Do you wonder what the Bookish team is reading? Do you want to take a peek at our bookshelves? You’ve come to the right place. Check out the best books we read this month, and share your favorite in the comments!
If you’re still looking for some reading inspiration, check out our Fall Previews for the books we named as this season’s must-reads.
I’m embarrassingly late to the Holly Black party. Her books have been on my TBR for years, and I recently decided to dive into the Folk of the Air series with the audiobook for The Cruel Prince. Between Caitlin Kelly’s incredible narration and Holly Black’s spellbinding writing, I was utterly captivated. The first book in this series follows Jude, a human raised in Faerie, as she struggles to carve out a place for herself in a world where she’s scorned for her brief mortal life. But Jude is cunning, calculating, and bold. She’s going to make her short life count, and I cannot wait to see what she does in book two. Driven by anger, vengeance, and a desire to prove herself, she’s the kind of heroine you know is heading down a dark path and yet you root for her anyway. Burn it down, Jude. I’ll be roasting marshmallows in the flames and loving every chaotic, dangerous, and deadly moment.
Alisha Rai is one of my favorite romance authors, and I was thrilled to hear that a side character I loved in her Forbidden Hearts series would be getting her own book. The Right Swipe introduces readers to Rhiannon Hunter, the creator of the dating app Crush. She’s interested in buying her competitor Matchmaker, but their new spokesperson Samson Lima (former pro-football player and the one-night-stand who ghosted her) threatens to derail her perfectly laid-out plans. Rai touches on so many important topics throughout the book: the challenges women face in online dating, the reality of being a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men, relationship power dynamics, and the need for mental health research and advocacy in professional sports. Plus, I love nothing more than a guarded heroine who is fiercely protecting her heart and slowly learning to let her walls down. Based on this first installment, my excitement for the second book in the series is off the charts! It hits shelves in April, and I am counting down the days.
Things I am here for: graphic novels, magic, and challenging gender norms. Molly Knox Ostertag brilliantly weaves all three into her middle grade series. The books follow Aster, who is part of a magical family where girls and women are witches and boys and men are shapeshifters. Aster’s immediate family knows he’s a witch, but when they travel to the Midwinter Festival, he’s forced to confront close-minded family members who don’t want him competing in an annual competition for witches. Along the way, he inspires others to be true to themselves as well. The first book in the Witch Boy series cast a spell over me, and I remain thoroughly enchanted with the third and final installment. I especially love the series’ focus on characters who push others away to mask their own pain. In this book, Aster’s friend Ariel lashes out when hurting, and while she’s held accountable for her actions, she’s also given support, understanding, and love by her newfound family. This is a perfect series for readers looking for books that celebrate magic in all of its forms (from spell casting to friendship to finding pride in your identity).
I devoured this historical romance from Joanna Shupe, the second in her Uptown Girls series. Clayton Madden operates New York City’s Bronze House, an elite casino open to the city’s wealthiest men. Despite the fact that women are barred from entering, Florence Greene visits the Bronze House night after night until she’s given a private meeting with Clay, where she requests to be his apprentice so that she might one day open a casino of her own for women. The chemistry between Clay and Florence is electric from the start, though quite a few obstacles stand between them and happily ever after. Clay is my catnip: a gruff, determined hero who puts on a dangerous front to hide how vulnerable he truly is. And I adored Florence’s drive. She’s a heroine who won’t let anything stand between her and her goals. I especially appreciated that she didn’t want marriage or children, just an equal partner and the casino of her dreams. Readers looking for a sizzling historical romance featuring a hero and heroine perfectly matched in their ambition, intelligence, and card skills will find a lot to love here. While this can be read as a standalone, I’d still recommend readers pick up the first book (The Rogue of Fifth Avenue) to read while they wait for Prince to hit shelves on December 30.
I devoured Brain on Fire and it has stuck with me in the years since; so I have been really looking forward to Cahalan’s newest book. Upon starting The Great Pretender, I was pleased to discover that the subject matter is just as compelling and terrifying as her memoir! In her interview with us, Cahalan even admits this book felt more personal to her. The Great Pretender is a must-read for anyone interested in the field of psychiatry or mental illness, as well as anyone who enjoys fascinating experiments and case studies. If you prefer narrative nonfiction, don’t be intimidated: This does not read like an academic history. The Great Pretender is incredibly accessible, and quickly draws you in with its conversational tone. Cahalan allows the reader to follow her discoveries, not unlike a thriller, as she uncovers the mystery at the heart of the dramatic experiment.
The Bromance Book Club is definitely one of my favorite contemporary romance reads of the year. After reacting very badly to finding out his wife had been faking her orgasms for most of their marriage, professional baseball player Gavin begins to spiral and leans on his teammates to help convince his wife to get back together. The team invites him to their romance book club, where they read different historical romances to learn how to both please and treat their partners. Thea, Gavin’s wife, is confronting her own feelings about their relationship’s stagnation, her role as a wife to a baseball player, the fact that she dropped out of school when she got pregnant, and her relationship with her parent’s divorce. The Bromance Book Club is unique in that it features excerpts of the fake romance novel the men are reading and uses it as a way to discuss romance tropes. And this isn’t just a book about Gavin trying to win back his wife. It deals with both characters’ personal development and self-esteem struggles. For Thea that is education and feeling accepted in Gavin’s world and for Gavin that is his stuttering. I can’t recommend this enough!
