My goal for June was to only read books that delighted me. I wanted stories that would bring me joy and laughter, without having to think too hard. Interestingly, I ended up reading about a lot of mental health struggles. But for the most part, I really enjoyed most of the books I picked up.
Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars
This was a delicious rom com of a book that I read in a single evening. College student Anna finally gets into a Russian Lit class she’s been dying to take for the last two years, only to find out her hot professor is actually the mysterious man she ran away from in a restaurant months earlier. Luca, the professor, is enamored with Anna but determined to ignore and push her away as both a student and a woman. From what I can understand, this book was written in weekly installments for fans through Penny Reid’s newsletter. With that in mind, I think it could have used a bit more editing and some clarification behind the handful of Luca chapters and what kinds of things he was going through. But the Anna chapters – most of the book – were an absolute delight! The story was funny and smart and the perfect tingly escape from reality. Loved it!
The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 5* stars
This is another delightful book that I read in a single day. I’m so bummed it’s only on kindle because I really want the paperback to add to my shelf of books I’ll re-read again and again. Honestly, this book was definitely predictable, but it was also so much fun. 17 year old Sadie is known for being the ultimate good girl. At the retirement home where she likes to hang out, she made a Carpe Diem list of things she’d like to do to be more of a bad girl. Her best friend and life long secret crush finds the list and together they enroll the help of his twin brother – her arch nemesis and well known bad boy – to coach her on breaking rules and branching out a little. While the title of this book is quite literal in terms of the story, I really wish it had a sweeter name instead of implying Sadie is really going to be a “bad girl.” This is a totally PG rated YA romance that made me swoon.
Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I really wanted to love this book. I made it 45% in and I just couldn’t read a page more. There was nothing wrong with it, per se. I just wasn’t connecting with it. Something about the very quirky characters, yet told in third person point of view, made it feel oddly impersonal. The internet tells me third person POV is the most common in all storytelling, but I don’t think that’s true in like 90% of the books I read. It felt very off to me. Anyway, I might consider picking it up again in the future, but I’m determined to only read books this month that absolutely delight me and as adorable as the two main characters seemed, it just was not hitting the spot.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Rating: 3.5 stars
I was so excited about the premise of this book – you know how much I love a good epistolary novel. While I definitely enjoyed it overall, it took me a really long time to get into. There was a lot of build up for what turned into a very slow and gentle romance. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It just wasn’t what I was expecting, or necessarily wanting in this month of only reading delightful things. As a whole, it’s still pretty weird to think that any man and woman would agree to a living arrangement where they share a bed and flat, but only for their half of the day. But the supporting characters are all skeptical enough about the arrangement, that you end up being okay with it. I really liked Tiffy and Leon and how they were both so genuinely kind and supportive of each other.
Pen & Ink: Tattoos & The Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald
Rating: 4 stars
I randomly saw this book somewhere online and was highly intrigued so I immediately got it from the library. It’s a look at some of the interesting tattoos people have gotten and a brief story behind them. I love the glimpses into the lives of strangers and what made them decide to get sometimes completely random and sometimes filled with meaning permanent inking on their body. The foreword explains why they decided to do the tattoo drawings in ink (art is art), but I think this book could have been SO much more compelling with photographs. Then again, I LOVE photography as my favorite artistic medium, so maybe I’m just bias. The drawings of the tattoos kind of left a lot to be desired, but the brief stories – written by the people with the tattoos – were incredibly interesting. It was a fun book to just sit down and read in an hour as something totally different from the types of things I usually read.
Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 5 stars
This was a beautiful story about finding hope and love in the midst of grief and sorrow. Trigger warnings for sure with loss of a parent and loss of a spouse. The first thirty or so percent of the book is the sweet and budding friendship between high schoolers Eleanor and Greyson as Ellie is about to lose her mother to cancer. The story picks up again sixteen years later when she is hired as a nanny to Grey’s two daughters after the loss of his wife. I guess, presumptuously, I assumed this book was mostly going to be a steamy romance. It was recommended highly in my Book Bonanza group which is almost all romance authors. I grabbed the book and started reading without even knowing the synopsis. A steamy romance book this was not! Which was fine. It was beautiful and paced in a way that made sense and gave the characters a chance to truly discover their feelings for each other. I really enjoyed it.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Rating: 3 stars
I have many mixed thoughts on this book. It was slow. It took me forever to read. I almost DNF’d it multiple times. The writing style was somewhat detached and skipped over so many details of the characters’ lives that I felt like I was missing out on so much. But the writing itself was beautiful and poignant. There was a chunk of the book that I really loved. And then it got dark. Ultimately, (sort of a spoiler) despite what was written on the very last page, the message I took from this book is that if you have a family history of mental illness, you are doomed and any offspring you create are also doomed to a life of hardship and pain. The second half of this book was so depressing. I wanted to finish it and I’m glad I did, but it never reached that uplifting turn I was so sure would come. This book really didn’t fit in with my June theme of books that delight me, but I also don’t think it’s one I’ll forget anytime soon.
Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn
Rating: 3 stars
Hockey player Caleb has a bit of a PR nightmare on his hands and is forced by his coach and the team’s publicist to join a dating app where his mom will pick his match. Zara is a miniatures artist who spends every waking minute working. Her best friend convinces her to join the app because it’ll help out her dad with his new dream of becoming an actor while also improving her sex life. Overall, I thought the premise of this book could have used a lot of work. It was so obviously just a half hearted attempt at something original, but the consistency with everything related to the the app/company, the improving of image, the parental involvement, etc. was really weak. That being said, it was still a cute and fun book with very likeable main characters.
Kissing Galileo by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars
After reading Kissing Tolstoy earlier this month, I was very excited to learn that Penny Reid was right about to release her next weekly newsletter installment written book. I really enjoy the falling for your teacher trope, though it’s not forbidden in this series – I have no idea if that’s true in real colleges or not. At any rate, this was another fun and genuinely enjoyable book that I wanted to drop everything for to keep reading. I loved Emily’s character, I liked Victor. I liked the additional storyline surrounding Victor’s huge weight loss and body image frustrations. I do think there’s an obvious downside to releasing a book chapter by chapter – there are things brought up early in the book that are never referenced again, which is a little irritating to me. If it had been released as a book only it might have flowed a little better. But other than that, I really liked this one.
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (re-read)
Rating: 5* stars
Re-reading a favorite book is like a sweet visit with an old friend. I’m so glad I decided that re-reading books was definitely worth my time this year. I was really craving an escape that was guaranteed to give me all the feels. This one takes place during the summer and felt like the perfect fit for this month. And I loved it every bit as much as I did the first time around. I think Porter might be one of my favorite book boys ever. At least in YA. He is kind and sweet and funny and so very attentive, remembering everything about Bailey and using the knowledge to demonstrate how much he likes her. As always, I adore a book that begins in an anonymous online/written friendship, though it plays a pretty small role in this story. This book makes me so happy and I highly recommend it if YA is your genre.
The Peach Truck Cookbook by Jessica and Stephen Rose
Rating: 4 stars
I pre-ordered this cookbook the minute I heard the owners of Tree Ripe Fruit were releasing it. It conveniently coincided with being delivered two days before the peach truck made its stop in Columbus. I read through it right away and was interested to hear the story behind the truck and see how passionately the owners feel about peaches and connecting people with fresh, ripe fruit. There were a large variety of recipes, but I honestly felt a little too overwhelmed to actually make any of them. Not that they were hard or anything. I just wanted to stick with all the usual things I do with my 25 pound box. I’m not really sure how often I’ll reach for this cookbook – probably only once every summer before the truck comes. But it was nicely written with a lot of great photographs and ideas.
The Other Side by Kim Holden
Rating: 2.5 stars
It was really hard to decide a rating for this book. Honestly, it is SO depressing. It’s about depression and the point of the book is to bring more awareness to what it’s like to be depressed and suicidal. With that in mind, it certainly achieved its purpose. But it was a tough read. It was definitely tied up nicely in the end, which I wasn’t so sure was going to happen. But it was a slog to get there. I was so angry at all the characters and the decisions they made to not let simple truths be told – things that could have helped Toby SO MUCH if he just knew. There’s nothing wrong with the writing, I just did not like this book very much.
Beauty and the Professor by Skye Warren
I really hesitate to add this DNF book to my monthly recap. I made it about 40% in and just couldn’t take it anymore. I was drawn to this book because it had great reviews and because the author is going to be at Book Bonanza and I’m madly trying to read as many authors as I can before I go. I was intrigued by this one because I love Beauty and the Beast retellings and the next day it happened to be free on amazon, so why not? But first of all – this is straight up erotica. Which is fine, sometimes I might be in the mood for that. But most of the time I want a whole lot more emotional connection and substantial plot building before you jump right into things on the first page. It was pretty ridiculous. After reading a lot of fluffier books this month, I was ready to set it down and move on.