Solo Lisa Reads: August 2021 (Part 2)

Round-up of book covers featuring Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne, The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent, Isn't It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams, While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory, The Ivies by Alexa Donne, Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park, Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli, The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding, and Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

I promise you that despite all appearances, this blog is not turning into a full-time book blog! Admittedly, I've been in a blogging and IRL slump with beauty, skincare, or fashion. Makeup? Never wear it while WFH. Skincare? After my stress- and hormone-induced acne cleared up, I've been sticking to the basics. Fashion? Still living in the same pandemic comfy clothes I've been wearing for the last 1.5+ years. Now, books, on the other hand...my TBR list is ever-evolving as new releases come out and my public library ebook holds come through. That explains why there are crickets where these other blog subjects are concerned, but when it comes to books, I had to split up my August recommendations into 2 posts. (Click here for Part 1.) If you're looking for something to read during the last long weekend of summer, here are 9 new recommendations!

1. Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Sally Thorne's latest rom-com is another enemies-to-lovers tale, and while it doesn't crackle with the same wit and sexual chemistry as her smash hit The Hating Game, it still has its own charm. Ruthie Midona has always been a tidy, play-it-safe, old-before-her time type of girl. As an employee of Providence Retirement Villa, she seems to relate better to the elderly residents than her twentysomething peers. A girl like Ruthie should know better than to be attracted to Teddy Prescott (the handsome tattooed son of the wealthy developer who buys Providence), and she knows that his job as the assistant to two wealthy and eccentric female Providence residents is only temporary until he can open his own tattoo shop...and yet. Quirky characters and a wholesome story with real heart.

2. The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

Gotta admit, I spent most of this book being extremely frustrated with its protagonist, Birdy Finch. It was such a strong reaction that it really speaks to Dent's strengths with characterization. Birdy can be funny and charming and generous, yes, but she also makes terrible decisions, self-sabotages, and lies. For much of the book she has a terrible work ethic and often lashes out at people undeservingly. However, during a summer when she impersonates her brilliant sommelier BFF Heather and takes a job at a remote Scottish hotel, Birdy slowly undergoes a journey of personal transformation. She starts off not knowing anything about wine or fine food, and finding herself in over her head, puts in the work to learn. Along the way, she befriends her fellow employees and even sparks a romance with a handsome chef. Read The Summer Job for the escapism, but don't expect to love its heroine 100% of the time.

3. Isn't It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

I can always count on Lyssa Kay Adams's Bromance Book Club series to deliver the laughs and the feels in equal measure, and Isn't It Bromantic? is no exception. This time around, she takes the Russian, a character who has always been a punchline in the previous books, and puts him front and centre in his own story. It turns out his name is Vlad and he has a marriage of convenience with the gorgeous Elena, a childhood friend he has loved since forever. Ever the romantic, Vlad had hoped their marriage would ultimately lead to genuine affection, but alas, Elena wants to end things and return to Russia. What'll it take to bring these two lovebirds together? A hockey injury that sidelines Vlad; an unfinished manuscript; a plot involving a human trafficking ring; plenty of Russian home cooking; and of course, the bonhomie of the Bromance Book Club.

4. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory romances are like chicken soup for the soul when the state of the world gives you anxiety. The characters are so good and kind, there are yummy-sounding food references, nothing particularly bad happens, and the main characters always get together in the end. Her latest is a commoner-dates-VIP rom-com about Ben Stephens, an ad executive who's working on a big campaign, and famous actress Anna Gardiner, who isn't looking for love when she starts filming the commercial but finds it anyway. This book takes place in the same universe as her other books; longtime fans will have fun spotting references to other characters.

5. The Ivies by Alexa Donne

After the sweetness and goodness of the preceding romances, I needed some Teens Behaving Badly action and The Ivies definitely delivered. Think of it as a cross between Pretty Little Liars, Heathers, and that one episode of Gossip Girl where Blair and her minions sabotage Nelly Yuki before the SATs. Scholarship student Olivia is part of the Ivies, a clique of overachieving girls at the exclusive prep school Claflin Academy. They have a pact to help each other get into Ivy League schools: Each girl has her assigned school so that they're not directly competing with each other, and they sabotage classmates and competitors to better their chances. When one of the Ivies gets into Harvard over the clique leader and ends up murdered though, it's up to Olivia to uncover the truth behind her death.

6. Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park

I loved, loved, loved this YA rom-com! Sunny Song is a Korean American teenage girl from LA who aspires to be a famous social media influencer. Years ago, her mother's mommy blogging turned her into a viral sensation. These days, she has a YouTube channel and aspires to crack 100k followers. When a livestream gone wrong lands her in hot water, Sunny's parents send her to a digital detox camp in Iowa. The writing is genuinely funny and I LOL'd a lot as I was reading. I also appreciated Park's nuanced exploration of the ups and downs of social media. As someone who has often wondered how the kids of influencers and mommy bloggers will feel about having their entire lives posted online when they're older, it was fascinating to read a story told from the perspective of one of those kids.

7. Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli

Is it still a rom-com if there is very little romance to speak of? Serena Singh is a badass Indian woman living in Washington, DC. She has a lovely apartment and just landed her dream job in advertising. Her only problem? As the years have passed and her friends have gotten married and had kids, Serena (who doesn't want to do either) has found her friend group dwindling and her loneliness increasing. The novel follows a year in Serena's life as she opens herself up to the people around her, makes new friends, and learns to forgive loved ones. I related to many aspects of this book, from Serena's friendship conundrum to her focus on her career and her trials and tribulations as a first-time manager.

8. The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding's thrillers are always summer must-reads for me. Her latest novel delivers a satisfying, twist-filled story that guarantees you'll be turning the pages late into the night. The Adlers look like a perfect family and live in a beautiful home in Portland, Oregon. Under the facade though, they're all a mess in their own way. Thomas, the husband, is being blackmailed. Eli, the son, has dropped out of school and nobody knows why. Tarryn, the daughter, has a secret double life as an online cam girl. Even the wife, Viv, has her own secrets. One of the Adlers has gone too far in their secret lives and crossed someone though, because now they're being harassed and their house is targeted.

9. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

After finishing The Perfect Family, I was in the mood for another thriller. Whisper Network follows four women—Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita—who are longtime employees of Truviv. When the CEO of Truviv suddenly passes away, their colleague Ames Garrett is tapped to be his replacement. Ames does not have the greatest track record with female colleagues, to put it mildly, and rumours and whispers have dogged his reputation for years. Baker's book jumps back and forth between the present day, when characters are undergoing depositions for a traumatic incident, and the the weeks leading up to it. What I found most intriguing about this book is how it touches on the #MeToo movement and illuminates the "death by a thousand cuts" sexism that women encounter in the workplace.

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