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Summer Reading – Part 1

There’s something about summer that just screams “BOOKS!” to me. I’ve gone through dozens to find you the best of the season and, because there are so many good ones, I’m going to extend this theme. For the next three weeks, I’ll be sending you one Summer Reading newsletter each week, filled with 10 must-read book suggestions and a couple of exclusive giveaways. Print out these lists, take them to the bookstore or library, share them with your friends and call your book group members. And please let me know which turn out to be your favorites and if you find any I missed.

“Mercury in Retrograde” by Paula Froelich – To me, the summer reading season officially began with the release of this debut novel by the Deputy Editor of the New York Post’s tell-all Page Six column. It’s everything a good summer book should be – breezy, smart and empowering. I bet neighbors Penelope, Lena and Dana will become your new BFFs as they try to make it in Manhattan. I’d recommend it as a great beach read but know you’ll get so into the story, you may never make it into the water.

“The Divorce Party” by Laura Dave – No wonder Jennifer Aniston’s new production company has already grabbed the rights to this compelling story about a young woman on the verge of marriage and her soon-to-be mother-in-law, who’s ending her own. It’s so easy to relate to both of these women, as they explore their feelings and try to figure out who they – and their partners – really are. Don’t be fooled by the cover into thinking “light as air.”  The story is rich, layered, and as deliciously satisfying as that slice of red velvet cake.

“The Family Man” by Elinor Lipman – There’s a reason Elinor Lipman is one of our favorite authors – she can always be counted on for sharp and witty writing, not to mention dead-on insights into those quirky but well-intentioned characters we call humans. When Henry Archer, a gay, retired lawyer, is reunited with his stepdaughter, it opens up a whole new wacky but wonderful world for both of them. You’ll laugh out loud, and wish your own dad could offer fashion and design advice, along with a shoulder to cry on.

“The Late, Lamented Molly Marx” by Sally Koslow – Voices from the dead are usually somber and chilling. So when the recently-deceased Molly commented, while watching her own funeral, “Wherever it is I’m off to, I hope they notice the shoes,” we were hooked. Even though we know Molly’s already gone, she’s so honest about both her assets and faults, we still root for her to somehow win. Sure, death is at the heart of this dark comedy, but ultimately the book is a celebration of the imperfect lives we choose to lead.

“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci – Combine one former publishing executive with 20 years of dating failures, add a few dozen recipes, some spicy memories and a dollop of humor, and you have the most mouth-watering book of the summer. Believing the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Melucci wholeheartedly embraced the culinary challenge, garnering more success reaching into her own heart along the way. We’re sorry for her heartbreaks but grateful they resulted in recipes like “Pear Cake for Friends with Benefits” and “Ineffectual Eggplant Parmigiana.” Yum.

“Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single” by HeatherMcElhatton – Move over, Bridget Jones. Jennifer Johnson is the new and appealing poster child for funny, intelligent single women looking for love. As everyone around her seems to be getting married – including her younger sister and ex-boyfriend – Jennifer decides to get serious about finding Mr. Right. As her goal becomes a reality, the story heads in the direction of the old saying about being careful what you wish for. This offbeat fairy tale will keep you reading, hoping for – but not convinced of — a happily-ever-after ending.

“All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” by Janelle Brown – We admit that the first thing that attracted us to this summer stunner was the hot fudge sundae dripping down the cover. What kept us turning pages faster and faster, though, were the devastating details of one Silicon Valley family’s downfall. Brown gets the dialogue and the characters so right, you believe you’re reading a true-life account of the self-absorbed actions and mentality that got our country into its current economic hole. With heart and plenty of humor, she sends a positive and important message that giving up things doesn’t mean giving up.

“The Fixer Upper” by Mary Kay Andrews – Sometimes things have to fall apart before they can be put together again – and Mary Kay Andrews is an expert at pulling everything together with equal amounts of Southern charm and sass. When Dempsey Jo Killebrew finds herself out of a job, in the middle of a scandal and in charge of fixing up a dump of a Georgian mansion, she’s forced to start rebuilding from the ground up. This extreme makeover offers practical life and decorating lessons, and proves that it’s possible to remodel and reinvent both yourself and your home.

“Beach Trip” by Cathy Holton – Every summer needs a book about old friends reuniting, and this year this is the one. Mel, Sara, Annie and Lola spend a week at Lola’s beach house to relive those carefree days when they were in college together. As we get to know these women better, they become very real to us, and we begin to care deeply about what’s happened and will happen to them. Holton is a pro at fleshing out characters, and as she interweaves their past and present stories, she throws us a twist that kept us reading late into the night.

“Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire” by Margot Berwin – With prose as lush as the rainforest, this is a fresh and wildly inventive story of a New York ad woman who finds herself in the Yucatan trying to solve a mystery involving some missing exotic plants. The premise is irresistible, the writing is a joy and the plot is filled with helpful hints about dealing with strange creatures of all kinds. Talk about great escapes!

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.

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