As the summer’s gone on and on and we’re still hunkered down at home, I’ve spent most of my time buying books, scouting new books, reading more books, and even building a new bookshelf to house my new additions. With each new book I’ve completed, I’ve fallen deeper into each story’s world and the emotional complexities of each story and character.
This five-hour audiobook was honestly like a free therapy session about your friendships, and a much-needed one. The authors and narrators, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, bring the conversational tone of their “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast to the audio recording of their memoir and self-help book. Sow and Friedman get everything right about the importance of meaningful friendships, shine theory, the complicated friend web, and the stretch. It makes you want to reach out or give your friends a hug because friends are truly some of our most important relationships we’ll ever have.
As an audiobook, it doesn’t sound like a traditional book on tape, but rather, these ladies use their podcast experience in a way that feels relatable and authentic. Sow and Friedman read the book themselves, with the subjects they interviewed in the book reading their research or anecdotes that make it feel more reliable and genuine. It totally sounds like a podcast, which makes it super easy and engaging to keep listening, with easy to digest, bite-sized chapters.
The story starts at a point where their friendship has stalled after years together and working as a team, and how they both wanted to work on it. It’s proof that all friendships may need repair, but if it is worth it, then you work on it, Certain sections, okay fine, the whole dang book, hits deeply to your core about emotional topics, especially hearing about ending toxic friendships. We’ve all ended friendships that didn’t provide what we needed, and it makes you think if that decision was made too hasty or if this could have been a big, meaningful friendship if we tried harder, and all that thinking is making me emotional because I get it.
Okay, I’ve been waiting for this book for what seems like forever, or however long since Cocks and Morgan first announced they were writing a sequel. Their first regal read, The Royal We, tells the story of Rebecca (Bex) and her royal love Prince Nicholas (Nick) and ends with a private wedding ceremony the night before the big day and a royal pain of a paparazzi threatening to expose Bex’s past with her new hubby’s little brother. So, already, you know there’s A LOT going on.
This book picks up weeks after their less-than-perfect big day as Nick and Bex are away in Scotland on a self-imposed exile to ride out the scandal. However, when a family crisis forces the newly minted Duke and Duchess back to London, the temporary solutions to their marriage issues threaten to come unglued as they face real shit together and individually. Okay, summary over and it’s time for my thoughts. First, I swear, If Nick and Bex didn’t end up happy together by the end, I was going to actually kick off. Like Nick made my list of Top Book BFs, so he better not muck that up and make me regret that decision. Then, I kept reading and OH THANK THE HEAVENS, I can breathe. And how he was really, truly there for her when she needed him most after suffering a miscarriage. I knew, I always liked him. Also, my favorite character is hands-down the Queen Mum Marta. I love her as she’s just chilling in the palace, tweeting and clapping back anonymously, and thirsting after celebrities on TV. She’s the best. And then Queen Eleanor once she wakes from her stroke, like that b*tch is feisty and strong, and yasss, I love to see it.
Overall, everything is so juicy yet full of raw, vulnerable emotions. That, and it’s just so fun to get lost in, which I did for the full day that I read and finished it the first time. Then, the ending and epilogue, it’ the absolute perfect conclusion to Nick and Bex’s story. I mean, I’d love a full series for selfish reasons, but that’s because I’ve fallen for Nick and Bex as characters and don’t want to leave their world just yet. Seriously, I just want to find out what’s next for the family and if Georgie and Maggie grow up as besties, have more siblings, or move to Iowa. I’d love any more content that they’d give us, but if not, I feel completely satisfied and content but the ending we got in THA.
Here’s a fun, indulgent, slow-burn romance read that follows protagonist Julia as she moves to a new city for her boyfriend and a dream job. Soon after the big move, the boyfriend dumps her, and then her dream job is in jeopardy of being cut by management. To figure out the company’s next steps, management hires consultant Rocco Quinn to suss out the essentialness of the company programs. And side note, that name. I mean, Rocco Quinn? Individually, they are both quite “hot guy” names, and like this dude has two of them, so he must be like mega-hot, for sure.
Rocco and Julia have a bit of back and forth banter, and naturally, he’s gorgeous to look at, so things get flirty in true romance book fashion. Julia’s tasked with showing him around the nonprofit program she runs to illustrate that they should keep it going. However, since his job is likely to cut it, she’s poised to dislike him. This is made even more difficult because she fancies the pants off him, and vice versa. With back and forth perspectives, readers see both sides of the story and how they both feel this strong connection and pull even though they shouldn’t, and we get a delish enemies to lovers trope. (It’s my favorite!) Rocco has a promotion on the line, which could help his family and so he must figure out if Julia’s a distraction getting in his way or if she’s The One. It’s a fun romance read, sure, and it’s sort of a slow burn because they are terrible at hiding their flirtation and it picks up steam very fast along the way. Then, what was supposed to be a fling with a shelf life soon gets complicated because they both catch feels in this predictable romance novel. Yet, it was very sweeping and indulgent. That ending was so damn cute, I can’t ignore that. Gotta love a sweet, adorable HEA where everything works out.
Available: August 25
We’ve got a five-star read, y’all! In this lighthearted, fun novel, we follow protagonist Ava as she prepares for an Italian writing retreat to finish writing a book following a disastrous string of bad dates and relationships. She’s going there to strictly focus, however, all that goes out the window as soon as “Dutch” saunters into the retreat.
This book has such an engaging tone and perspective that keeps me reading into the wee hours, because she’s such a relatable lead and I need to find out what happens next. During her anonymous (no personal information given) romance writing retreat, Ava as “Aria” is so taken with this “Dutch” guy who isn’t good at writing or his words but is willing to learn. They can’t reveal any personal details about their real lives, yet these two keep flirting and it’s getting precious. It’s a cute, steamy, fun, and indulgent holiday romance, that’s so fun and enjoyable to read that I finished in a single setting.
Aria and Dutch have such an undeniable pull and connection, which makes for a sweeping romance. The holiday part only lasts for the beginning, and most of the story sees them attempt to bring their holiday fling back to their vastly different real-world lives in London — dogs, jobs, exes, family, and all. Outside the retreat bubble, Ava and Matt (his real name) try to meld their lives and figure out if their vacation love is enough to last. The rose-colored glasses of their holiday romance wears off quickly, but neither of them want to split because they believe they are meant to be and this is real, despite being polar opposites in nearly every sense. Together, they’ve managed to expand each other’s views, and that’s real love: That you can accept that what you think isn’t the end-all-be-all that you think it might be, but rather that they could try something new and still accept one another. It’s like more than just a romance between Ava and Matt, but as they make each other better as individuals and it’s just cute as hell. But side note, I nearly screamed out of sadness if anything tragic was about to happen to precious pooch Harold at the end. That was the most emotionally traumatizing part.
It’s not an easy love story, because, hey, life isn’t easy, and I think that’s why I loved it so much. It’s honest, vulnerable, and authentic. It’s funny, witty, romantic, emotional, and heartfelt. So many emotions in one book and that’s why I fell hard for this book. Wow, just incredible. It’s not just a happy, sugary-sweet romance, but we see raw emotions and growth from both sides, and that’s what makes it special. I didn’t want the story to end, I wanted more and just to see where else their love story and journey goes whether together or apart, well, hopefully together, because that ending was precious. This book gives me all the inspiration to write more, finish more, and move past my own seemingly crippling case of writer’s block, so double win.
Available: October 27
This was an adorable and fun YA romantic fiction read. Here, Chloe is home from college over the holidays and hires a fake boyfriend to impress her folks, and oh, I can tell we’re going to get a delicious fake dating trope. Oh, how I do love them in romances. Both her and Drew (her hired fake BF for the weekend) have notable points of view that are both interesting and sharp to follow. The two couldn’t be more different, yet somehow, opposites attract and they end up seeing each other for real and not just as hired, naturally. Then, their text conversations are like typical YA-level cute. When real Drew and Chloe start dating, it’s precious, although there’s that classic secret dating trope. Sure, they have a cute love story by the end, but the real love is Chloe accepting, loving, and owning herself first. It’s cute and great to see an in-depth look at Chinese-American culture, especially for potentially unfamiliar readers. It’s always interesting to learn about other cultures, and this was an intricate immersion into seeing that.
Available: November 10
Many YA fans will instantly recognize the author’s name, her now-famous book title style, and cover illustrations, and she’s back with another heartfelt story. This one takes us all the way to Santorini, Greece. I was obviously intrigued by the cover alone: After all, I am a massive fan of Mamma Mia and dream of traveling to Greece. Then, with its 500-page length, that was definitely daunting at the start. But, it was such a quick read full of adventure, romance, and heart.
Here, Olive AKA Liv is sent to Greece for the summer to reconnect with her estranged father and help him with a mysterious project. Instead of her dad, Greek teen Theo is there to pick her up. Even though she has a boyfriend back home in the US, these two have such chemistry and banter that I smell a love triangle brewing. Also, the book is partially set in a bookstore, so it already had a small piece of my heart by the earlier chapters alone. It’s a precious and cute YA read, and that’s just about it. Though the title says “love,” it’s more about the love of family, self-love, and acceptance. But, it’s giving me all of the wanderlust feels and like I just want to go to Greece now, like right now. (Ugh lockdown, boo.)
The intro of each chapter focuses on a different item from her list of “things her dad left behind” a brief flashback of the time before he split. And honestly, that sort of loses the flow between each present-day chapter and all its action. Then, in the last 100 pages or so, you see her open up and be vulnerable, as well as how this list actually makes sense, so just give this book time because it’ll get to that enjoyable stage, eventually.
Available: November 10
*Advance reader copies of several of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.