Recent Reads: Summer 2019
It’s unbelievable that we are now approaching the end of the summer! I have read quite a few books over the last few months. Here’s a recap of books I’ve read this season and what I thought about them.
1 | Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Description: “Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.”
My Rating: 4/5 - I read this book on a flight home from my May vacation and I couldn’t put it down once I got a few chapters in. I will say that this book wasn’t always easy to read (I was very frustrated with the life choices of the protagonist!!). But I really liked it. It was relatable to me as a formerly 20-something black woman navigating this sometimes tumultuous time of life on top of all of the other issues that come with being a black woman in a western country (this book is set in the UK). I had compassion for Queenie’s mental health issues and am glad that the author decided to cover that ground in this book.
2 | An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Description: “Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs.
Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding.
Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated.
Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.”
My Rating: 3.5/5 - This book was disturbing and I have been veering away from murder and mayhem from the books I’ve been reading this summer for the most part. But I once I got half way through the book, I just had to see how it was going to end. This book was ok (not great, but not terrible).
3 - 5 | The Old West Series by Beverly Jenkins (Forbidden, Breathless, Tempest)
Description: A steamy and drama filled romance series set in the Old West with African American characters. To say more than that would rob you of the enjoyment of learning about the books yourself by reading them : )
My Rating 5/5: I stumbled upon Beverly Jenkins while looking for romance novels authored by black women and have been reading through her books at a fast clip all summer as a result. It’s just what I needed (but didn’t know it): Historical romance focused on African American characters that weaves in American/Black American history I knew very little about. Sexy men who don’t mind taking off their shirts. Steamy love scenes. Drama/conflict. A ‘Happily Every After’ to top it all off. Beverly Jenkins is a master and I read this trilogy in a matter of days. If romance is your thing, pack one (or three) of Beverly Jenkin’s books on your next vacation. You won’t regret it.
6 | An Unconditional Freedom (The Loyal League Series) by Alyssa Cole
Description: “Daniel Cumberland, born free in Massachusetts, studied law with dreams of helping his people—dreams that died the night he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Daniel is rescued, but he’s a changed man. When he’s offered entry into the Loyal League, the covert organization of Black spies who helped free him, he seizes the opportunity for vengeance against the Confederacy and those who support it.
When the Union Army occupies the Florida home of Cuban Janeta Sanchez, daughter of an enslaved woman and the plantation owner who married her, her family’s wealth does not protect her father from being imprisoned. Under duress and blaming herself for the arrest, Janeta agrees to infiltrate a group called the Loyal League as a double agent—and finds a cause truly worth the sacrifice.
Daniel is aggravated by the headstrong and much too observant new detective he’s paired with, and Janeta is intrigued by the broken but honorable man she is tasked with betraying. As they embark on a mission to intercept Jefferson Davis and thwart European meddling, their dual hidden agendas are threatened by the ghosts of their pasts and a growing affection that could strengthen both the Union and their souls—or lead to their downfall.“
My Rating: 3.95/5 - I’m a big Alyssa Cole fan and was excited to read the latest installment in The Loyal League Series. Her books don’t disappoint. Intriguing plots. Sexy Heroes/Heroines. Another good book series that seamlessly weaves in history, romance, and drama. It’s helpful to read the series from book #1 to get an understanding of the ancillary characters.
7 | A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals Series) by Alyssa Cole
Description: “Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.
For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.
Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.”
My Rating: 4/5 - I love basically everything I’ve read by Alyssa Cole and this book is no exception. It is a romance novel but it has compelling characters and a unique plot. I recommend breezing through this whole series if you’re looking for a delightful palette cleanser.
8 | Normal People by Sally Rooney
Description: “At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.”
My Rating: 3.5/5 While I thought some portions of this book were compelling, it honestly wasn’t a favorite. I know it has been well received by many but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Even saying that, I did admire that the book touched on topics and themes like depression in young men that I feel don’t get a lot of attention in books about young adult life.
9 | The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Description: “Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he's defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.
As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can't turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn't go as planned. Esme's lessons in love seem to be working...but only on herself. She's hopelessly smitten with a man who's convinced he can never return her affection.
With Esme's time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he's been wrong all along. And there's more than one way to love.”
My Rating: 3.75/5 - I really wanted to love this book because I enjoyed The Kiss Quotient so much. But though I liked this book, I didn’t love it. That said, it’s worth the read and I do look forward to reading the next installment of this series (I believe there’s going to be a follow-up). I appreciate the main characters in both of her books being autistic which isn’t an experience I remember reading about in a novel let alone a romance novel previously.
10 | Savage News by Jessica Yellin
Description: “Be noisy. Natalie Savage grew up hearing these words from her beloved father, who admired Walter Cronkite so much he named the family dog after him. Natalie—who spent her twenties missing out on life’s benchmarks—finally sees her efforts pay off when she’s assigned to cover the White House for her network, ATN. The problem? The position is only temporary, a test to see if she has what it takes. She has always relied on her grit, her principles and her news sense to gain success. But now her competition is a twenty-six-year-old spoiled frat boy who got his big television break by eating raw animal parts on a reality show.
Of course, he’s winning.
Natalie, along with her scrappy production team, has to navigate ratings wars, workplace sexual harassment and an international political crisis in order to prove herself. But the closer she gets to achieving her dream job, the more she wonders if it is worth all the compromise.
Timely, funny and smart, this juicy debut is the perfect tonic for readers contending with today’s politics and the #MeToo movement. Natalie Savage will be sure to join the ranks of our favorite fictional heroines as she figures out that having it all doesn’t mean giving up everything she stands for.”
My Rating: 4/5 - As much as I like Jessica Yellin’s IG coverage of news in an easy to digest manner, I was unsure if I’d like her first novel. I’m glad I was wrong. She had so many turns of phrases that made me chuckle. And she nailed that DC politico sensibility that you see so often in DC whether you work in the media or not. I liked this book and look forward to seeing what else she has to write (in terms of fiction).
11 | When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Description: “Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.
The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez—her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.
As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future—but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything—not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart...”
My Rating: 3.95/5 - This book was a solid read. I’m forever fascinated by Cuba (need to visit!) so of course I had to read this follow up book to Next Year in Havana. It was interesting, full of drama + intrigue, with a dash of romance. It was interesting to learn about the protagonists youth but I wished for more context on her present day life (though the previous book offered a glimpse of that).
On my To Read List for the Remainder of the Summer: More than Enough by Elaine Welteroth, The Everlasting Rose (The Belles #2) by Dhonielle Clayton, and On the Come Up by Angie Thomas.
What have you read this summer?