Covens, creepy houses, weddings gone wrong, gay drama, disappearing acts, and plenty of men who deserve what’s coming to them—Kristen and Layne share their epic list of summer reads that’ll last you all the way until spooky season.

Shop the full list in the official Unlikeable Female Characters Bookshop!

Episode Transcript

KRISTEN: Welcome to Unlikeable Female Characters, the podcast about women who don’t give a damn if you like them. I’m Kristen Lepionka, and I’m here with Layne Fargo.

LAYNE: Hello!

KRISTEN: Hello there. I have a selection from the classic Reddit forum Am I the Asshole? that I would like to kick off.

LAYNE: Please regale us.

KRISTEN: Yes. So my (23M) girlfriend (20F) let me use her old computer while mine is broken and I found an old archive written by her when she was 16. It is a long story about a maid in the Antebellum South that has a romantic affair with the man of the house. It is not as overtly sexual as you may be thinking. It has sex, mostly towards the ending, but it’s mostly romantic and very emotional. The maid is clearly meant to be a version of my girlfriend.

Everything was fine for me until the part where they arrived at his train station. The maid wanted to leave because she couldn’t bear for their romance to be hidden anymore. The man was following her to try to convince her to stay. The issue is that I found the general representation of the station, and later in the story, the trains themselves, to be full of anachronisms.

LAYNE: What?!?

KRISTEN:  And I am a train enthusiast and know a lot about the history of rail transportation in the United States. So I talked to my girlfriend about it, but she got upset because she says I shouldn’t have read that because it was a personal thing from when she was a teenager. She was also mad that my reaction was something as superficial as the level of train accuracy. Am I the asshole?

LAYNE: Yes! Like, why would you read all of that? And then like, admit that you read it? And who cares about the trains? What?

KRISTEN: I know, it’s so amazing. To read it was crossing a line. To read it and say something to her about it? Absolutely not. To say something about the fucking trains, as opposed to the story? Who does this guy think he is??

LAYNE: Like, yeah, I’m going to go back and rewrite my erotic fiction from when I was 16 so the trains will be accurate. Like what? Oh, God, men are exhausting.

KRISTEN: Why would anyone ever talk to a man?

LAYNE: I don’t know. I don’t know.

KRISTEN: That’s what we say in this house all the time, and I feel like it’s very true.

LAYNE: So this is going to be our big summer reading preview episode, and it is going to be epic. We have many books to share with you. But we tried to record this a whole week ago, and we couldn’t because it’s Mercury retrograde, and it was the middle of eclipse season also. And technology was fucking exploding. You had it by far the worst. You had to talk to many men in tech support at Amazon, right? Like awful.

KRISTEN: I did. It was horrible.

LAYNE: Are you okay?

KRISTEN: I mean, I’m still a little shaky from it to be honest.

LAYNE: Understandable. That sounds like a nightmare, to have all of those problems, and then have to speak to not just one man, but multiple men. And of course, none of them could really help you because… they’re men.

KRISTEN: Exactly. It was a mess. And eclipse season being over, hopefully will settle things down, but I don’t know. It’s still kind of rocky.

LAYNE: It’s been an intense time. Yeah. I’ve only had very minor technological things. I think I need to knock on wood now. I know some people don’t believe in it, but if you don’t believe in it, you’re fucking wrong. We have seen the signs.

KRISTEN: Over and over again.

LAYNE: I remember—oh, it was when we were doing the Promising Young Woman episode and it was during Mercury retrograde, and we tried to record it like six times and it wouldn’t work. And then you emailed our podcast recording provider, and they were very annoying to you. Also men, I’m sure.

KRISTEN: They were. Yes. They gave us like a $17 credit or something. Thanks.

LAYNE: Surprised it wasn’t like $17 and 13 cents prorated. But anyway.

We are here now to talk about the many amazing books coming out this summer. Every year, we’re like now we’ll be able to go outside and interact with people, but no. People are still stupid. You should still stay inside and read books. Like maybe go to the beach, if you have a six-foot radius around you. Maybe. I don’t know.

KRISTEN: Maybe. Like, people cannot be trusted, so.

LAYNE: No. People cannot be trusted, but books are always there for you. They’re your truest friends.

