Everything I’ve Read So Far in 2021: Part Three

Just in the nick of time, I finished my 50th read of the year! I didn’t have an initial goal in mind, but I decided to count a few weeks ago and realized how close I was to that milestone—so why not reach it?!

Don’t forget to catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of this list, and stay tuned on Instagram as I relaunch my virtual book club soon.

Can’t wait to start a new list with you all in 2022!

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

Historical Fiction

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, 3/5

Like in her novel The Paris Wife, McLain again tells the tale of one of Ernest Hemingway’s lovers. Martha Gelhorn ended up becoming a famous war correspondent—and this novel based on their real love story shows that even the strongest, smartest women were not immune to Hemingway’s influences.

Non-Fiction

The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden, 3/5

Yes, the book that inspired the Lady Gaga movie. Until reading this, I had no idea how much conflict followed the Gucci name. Family drama, financial woes, revenge plots…you name it, the Guccis had it. This telling is surprisingly business-heavy, though—I actually passed it along to my dad when I was done—so be warned if that’s not your thing.

Come to the Edge by Christina Haag, 4/5 

JFK Jr.’s ex shares their love story—and her own coming-of-age story—in this emotional read. Haag is a beautiful writer, and I found myself enveloped by nostalgia despite the fact that I wasn’t alive during the years she retells. This is a read that stands the test of time and would be appreciated by any generation.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, 4.5/5

McNamara, a true crime journalist, became consumed by her search for the serial murderer and rapist she dubbed “the Golden State Killer.” She sadly passed away before she could finish the book, so her husband and friends put her notes together and published it for her. It’s an incredible read for any true crime fan.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, 2.5/5

This collection of essays by Gay, a well-known contributing writer for tons of online and print publications, runs the gamut from funny to sad to alarming. I enjoyed this quick read overall—and agree with many of Gay’s opinions—but found it to be a little bit self-serving and name-droppy at times. 

Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved my Life by Christie Tate, 3.5/5

Woah. This memoir is, frankly, uncomfortable to read—but I couldn’t put it down. The author talks about her five-plus year journey in group therapy for eating disorders, relationship issues and more. To use a popular social media phrase, lots of it was pretty cringe, yet in a totally fascinating way. 

Thriller/Mystery

The Woman in the Window by A.J, Finn, 3.5/5

This is one of those thrillers that actually keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, you realize you were oh-so-wrong. It’s about a reclusive woman in an NYC brownstone who starts seeing things…or does she? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy, 3.5/5

This psychological thriller takes place in Brooklyn, where an uppity group of women form a mother’s group to support each other after giving birth to newborns. When one of the newborns goes missing, the mothers will stop at nothing to find him—uncovering tons of secrets about each other (and themselves) in the meantime.

Literary Fiction

Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock, 4/5

Alice has just given birth to a newborn when she receives a cancer diagnosis that changes her life—and the life of her husband, Oliver. The story follows the heartbreaking journey of the young couple in nineties New York City as they battle for insurance coverage, juggle raising their daughter, and attempt to keep their marriage afloat. Warning: in case my description wasn’t clear enough, this is a heavy one, folks. 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, 4.5/5

By the author of Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret and more, this novel follows a 39-year-old woman who has sustained severe memory loss after an accident in the gym. She forgets that she has three kids, is getting divorced, and is dating someone new. You can feel the frustration and confusion alongside her as she tries to piece together the previous decade of her life. Could this be her fresh start?

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, 3/5

Holy weird. In this one, a woman is tasked with taking care of two children who spontaneously set themselves on fire. Yes, you read that correctly. If I had known the topic when I started reading, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it. But it ended up being a witty story of a woman who is lost in her life and doesn’t know where to turn. A really quick, silly read to reboot your mind.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, 3/5

This one gets bonus points off the bat for being about a young woman getting wrapped up in a cult with ties to North Korea. You know I love a cult story! Told from the perspective of her boyfriend who desperately wants to save her, the writing style is super unusual. For example, there are no quotation marks used, so it can be hard to follow who is saying what. It definitely fits the bill of uniqueness if that’s what you’re looking for.

What Were You Thinking, Paige Taylor? by Amanda Ashby, 3/5

I admittedly chose this one solely because I wanted to reach fifty books by the year’s end, and figured I’d end with some fluff since it was crunch time. As long as you go into it knowing that this one has Hallmark movie energy, you’ll enjoy it! It’s a cute romance involving a New Yorker ditching city life to run a bookstore in a rural town…and of course finding love with a hometown cutie while she’s at it. 

Colleen Hoover

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover, 3.5/5

A tragic accident highlights the already fraught relationship between a teenage daughter and the mother that had her at a young age. It reveals deeply-buried secrets, forbidden romances and the complicated nature of grief. The story is told through both the mother and daughter’s points of view, which adds an interesting layer to a classic Colleen Hoover trope.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, 4.5/5

Back again with more Colleen Hoover! Maybe it’s the Boston setting or the hardworking young woman that hasn’t had luck in love—or maybe just Hoover’s magic—but this is one of my favorites of hers. While in a seemingly picture-perfect relationship with a gorgeous surgeon, the protagonist can’t help revisiting the story of her first love…even when it starts to cause major problems with her present.

Race

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, 5/5

I’m giving this one five stars not because it was necessarily my favorite read on this list, but because it made me feel the most. To put it bluntly, it’s painful. The novel follows the lives of a married Black couple before, during and after the husband’s wrongful incarceration for the rape of a white woman in Georgia. It should be required reading in America—especially white America.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, 4.5/5

Twin sisters grow up in the South, where they aren’t Black enough to be accepted by their neighbors. They flee at sixteen, and one soon learns that she also isn’t white enough to be accepted outside of her hometown. However, one is able to pass as white, and goes to great lengths to erase her true identity. The story follows the next generation as their storylines overlap once again. It’s an eye-opening novel that highlights America’s still-very-real racism problem.

Young Adult

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, 4/5 

The acclaimed Y.A. author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska strikes again. This one centers on Aza, a high schooler battling severe OCD and anxiety after the death of her father. Readers get to see her attempt to navigate school, friendships and love while facing her inner demons. Even though I’m 30, I actually copied down two passages from this book and read them to my therapist because they resonated so much with my own journey of chronic illness and mental health. 

Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee, 3/5 

A modern retelling of Anna Karenina takes place in the wealthy locales of Greenwich, Connecticut and New York City. Think the Korean-American version of Gossip Girl with Russian influences. I know, it sounds hard to picture, but it’s a fun, easy read with a surprisingly dark ending. You won’t regret the single day or two it takes to finish it. 

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