Well well well, here we are, knee-deep in March and yet still basically hunkered down at home for who knows how much longer because it’s already been a full calendar year. As expected, I’ve continued to spend my free time reading a good book (I managed 28 in January, 18 in February, and 2.5 so far in March.), starting up my brand-new #bookstagram page, and maintaining my rainbow-organized bookshelves. As I kept on reading, I discovered some truly incredible reads that completely stole my bookish heart. So, without further ado, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook for another round of 2021 book recommendations that should definitely be on your radar this spring. Happy reading!
Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
This book completely took me by surprise, and honestly, that’s what I liked the most about it. It’s pitched as a You’ve Got Mail-type of romcom, which is both a trope and a movie I adore, and so I was already hooked.
Here, Hana juggles her dream job in radio, a side hobby as a podcaster, and spends the remainder of her time waitressing at her family’s halal restaurant in Toronto. Sales are slow, especially as a new upscale halal eatery is moving in across the street. In the exposition, she’s working as a radio intern hoping to get promoted, rambling on in her podcast episodes which is where she forms a connection with an anonymous listener, all while trying to keep the family business afloat. Then, a mysterious aunt and cousin arrive from India, she discovers a family secret and grapples with a hate crime attack nearby. There are all sorts of complications to contend with, including her attraction to rival restaurant owner Aydin who may not be as much of a stranger as she initially thinks. When life as she knows it shifts and changes, Hana must figure out how to use her voice, be strong, and decide what her life should be.
This coming-of-age read features captivating, descriptive language, and in addition to see the text, the story’s also told through her podcast transcripts and the anonymous DMs they share. There is a lot of exposition that starts off pretty slow, but thanks to vulnerable and authentic characters you can’t help but get sucked in and want to find out what happens next. It’s well-written and captivating, as well as profound and insightful to look at this cultural identity and perspective, especially if you are on the outside. Then, of course, the ending romance and HEA is so flipping cute and precious that had me smiling from ear to ear.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: April 13
The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t hand out five-star ratings often because, to me, that means a book needs to be fan-freaking-tastic and just all-around unforgettable. And let me tell you: This book is just that. Christina Sweeney-Baird’s debut novel is poised to be a prolific piece of prose that’ll have everyone talking this April. It already has a select few NetGalley reviewers buzzing, and I’m happy to join those ranks. In this work of fiction, a virus circulating around the UK sweeps the world and takes out most of the male population, leaving women to pick up the pieces of society as Sweeney-Baird posits what would happen to the world without men.
The book starts in 2025, when a mysterious virus shows up at a hospital in Scotland. Only men are carriers and are affected, and as the virus grows into a global pandemic, it’s up to women to save the future of humanity while also dealing with their own loss and grief. This book is the immersive first-person account of the women rebuilding the world, including Amanda the doctor who treated Patient Zero, Catherine a social historian documenting everything, scientist Elizabeth working on a vaccine, and others around the world. It aims to chart how the absence of men changed society both personally and politically in this prolific and prescient novel.
Before reading this book, I was intrigued by the summary (reminding me of the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale or Children of Men-type of dystopia) and the sheer number of glowing reviews. So, I started it. And, I couldn’t put it down for nearly two days until I finished every last page, just pouring over the text, the language, the story, the vulnerability, and the heart. This gripping modern thriller slash literary fiction read is so poignant and timely about the world’s new normal, which is made all the more prescient considering it was written two years ago. Yet, it’s still so relevant, raw, and vulnerable, and just like wow. This book, what else is there to say without giving much away other than it’s so bloody brilliant, and I mean that wholeheartedly. The story is just so real and gripping but also has messages and themes that are so impactful and important that elevate this read into what it is.
With its current publication date, that makes this novel all the more poignant and reflective. In this book, as these women try to keep the world running, they also grapple with fear, loss, grief, mortality, fertility, and humanity. The language just enthralled me, captivated me, and drew me in. I loved the ending about how these women found the strength and power in this new world, while also dealing with what they lost. Now, with all that going on, there’s bound to be some triggering scenes. And so, yes, that does mean I have some content warnings to deliver if scenes of grief and loss; death of a parent, child, or spouse; infertility; or suicide is triggering for you. In the end, this has to be a five-star read for me, it’s just so poignant, well-written, and prolific. I sincerely hope that once this book is officially available, it gets all the hype and acclaim because it’s that good and deserves it.
Rating: Five Stars
Available: April 27
Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet from Itself by Chloe Angyal
Author Chloe Angyal provides an insightful look at the behind-the-scenes world of ballet in this nonfiction read full of facts, history, and interviews. Through this inside look at the ballet world’s present, readers can see how this art form is shaped by race, gender, and class inequalities, as well as how dancers and professionals are fighting for a more inclusive and positive future.
This book is written by journalist Chloe Angyal who aims to capture students’ love for ballet all while they grapple with its unfair and unbalanced shortcomings in terms of power, beauty, and race. Angyal interviews students, parents, teachers, health care workers, professionals, and more industry insides about the damaging path of this industry in the modern world and how that affects the dancers.
She takes a concept that isn’t largely discussed outside of gruesome or idealized TV or movies and blows everything you didn’t know about this hard field wide open. It’s all about how the art form s broken and how to fix its inequities to move forward. The writing is very detailed and informative. However, at times the text could be quite dry, although I found it interesting as a former dancer myself.
