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Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – June 2024

New reviews of Friends Don’t Fall in Love, Margo’s Got Money Troubles, Ordinary Bear, Home Is Where the Bodies Are, and more.

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Ready for more summer reading? I leaned pretty heavily into lighter reading this past month, with several thrillers and some contemporary fiction and rom-coms.

Two of June’s books ended up on my best books of the year (so far) list–one was a late addition–so that makes for a pretty successful reading month!

Here’s what I read in June:

Print and E-Books

Friends Don't Fall in Love by Erin Hahn

Friends Don’t Fall in Love

Author: Erin Hahn
Publish Date: October 17, 2023
Genres: Romance

Lorelai Jones is a country music artist who lost her career and her celebrity fiance five years ago after singing a protest song (sounds like another recent read!). The one person who stood by her was Craig (aka Huck), a Nashville music producer who’s been in love with Lorelai ever since. When the two come together to rebuild Lorelai’s career, the sparks fly, but is it more than just a friends-with-benefits situation?

This is the follow-up to Hahn’s Built to Last, and those characters appear again here (though this could stand alone). Huck and Lorelai have a sweet and supportive friendship, and I loved the dual perspectives that allowed us to see how cool and confident they each perceived the other to be, which conflicted with the turmoil they both actually felt. Heads up for some steamy open-door scenes.

The Block Party by Jamie Day

The Block Party

Author: Jamie Day
Publish Date: July 18, 2023
Genres: Mysteries and Thrillers

There’s been a murder at the summer block party on ritzy Alton Road. But who it is and what led up to the explosive event are a mystery that’s slowly unraveled, as we go back one year earlier. Alternately narrated by Alex and her teenage daughter, Lettie, both of whom get themselves tangled in the various scandals of the other neighbors, this is filled with rich people behaving badly.

Domestic thrillers aren’t my favorite because they tend to be filled with frustrating characters being horrible. This is no different, really, and I found it a little tough to keep track of who was who in the neighborhood. Nonetheless, the structure and mystery of who died and how it went down did keep me reading. While not particularly memorable, this was an entertaining summer read.

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Audiobooks

Home Is Where the Bodies Are

Author: Jeneva Rose
Narrators: Jeneva Rose, Brittany Pressley, Andrew Eiden, January LaVoy & Cassandra Campbell
Publish Date: April 30, 2024
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

Following the death of their mother, siblings Beth, Nicole, and Michael gather at her home to settle her estate. But an old videotape shows their parents decades earlier, their father covered in blood and a dead body between them. Beth holds another secret: on her deathbed, their mother revealed that their father didn’t disappear, and she shouldn’t trust… someone. But who? And what really happened that night on the video?

Told from multiple perspectives in past and present, the siblings dig to reveal the secret of the family’s true history. The questions kept piling up in this one and I was hooked until the end. Even if you guess the big secret, the characters are well-drawn and there are likely to be a few surprises.

Ordinary Bear by C.B. Bernard

Ordinary Bear

Author: C.B. Bernard
Narrator: Phil Thron
Publish Date: April 16, 2024
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers, Literary Fiction

Farley is a bear of a man, and as one of the only white men in the Iñupiat Alaskan village where he works as an investigator for an oil company, he stands out. When his young daughter comes to visit from Oregon, tragedy strikes. Farley is left injured and broken over his inability to save her. He returns to his home in Oregon to search for some kind of redemption. On arrival, he makes friends with a mother and her young daughter, as well as some of the homeless population. When the daughter disappears, he vows to get her back. As he searches, he treks through the darker corners of Portland, and his own memories, ready to do anything to save her–and himself.

I loved this literary mystery and found myself alternately shocked and heartbroken. The tone of it reminded me of We Begin at the End, which I also loved, though the story is very different. Highly recommended.

Related: Literary Mysteries That Will Keep You Riveted

Over the Influence by Kara Alaimo

Over the Influence

Author: Kara Alaimo
Narrator: Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Publish Date: March 5, 2024
Genres: Nonfiction

In Over the Influence, Alaimo examines how social media damages women and girls, from all sides. While you might immediately think of body image (and that is covered here), she also delves into sexism and misogyny, dating, sexual assault and violence, misinformation targeted at women (especially mothers), and the effects on our mental health, relationships, careers, and more.

The litany of stories and negative effects is depressing–we all know social media is here to stay, and companies that profit from the engagement and even the negative effects on women are unlikely to change. But she does offer some suggestions for how to remedy some of this. Sadly, many of these are at the personal level–which is, of course, important–but also feels like asking every woman to fight a monster on her own. She does have ideas for more systemic change, and I think these are just the beginning. This is a conversation that needs to continue and reach the level of lawmakers and corporate responsibility.

Can You Keep a Secret by Jo Lovett

Can You Keep a Secret

Author: Jo Lovett
Narrator: Harrie Dobbie
Publish Date: March 5, 2024
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

On a drunken night out at the start of a new year, a group of friends agrees to add some stakes to their resolutions: they would each write down a secret, and if they didn’t keep their resolutions at the end of the year, they would have to reveal the secret. The next day, Georgie doesn’t just regret her strange and lofty resolutions, she knows she has to get her secret back. Meanwhile, Poppy is dealing with the secrets of her struggle as a new mother, and her misgivings about her husband’s odd behavior.

The premise of a pact between friends with a little romance sprinkled in appealed to me as a fun and light listen. Unfortunately, these characters were both immature and didn’t seem like as good of friends as they were supposed to be. The miscommunication and lies were just frustrating, and the romance fell flat because Georgie’s romantic interest wasn’t well-developed. I finished listening, but this could have safely been a DNF.

Margo's Got Money Troubles by Rufi Thorpe

Margo’s Got Money Troubles

Author: Rufi Thorpe
Narrator: Elle Fanning
Publish Date: June 11, 2024
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Margo is twenty and pregnant–and the father is her English professor at her junior college. She decides to keep the baby and is confident she can manage on her own–with an ex-pro-wrestler father and Hooters waitress mother, she always has. But the world is not set up for single mothers and she struggles to keep a job–and the roommates she needs to make rent. When her dad, Jinx, shows up and moves in, his tales of pro-wrestling give her an idea: OnlyFans. She discovers that the platform is all about storytelling and works to build her following. But the one thing that saves her could also be her downfall.

What a delightful surprise this book was! I wasn’t sure what to expect–both pro-wrestling and OnlyFans are well out of my wheelhouse, but this offered smart commentary on both, on topics including showmanship, storytelling, character, “real” vs. fake, and what is considered “legitimate” work–all in a funny, heartfelt story. Margo is smart and determined, even as she realizes how unbending the world is to parents and how she needs to find clever solutions of her own (as all parents seem to). I finished this just a day or two after posting my best books of 2024 (so far), but this has been added there.

Related: Must-Listen Contemporary Audiobooks


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Books to Read & Skip - June '24 Reviews

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