KRISTEN: It’s true. Your only friends, in some cases.

LAYNE: Seriously. So I have a massive list, and it is in order by date, because I’m a monster. So do we want to just, like, trade off? I’m assuming we have a lot of overlap. We never talk about this before we meet for these episodes. It’s just a surprise.

KRISTEN: Let’s just trade back and forth.

LAYNE: Okay. I’ll start. My first one is The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas. We are interviewing her soon, so we will have an interview with her—I think it’ll air sometime in June, like a few weeks after this episode does.

But I’ve been so psyched about this book ever since I first heard of it. Isabel was in Pitch Wars with me, ee were in the same class. And her writing is amazing and lyrical, and she’s a very smart lady with a PhD. And this is a Gothic romance set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence. So it looks very lush and romantic and dark and weird. And I am also told that in this book, there is a hot priest, so.


LAYNE: And this is out now, you can go get this now. So you could read it before you listen to our episode with Isabel. I’m just saying, go get The Hacienda.

KRISTEN: I’m sold. Hot priests, let’s do it.

LAYNE: Let’s do it. Like not religious, but a hot priest? I don’t know, can’t argue with that.

KRISTEN: Right. Okay. So on May 24th is Hide by Kiersten White. And this is a hide and seek competition in an abandoned amusement park with prize money that could be life-changing for the main character, who has nothing but the clothes on her back. But then it turns sinister. With 14 contestants, only one can win.

LAYNE: Ooooo.

KRISTEN: This just makes me think of those Christopher Pike books the 90s, like Funhouse. Scary, creepy. I love it.

LAYNE: Like Christopher Pike meets The Hunger Games.

KRISTEN: Yes, exactly.

LAYNE: Very into this. Okay. Love it. All right. I have a bunch that are May 31st. I guess May 31st is the day for books. So here we go.


LAYNE: Disconnected: How to Stay Human in an Online World by Emma Gannon. Emma is the author of one of my favorite tiny books on how to make your life suck less—her last book was called Sabotage: How to Get Out of Your Own Way. And I love that book, I’ve read it several times. I still sabotage myself all the fucking time, but like, she tried.

Her new one Disconnected is about how to disconnect yourself from the hellscape of the internet in these trying times. And I think we all need this, so I’m going to buy it as soon as it comes out and read it over and over—and like, still go on Twitter, I’m sure.

KRISTEN: Sounds amazing.

LAYNE: Okay. So we’ve got The Golden Season by Madeline Kay Sneed, which is a book that is set in a small town that’s obsessed with football, which usually that would not be my thing. I actually have, like, multiple football-related books on this list. Who the fuck am I? But this one is gay.

So the main character is a lesbian, who is living in this football-obsessed small town where her dad is the football coach. And then she meets an alluring graduate student with an undercut and uh… I think we all know what happens then.


LAYNE: It literally says that in the cover copy, that she has an undercut. I love that. Cause that’s such, like—for all of us, we’re like, ahhh.

KRISTEN: Yes. We’re like, okay, I see where you’re going here.

LAYNE: It’s gay! And the author’s bio says she writes about the intersection of queerness and faith, which I think is super interesting and something we need more of, even though I am not a religious person—except for when it comes to hot priests, like I said. Yeah, this one looks really good. I’m all for all the gay books.


LAYNE: Then we have another author we’re interviewing very soon, Juno Dawson, who’s the author of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven.

KRISTEN: I’m so excited to read this today.

LAYNE: So excited. I am almost done with it at the time that we’re recording this, and I am obsessed. Like I need it to be a movie or a very prestige TV show immediately. It’s so good. It’s this whole magical world. And Juno is a trans activist, and she said she basically wrote this because fuck J.K. Rowling and all the TERFs in the UK and everywhere. And amen to that.


LAYNE: So the publicist who pitched us for this, the headline was: it’s like the Spice Girls, but with witches. Have you ever heard a better pitch in your goddamn life?

KRISTEN: That is just perfect.

LAYNE: It’s perfect. I love everything about it. And I thought maybe that was just sort of oh, it’s like, cause they’re a group of friends or whatever, but there are many Spice Girls references within the text. So, delightful, love it, perfect. We are the target audience for this, exactly.

