Confession. I thought I would be able to power through at least 8 novels on my summer reading list in July because Coach was having a hip replacement (he’s fine, just genetics and decades of sports), and I envisioned a few weeks of laying low and being homebound.
He had surgery on a Friday morning. By Friday afternoon he was walking up and down the street and making cocktails for visitors. Then we binged on the entirety of Ozark, and I am still not really over it. I had an unhealthy crush on Jason Bateman as a teenager and was not prepared to see him as a money-launderer.
So, life resumed quickly, and I did not spend days reading as I had planned.
All that to say, I only made it through 3 of the 8 I planned on reading. But my, my, my- July started an epic reading streak that I’m going to try to continue through August. If none of these are doing it for you, check out my Ultimate Summer Reading List HERE. It won’t be long until homework folders and soccer practice take over the lives of many of you, and there’s always college football which puts a dent in my reading time. So grab a good summer read, get to a pool, a lake, an ocean, or your favorite chair and settle in with a good book.
What I Read in July and How I Liked Them
Beatriz Williams is another of my never-miss authors. I discovered here with Along the Infinite Sea, and have read everything she's published.
If you like historical fiction, and you don't know Beatriz Williams. Well, let me introduce you.
The Golden Hour takes place in the Bahamas at the beginning of World War II. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are living there after Edward abdicated the throne to marry a twice-divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson. This is a novel about espionage and secrecy and biases and all the things.
There is a plot twist at the end that I did not see coming, and I think that this is my new favorite Beatriz Williams book. If you like this one, I'd recommend you read Summer Wives, Along the Infinite Sea, and Cocoa Beach.More info →
I loved this novel. I think it will be one of my top five favorites for 2019. Now, I taught for 24 years in one of the wealthiest districts in the country, so I was intimate with the subject matter.
It's more substantial than a beach read, but not so literary that you need clove cigarettes and a beret to read it. Bruce Holsinger is a professor at the University of Virginia, so he knows a few things about gifted kids and competitive parenting.
And listen, there is a surprise at the end that I just didn't see coming. Then it was coming, and I just had to watch the train wreck.
What Holsinger does, though, is make you really root for and hope for good things for parents who are doing awful things. They say reading fiction makes you more empathetic, so if you're in education, you might want to pick this one up before school gets in full swing.More info →
I have always loved books where the characters suffer from family, and the Sorenson family suffers from and with each other. Claire Lombardo has written a beautiful book about a couple and their four adult daughters, and all the dramas that come with a family of four daughters. It's a long book, but it is like taking a long luxurious vacation, even with all the drama.
I loved the characters, and as much as I don't want to tell you what I'm about to tell you, I think it's important. Claire Lombardo is 30. THIRTY! And that is only important because she is so attuned to Marilyn and Dave who are in their sixties, that I just kept wondering how she did it.
So, to be clear, I'm not pointing out that the author is thirty years old because I'm shocked she writes well. Of course a thirty-year-old woman can write a beautiful and engaging book, I tell you that because she knows the inner lives of people twice her age as well as she does.
That being said, the book is beautiful. And though it is long, it was a pretty quick read for me because the pacing is so well-done that you don't notice the length. My only complaint was that the ending wrapped up a little more neatly than I wanted, but it was still satisfying, and not distracting enough to change my opinion of the novel.
This one is one of my summer favorites, and I'd say it will be in the top 10 for the year.More info →
What To Read in August
So, here’s hoping that we all have an epic August. It’s hotter than blue blazes here, so the only thing we can do on the weekend is to go to the pool and read and then come home and sit on an air-return until the sun goes down.
I have loved Joshilyn Jackson since I bought Gods in Alabama in an airport years ago. She had me at the first line. She is sharp-witted and a master at character creation.
She's written a domestic thriller. And don't think for a minute that I am not counting the minutes for this one.
Amy is your basic suburban nightmare; you know the one, the perfect mom with the sweet family who bakes cookies and never misses yoga and helps her best friend run their local book club.
Everything is Reese Witherspoon perfect until Angelica Roux shows up for bookclub one night. She is sultry and charming, and everyone seems to be entranced by her except Amy. Amy is not having it.
