Wednesday, August 7, 2019

My Summer Reading List (so far...)

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand
Every summer I try to read Hilderbrand's new release and this year was no exception.  I certainly enjoyed this one, and it was somewhat more complex than some of her books, but I don't think it was the best.  I found some of her efforts to include current events from that summer were a bit forced (e.g. the character based in Martha's Vineyard just happens to work at the hotel where Ted Kennedy stays that fateful summer and meets the woman who eventually dies when his car plunges into the water).

The story revolves around one family who has always spent the summer at their grandmother's home on Nantucket.  This year is different - only 13 year old Jessie and her mother make the trip.  Her older brother has been drafted and is serving in Vietnam, her oldest sister is pregnant with twins and staying in Boston with her husband and the other sister, the family rebel, has decided to summer on Martha's Vineyard instead. Jessie's dad (and step dad of all the other siblings) stays at home to work and only comes out on the odd weekend.

Jessie thinks her time will be boring but she discovers a boy a few years older than her, the son of the family's caretaker, is living in a small house on the property.  She develops a crush on him and spends time with him when not forced to take tennis lessons at her grandmother's club.  She has brushes with anti-semitism and sexual harassment while at the tennis club which are life lessons for her.

Eventually her eldest sister believes her husband is having an affair, gets caught kissing his brother and is kicked out of her home so ends up on the island where she eats and mopes.  This sister's husband conveniently works as a scientist for NASA and is involved in the moon landing so that world event can be woven into the narrative.

The sister in Martha's Vineyard is disillusioned by the Kennedy event and the reactions to her having a black boyfriend so she makes her way to Nantucket too.  And Jessie's dad shows up once convinced his wife is not drinking excessively as she worries about her son.  Only the brother in Vietnam doesn't arrive.

The biggest revelation for Jessie are secrets from her family's past and present which she discovers both through careful observation and her mother's stories.  I won't ruin those for you though I did figure them out faster than Jessie did.

An easy summer read if not great literature.

Here's Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane
This was a fun romantic comedy.  Anna Alessi is a thirty something history professor whose life is quite satisfactory, except that she is looking for love.  She tries online dating and seems to only attract weirdos.  She is also still traumatized from the bullying she suffered in high school when she was many pounds heavier, still used her original more ethnic name and really didn't fit in.

When a high school reunion is scheduled Anna's friend convinces her she should go to put her high school demons behind her.  While there she encounters the main perpetrator of her high school humiliation, James, who is still as good looking as he always was and has no idea who she is.

Then, coincidentally shortly after James shows up at her workplace to work on a project.  Against her better judgment she slowly becomes his friend - without revealing who she is.  The resulting encounters are both funny and at times sad.  There are also side stories about her relationships with James' friend from high school - a serial womanizer who tries his luck with Anna - and another professor who seems harmless but has some troubling quirks as well.  Moreover James is working through his failed marriage.

Quite entertaining though mindless reading.  Perfect for summer.

One Day in December by Josie Silver
This is yet another one of my summer romance genre reads.  Laurie is on a bus one day in December when she makes eye contact with a man at a bus stop and instantly falls in love.  She tries unsuccessfully to find him, and when she has all but given up he appears at her doorstep.  As the boyfriend of her best friend and roommate, Sarah.  Laurie never admits to Sarah that Jack (the boyfriend) is also the man from the bus as Sarah is very serious about him.

The book covers the next ten years of their lives - Sarah and Jack stay together, Laurie marries someone else, never sure if Jack remembers who she really is, and Laurie and Jack have repeated awkward encounters.

It's not a very believable story, but it is entertaining.

99 Percent Mineby Sally Thorne
Darcy Barrett has only really loved one man, Tom Valeska, who was a childhood neighbour and her twin brother Jamie's best friend.  Because of the relationship with her brother, Darcy has never acted on her feelings for Tom and has spent many years travelling from place to place and avoiding any sort of commitment.

When Darcy's grandmother dies and leaves her old cottage to the twins, they agree it must be renovated and sold - and Tom is the only man for the job.  Since Jamie is employed and Darcy is not she stays in the cottage to oversee the renovations and of course sparks fly with Tom.  Tom also tries to lead Darcy back to her true path as a photographer.

The relationship and the narrative are fairly predictable, but still interesting.  I didn't like it as much as The Hating Game (review below).

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Lucy and Joshua are both assistants at a publishing firm and are forced to work in the same office, but unfortunately they hate each other - or so they think.  They also seem to be polar opposites - Joshua is uptight, organized and meticulous, but maintains his distance from other employees (he even wears his shirts in a regular rotation).  Lucy is quirky, sparkly, popular with her colleagues and very agreeable to their demands.

At a work event Lucy becomes very sick and Joshua is forced to take her home and nurses her back to health - even inviting his doctor brother to make a house call.  There she overhears the pressure on Joshua to attend his brother's wedding which he clearly does not want to do.  So she agrees to go as his date.  There the truth of their feelings for each other finally emerges and the book ends as one might expect.

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery
Sunshine and Margot are fraternal twins who come from a long line of women who are unlucky in love.  Margot is an etiquette coach who is hired to coach an aging movie star, Bianca, who has a history of over the top behaviour, on proper manners for the wife of a diplomat as she is engaged to marry one.  For reasons that are not really obvious, though are convenient, she must move into Bianca's house to do the training.  There she spends more and more time with Bianca's academic, serious, and intensely private son - with predictable results.

Sunshine has never really found her calling and is working as a live in nanny for a widower and his 8 year old son while she goes to college at the relatively advanced age of 30.  Again the development of her relationship with her employer is not surprising.

I liked the characters in this book and it was an easy fun read but something you can definitely miss unless you're in the mood for fluff.

My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax
The easy reading books have been coming from the library fast and furiously this summer and this is another one of them - although the focus on this book is more on familial relationships and platonic friendship than romance.

Kendra was a teenage mother who moved to the Outer Banks with her newborn after she left her fiancé at the alter and her father wanted to take the baby away and give her up for adoption.  There Kendra raised her daughter, posing as a widow.  Fast forward many years and her daughter, Lauren, is a successful author who is engaged to be married.  She returns to town from New York to scout out potential wedding venues and to see "the dress" - a family wedding dress that has passed to various members for their weddings.

Lauren is somewhat reluctant to return as she must contend with Bree, her former best friend.  The two had a falling out when Bree refused to go to New York after college, as she had promised, and instead stayed home and married Lauren's ex-boyfriend.  Bree is angry as she feels the book that made Lauren's career is based on an idea that the two had developed together.

Laughter and tears ensue when the two former best friends are reunited, Bree's marriage is suffering as is Lauren's career and Lauren's supposedly dead father shows up on her doorstep.

An entertaining read - I enjoyed the characters and it was nice to see romance on the back burner for a change.

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
This was a short and fairly interesting book.  It primarily takes place in the summer of 1987 when Eve Rosen, an aspiring writer, quits her job as a low level assistant at a publishing company.  Instead she joins her family in their Cape Cod home.  There she has always mingled with her parents' professional friends but this year she somehow scores an invitation to a party at the home of two local authors where she mingles with more artsy folk.

She has a brief dalliance with their son but is then hired to work for the father.  Star struck by working for this somewhat has been writer a personal relationship develops between them.  But at an annual end of summer book party, where everyone dresses as the character from a book, Eve discovers that her secrets are not the biggest ones plaguing this family.

All of the characters in this book are quite interesting - especially Eve, her employer and his wife, and another author who is about to make it big based on a book with a somewhat questionable origin.  Eve has to figure out how to deal with all of the secrets and what it will take to make her really fit in with this artistic crowd by writing a book of her own.

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