And then my final one for May 31st is How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelman. This came highly recommended by friend of the podcast Halley Sutton, and it imagines classic fairytale characters as modern women in a support group for trauma. Yeah, all those bitches from fairytales definitely need therapy, so excited to read that as well.

KRISTEN: I have a week later on June 7th, A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poison by Kate Khavari, which is a historical fiction mystery set at the University College London, where a newly-minted research assistant attends a dinner party where unexpectedly one of the professor’s wives drops dead, poisoned by an unknown toxin. And Saffron, the main character, has to use her knowledge of botany to help clear the name of her mentor. So poisons, dark gardens, greenhouses, creepy shit.

LAYNE: Love it.

KRISTEN: Sounds like a lot of fun.

LAYNE: Yeah. Also on June 7th is The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill, which is a locked room mystery set in the reading room at the Boston Public Library. I’m like, what’s wrong with you? You’re locked in there, it’s fine. You just stay.

KRISTEN: Just stay.

LAYNE: But I assume someone dies or something bad happens. But that’s really all I need to know. I would love to be locked in there.

KRISTEN: Yes. Oh, that sounds so just like—I can just picture it. I love it. Sometimes I hear about other people’s books, and I’m like, everyone else writes books that are so much more interesting than mine. Ever feel like that?

LAYNE: Yeah, I do feel like that. Yeah. There’s an art to writing a book that’s so high concept and easily pitchable, like locked room mystery at the Boston Public Library reading room. You’re like, okay, I’m in. Great. I don’t need to know anything else. Spice Girls with witches, excellent.


LAYNE: It’s all about the pitch.

So June 7th also, there is a book coming out by Anna Dorn called Exalted. It is literary fiction about a depressed millennial astrologer and a self-hating lesbian with a rage problem. So very relatable content.

KRISTEN: Amazing.

LAYNE: Very into that. Also June 7th: For the Throne by Hannah Whitten, who we will be featuring on the show soon. Hannah is another friend of mine from Pitch Wars, and this is the sequel to her New York Times bestselling debut novel For the Wolf. If you’ve read For the Wolf—which if you haven’t, go get it right now—this new book is about the twin sister of the main character from that book. And there’s a very sexy romance with a very bad man. So I liked it a lot.

KRISTEN: So of course, you are like, sign me up.

LAYNE: The whole time Hannah was writing this, she was telling me what a problem this man would be in my life. And she is correct. Yes.

Also the main character For the Throne is much more of a classic unlikeable female character. She’s very prickly and ambitious and ruthless, and I like her a lot. Like I love Red from the first book, but her sister is a badass, so big fan of that.

And then… Jesus, there’s so many on June 7th! Okay. Here’s my other football one: Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler.


LAYNE: I got an ARC, and I read it in a day a couple weekends ago. And it was just delightful.

So this is a YA novel about a romance between a cheerleader and a female quarterback. And it is based on that viral photo—like a few years ago, do you remember that? It was like the female quarterback and her, I think friend, but everyone wanted it to be her girlfriend, is putting her hair back in a ponytail, and it’s so adorable.

This book was just a delight. And one thing I really loved about it that I haven’t seen a lot in YA, but maybe we’ll start seeing more of, is not only were the main characters queer and there’s a queer romance, the main character’s mom was bisexual as well. So the parents were queer. That’s where we are now in YA. I love it.

KRISTEN: I love that. YA is just like leaps and bounds beyond where adult writing is in terms of representation.

LAYNE: I know.

KRISTEN: It’s fucking wild.

LAYNE: Yeah. Still on June 7th, a great day for books: So Happy for You by Celia Laskey. Literally the best title ever, furious that I did not think of this title myself. So this is about a wedding weekend gone wrong, and the cover is bright pink, and it has a bouquet in flames. I mean, come on. Perfect.

Okay. Then June 14th, we have Can’t Look Away by Carola Lovering. She writes interesting, like, millennial domestic suspense about toxic relationships. I really enjoyed her previous books.

And this one is about a woman who had an affair with a rock star a decade ago. And now in the present day, this mysterious woman comes to her town who has some connection to the past and drama ensues. I feel like Carola’s books, they’re kind of hard to describe, but once you’re in them, you’re like in it.


