Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
You know how sometimes you read that book everyone is talking about and roll your eyes at how over-hyped it was?
That was NOT me this month!
I read this summer’s most popular book and last year’s most critically acclaimed book, and I can completely understand the hype for both of them.
It’s funny because they are very different books. One’s a steamy fantasy about a girl becoming a dragon rider, fun but not particularly deep, while the other is a classic retelling set amid the opioid epidemic, deep but not particularly fun. For their genres, they are both fantastic books.
Add in several beach reads, a novel about a dying philanthropist, and a few terrifying reads set at Christmas, and I’m realizing I had a very eclectic reading month.
Scroll down to hear my thoughts and, as always, be sure to let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading lately!
August 2023 Reading List
Violet Sorrengail is all set to live a quiet life among her books until her mother orders her to become a candidate for the highly competitive dragon riders. But dragons usually prefer to kill rather than bond with weak humans like Violet. With half the competition willing to kill her to improve their odds and the other half hating her because of her mother, Violet must use all her wits to survive the war college.
Fourth Wing has taken the book world by storm this summer, claiming a place atop the New York Times bestseller list for most of the summer. From the very first page, Yarros throws you into the action and the intensity never lets up throughout the entire book. Reminiscent of Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, fantasy readers will love this adult fantasy romance with heartstopping action and an enemies-to-lovers storyline with plenty of spice. I devoured this book in two days, and my only complaint is that there was way too much Twilight-style pining between Violet and Xaden. Luckily, you don’t have to wait long for the sequel: Iron Flame comes out in November.
A popular food blogger, Hollis Shaw’s life is not as picture-perfect as it seems. When her husband is killed in a car accident after an argument and her daughter pulls away, Hollis decides to try a “Five-Star Weekend.” She gathers her best friend from her teens, 20s, 30s, and midlife together for a weekend on Nantucket. But the perfect weekend might turn sour when her friends don’t all get along and her childhood friend invites Hollis’s first love along.
I generally avoid most standard beach reads, but I figured it was time to give Elin Hilderbrand a chance. And I’m very glad I did. I found The Five-Star Weekend to be a delightful look at midlife and how female friendships impact our lives. With well-rounded characters, you get glimpses of the different work, marriage, and health issues that affect women. Although I would have preferred a more nuanced ending, The Five-Star Weekend wraps up with a hastily put-together happily-ever-after which is characteristic of the beach read genre.
Alison has always hated Christmas, but her holiday season gets worse when her mother calls and tells her she only has a few weeks to live. Wanting to repair their relationship, Alison agrees to take in Mavis despite Alison’s traumatic memories of her abusive alcoholic mother. Instead of healing the relationship, Alison begins to realize her mother is not who she thought. Suspecting her mother is possessed by a demon, Alison must decide how far she is willing to go to save her family from this nightmare.
Jennifer McMahon has penned an atmospheric slow-burn horror story that will give you chills. At first, Ali discards her worries since everything is just a shade off, desperately wanting to believe she’s imagining it. By the time Ali realizes the truth, everyone now thinks that Ali is the problem, setting up a cat-and-mouse psychological game that keeps you on edge throughout the second half of the novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Gallery/Scout Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
As a teenager, Madeline Martin was the only surviving victim of Evan Handy, who was convicted of murdering her best friend Steph and suspected in the disappearance of two other friends. Now Madeline runs a thriving bookstore while caring for her aging father, the former sheriff. When true-crime podcaster Harley Granger arrives just before Christmas, he suspects there is more to the story. Women are still disappearing and Harley wonders if Evan might have had an accomplice.
Lisa Unger can certainly set a scene with this novella about a decades-ago murder at Christmastime. Christmas Presents had a good mix of tension and twists to keep you wanting more. The novella’s short length made it a very quick read; however, it didn’t leave as much time as I would have liked for character development.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Penzler Publishers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Ten teenage influencers are invited to a remote island to film “In Real Life,” a reality show where they live unplugged for three weeks. With several friends-turned-enemies invited, the influencers quickly realize that the producers are looking for maximum drama. When the production crew fails to show on the first day and one influencer dies, they realize they are trapped on the island without any way to escape. A mysterious “Sponsor” is pulling strings backstage, revealing their secrets to the entire world as more influencers end up dead.
People to Follow was an over-the-top young adult thriller that was still an addictingly good read for me. At first, I had to make a cheat sheet of all the characters but, once I sorted them all out, I was completely hooked. Worley masterfully manipulates this isolation thriller, adapting the And Then There Were None trope to a younger generation of readers. With plenty of drama and a few excellent twists, People to Follow has all the delicious beach read vibes that make it a quick fun read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
In a modern-day version of David Copperfield set in the Appalachian Mountains, Demon Copperhead speaks of how institutional poverty and the opioid epidemic damaged an entire generation of children. A child of a single mother living in a single-wide trailer, young Demon must survive foster care, child labor, poor schools, addiction, success, and failure in this epic tale perfect for book clubs who love thought-provoking topics.
Barbara Kingsolver’s masterpiece gives a voice to a modern generation while still echoing that not much has changed for marginalized portions of America. Full of realistic characters, Demon Copperhead isn’t afraid to shine a light on some of the darkest topics. Yet, Demon’s unending resilience carries you through the heaviest sections of the book. A completely engrossing read, Demon Copperhead breaks your heart while still making you laugh.
During the summer of 1977, Vix Leonard’s world changes forever when she is swept into a world of unimaginable privilege after she becomes best friends with Caitlin Summers. For years they are inseparable, growing up together and spending each summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Even though they haven’t been close in years, Caitlin begs Vix to be her maid of honor at her wedding. Vix agrees, hoping to discover what caused the rift between them that summer long ago.
For her August book club pick, Jenna Bush Hager picked an old favorite as the perfect beach read about female friendships. I was less enthralled with Judy Blume’s adult novel than Jenna. Summer Sisters starts as an erotic coming-of-age story with a stereotypical cast of characters. By the second half of the novel, Vix matures more than Caitlin and her teenage boyfriend, creating a push and pull that shows the destructive side of childhood friendships.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
One of the wealthiest women in the world, Dava Shastri is used to getting her way. When she is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Dava gathers her entire family to her private island, and then leaks an early press release announcing her death. Instead of accolades, Dava is stunned to see articles revealing hidden secrets, which she now must explain to her children and grandchildren.
Dava Shastri’s Last Day just didn’t strike the right cord with me. Although the premise is spectacular, the execution was so full of unlikeable characters that it was difficult to feel an emotional connection to the story. Dava, herself, was an intriguing character: selfish in her personal life yet truly invested in making a difference in the world. Dava’s obsession with her legacy made her a poor matriarch to the family, which showed in her four children who were extremely hard to like.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in August?
What books did you love this month? Which books can you not wait to read? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book List to Enjoy: