Joyful Reads from May 2022
Hello! I’m Joy, and I love to read. I consider it my greatest talent and favorite hobby. Another one of my preferred pastimes is recommending books to anyone who is the least bit curious. Seriously. I am always volunteering book recs to people near me, whether they ask or not. I thought it would be fun to bring this passion to Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. I will share with you every book I read month by month and what I think about them. You can also follow my Bookstagram account on Instagram.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
I gobbled this mystery up! I don’t read many thrillers, but I had seen this book everywhere and wanted to try it. I’m so glad I did. The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell is an immersive page turner with some surprising twists. Just when I thought I had it figured out, Jewell surprised me again. If you want to get lost in a plot, try this British puzzle.
Summary: Kim, a 40-year-old grandmother, is watching her grandbaby while her daughter Tallulah is on a date. Her daughter and her boyfriend never return home. One year later, detective novel author Sophie upends her London life and moves into a quaint English country town with her boyfriend, the head of a posh residential high school. While on a walk at the edge of the forest, she discovers a sign that says Dig Here. This sign will lead Sophie to unraveling the mystery of Kim’s daughter’s disappearance.
Multiple POVs and alternating timelines lead the topsy-turvy journey towards several gasp-worthy reveals. I loved the Britishness, the winding story, and the detective vibes. Was it super realistic? Not really, but who cares? This was my first Lisa Jewell novel, but it won’t be my last.
Cover Story by Susan Rigetti
Quite a page turner, this one! Cover Story by Susan Rigetti is an epistolary novel set in New York City about the fashion magazine world, the publishing world, and the scam artists who masquerade through both. I grabbed this beauty at my library, and then she started popping up all over Bookstagram. This was an exceptionally quick read that kept me guessing. Vivid characters and bewildering cons kept me reading.
Summary: NYU student Lora Ricci begins her summer internship at ELLE wide-eyed and hopeful. Desperate to be a brilliant writer, she jumps at a chance to assist sophisticated contributing editor Cat Wolff research and write a feature. Cat is a mesmerizing heiress who lives grandly in The Plaza Hotel. When Lora realizes she doesn’t have the grades or the money to return to NYU, she moves in with Cat to write fiction as a team. As the months go by, Lora becomes tangled in Cat’s web of fraud and loses her autonomy. Isolated from her family and friends, Lora must figure out how to extract herself from Cat’s complex world of scandal.
Inspired by the Anna Delveys of the world, this novel is a fun jaunt told through diary entries, Slack messages, Instagram posts, articles, and emails. If you’re into scandal podcasts and documentaries, this will be the perfect summer read for you! I loved the magazine setting. I got frustrated in the second half with the protagonist, but it all makes sense in the end. I loved learning how a con artist can work their cons.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Completely original storytelling and narrative style by Bonnie Garmus makes this 1950s feminist novel a ferocious delight. The depth of character, dry humor, tender relationships, and brilliant plot propel this novel forward. The champion of this novel, the indomitable Elizabeth Zott, is my new character obsession. I love her.
Summary: Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in a male-dominated world. She experiences assault, verbal abuse, discrimination, and intellectual theft, but she also meets her match, an outlier genius who loves her. A few years later, she is a single mother and the star of a unique scientific cooking show called Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s cooking show not only uses chemistry to create well balanced and nutritious meals, but also to empower her female viewers. She also raises an adorable and precocious little girl, Mad, and creates an extended family with memorable and lovable characters. An unexpected mystery is also solved in the last 20 pages that is marvelous.
There’s really so much I want to say. I deeply appreciate Garmus’ relentless execution of addressing female issues and treatment in the 1940s-1960s. She does it with boldness but also kindness. I love these characters. I love this time period. Warning: sexual assault, suicide, domestic abuse.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Emily Henry scores again with this quick-witted bookish romcom. The dialogue is sparky and sarcastic; the setting is part New York and part Stars Hollow/Schitt’s Creek NC quaint town; the backdrop is editing/publishing; and the characters are well-developed and memorable. I don’t love romance as a genre, but Emily Henry’s snappy flare and emotional characters capture me despite my preferences. Book Lovers is an escapist journey that delivers!
Summary: Nora Stephens is the high-powered, all-business city woman trope who prioritizes her career over love. She collides with her publishing nemesis in NY, and then two years later, on a surprising trip with her pregnant sister, she runs into him again. During her month away in a mountain-view NC town, she encounters multiple situations that threaten her carefully tended fortress of control and guarded heart. Nora discovers herself and a few other things during her summer holiday, including how to let go, how to cry again, and how to like, even love someone.
This is an entertaining enemies-to-lovers trope that extends into self-actualization and personal growth. I loved the publishing world, the detailed descriptions of editing, Nora’s intelligence, the witty banter, the attraction between Nora and her love interest, the NYC references, and the intricate attention to grief and sibling connection. Book Lovers is a perfect summer read, made for the beach or the lake or the pool. My fave EH is still People We Meet on Vacation, but Book Lovers is second!
Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner
Bloomsbury Girls is a lovely follow up to the warm and wonderful novel Jane Austen Society. In this sequel, Natalie Jenner focuses on Evie Stone, the youngest of the Chawton group, as she leaves Cambridge and begins her grown up journey in London. Evie begins work at the prestigious Bloomsbury Books bookshop and meets Vivien and Grace, the two women holding down the store. Jenner takes us through London in 1950, a city finally in its recovery stages after the war. This novel is an exploration of women discovering new opportunities and rising up against the male dominance in every area, but especially the literary world.
Evie, Vivien, and Grace are three very different women at Bloomsbury Books, but all united in their struggles as women in 1950 London. Each is there for a different reason: Evie is hunting a rare and valuable book; Vivien is writing and introducing more female fiction to her readers; and Grace is trying to support her family and escape from an unhappy marriage. As the women encounter some important female literary minds and influential women, their ideas about leading and taking ownership start to evolve. Joined together by a love of books and independence, these three “shop girls” blaze a new trail.
This book is a great character study of mid-century women finding their voices in postwar London. It’s heavy on the history, which I loved. Natalie Jenner is so thorough in her setting descriptions, historical background, cultural nuances, and British propriety that I really felt immersed in her Bloomsbury world. I adored Jane Austen Society, and this novel struck a similar chord of familiar and memorable. I was so genuinely invested in the characters and their choices! I also loved the true literary icons she sprinkled in throughout the plot like Daphne du Maurier, George Orwell, and Samuel Beckett to name a few.
Not for everyone, but definitely a win for history and English nerds like me!