LAYNE: Just lots of drama and intrigue and beautiful people.

Okay. Also June 14th, Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created the Internet as We Know It by Kaitlyn Tiffany. This is nonfiction and it’s giving fangirl culture the serious analysis that it fucking deserves. So very excited about that. I think there’s a lot of focus in this on One Direction fandom, which is not a fandom I’m a part of, but I’m very fascinated by all of it.

KRISTEN: I like it.

LAYNE: Okay. June 14th, These Little Deaths by Kelsey Gerber. So this one’s by a friend of mine who lives here in Chicago, and I believe is a listener to the show—so hi, Kelsey, if you’re listening to this! And this is her debut, it’s a suspense novel about a woman on the run from past family trauma. And it also has a hot romance with a queer bartender that she meets while she’s on the run. And she has to decide if she’s going to open up about her past to find love, or just keep running. But you know, a hot bartender can make you change your plans.

I loved the relationship in this book so much. They’re adorable, and I love them. Okay, so that’s June 14th. And if you’re in Chicago, Kelsey is having a launch party that day. So you should follow her on Instagram. I will definitely be stopping by.

Okay. June 21st, Girls They Write Songs About by Carlene Bauer. This is about a complicated friendship between two women who work at a music magazine in the 90s. I’m seeing all these 90s books coming out now, and it hurts me deeply that the 90s is historical fiction now, but I’m also very interested.

KRISTEN: Yeah, it’s like gross, but it’s also really exciting to get to revel in it.

LAYNE: We must accept it. My partner said such a hurtful thing to me the other day, where he was like, for kids today, the 90s are like what the 70s were to us. And I was like, shut the fuck up. Why would you say something so awful?

KRISTEN: How dare he say that?

LAYNE: I know, terrible. But yeah, I just saw another book in Publisher’s Lunch that was about 90s grunge rockers and stuff. So it seems like it’s a thing now. I’m here for it, even though it makes me feel like an ancient crone.

KRISTEN: Yes, for sure. Next we have Sandra SG Wong’s In the Dark We Forget. And we’re going to have her on the show… before this episode?

LAYNE: No, I think it’s like, after. We already recorded it. So it’s confusing. And also, what is time?

KRISTEN: Okay. So at some time before or after this episode, you can hear the previously-recorded interview with Sandra about her new thriller, that’s psychological, but a little bit domestic suspense-y, and very cool.

LAYNE: Yeah, it’s about a woman who wakes up with amnesia and has to figure out who she is, and what happened to her, and if she did something very bad, and all that good thriller stuff.

And my last one for June 21st was The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark, which is a thriller about a con woman and a woman who she conned in the past, who now wants revenge. But then they develop—it sounds from the copy, like a friendship? But I am really hoping this one’s gay. I haven’t read it yet, but fingers crossed it’s gay. Even if it’s not gay, it sounds good. But if it’s gay, it sounds excellent.

KRISTEN: Yeah, it definitely has the potential to go there, so let’s hope it does.

LAYNE: Yes. Fingers crossed it’s gay. Basically every book I pick up, I’m like, I hope it’s gay.


LAYNE: All right. June 28th. Let’s go.

KRISTEN: So my one contribution for this date is a young adult contemporary fantasy by Melissa Albert called Our Crooked Hearts. The tagline is: secrets lies, super bad choices, witchcraft. I feel like that’s all you need to know.

LAYNE: There you go.

KRISTEN: Sign me up. Let’s go.

LAYNE: Our work is done here. But that sounds good.

I also have a YA fantasy for June 28th, This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede which is about a girl who has magical powers that end up killing every suitor that she touches. Which, you know, it happens.

KRISTEN: She’s from Pitch Wars, right?

LAYNE: Yeah, she’s from Pitch Wars. And Emily is also the reason that I wrote They Never Learn. There was a tweet that she did that led me to be inspired to write that book, and I dedicated the book to her. So very excited for her debut to finally hit shelves. It has a gorgeous cover, and I’ve been seeing it everywhere.

I also read, I guess it was just like the first chapter or two, of an earlier version way back in the day. And it has this really cool, like Italy-inspired setting. That’s very nice to think about just like being somewhere else. I feel like I’m so much more attracted to books like that now, whether it’s a fantasy world or the real world, as long as it’s not like here. I just want to go somewhere else.