Rating: Three Stars
Available: May 4
The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther
This was an absolutely adorable New Adult romance read that I just devoured. Here, Meredith joins her extended family at her grandparents’ compound in Martha’s Vineyard every summer. This is the first time she’s been back after her sister died, so grief content warning, and it’s her cousin’s wedding weekend.
She’s dealing with her sister’s death, grief, a fresh breakup from her ex, and heading off to college for the first time in a few weeks. She needs a distraction, which their annual family Assassin game comes at the right time. In her quest to win to honor her sister, she teams up with a cute groomsman in the wedding, Wit. She can’t help falling for him during this weekend fling, but that may very much cost her both the game and her heart. This read is full of compelling language that just draws me in from the first page. It’s a fun summer romance that’s for sure, however, the title doesn’t seem to make much sense to me and that’s a little awkward, I guess. But, all in all, it’s a very cute and absolutely precious NA romance.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: May 4
Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger
True to Lauren Weisberger’s style, her latest novel delivers her signature wit, insight into an elite world, enthralling storytelling, relatable yet authentic characters, and snappy language.
In this book, readers follow two sisters Peyton and Skye, who are complete opposites but seemingly have perfect lives to one another. Then, several lies threaten to derail everything. Peyton is a TV anchor who always has it together, including her daughter Max who is Ivy League-bound. Meanwhile, Skye is a stay-at-home mom in the New York suburbs who is fundraising to start up a new home for underprivileged kids as a way to get away from this PTA mom life she’s been living in. Then, there’s Max, Peyton’s daughter, who is coming of age in this elite Manhattan prep school and who does want to attend Princeton but rather a film school on the west coast. This book follows all three of them as they attempt to move forward once lies explode and derail everything they know. It’s basically based on the age-old saying that the grass is greener on the other side. Everything blows up for Peyton when her husband is arrested in a college admissions scandal, while Skye is hiding her deep debts.
This book is full of quick, witty language and relatable characters and dialogue. We get back-and-forth perspectives to show how each woman is dealing with everything and interact with one another. I was definitely very, very, very interested to see where things would go and happen next, and in the end, I just wanted more. It’s so rich with details and complex characters that made this read totally unputdownable.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: May 18
Beth & Amy by Virginia Kantra
I’ve always been a huge Little Women fan ever since childhood, and when I heard Virginia Kantra wrote a modern retelling of it in Meg & Jo, I knew I’d like it just as much, which I did. Now, that I’ve finished her follow-up, I’m even more besotted with the lives of the March sisters than ever before, and here it’s Beth’s and Amy’s turns in the spotlight to share their stories.
After I devoured and loved Meg & Jo, I was stocked to read this follow-up, which I can now report that I loved even more. This book is all about Beth’s and Amy’s coming-of-age stories. Amy’s an ambitious up-and-coming handbag designer in New York, whereas good girl Beth is a singer-songwriter working to overcome her anxiety and stage fright on tour with country superstar Colt (from the previous book). When they both return home for Jo’s wedding, they must confront their lives and what they actually want it to be.
As a reader who’s enthralled with the March sisters, while we all adore Meg and Jo, who doesn’t secretly love Beth and Amy? So, it’s exciting to see their perspectives and get inside their heads as they grow up, especially since in the original novel, they were children. This story alternates between the point of view of the two sisters, much like Meg & Jo, but also includes chapters focus on Marmee/Momma/Abby’s sides too, which is another intriguing perspective to understand. True to form, Kantra’s novel features rich storytelling and language to draw you in. Set three years after Meg & Jo, I loved seeing Beth and Amy shine, expressing vulnerability and complexity in both past and present timelines. As expected, I really dug this book and just didn’t (and couldn’t) want to put it down.
All in all, I think I did like this more than Meg & Jo because it’s partially a new story with previously hidden depths and vulnerabilities of these former minor characters that I loved so fiercely. Thank you so much Berkeley for this ARC, I was absolutely thrilled to once again rejoin the March sisters on their journeys.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: May 25
Sixteen Scandals by Sophie Jordan
This is a fun Regency romp of a read that I just couldn’t put down! Here, Primrose Ainsworth is the fourth daughter of a modest upper-class family who’s approaching her sixteenth birthday without debut plans in sight. Always tired of being a child and stuck at home she concocts a ruse with her best friend to sneak out on her birthday to London’s Vauxhall Gardens for a night of masqueraded fun. When she gets separated from her friend, a mysterious hero is here to help her escape when her cover is nearly blown. This stranger is 19-year-old Jacob, who becomes her partner in crime all evening long as they dodge all sorts of hijinks and antics.
It’s described as having “Austen-type flirtation” and “Shakespearan hijinks,” which is already giving me Bridgerton meets the happy Romeo & Juliet vibes, and I’m here for it. The language is curious, engaging, frothy, and fun. Plus, the banter between Prim and Jacob is just on fire and explodes off the page. It’s captivating and fun that I just don’t want to put this book down!
To me, it did end super, super quickly because we were just getting started with their love story, and I want more. But overall, it was very cute as is. It just flew by, and just as I was finally starting to get the characters and their story, boom it ended, and I just want more content. This is a quick Regency romp of a YA romance novel that you can polish off in haste, but nevertheless, still engaging to indulge in their banter and hijinks as Prim makes her own rules in this restrictive society for women.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: May 25
Advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.