both have secrets - oh the conflict. Meh.
In full disclosure, it is possible that I’m bored by this book because I LOVED The Idea of You (scroll to the next book) so much, and this happened to be the book that had the misfortune to follow it. But I found Auburn and Owen so boring compared to Solene and Hayes that I I just couldn’t get into this book.
Overall grade: C+
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Solene Marchand is a 39 year old divorcee with a pre-teen daughter who co-owns an art gallery in LA that features underrepresented artists. She ends up meeting Hayes Campbell, the 20-year old star of the world famous boy band August Moon. (This is not explicitly based on Harry Styles or One Direction, but you definitely notice the similarities.) And that’s the start of a whirlwind, sexy romance that will take you across the globe.
There’s a lot of foreshadowing in the book, so you will not be surprised, but it’s a beautiful, fun ride to the end!
This will probably be my favorite book this year - I bought the paperback just so I could swing back and read a chapter whenever I want.
Overall Grade: A+
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple Shah is a young Indian American high-school student who is going off to college next year, but wants to spend her summer doing a coding program at a nearby university. Dimple’s family is pretty traditionally Indian, and are focused on her finding a “suitable Indian match” to marry after college. Dimple however, has other ideas. Anyway, there’s a meet-cute and she meets Rishi Kapoor, a young artist (but he won’t admit that’s what he wants) who is attending the same coding program.
I rolled my eyes at the first 50 pages or so of the book. I didn’t grow up in a traditional Indian family at all, so as I read the first few pages I thought I knew exactly how this was going to go - like a very cliched Bollywood movie. And then the book really surprised me. turning into this very sweet story about feminist Dimple, and shockingly, equally feminist Rishi. A thoroughly enjoyable YA read.
Overall grade: A
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Jamie Watson is attending Sherringford prep school on a rugby scholarship, which also happens to be the same school that Charlotte Holmes attends. The descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson team together to solve a murder mystery. Yes, this is another YA book.
If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you will enjoy this book! A well done modern take on a beloved series.
Overall grade: A
Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang
First off, I don’t know if this book is at all related to the TV show - I haven’t watched it yet, but plan to do that at some point. This book is Eddie Huang’s memoir - Eddie is the owner and founder of the wildly popular Baohaus in New York City. Eddie tells the story of growing up with immigrant parents in Orlando, with his brothers, and friends, and bullies. And his unexpected journey to Baohaus.
Overall grade: B+
Bone in the Throat by Anthony Bourdain
Did you know Anthony Bourdain wrote fiction? Bone in the Throat is the story of the mob in the New York City restaurant scene. If you are interested in the restaurant business and like a mild crime story, you will be entertained by this book.
However, there is one small issue - this book could do with better editing. There are a few typos that are pretty annoying, but if you can overlook them, this book is worth reading.
I read it with Boudain’s voice in my head - RIP Anthony Bourdain. Your voice is missed.
Overall grade: B+
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Imogen Tate has successfully battled breast cancer, but as she returns to her work as editor of Glossy Magazine, she’s not prepared for magazine’s move to a more digital platform. Led by her former intern and freshly minted MBA Eve, Imogen finds herself in unfamiliar territory.
I love this book because i LOVE magazines, and it breaks my heart that so many of them are folding. This story gave me hope that maybe they will evolve to a different form and not disappear completely.
Overall grade: B+/A-. So fun and enjoyable, perfect beach read.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Nadia and Saeed fell in love in a hopeless place - a country on the brink of civil war. As their love affair unfolds, so does the city they call home - violence rocks the city at every turn. Nadia and Saeed decide it’s time to leave, and enter a new homeland through a door.
This book is almost poetic in the way it deals with complicated issues like war and refugees and immigration. It gave me so much empathy for why people choose to leave their homeland and what it means to try and start over again.
Overall grade: A
The Futures: Anna Pitoniak
A coming of age love story of two college sweethearts who move to New York City in 2008 to start the next chapter of their lives. Evan, from small town Canada, is starting his career at a prestigious hedge fund, while beautiful and wealthy Julia is adrift. And this won’t be a spoiler alert, but we all know what happened at the end of 2008.
I liked this book because it reminded me of being in my early 20s and staring out my career. Mine was in Chicago, but the sentiments were the same. Confusion, hope, optimism, rejection — all those emotions and situations that felt so much more complicated at the time.
Overall grade: B
How to be a Husband: Tim Dowling
I decided to read this book because Jessie Ware and her mum had Tim Dowling on their podcast Table Manners and I was very entertained by him, and his weekly column for the Guardian . So I figured I would be similarly entertained by his book!! Alas….
I was pretty entertained for the first third, and then I just got bored. I’m starting to realize that the people I like to read for short stories, are not the same people I like to read for 300+ pages of them effectively telling the same story.