But yeah. So July 5th, Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore. She wrote Oona Out of Order, which I absolutely loved. I don’t even know how to describe the genre of that book. It’s about a woman who wakes up, every New Year’s I think, at a different time in her life. Like she might wake up one year and she’s 20, and one year and she’s 50, and then she’s 32, and it’s fascinating.

So this is Margarita’s new book. This one is about a woman whose iconic magician sister vanishes mid-act. And there’s this big mystery about where she went, if she’s dead or alive, or like how this happened. And it has sections that are podcast transcripts and documents and things, which I absolutely love.

So I have an ARC of this one and I’m like, I want to read it so bad, but I have all these other things I have to read first. It’s killing me. It’s killing me. Hopefully by the time this comes out, I’ll have read it.

KRISTEN: That sounds amazing. I can’t wait to get my hands on that.

LAYNE: And then I forgot to write down the date for this one, but I think it’s July 12th? We’ll find out. What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix by Tasha Suri, which is a retelling of Wuthering Heights, YA I believe, where both Heathcliff and Cathy are people of color.

And I am obsessed with Wuthering Heights. By the time this airs, you’ll have heard my interview with Hannah Gregory, so you’ll know what a fucking freak I am for Wuthering Heights.

But this one sounds really cool, cause it’s by an author of color and really putting it into the historical context of what it would have been like to be a person of color back then, which—there’s been a lot of discourse about the fact that Heathcliff, in the original book, he’s not white. They don’t really say what race he is, what ethnicity, and he doesn’t know his background, but he’s like very clearly not white. But I don’t think Emily Brontë knew enough to really handle that in a sensitive manner. So I’m glad to see authors now taking that on and putting their own spin on it. So I’m really excited for this one.

KRISTEN: Yeah, that sounds great. Okay. July 19th, I have The Swell by Allie Reynolds. She’s the author of Shiver, which we talked about on one of our preview episodes which was a locked room, snowboarding-type mystery.

So The Swell is described as Point Break meets And Then There Were None. So, hell yes. And it explores dangerous ties between a group of elite surfers who are determined to find the perfect waves at any cost—even murder.

LAYNE: Ooh, I have this one on my list too. And Allie is so cool, cause she was a professional snowboarder, and she’s a surfer also. She’s just a badass right? I can’t wait to sit on my couch and eat, like, Cheetos and read about these professional athletes. It’s going to be great.

KRISTEN: Amen. And then also on July 19th, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno Garcia which is a re-imagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the backdrop of 19th century Mexico. Sounds amazing. We adore Silvia Moreno Garcia on this podcast, so I cannot wait.

LAYNE: I had that one on my list too, and I didn’t write anything about it. Like I wrote a little thing for most of these. I just wrote: literally what else do I have to say besides that title? Pre-order it now. I stand by that.


LAYNE: Such a good title.

Okay. I’ve got Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey, which is a haunted house book about a woman with a serial killer father, a parasitic artist living in the guest house, and this artist is using her childhood with the serial killer father for his art. So I assume something very bad will happen to him, and he will deserve it. It looks super creepy. We talked about their book The Echo Wife on a previous episode, and I read and loved that. So very excited for Just Like Home.

Then I’ve got The Pink Hotel by Liska Jacobs, which is set in a fancy Beverly Hills hotel during a wildfire, where there’s all this conflict between the wealthy guests and the staff. And I’m getting major White Lotus vibes from this. I love that show.

KRISTEN: I haven’t heard of this one, but I need that now.

LAYNE: Yeah. Yeah, it sounds great. I’m hoping this brings the eat the rich vibes that we all need right now.


LAYNE: Okay. And then Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy. Now, okay: this book is by a man. I know.

KRISTEN: Oh, how dare.

LAYNE: I know, but it’s a horror novel, starring an angry middle-aged woman who may or may not be a reincarnated serial killer. So I’m very interested in this. I just got an advanced copy of it, so I haven’t read it yet. So I’m going to reserve judgment. Because a man did write it, but some men are talented and smart. Like you can’t judge all of them.

KRISTEN: That’s true, but.

