It’s been…quite some time since I’ve really shared anything on here. It’s also been a very strange spring and summer, and reading for fun has been off and on, hit or miss. I’m way behind on reviews, so I’ll do my best over the next few weeks to catch up! First, some beachy contemporary reads!
Beach Read by Emily Henry (★★★)
I gave into the hype for my very first Book of the Month book, and while I enjoyed it I also found it to be of a bait-and-switch situation. Beach Read looks like a romcom, the premise seems like a romcom, but I’d argue it’s fairly close to domestic fiction with everything that’s unpacked in here. Nothing wrong with that––I enjoy romcom and women’s fiction alike––but it left a sour taste in my mouth with the packaging on this one.
January is under deadline to write another romcom for her publisher, but she just doesn’t have it in her to do it. Her recently deceased father blew open a huge secret and it’s left her wondering if happily ever afters are possible. So she escapes to a lake house in Michigan to get back on track. Her neighbor, though, is rival writer Gus, who is so smug about writing literary fiction and winning all the big awards. They decide to enter a little competition: January will write something literary, and Gus will write something romantic. Sparks fly.
Seems cute on the surface, but as we dig deeper into the novel there’s so much more to unpack: grief, childhood abuse, parental adoration, manipulation, the impact of bad relationships, defining family…to name a few. Though a few of the detours or ruminating scenes seemed unnecessary or overly drawn out to me, at the end of the day this is a character-driven novel that straddles commercial and literary romance. Go in knowing this isn’t a romcom, and you should be in good shape.
Summer Longing by Jamie Brenner (★★★.5)
I’ve checked out Jamie Brenner’s books from the library before but never got around to reading them before return. Finally was able to read this one in time, though. Jamie Brenner is going to be a new summer staple for me along with Kristy Woodson Harvey.
The novel follows three POVs—Ruth (retired workaholic), Olivia (Ruth’s daughter, also a workaholic), and Elise (wife of Fern, owner of a tea shop)—and the lives of other women in the small Cape Cod Provincetown. Ruth just wants to reprioritize her life and relax, Olivia wants nothing to do with her mother and run run RUN successfully at her job, and Elise is desperate for a baby after she and her wife went through three failed IVF attempts. Ruth is renting Elise’s house for the summer, and all plans crash when a baby is left on the doorstep. Who is the mother? Why was the baby left here? And what is the right thing to do in this situation?
I’ll admit I identified so much with Ruth and Olivia, and was very frustrated with Elise (so in this sense, I identified with her wife Fern who was so stern and practical). I’ll also admit this is likely because I’m in a headspace right now where the thought of having a child sends me into a panic. But there are women in my life, close friends, who would absolutely identify with Elise, who experienced similar disappointments. Ruth’s career-driven attitude and laser focus, and Olivia’s close connection with her phone, were both things each woman acknowledged and tried to redirect into something that brought joy. All in all, the way the women of this town come together to help raise the baby and figure out the best possible solution, was a joy to read. Sisterhood.
This qualifies for my library books challenge!
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (★★★)
This YA novel is funny and surprising—a whirlwind of adventure, intrigue, and family secrets.
Alaine is smart and sassy, clever and quick-witted. After her famous TV show host mother loses it live, and a nasty girl at school bullies Alaine over it, Alaine takes her abilities and uses it to pull an epic prank in a class presentation. Not the best idea in the world, as it results in her father sending her to Haiti to be with her mother and aunt, working on an immersion program to atone for her misbehavior. But once in Haiti, she finds there’s a whole lot more to her family history than she first believed, and that curses may in fact be real.
I loved the way this was written—epistolary style is so much fun. Alaine is also the kind of person I wanted to be as a teen: fast with a comeback, confident, defends her loved ones fiercely. (I’m probably more of a Tatiana in this book!) She can be a little overly confident and that gets her into trouble, but her heart is always in the right place. I was surprised and very appreciative of the relationship she had with her mother. Her mother’s narrative is one I haven’t seen (or at least cannot recall) much in YA and I liked that exploration immensely.
There was a lot happening in this narrative—Alaine’s assignment, her mother’s health, Alaine’s internship with her aunt for this app program, the history with her aunt and mother, the family curse—that felt disorganized. It worked, but did leave me reeling. I had to pause or slow down frequently to see how they all connected. Some events and characters seemed to be placed as vehicles to further the plot and curse. It almost felt like this book was trying to do too much, and I wanted more depth to one or two of the plots more so than a sprinkling of all of them. But ultimately, these writers (sister duo!) have a knack for the YA voice and it kept me engaged. I’m interested in reading their future books!
This qualifies for my library books challenge!