Overall grade: C. It was fine, but didn’t hold my interest and I skipped a few chapters.
Truly Devious: Maureen Johnson
This is book one YA book series, and I make no apologies for reading and enjoying it.
Ellingham Academy is a private school in Vermont, created by an eccentric millionaire who loses his wife and daughter in an unsolved mysterious kidnapping. In the current day, Stevie Bell is a student at Ellingham, and an amateur detective. As our young heroine starts to dig into what happened that night of the kidnapping at Ellingham, there’s another murder.
The book’s ending is a cliffhanger, but if it makes you feel better, book two of this series is out already.
Overall rating: A. Solidly enjoyable and entertaining
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Aging movie star Evelyn Hugo hires writer Monique Grant to tell her life’s story - the story of her move to Los Angeles in the 50s, her rise to stardom, and the seven husbands she married and divorced along the way. And the secret love that was hidden from the rest of the world.
Now if it sounds like this could be a fictional account of Elizabeth Taylor’s life, there are some parallels - the number of husbands, Evelyn and Elizabeth’s beauty and fame, but that’s about it.
This book was so enjoyable I couldn’t read it fast enough!
Overall Grade: A
The Proposal: Jasmine Guillory
Nik is at a baseball game with her boyfriend of 5 weeks, who decides to propose on the scoreboard!! She says no (understandably) and in the ensuing chaos of camera crews, is rescued by Carlos, a handsome doctor who happens to be attending the game with his sister.
I picked this book because it sounded like a fun romance, with two diverse characters, but the writing was so tedious that I quit about 100 pages in. The dialogue between the Nik and Carlos is so awkward, and Nik’s inner dialogue is so awkward — I think I just didn’t really resonate with Nik!
Overall Grade: D. Did not finish.
Match Making for Beginners: Maddie Dawson
Marnie lives in California with her fiancé Noah, and they get divorced a mere two weeks after their wedding. Marnie moves back home to Florida when she learns that Noah’s aunt Blix has left her a house in Brooklyn NY (this is not quite as far fetched if you read the book).
Anyway, Marnie moves to Brooklyn and her whole life changes. This book isn’t really a romance, more a story of taking the unknown path and the power of friendship. And it’s like a Hallmark Christmas movie in reverse (small town girl moves to the big city and lives her dreams rather than the other way around), which I appreciate.
You have to have some respect or belief in the “woo” to enjoy this book, and you have to suspend reality more than a little. If you’re not someone who can do that, you might hate this book, but I quite enjoyed it. Sweet and light, like a milkshake.
Overall Grade: B+
Paddle Your Own Canoe: Nick Offerman
I’m going to preface this by saying that I absolutely loved Nick Offerman’s portrayal on Ron Swanson in Parks and Rec, which is why I wanted to listen to this audiobook.
Part memoir, part life-advice, part rant, Nick Offerman shares his view on everything from feminism, to the separation of church and state, his love for woodworking, why you should have a hobby where you create something, the value of getting outdoors, and his love for his wife Megan Mullally. It’s entertaining, but honestly, it would be more entertaining if it were 25% shorter. I’ve found this to be a running theme among most books written by funny people (except Mindy Kaling, who can do no wrong) - what works as an hour set just doesn’t work as a 400 page book. It is too much material, and reading observational comedy just doesn’t work as well as listening to it (even when it’s an audiobook).
Overall grade: B-
influencer by Brittany Hennessy
This qualifies as my professional development reading. It’s a really interesting look at what it means and what it takes to be an influencer. Incidentally, for the purpose of this book, you’re not really an influencer unless you’re exceeding the 10,000 follower mark. There are some really good tips for aspiring influencers, and I’ve already used some of the tips to change some things around on my website, so it’s not a waste of time if you’re not at 10,000+ followers yet.
Incidentally, I also happened to read this book right at the time this crazy influencer drama broke, which made it even more entertaining.
Overall grade: B+
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Eighteen year old Sawyer Taft grew up with a single mother, not knowing her dad, and never having known her mother’s family. One day her maternal grandmother approaches her with a proposition: spend 9 months living with her and going through the Debutante process, and she will receive $500,000 - more than enough to pay for college. Sawyer agrees. What comes next is some super entertaining 1% drama while Sawyer searches for her dad. If you were a fan of Gossip Girl, you will love this book. I love a good trashy read, and this did not disappoint.
Overall grade: A-
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I loved this book so much. It’s like a reverse Pretty Woman with a twist. This book is a sexy love story, and the heroine is on the autism spectrum. Her autism is treated with sensitivity, unsurprising, since the author herself is on the autism spectrum. In turns funny, charming, and sexy, this book is such a fun read. Highly recommend.
Overall Grade: A+