LAYNE: We definitely have a reputation, because the publicist who approached me about this, she’s like, I know you don’t ever feature men on the show.

KRISTEN: I love that reputation for us.

LAYNE: I know, me too. But I had heard about this one when it was first announced and it sounds really interesting. You just don’t see, written by men or women or anyone, a lot of like angry middle-aged female protagonists who get to be like really fucked up and all that.

And then my last one for the 19th is Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier. And I literally do not care what this is about because it’s Jennifer Hillier, and I will buy anything that she writes, but it sounds really good. It’s about a woman who may or may not have murdered her celebrity husband.


LAYNE: I hope she did.

KRISTEN: I hope so too. I’m sure he deserved it.

LAYNE: I’m sure. July 26th, Seeing Strangers by Sebastian J. Plata. This is a thriller about a gay couple who are trying to close their open marriage before having a baby. But then, you know, it does not go as planned.

It’s really giving like Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon vibes. And I am just so glad we’re getting to this point where we can have all of these messy, morally gray queer people in thrillers, that they’re just as fucked up as the straight people, and their marriages are just as fucked up. I’m very here for that.

KRISTEN: Yes, love it. True equality.

LAYNE: True equality!

KRISTEN: That’s when we can all be just as messy as the straights.

LAYNE: We can all have shitty marriages! Nate and I were bingeing that Netflix show, The Ultimatum. Have you seen this trash?

KRISTEN: I have not.

LAYNE: Oh my God, you need to watch it. It’s about these couples where one person wants to get married, like right the fuck now, and the other person doesn’t. And so they go on the show, hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, and they have to break up essentially. And they get paired up with one of the other people, like from one of the other couples. And they live together in these hotel rooms for a couple of weeks and have to work on their issues. It is a mess.

KRISTEN: It sounds like a mess.

LAYNE: It’s a mess. It’s crazy. But the whole time I was watching it, I was just like, ugh, straight people. Oh my God, like the worst. And then I found out that the second season is going to have all queer couples, so I’m gonna have to shut my mouth. They’re coming for us.


LAYNE: Like I watch these shows so I can judge straight people. Ugh.

KRISTEN: Ugh. That’s exciting, though. It’s exciting, the idea of an entire season of the messiness with just all queer couples. Love that.

LAYNE: Yeah, it’s going to be a hot mess. Can’t wait.

Okay. August 1st, we have Kismet by Amina Ahktar. She is also coming on the show. I don’t know when. Eventually.

This is set at a Sedona wellness retreat. And Amina, we had her on the show, like way, way back when, like one of our first couple of episodes, I think, about her book, #FashionVictim, which is just vicious and delightful. And this one’s taking on the wellness industry and specifically the kind of Goop, like vagina crystal, kind of wellness industry. So I am so, so, so excited for this, and to talk to kiher about it later this summer,

KRISTEN: Yes. All right. On August 9th, I have Stay Awake by Megan Goldin. It’s about a woman who wakes up in the back of a taxi, no idea where she is or how she got there, but her hands are covered in scribbled messages that say “stay awake.” So what’s that all about? I don’t know. We’ll have to find out.

LAYNE: I don’t know. That sounds stressful.

KRISTEN: It does.

LAYNE: That sounds amazing. I do have one more for August 2nd, which is Ben and Beatriz by Katalina Gamarra. This is a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing starring a pansexual Latina woman with a shaved head. The pitch was like, Shakesqueer fans, and I was like, it’s me! I’m the one!

KRISTEN: Oh man. We are so lucky to be living in this time of all of these retellings. Oh my God. Just give it to me.

LAYNE: Yeah. Yes, totally. Because these classic stories, you could have every author on earth retell them, and they would all be different, and they would mostly be interesting. Some of them would be by white cis men, and we don’t want those, but the rest of them would be great.

Yeah. I’m so fascinated by all the different ways people interpret Shakespeare and other classic works, and so very excited about this. But some of these pitches, man, I’m just like, uh yeah, okay, give it to me. Like you, you did it. You got my interest. Just that, that subject line, that’s all I needed.

KRISTEN: That’s amazing.

LAYNE: Shakesqueer. It’s me. I feel so seen.


