Staff Reads: September 20

Staff Reads: September 20

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. Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations. Tell us what you think in the comments!

If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Fall Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

I love hunting for book recommendations in our team’s staff reads. A while back Nina raved about Evvie Drake Starts Over, and this week I decided to dive into the audiobook. The story follows the titular Evvie Drake, who is struggling with a mix of guilt and grief after the death of her not-so-beloved husband, and her new tenant Dean Tenney, a former pitcher with a case of the yips. Julia Whelan narrates the audiobook and perfectly nails Evvie’s wit and dry humor. Within the first ten minutes of listening I knew that I was in for a great time, and sure enough, I found myself pressing play at every opportunity over the next few days. My romance-loving heart enjoyed watching Evvie and Dean start to fall for each other, and I particularly appreciated the dynamic Evvie had with her best friend Andy. This is a story about moving on from different kinds of loss, learning to accept change, and not being afraid to ask for the help you need. I loved Evvie, and I bet you will too. –Kelly

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

One of my shameful secrets as a big romance reader is that I had never read any of Lisa Kleypas’ books until now! When Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop of the Fated Mates podcast announced that the first book of season two would be Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas, I immediately started reading. This second season is all about the romance novels that made the hosts into the readers they are. I loved that idea and completely understood why this book impacted them. Dreaming of You is addicting and I couldn’t put it down. It follows author Sara Fielding, a naive girl who saves Derek Craven, the owner of a gambling den, and their undeniable attraction to each other. I loved the heroine in this book. While I enjoyed Derek Craven for his obvious sexiness, I never felt like his growth over the course of the novel was genuine. There were moments in this book were I thought the depiction of prostitution was very progressive for when it was written, but then there were scenes that just turned me off, like Derek sleeping with one of the club girls and calling her Sara. I also didn’t love the time between their marriage and the resolution of the villain plotline for very similar reasons. I’m very excited to hear what Sarah and Jen have to say about this book next week on Fated Mates! —Dana

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I just started listening to the audiobook version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. My initial reaction was an overwhelming sense that I recognized the narrator’s voice from somewhere, but that I couldn’t quite place her. Then it hit me… Gilmore Girls! The narrator is Kathleen Wilhoite, who plays Liz (sister to Luke, mother to Jess). Now that I’m free to stop obsessing over the narrator’s unnervingly familiar voice, I’m looking forward to giving the plot and characters my full attention. —Elizabeth

SLAY by Brittney Morris

Even though I’ve never been much of a gamer, I absolutely love books like Marie Lu’s Warcross that transport you into the world of a video game. This is what first hooked me in Brittney Morris’ debut novel, which follows a teenager named Kiera, who is the creator of a virtual reality game called SLAY that celebrates black excellence through character design and the cards players battle with. When a young player is killed in real life over coins in the game, Kiera’s world is turned upside down and her game is suddenly being dissected on the nightly news by white anchors who don’t understand SLAY or the importance of black gamers having a safe space to play. I loved Kiera’s arc throughout the book. She values her independence and her secrets, but learns that there’s strength and power in relying on others. I also found myself completely swept up in the action, adventure, and imagination of the game SLAY. It left me itching to dive into a video game, and thankfully in our interview Morris had no shortage of suggestions for where I should begin. –Kelly

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

My audiobook read for the week has been Christine Riccio’s debut novel Again, But Better. This book was hyped up a lot this spring since Riccio was one of the first big booktubers, so I was interested to give it a read and I was pleasantly surprised. Again, But Better is a new adult novel following a girl named Shane who studies abroad in England, where she’s determined to break out of her shell. Shane spent a lot of college going through the motions and not really engaging with other people, and I found that very relatable. She didn’t make a lot of friends and was too nervous to take part in a lot of the traditional rites of passage associated with college. In England she makes friends with her roommates and meets a boy, Pilot, who just gets her. But Shane lied to her parents and told them she was taking pre-med classes while she’s actually taking creative writing courses, and the boy she likes has a girlfriend. After everything Shane had built for herself comes crumbling down, we fast forward to Shane at 26. She’s not happy with her life and feels unfulfilled by her boyfriend and career path. The story takes on this super cool direction that I wasn’t at all expecting that gave Shane and Pilot the chance to rewrite the past. There were so many pop culture and book references that I loved in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the character growth for both Shane and Pilot. For me Again, But Better is Anna and the French Kiss meets Fangirl with an almost inverse of 13 Going on 30. —Dana

Total Control by Laura Griffin

Total Control is the first book I’ve read by Laura Griffin, and this slim novella gave me just enough of a taste for her style that I’m looking forward to reading more. The book follows Navy SEAL Jake Heath and FBI agent Alexa Mays. He’s surprised to hear from her after a date months before resulted in her ghosting him, but he can’t deny that he’s intrigued when she starts to tell him about the case she’s working on and why she needs his help. The novella length left me wanting more, but the book included an exciting excerpt of Griffin’s full length novel Her Deadly Secrets, which I’m looking forward to diving into. –Stephanie

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

In this novel, a young thief finds herself falling for her target in a con against a wealthy woman in Victorian England. This is a book that slowly reveals characters’ backstories and motivations, and once you think you know what’s going on, it takes a sharp and surprising turn. I went into this book having first seen the adaptation, The Handmaiden, which changes the setting to Japanese-occupied Korea. Having seen the movie I assumed that I knew what was in store and instead loved discovering that each tale contained unique twists. Fans of historical fiction will find a lot to love in the novel, and the movie (one of my personal favorites) is a must-see for lovers of historical dramas packed with complex characters. –Kelly

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

If you have yet to read one of Katie O’Neill’s heartwarming graphic novels, what are you waiting for? Her art is gorgeous and colorful in the sweetest way. And her stories have truly beautiful messages to them about family, community, and kindness that put a smile on your face. The Tea Dragon Festival is her latest release and is a companion/prequel to The Tea Dragon Society. You’ll see two familiar (and slightly younger) faces from the first novel, Erik and Hesekiel, and the various tea dragons. This book follows Erik’s niece Rinn, who has grown up in a village that cherishes their tea dragons. While out foraging, Rinn meets a young dragon who has been asleep for 80 years and was supposed to be protecting the village. The two become close friends and embark on a journey to learn how he fell asleep and helping him deal with the loss of that time. If you love Katie O’Neill’s tea dragons just as much as we do, O’Neill shared this wonderfully adorable guest post matching tea dragons to zodiac signs. My zodiac sign was paired with Ginger! —Dana

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