Give me all of the f/f historical fiction right now! I absolutely adored Olivia Waite’s The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics. This book is so nerdy and delightful. It follows Lucy Muchelney, whose ex-lover just got married. Lucy decides to take her life into her own hands by accepting a translation job that was offered to her late father. Catherine, Countess of Moth, is a widow whose husband was a scientist and explorer. She’s hoping to give this translation job to someone and be done with it. Sparks fly as soon as the two meet, but circumstances of status and past loves threaten to tear them apart. I loved that this was a book about women standing up for their voice in science as well as what it means to be an artist. I can’t wait to read more queer Regency romances because this one is excellent.
The Bookish team recently read The Song of Achilles for our book club and we all loved it so much. It’s been on my TBR for years, but I held off reading it. I was intimidated by the content since I’ve never read The Iliad. Once I started reading, I was surprised by how accessible this story was. I couldn’t put it down because I was obsessed with Patroclus and Achilles’ love story. Miller’s book offers an interesting portrayal of masculinity with two male main characters both displaying and defying patriarchal norms in different ways. While this novel focuses heavily on men, the few female characters were vibrant and truly humanized throughout. I switched between the print and audiobook while reading, which helped me pronounce the Greek character names when our book club met up. By the end, I was sobbing uncontrollably and wowed by Miller’s storytelling ability. I need to pick up Circe, her follow-up novel, ASAP.
Tessa Dare’s historical romances are my comfort reads and her latest was no different. This third installment in the Girl Meets Duke series follows Lady Penelope Campion, who appeared in the previous book as an eccentric single aristocrat with a penchant for rescuing animals. Gabriel Duke, a ruthless capitalist who has built his own wealth, purchases the house next to Penny’s in the hope of restoring and reselling it for a profit. Once Gabe finds out about Penny’s odd assortment of animals and he sets out to improve her society standings. I couldn’t help but adore Penny and her gentle soul. She’s a feminist vegetarian who is able to hold her own against the very determined Gabriel Duke. Both Gabe and Penny feel ruined by their circumstances and it was beautiful to read about them coming together and healing. There are some sensitive topics discussed in the book, and readers can find the author’s full list of trigger warnings here.
I wish I had read this helpful book about adult attachment when I was a lot younger, but at least I have it now. The authors contend that the human need for attachment is hardwired: In an evolutionary sense, it was safer to have at least one person you are attached to as opposed to being a lone wolf. As infants, we attach to our caregivers and the security (or insecurity) of that attachment basically carries through into how we approach relationships as adults. Rather than say one type of attachment is right and another is wrong, this book shines a light on the different types of attachment (secure, anxious, avoidant) and how these different types approach adult relationships.
The Night of the Gun by David Carr
You might know David Carr from his years of work at the New York Times. In his 2008 memoir, he goes back into the worst parts of his life: the years he spent addicted to cocaine and alcohol, the time that he watched his daughters grow up with foster parents, the jobs lost during benders, and the truly terrible ways that he treated the women in his life. At first, I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to read the addiction memoir of a guy telling me all the crazy things he did. But Carr’s approach is unique here. As a journalist, he knows what he remembers but he also knows that memory is unreliable. So he uses his reporting skills on his own memoir, interviewing people that knew him and working with an outside journalist to fact-check his memory. The book starts out with him recounting a wild night that ended when his friend waved a gun in his face. But when he interviewed the friend to confirm years later, the friend said it was Carr who had the gun. And if Carr was wrong about the gun, he wondered, what else was he wrong about? While The Night of the Gun does have some “listen to this crazy and horrible thing that I did” sections, it is also an investigation into the ways we create necessary myths about ourselves.
The story opens with Gavin and Thea’s marriage on the rocks after Gavin finds out that Thea has been… errr… less than honest about how much she has been enjoying her husband. And Gavin reacts extremely poorly when he finds out. To save his marriage, his friends invite him into their cabal of men who read romances to help them become better partners to the women in their lives. So, they give Gavin a regency romance to give him clues about how to earn his wife’s trust and pique her interest. I loved reading Gavin and his friends talking amongst themselves about how to become better listeners and lovers, and undoing their assumptions about the gendered division of labor–emotional and otherwise. Bromance Book Club struck a really fun balance between poking fun at some of the conventions of a romance novel, while still doing those conventions. If you like the way that Jane the Virgin is both a sendup of a telenovela and a telenovela, you’ll love The Bromance Book Club.
Alexa Martin’s Fumbled was the first sports romance I ever read, so when I saw that she had another book featuring the Lady Mustangs, I requested as fast as I could! Blitzed pairs bar owner Brynn with football player Maxwell. They have instant chemistry, and Maxwell is caring and compassionate. As a result, instead of a story about wooing, Brynn and Maxwell actually have to learn how to be in a relationship with each other. It feels like a grown-up and modern kind of love story. Instead of hot air balloon rides or horse-drawn carriages, there is roadside assistance and timely deliveries of soup. And ok, there is no horse-drawn carriage, but there is a dog-drawn sled. I loved Maxwell’s gentle confidence and Brynn’s passion for her career. But in a lot of ways, the real love story is between the Lady Mustangs! Alexa Martin loves women and believes in the transformative power of women’s friendships. I love the ways that they support each other and never devolve into a petty competition. Keeping my fingers crossed for a book about Vonnie!