LAYNE: Okay. And then on August 9th, You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa, who we interviewed about her debut My Sweet Girl. So this is another wedding weekend gone wrong thriller. I don’t know what is in the water. We haven’t been able to go to weddings for so long that people really thought about how fucked up they are, maybe? I don’t know.


LAYNE: But so this one’s set in Sri Lanka, as part of My Sweet Girl was, and in this case at the wedding, the groom is the main characters ex-boyfriend, and she’s there to pull a Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding and fuck shit up. And then the bride goes missing. Dun dun dun.

Amanda is so good at these setups. I remember reading the cover copy for My Sweet Girl too, and just being like, this sounds like a whole fucking thriller and you’re just setting it up, what else is going to happen? I’m so interested.

KRISTEN: I love it.

LAYNE: Yeah.

KRISTEN: When did My Sweet Girl come out? Was that just this year or was it last year? I’ve lost all sense of time.

LAYNE: Last year. Like last fall, maybe?

KRISTEN: Oh, okay. I was going to say, damn, she has another book out already? But time has collapsed upon itself. I don’t know.

LAYNE: I think it was last September.


LAYNE: So like, a year.

KRISTEN: It shows what I know. I would have been like, it was yesterday. Who knows.

LAYNE: It was yesterday. So prolific.

KRISTEN: Yes. That sounds incredible.

LAYNE: Okay. I’ve got a couple on August 16th. Do you have any for that date?

KRISTEN: Yes. I have All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers. And Ashley Flowers is a true crime podcast host, which I think is pretty cool. So she’s written a novel about hometown secrets and a disappearance. And I love how, the line between podcasting and storytelling is getting so blurry and people who do one are doing the other now. I just think that’s very exciting.

LAYNE: Yeah, that sounds cool. So I have on August 16th, Complicit by Winnie M. Li, which is about a former Hollywood producer whose career was cut short because of a shitty dude who sounds very, like, Harvey Weinstein-esque, and she has a chance now in the present to get revenge on him. And I hope she does.

KRISTEN: Me too. He definitely deserves it as well.

LAYNE: Yeah. I’m just like, I’ve never met these men, but they all deserve it. Go get them, girl.

KRISTEN: I’m confident of nothing else, but the fact that they deserve it. Yes.

LAYNE: Yes. And then also on August 16th is The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead.

KRISTEN: That’s on my list too.

LAYNE: Yes. We want to interview Ashley. I haven’t officially asked her yet. Maybe I will have, by the time this comes out, but if not, and she’s listening to this, like slide into my DMs, Ashley.

This is by the author of In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, one of the best-ever titles. And it is about a woman who is trying to destroy a cult from the inside. And I keep seeing this on Bookstagram, and every single person reviewing it is just like, this book is insane.


LAYNE: My expectations are high, but I am sure that Ashley will meet or exceed them. She’s very talented. She also wrote a book that came out earlier this year that’s like a romcom? So she is multitalented, I’m obsessed.

KRISTEN: That’s amazing. It’s amazing to be able to write a romcom and a book that’s insane and described as a pitch black thriller. Like I love that.

LAYNE: Yeah. Yeah. I love romcoms, but if I even think about writing one, I’m just like, and then they meet and they fall in love and then one of them is dead.

KRISTEN: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t have the ability to not have there be murder in my ideas, it’s just like—

LAYNE: Or at least like betrayal or revenge or yeah, if people are just happy, I just can’t, my brain doesn’t work that way. It won’t accept that reality. So I’m very impressed by people who can do both.

KRISTEN: Yes. All right. What’d you got next?

LAYNE: On August 23rd, I have The Darkness of Others by my Young Rich Widows coauthor, Cate Holahan. This is about a woman who is investigating the disappearance of her friend, who is the trophy wife of a famous movie director who’s recently been murdered. So everyone thinks the trophy wife did it. And again, I think this book is about the main character trying to prove that her friend didn’t do this, but I’m like maybe she did. And maybe he deserved it. I don’t know.

KRISTEN: Safe to assume that he did.

LAYNE: Yeah. Cate is a master of the domestic thriller, so very excited for her latest.

