In 2021 I made up my mind to get back to regular reading. My goal – at least 1 book a month. I did that and some. Below are 12 of those books and my thoughts on them. Maybe you can find something of the list that you haven’t read yet but you would love to…

#finishedreading 

Sweet Thing & Sweet Little Thing by Renée Carlino
Romance – Music – Self-Discovery

>> When I tell you I’m in love with a fictitious man named Will. Whew! Meet Will, an oh-so charming and sweet songwriter/musician who comes off like a wandering bad boy but is so not. Meet Mia, a classical trained musician who gave that all up for something more practical and stable. Will thus is everything Mia running from even though they are perfect for each other. Okay, I have to admit that I didn’t LOVE Mia; her constant pushing Will away often
turns into treating Will badly. But Will makes you sort of like her just because you kind of see her through his eyes. I needed more Will so I promptly found the sequel and read it. Simple as that. A precious love story with music in
its backdrop if you’re in the mood for one (I pretty much picture Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti from Once as Will and Mia).

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Rom Com – Interracial Relationship – Opposites Attract

>> If you are in the mood for a cute rom-com-y novel that has leads with great chemistry and witty banter between them, The Flatshare a great read. Love the set up of total opposite strangers who agree to share a one-bed flat and end up. How can love not happen? I feel like I’m on that quirky spectrum like Tiff (though not as extreme as her) and Leon is a total sweetheart so I was rooting for these kids the entire time. The only criticism I had is that Leon was a person of color mainly just by description of his skin tone; there was no mention really of any aspect of his cultural/racial identity to the point that I couldn’t tell what his ethnicity was. Would have loved to have had this fleshed out to make Leon an even more fully formed person of color – notes for if this ever gets turned into a television series or movie.

The Flatshare Beth O'Leary reading book list

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Drama – Love – Destiny

>> I saw this book on many IG accounts and had to read it when I saw the premise – a workaholic lawyer with her life all planned out down to the “perfect” significant other. She has a “dream” of a seemingly loving moment 5 years in the future with a man she doesn’t recognize, and as she progresses through her life, she realizes she is slowly moving towards that moment. I also saw reviews on bookseller sites that were split; you either loved the story or hated it. The consensus was that it is not the love story you envision it to be. I’m glad I had that perspective because with it, I highly enjoyed this story of love and lost and the power of friendship. A quote from the story sums it up: “You mistake love. Do you think it has to have a future in order to matter, but it doesn’t. It’s the only thing that doesn’t need to become at all. It matters only insofar as it exists. Here. Now. Love doesn’t require a future.”

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Psychological Thriller – Supernatural – Noir

>> I saw the trailer for the Netflix series of the same name – Behind Her Eyes – and knew I just had read the source material. It’s trippy! The story revolves around a love triangle between a woman, her boss (who she secretly begins an affair with) and his wife (who she secretly befriends). In the backdrop of the story is the phenomenon of lucid dreaming so expect some surrealist elements. This is definitely one of the situations where the book is better than the series as you get more of a glimpse of the innerworkings and thoughts of the characters. I’m impressed with myself that I guess much of the mystery but not that ending!

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rom Com – Interracial Relationship – Neuroatypicals

>> I would have never heard of this book (and series) from Talia Hibbert if it wasn’t for IG bookgramers. The book (that last of the trilogy) was gifted from one of them. Since Hollywood has been churning many or even great rom coms unless they are revolved around high schoolers (shout out to To All the Boys series which I do love), I have turned to rom com novels. Loved this one! Eve is the flightiest but good-hearted baby Brown sister with cooking/hospitality talents. Jacob is the uptight (autistic!) B&B owner that needs her talents. They mesh so well and need each other so much and fall so in love! Such a sute, funny, genuinely sweet story of gaining confidence in one’s abilites and overcoming insecurities. Eve grows and matures in some remarkable ways. Ahh! So cute.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rom Com – Interracial Relationship – Disability

>> Okay, so my love of Eve Brown made me want to go back to the beginning and read book #1 in the series. Enter Chloe Brown. Chloe is the curmudgeonly (in part, due to her chronic pain disorder), computer whiz, older of the Brown sisters. Redford is the sweet artist who is the handyman in Chloe’s building. They slay their demons together and fall in love. I did love that this book actually delved a bit more into their racial differences than Eve and Red, and acknowledge the beauty in their differences. This book was very much in Hibbert’s wheelhouse of bring to light characters who are disabled and chronically ill, really showing us why representation matters. My heart still belongs to Eve Brown (my favorite of the series so far) but this was a good read.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Romance – Second Changes – Black Culture

