Solo Lisa Reads: February 2020

Round-up of books for February 2020 featuring The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn, The Assistants by Camille Perri, Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, and The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

A new boss, lots of work projects, the Bar Method Fitness Challenge, my second cold of 2020(!), persistent neck and shoulder pain, domain issues on the blog, regular old adulting...February was a lot to handle. But whenever I craved an escape at the end of a long day, I knew that I'd have a hot cup of tea and a juicy read on my Kobo reader waiting for me at home. My book selections for February offer plenty of escapism, whether it's in the form of romance and "happily ever after" endings, or narratives that tap into nostalgia for the past. What are you reading these days?

1. The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory's fictional contemporary romance universe is a fun place to spend time in, full of kind, smart, and diverse protagonists. Remember Alexa and Drew, the couple from the first book in the series, The Wedding Date? Alexa and Drew are now engaged, and Alexa's two best friends in the world, Maddie and Theo, are part of the wedding party. Maddie and Theo can't stand each other, but when they hook up after a party one night, their chemistry is undeniable. Surely they can keep hooking up while they're helping Alexa plan her wedding, right? You can probably guess what will happen from there.

2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is a screen legend and infamous Hollywood beauty. Now in the twilight of her life, she's ready to reveal her secrets by granting an all-access interview to a novice journalist and dishing on the true love of her life (which of her seven husbands was it?). There's more to Evelyn's personal history than meets the eye though, including a shocking secret that links Evelyn to the writer whom she handpicks to tell her story. Sharply observed details and Old Hollywood glamour dress up a meditation on the power of media narratives and the price of fame. On the surface, Evelyn seems like an amalgamation of Marilyn Monroe (the buxom blonde stereotype) and Elizabeth Taylor (it's all the husbands), but her Latina heritage and sheer grit and ruthlessness make her a true original.

3. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

A former psychologist who suffers from agoraphobia, Anna Fox spends her days watching old movies, drinking too much wine, helping fellow agoraphobes online, and spying on her neighbours, like the seemingly perfect Russell family who moves into her neighbourhood. One day after meeting Mrs. Russell in person and spending a pleasant afternoon together, Anna sees and hears something terrifying in the Russell household. When she reports it to the police and the Russells come over to clear the air though, the Mrs. Russell she had met before is not the woman standing before her. This is a suspenseful, finely crafted thriller and the comparisons to Hitchcock are justified. I kept thinking of Rear Window and Vertigo as I was reading, and there was one heart-wrenching twist that left me teary-eyed. I can't wait for the movie starring Amy Adams.

4. The Assistants by Camille Perri

Take one part The Devil Wears Prada and one part Ocean's Eleven, mix them together, and you get a breezy heist novel with some timely themes. Tina Fontana is the underpaid executive assistant of Robert Barlow, CEO of Titan Corp. She's struggling to get by and can't ever imagine a life free of her crippling student loan debt. That is, until an expense report error deposits the exact amount she needs to pay off her loans into her bank account. Word gets out among the other lowly assistants of Titan Corp and soon there's a full-fledged expense report scam happening, much to Tina's dismay. I couldn't help but dreamcast the movie as I was reading, so I'm not surprised to learn that the book has already optioned.

5. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Nobody takes Georgie Castle seriously. Not her family, who runs the best home renovation and construction company in town. Not the townspeople, who hire Georgie to be a clown at their children's birthday parties but don't see her as an entrepreneur. And certainly not Travis Ford, her older brother's smoking hot best friend whom she's had a crush on since middle school. Travis himself isn't doing well these days; he's back in town after a shoulder injury derailed his pro baseball career and trying to figure out what to do next. He might have a shot at a sports commentator gig on a family-friendly television network, but only if he can shake off his old reputation as a lothario. Enter the Fake Relationship Agreement: Travis and Georgie agree to pretend to date each other so that he can look like a man who's settled down and Georgie can appear more grown-up. Feelings ensue, of course. Fix Her Up is pretty perfect as far as a rom-com novel goes, with steamy scenes, laugh-out-loud moments, and characters you'll want to root for.

6. The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Mad Men meets Cold War politics in this fictionalized account of the CIA's involvement in the publication of Boris Pasternak's masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago. The perspective shifts from one character to another: Pasternak himself, who has no hope of publishing his novel in his home country, but puts himself and his loved ones in danger by pursuing publication abroad; his muse and mistress, Olga Ivinskaya, who endures three bitter years in a gulag because of his work; the secretaries in the CIA typing pool, who see and hear all the secrets filtering through the office; and the intelligence officers working the field, who end up distributing contraband copies of Doctor Zhivago at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. (They were disguised as Bibles.) The Secrets We Kept is utterly engrossing in a "truth is stranger than fiction" way. Of all the books in today's post, this was the one I couldn't stop talking about with Lawrence and with coworkers.

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