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Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – May 2024

Overwhelmed by all the summer reading lists? Check out short and sweet book reviews for a few options for your next beach read–including must-reads and must-skips. So you can spend less time choosing and more time lounging in the sun.

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I’ve said it before, but it feels more true than ever: May is no joke when it comes to kid activities. This is especially true as my kids get older.

The calendar was insanely full last month, from concerts to athletic events to talent shows to end-of-year celebrations.

As exciting as all of these things are, and as much as we appreciate the teachers, volunteers, and others who work hard to make them happen, I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed.

Every time I saw my parent friends over the past month, we all looked a little frazzled and talked about checking items off the list until we could finally reach summer.

You know what else is overwhelming?

All those huge summer reading lists.

Now, I love a good book list. But sometimes I just want to grab a sure-thing and head to the beach or pool.

This month’s reviews include some definite sure-thing summer reads (as well as a couple buzzy books you can safely skip). So you can spend less time choosing and more time lounging.

You deserve it, after making it through May.

Print Books

Three by Valerie Perrin


Author: Valerie Perrin
Translator: Hildegarde Serle
Publish Date: June 7, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction

Nina, Adrien, and Etienne met in childhood and quickly became inseparable, moving together through life in their small French town. Now, 20 years after they first met, the three no longer speak. A car has been pulled from the bottom of the lake with a body inside. A journalist named Virginie investigates the finding while reflecting on the three’s relationship and life paths.

This hefty novel is perfect for readers who love literary fiction that slowly unfolds and reveals hidden layers. It took me most of the month to read. One of the words the publisher used to describe Virginie is “enigmatic,” and that’s a good word to use for the feeling of the first half of this book. Who were these characters? Why were they so deeply tied to one another? What tore them apart? But then I found myself entrenched; I knew who they were, on a deep level, but I didn’t yet know all of their secrets, and I had to find out. There were plenty of surprises that turned this slow journey into a fast-paced read at the end. This exploration of the childhood nostalgia, life choices, and complex relationships of the three won’t be for everyone, but patient readers and fans of literary fiction will be well-rewarded.

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New 2024 Books for Your Summer Reading - May Reviews


Come & Get It by Kiley Reid

Come & Get It

Author: Kiley Reid
Publish Date: 2024
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction

Millie is a resident advisor in a dorm at the University of Arkansas. She’s a slightly older student, with dreams of buying her own house. Agatha is a guest professor who is conducting research for a project on wedding traditions–but she soon finds the lives of the residents to be more fascinating fodder. Millie agrees to help Agatha, and as the narrative shifts focus in each chapter, we are treated to multiple perspectives on the many characters in this book as they each try to find tenuous connections to one another but ultimately only act in their own self-interest.

While this book had a number of sharp observations on race, class, and sexuality throughout, the lack of a discernable plot made them fall a bit flat. The characters were all interesting enough, but sticking with it without anything to drive this forward was hard. I really liked Reid’s debut, Such a Fun Age, but this was a disappointing follow-up.

How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang

How to End a Love Story

Author: Yulin Kuang
Narrator: Katharine Chin & Andrew Eiden
Publish Date: April 9, 2024
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

When Helen was a teenager, her younger sister died by suicide. The driver of the car that hit her was Grant Shepard, Helen’s classmate and town golden boy. Her family has never forgiven him, and Helen hasn’t seen him in 13 years. When her popular YA novel is adapted into a new television show, she is shocked to find Grant in the writers’ room with her. Grant knows that working with Helen will be tough, but he’s doing his best to manage his panic attacks since the accident, and this is an opportunity he needs. The two have always been different, but can they come together for the sake of the project–and will they find that sparks fly when they do?

Kuang hit all the right notes in what I like in a romance novel, with a similar approach to Abby Jimenez in taking heavy and emotional storylines and infusing romance and a bit of humor (the heavy topics veered this away from rom-com territory, but there was levity). The writers’ room setting added an interesting forced proximity element, with added professional tension and vibrant side characters. I’m looking forward to more from her. (And as an interesting aside, Yulin Kuang is the adapting screenwriter for Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation and the write/director of Henry’s Beach Read. So she knows both romance and screenwriting well!)

Funny Story by Emily Henry

Funny Story

Author: Emily Henry
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Publish Date: April 23, 2024
Genres: Fiction, Romance

Daphne has upended her life to move to her fiance, Peter’s, small town in Michigan–just in time for him to leave her for his childhood best friend Petra. With obligations to fulfill at her beloved library job but nowhere to live, she proposes that she and Miles–Petra’s ex–become roommates. Miles and Daphne are opposites and don’t know much about one another, but they slowly become friends through their shared heartbreak. Soon they realize how easy it is to put on a show and make everyone (including their exes) think they’re more than friends–and it’s possible they actually might be.

One thing I love about Henry’s novels is that she chooses great settings. A small lakeside town in Michigan has the perfect summer feel and provides plenty of moments for cute banter and adventures as these two get to know one another. Fake dating isn’t my favorite trope, but it doesn’t feel heavy-handed here, and Miles is a charming and unexpected surprise for Daphne. Charm, banter, and just enough emotional backstory are par for the course for Henry, and this is another must-read if you like her other books.

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New 2024 Books to Read & Skip

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

The Husbands

Author: Holly Gramazio
Narrator: Miranda Raison
Publish Date: April 2, 2024
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic

Lauren is a single woman living in London, so she’s shocked to return home one night to find a husband there. He knows her, has a history with her, and her apartment reflects this. When he climbs up into the attic for something, another husband emerges. And so the cycle continues, with husbands disappearing into the attic and new ones appearing. Some are great, some are awful, and she discovers new versions of herself with each new relationship. Soon she has to decide whether she wants to continue the infinite “life try-ons” or settle into one.

This was a unique take on the idea of peeking into different life paths. It was a fun and absurd journey through the various husbands climbing down from the attic. Unfortunately, several key plot points and characters felt left by the wayside, and I was disappointed by the ending.

Colton Gentry's Third Act by Jeff Zentner

Colton Gentry’s Third Act

Author: Jeff Zentner
Narrator: Charlie Thurston
Publish Date: April 30, 2024
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Colton Gentry is a country star on the rise when he makes a career-ending mistake: he rants about guns onstage. He is quickly canceled by all of country music, his superstar wife ends their already-rocky marriage, and he returns home to mourn his career–and the best friend who was killed in a mass shooting. When he runs into his former high school love, Luann, she offers him a spot as a sous chef in her restaurant. It’s his second chance: at life, at sobriety, and maybe at a chance with Luann–if he can keep it together and commit to all of them.

I loved this heartfelt story of grief and rekindled flames. The story alternated timelines to tell the origin story of Colton and Luann, and Colton’s song “Honeysuckle Summer” was a good descriptor for those golden-tinged days of the past. There’s plenty of romance here, in both past and present, but also friendship, redemption, and family. Highly recommended for those who like romance books with a bit more to offer.

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May 2024 Books to Read and Skip