And then I’ve got a couple of others on August 23rd, both of which are romance novels, cause we gotta change it up sometimes. Would You Rather by Alison Ashley—this is about a woman who has a chronic illness, and she marries her best friend to scam the health insurance company. But then of course they actually fall in love, one would presume. So, very excited about this because of the chronic illness rep and the fuck you to the health insurance industry. And I assume the hot banging. So, this has everything that I love.


LAYNE: And then also August 23rd, Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood. This is the follow-up to The Love Hypothesis, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 1 million years. Have you read this book?

KRISTEN: I have not.

LAYNE: Okay. It’s adorable. And it is very clearly—and the author has said this—based on Reylo fan fiction, like Rey and Kylo Ren from Star Wars. The cover even looks like them. So I had heard about it and I was like, that sounds cute. And then I heard it was based on Reylo fanfiction and I was like, I need this book immediately.

And then I read it so fast, and I’m so mad at myself, because if I could go back in time, I would savor it. I should just read it again. But I was just like obsessed with it and that it was over. And I was like, why did I read it so fast? Why did I do this to myself? I have no more serotonin, help. So very excited about her having a new book out, which I’m sure will dominate the charts as well.

All right. And then August 30th, this is my most anticipated book of the year, like no contest. And that is Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid. So I love Taylor Jenkins Reid. I love everything she does. She’s brilliant. Like I want to be her. She’s incredible. Obsessed with her books. But this one I’m especially excited for it, because it is about a controversial female tennis star making a comeback and like taking on her rival and they have this sort of complicated relationship—which again, I’m hoping is gay. We’ll see.


LAYNE: This character had a little cameo in Malibu Rising, which was Taylor’s last book. And I love how she’s basically creating this, like, Taylor Jenkins Reid cinematic universe with all these characters who cross over in her version of LA. I’m deeply obsessed with that. And I can’t wait to read this.

The cover is glorious. It’s this beautiful woman and all like gold and yeah. The day this comes out, no one speak to me, no one look at me, I’ll only be reading this book. All right. That’s the end of my list.

KRISTEN: All right. I want to shout out September 1st, Kelly J. Ford, Real Bad Things. We will be having Kelly on to talk about it.

But her debut Cottonmouths was just dirty and hot and amazing, and Real Bad Things revisits that Southern poor noir area. It’s got a gorgeous cover with a beat-up trailer on it. And this is all about a woman, Jane, whose violent stepfather disappeared 25 years ago, and she confessed to his murder. And she should have gone to jail, but without a body, police didn’t charge her with a crime. So she left, but 25 years later, the body is back.

LAYNE: Ohhhh.

KRISTEN: So that can of worms is getting opened.

LAYNE: But he deserved it!

KRISTEN: He definitely deserved it.

LAYNE: They all deserved it. Ugh, case closed.

KRISTEN: I think we know the title for this episode.

LAYNE: They all deserved it.

KRISTEN: Yes. And then September 13th, I’m the Girl, Courtney Summers. Holy shit, this book looks good.

LAYNE: Yes. And we are also interviewing her, which that will not be out until September around the time that the book comes out. But we’re very excited. She’s like a holy grail guest for us, for sure. She’s been one of those authors, like Gillian Flynn, who’s created the way that we all talk about unlikeable female characters presently. Like she’s a trailblazer. We love her.

So, very excited to talk to her about that book. It looks intense. It’s based on the whole Jeffrey Epstein thing a little bit, I think. So I’m going to have a lot of emotions when I read it, but that’s what Courtney’s books do to you, they make you feel everything.

KRISTEN: They do.

LAYNE: And they make you really angry at men who deserve all the bad things that happened to them. That’s definitely the theme of this episode.

KRISTEN: Wow. It’s a big summer for books, as always.

LAYNE: Whew, yeah. Damn. Now I have a lot of reading to do.


LAYNE: Better not talk to any humans all summer. I think that’s the plan.

KRISTEN: That’s a good plan, even if you didn’t have a lot of reading to do. But if you have an excuse, then certainly you are excepted from talking to humans, all summer.

LAYNE: Yes. All right, thank you, everyone. We will have a Bookshop link with all of these books, so you can find and purchase them. Or you can go to your local indie bookseller, of course. And if there are any we missed that you think should be on our radar, let us know on social media.

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