But the real kicker is that Angelica knows the truth about Amy and what she once did. So, Amy has to go into Alexis Colby mode to protect herself and the life she has curated. Amy and Angelica will start a suburban war that will excavate the secrets of hidden pasts.
Amazon calls it "a diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson's trademark humor."
Listen, anything diabolical is worth the read.
So come on ladies, grab a bottle of Cupcake Pinot Grigio and throw on your Tory Burch thongs, it's time to hit the country club pool with some diabolical suburban drama.More info →
I love when a city or landmark debuts as a character in a novel. In The Chelsea Girls, both New York City and The Chelsea hotel play part in the drama of two young women trying to make it on Broadway in the mid-twentieth century.
Spanning the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, The Chelsea Girls tells the story of Hazel Riley, a playwright, and Maxine Meade, an actress trying to make a name for themselves on Broadway against the backdrop of the Communist witch hunt led by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The women soon learn that talent isn't nearly as important as political pull when trying to make one's mark in the Big Apple, and if they aren't careful with their positioning, they could easily find themselves on the wrong side of Mr. McCarthy.
Fiona Davis explores the complicated bonds of female friendship along with the effects of McCarthyism on art in mid-century America.
I love Fiona Davis's historical fiction. The Address was my introduction to her, and I've read everything since. If you love her as I do, try The Masterpiece, which features Grand Central Station, and The Address which takes place at The Dakota. Ms. Davis knows New York better than Carrie Bradshaw herself.More info →
This book is a "Parnassus told me to" pick for this month. Parnassus Books is our local independent bookstore, and one of Nashville's "must-dos" for visitors. They have a professional staff of booksellers that are ready and willing to give you a book recommendation. I've asked twice for a recommendation, and both times this book is the first one mentioned.
I love a novel that can make divorce funny: all the train-wrecks, fights, and personal implosions that come with unwinding an entire life don't feel funny when they are happening, but man, when you can pick up a book and see a character going through what you're going through (or have been through), and doing it a spectacularly awful way, well, that's what really lifts the spirit.
You know I'm right.
So, what's great about this novel is that this time, it's not the wife who gets stuck behind with the fall-out. Oh no, this time Rachel, married to Toby Fleishman, decides Toby isn't the only one getting his groove back, so she unceremoniously drops the kids off with him one weekend. Then she disappears.
She was the ambitious one, the upwardly mobile one. Fleishman was just Fleishman. So, it's easy for him to think that it's all Rachel's fault. All of it. The unrest, the divorce, the discord. All of it.
But maybe it wasn't. It hardly ever is. So as Fleishman has to unspin his "tidy narrative of the spurned husband with the too-ambitious wife," he starts to see that maybe he had it wrong all along.
Fleishman Is In Trouble is getting all the raves from reviewers and independent bookstores, so I'm giving it a thumbs up.More info →
We're bourbon people, personally, but this book has it all. Sibling rivalry. A biblical betrayal. A dead father, a farm that needs inheriting, and two women with the odds stacked against them.
I saw this one back when I was making the Ultimate Summer Reading List, but it got benched. Then I went into Parnassus, the greatest indie bookstore in all the land, and the bookseller said it was a must-read.
So, I play a game with Parnassus. I go in and tell them two or three books I've read recently and ask them to recommend something for me. I buy the book. I read the book. I always like the book. I've been doing this for over a year now, and so far they are 100% on their recommendations.
So, while I haven't read this one yet, it has all sorts of critical acclaim, two friends have read it, loved it, and recommended it, and I got the Parnassus recommendation.More info →
Elin Hilderbrand is the Queen of Summer Reads, and now she has written a historical novel about the summer of 1969. Hildebrand, who writes of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard with all the dedication of place as any southern writer, again sets her novel in the beach towns of New England.
The Levin family summers at their grandmother's home in Nantucket, but this year the gathering is as uncertain as the political climate. Blair, the oldest sister, is pregnant with twins and can't travel. Kirby, the middle sister, is enamored with the civil rights protests and determined to be independent. She takes a summer job on Martha's Vineyard. And Tiger, the only son, is a soldier recently deployed to Vietnam.
So Jessie, thirteen, and feeling very much alone, is the only Levin summering with her grandmother and her mother, each of them hiding a disturbing secret. As summer progresses, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, a woman dies, a man goes to the moon, and the Levin family suffer their own political upheavals.More info →