>> I recently started an online book club focused on Black authors and stories with friends and this was our first book club pick. Gotta say I went to Reese’s book club to find something; didn’t know what contemporary reads were popular! I really liked it! The tagline is: ‘Seven days to fall in love, fifteen years to forget, and seven days to get it all back again…’ The story revolves around Shane and Eva, and the backdrop is the Black literary world of contemporary New York City. They both had their demons, past and present, and they use each other unhealthily as a crutch and sometimes Eva’s teenage daughters has more sense than any of the adults (omg, Audre is so cool; can I be her?), but the romance between them is fresh, sexy, and full of wit. Alot of folks in my book club had mixed thoughts on the ending (that I agreed with)…

reading book list In Five Years Behind Her Eyes Passing The Flatshare

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
Psychological Thriller – Mystery – Grief & Mental Illness

>> Okay so this is one of those books where I heard of the upcoming film (of the same name with Amy Adams) which looked all thriller-ish and in that Rear Window wheelhouse, and I really was in that kind of mood so I went for it. At times predictable, surprisingly soapy, light on the thriller, but wholly entertaining (once you get past like the first 50 pages), it was a good read for what it was – an agoraphobic psychologist in NYC obsessed with spying on her neighbors witnesses what looks to be a murder in the brownstone of new neighbors. Due to her near constant drinking, she is an unreliable narrator so things may or may not be what they seem. Let me tell you now that the film is quite terrible (bad casting/direction and all) so don’t even consider that. Oh, I didn’t realize there was such a controversy with the writer and allegations of plagiarism until after I read this book. I feel down a whole YouTube rabbit hole so I could arm myself with all the knowledge I could to form my own opinion (he totally “borrowed” heavily from a couple of sources and no one can tell me any differently).

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
(Family) Drama – Race/Interracial Relationships – Millennials

>> One of my favorite books I’ve read this year, the story tells place in the odd period of time at the end of Obama’s first term when media proclaimed we were in a post-racial society. It’s a story of all the prejudices that lay just under polite white liberal veener. We follow a 25-year-old black woman named Emira who feels stuck in her current financial situation as a babysitter. As such, much of the story also embodies the anxieties of millennials, the struggle to find a what she wants to do with the rest of her life and be able to full take care of herself financially. And through this, Emira becomes embroiled in precarious race dynamics – you see, her charge is a little white girl named Briar and her mother Alix, the embodiment of those more subtle microaggressions that may come from white liberals. And one night, Emira is accused of kidnapping Briar when in a store late at night, which creates an even bigger racial web. We are also introduced to Kelley, a well-meaning white guy who witnesses the incident and begins a relationship with Emira. Be prepared to think long and hard about your own relationship to race and your own potential participation in fetishization and how that contributes to racism.

Passing by Nella Larsen
Psychological Suspense – Race/Self-Identity – Historical Fiction

>> I got to this right before the movie was released! Passing was made into an indie film starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Nega as the sisters at the heart of the story in Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut; the film premiered at Sundance 2021 to great reviews. It’s on my onscreen anticipated list so all should check it out. Originally published in 1929, the story revolves around the practice of “passing”, when fair-skinned African Americans took on a white identity for societal acceptance. Here we see two childhood friends who lost touch run into each other in their adulthood, a quiet and prim one who identifies as Black (Irene) and a flashy, reckless one who long ago started to pass (Clare). After becoming reacquainted, they then become obsessed with each other’s lives in some disturbing ways. The novel really shines where the film loses balance – giving us a glimpse into the mind of Irene (the book is from her perspective) who’s obsession is all surface otherwise. I didn’t go into reading the book knowing it would end up being a deep psychological character study but that made it all the more interesting.

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Dark Comedy – Race Relations – Fictional Self Help

>> This was a book suggested by a friend for our book club, and I dug it. Written in a style of a satirical self-help manual meant to better your life by applying the tenets of a grade A salesman (hey, I’m sold), the novel tells the story of Darren, a 20-something manger at a Starbucks in Manhattan. He’s the quintessential brilliant guy who underachieve due to fear of failure. But on a whim, he exerts some stunning bravado with a regular at the Starbucks counter and said regular recruits him to work at a shady tech startup. Darren becomes “Buck” during a new employee hazing of sorts and so starts a bonkers story that satirizes racism in the workplace and the struggle to exist and be authentic in black and white spaces simultaneously. It earns it’s comparisons to The Wolf of Wall Street with a little Sorry to Bother You thrown in. The book is a bit too long; the action crescendos about three-fourths the way through and then peters out. It’s a good read though.

If you have read any of these, reach out to me and let me know your thoughts! I’d love to discuss <3