Photo credit: @she.reads.alot

Each month, BookSparks founder Crystal Patriarche is reading and bingeing some of the best new books that need to be on your radar. As we officially hit vacation season, make sure you stock up on these breathtaking beach reads!

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (4/4)

If all goes well, Loretta Thurwar will be freed from prison soon. Her lover and teammate, Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of the Chain-Gang All-Stars, where they compete in death matches in exchange for their freedom. When Thurwar shows defiance to the games, CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, the highly popular yet controversial program, will stop at nothing to keep the status quo. Chain-Gang All-Stars uses a kaleidoscope of characters to explore themes of systemic racism and mass incarceration in America by asking: what does freedom really mean in this country?

You are Here by Karin Lin-Greenberg (5/2)

You Are Here is a novel that explores the interconnected lives of the inhabitants of a small town centered around a struggling shopping mall. From the only hair stylist at Sunshine Clips to the high school cashier in the food court, the characters are flawed, lovable and unforgettable. As they navigate their complicated lives, their paths cross and culminate in a moment that changes everything for them all.

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune (5/2)

Fern Brookbanks can’t stop thinking about the handsome stranger that she spent an adventurous twenty-four hours with in her early twenties. They shared everything that day, but Will Baxter didn’t show up a year later like they had planned. Now Fern is thirty-two, and her life isn’t how she thought it’d be: back home to run her mother’s lakeside resort, where her ex-boyfriend is the manager, and Fern needs a lifeline. When it shows up in the form of Will, she isn’t sure she can trust him, especially because she knows he’s hiding something. Can Fern save Will the way he saved her almost ten years ago?

Love Buzz by Neely Tubati-Alexander (5/2)

Serena Khan isn’t enjoying her estranged cousin’s four-day bachelorette party in New Orleans, until she meets a fellow Seattleite, and sparks fly. After their abrupt meeting, Serena is determined to find her mystery man, but her list of clues is not long. All she knows is his name is Julian, he lives on Chamber Hill, works at a tech company, and loves Lil Wayne and Nirvana. But the perfectly curated, stable life that her late mother insisted upon is within reach—and it does not include combing the streets of Seattle in search of her New Orleans’ flame.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry (5/2)

During the Second World War, fourteen-year-old Hazel and her younger sister Flora are evacuated to a rural village to avoid the dangers of war. Hazel creates an imaginary world for Flora, where they can escape from reality and enjoy their own secret land. But Flora disappears, and Hazel carries the guilt with her into adulthood. Years later, a book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars arrives, and Hazel thinks it could hold the key to her sister’s disappearance. As she investigates, she revisits her past and faces the truth about her sister in this original novel about sisterhood and the power of storytelling.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (5/16)

June Hayward and Athena Liu are authors breaking into the publishing industry, and both graduated from Yale. But June couldn’t even get a paperback deal, and Athena is a literary darling, telling more-than boring stories about white girls. When June witnesses a freak accident involving Athena, she steals her almost-finished manuscript, telling the story of Chinese laborers during WWI. June convinces herself that the story needs to be told, and edits the work as her own. Rebranding herself using an ambiguously ethnic author photo and the name Juniper Song, June finds herself very protective of her secret, convinced she deserves her stolen success.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (5/2)

The Covenant of Water is a novel set in Kerala, India, spanning from 1900 to 1977, depicting the affliction of drowning that plagues a family across three generations. The story centers around Big Ammachi, a young girl from a Christian community who travels by boat to meet her much older husband for the first time. Throughout her extraordinary life, she experiences both joy and sorrow, while witnessing significant changes and advancements in medicine and human understanding. This novel serves as a powerful tribute to the sacrifices made by past generations and a hymn to progress and human resilience.

The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams (5/16)

The protagonist in The Three of Us seemingly has everything she could want: a beautiful home, a loyal husband, and a witty best friend named Temi. However, when Temi joins her for a day of wine, snacks, and humorously critiquing the husband’s faults, secrets are revealed that shake their relationship. The story is told in three sections, each from a different perspective: the wife, the husband, and the best friend. This fast-paced and comedic novel is a thought-provoking exploration of cultural truths, defiance, and the complexity of love and betrayal.

Famous for a Living by Melissa Ferguson (5/16)

Cat Cranwell is a superstar influencer, but when her business partner is accused of serious financial crimes, she just wants to get away from the internet trolls and paparazzi that want to document her demise. When her uncle offers her a job working at Kannery National Park in Montana, she agrees, despite it being way out of her comfort zone. Her accustomed life of “likes” and brand deals is replaced with freezing temperatures and tent-sized cabins. And then there’s park ranger Zaiah, and although he despises all things social media, she’s falling hard for him. As she bears the bitter cold, she also begins to reacquaint with her true self, and wonders if she’s capable of loving herself, even when the world’s not watching.

Summer Stage by Meg Mitchell Moore (5/23)

Amy Trevino, English teacher and occasional drama director, is a former aspiring playwright, while her brother, Timothy Fleming, has gone off to achieve his Hollywood dreams. Amy takes on the role of production manager in her brother’s play, attempting to mend family wounds. Her daughter Sam, once a Disney child star, has been pursuing fame at a TikTok house, and returned home suddenly, refusing to talk to Amy about it and moving to Block Island with her uncle Tim. As the three grapple with trying to make the production a success, they’ll also discover what it is they want out of life.

Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum (5/23)

Every summer, Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker rule the town of Salcombe, Fire Island. With their husbands, Sam and Jason, the two hold sway on the beach and the tennis courts. Their friend Rachel Woolf is single and on the prowl, and doesn’t care who’s married. Everything is pretty quiet around Salcombe, until a body is found on the boardwalk, and suddenly the picturesque town is not what it once seemed.

Big Gay Wedding by Byron Lane (5/30)

Barnett is getting married at his mother’s farm for misfit animals; she just doesn’t know it yet. And in their small Louisiana town, there are forces at play that really don’t want to see the handsome couple walk down the aisle. Barnett is planning to ship in two hundred of his most fabulous friends, and after a glitter-filled week, the town may never be the same. A story about unconditional love and a small town that is forever changed.

Drowning by T.J Newman (5/30)

Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean six minutes after takeoff, and during the evacuation, the plane is flooded when an engine explodes. Tragically, twelve passengers are left trapped inside as the plane sinks to the ocean floor. Engineer Will Kent and his daughter Shannon, who are over two hundred feet below the surface, are struggling to stay alive. To save their daughter and the passengers from the sealed airplane, Will and Chris Kent, a professional diver, Shannon’s mother, and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife, must lead an elite rescue team and work together to overcome impossible odds and rescue the trapped individuals. Drowning is an emotionally gripping thriller that highlights a family’s fierce determination to save themselves and others.

Beware the Woman by Megan Abbott (5/30)

Jacy’s mother always wanted her to have everything she wanted, and now, married to Jed and expecting a baby, Jacy feels like she does. They head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to visit Jed’s father, Dr. Ash, but when Jacy experiences a health scare, the vacation takes a dark turn. Jed’s complicated family history and whispers about his deceased mother make Jacy feel trapped and under surveillance, causing her to question her fears and wonder if the greater danger is inside the cottage or out in the dense woods.