Summer 2017 Reads

As much as I hate to admit it, the final days of summer are upon us. This summer feels different; I’m juggling work and school and finding time for reading has proved challenging. But I’m making up for lost time this month.

This season’s list includes titles perfect for devouring on long flights, next to the pool, at the beach, or wherever your summer takes you.

Here are the 15 books I’m diving into this season…

Fitness Junkie

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin—the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin—her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don’t fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues.

At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman’s tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true.

As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

Love and First Sight

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty–in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy, Love and First Sight is a story about how we relate to each other and the world around us.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a small town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The rape wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Around the Way Girl

Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: With a sensibility that recalls her beloved screen characters, including Katherine, the NASA mathematician, Yvette, Queenie, Shug, and the iconic Cookie from Empire, Taraji P. Henson writes of her family, the one she was born into and the one she created. She shares stories of her father, a Vietnam vet who was bowed but never broken by life’s challenges, and of her mother who survived violence both at home and on DC’s volatile streets. Here, too, she opens up about her experiences as a single mother, a journey some saw as a burden but which she saw as a gift.

Around the Way Girl is also a classic actor’s memoir in which Taraji reflects on the world-class instruction she received at Howard University and how she chipped away, with one small role after another, at Hollywood’s resistance to give women, particularly women of color, meaty significant roles.

Fierce Kingdom

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: After school on a late October day, Joan has taken her four-year-old son, Lincoln, to one of his favourite places on earth: the zoo. Just before closing time, as they need to go home, she hears some loud pops like firecrackers. Not thinking much of it, they head for the exit…until Joan realizes the eerie human emptiness means danger, then sees the figure of a lone gunman. Without another thought, she scoops up her son and runs back into the zoo. And for the next three hours–the entire scope of the novel–she does anything she can to keep Lincoln safe.

Both pulse-pounding and emotionally satisfying, Fierce Kingdom is a thrill ride, but also an exploration of the very nature of motherhood itself, from its saving graces to its savage power. At heart it asks how you draw the line between survival and the duty to protect one another? Who would you die for?

The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

What to Say Next

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Spaceman

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself strapped to a giant rocket that’s about to go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour?

Or to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? Or to stand in front of the Hubble Space Telescope, wondering if the emergency repair you’re about to make will inadvertently ruin humankind’s chance to unlock the universe’s secrets? Mike Massimino has been there, and in Spaceman he puts you inside the suit, with all the zip and buoyancy of life in microgravity.

Massimino’s childhood space dreams were born the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Growing up in a working-class Long Island family, he catapulted himself to Columbia and then MIT, only to flunk his first doctoral exam and be rejected three times by NASA before making it through the final round of astronaut selection.

Taking us through the surreal wonder and beauty of his first spacewalk, the tragedy of losing friends in the Columbia shuttle accident, and the development of his enduring love for the Hubble Telescope—which he and his fellow astronauts were tasked with saving on his final mission—Massimino has written an ode to never giving up and the power of teamwork to make anything possible.

Spaceman invites us into a rare, wonderful world where science meets the most thrilling adventure, revealing just what having “the right stuff” really means.

Not a Sound

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters—her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

Born a Crime

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

The Identicals

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Identical twin sisters who couldn’t look more alike…or live more differently.

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator’s early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.

But for every historic occasion-meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm-there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren’t nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.

Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a “White House official” is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).

The Shark Club

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-traveling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she re-kindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation?

Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, calypso bands, and perfect ocean views, The Shark Club is a story of the mysterious passions of one woman’s life: her first love and new love; the sea and sharks that inhabit it.

the perfect girl.png

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.

Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.

In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe’s former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.

The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

What’s the best book you’ve read so far this summer? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Summer 2016 Reads

For me, summer and outdoor reading go hand in hand. Nothing beats relaxing by the lake or at the park with an engrossing read.

With all the amazing books hitting shelves this summer, I found it even more challenging than usual to narrow things down. But I did it! This summer’s reading list is fiction-heavy and includes a handful of highly-anticipated summer releases, and books from my always growing to-be-read list.

Here’s a look at the 20 books I’ll be diving into this season…

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I picked up this much-talked-about debut thriller over the weekend and finished it on Wednesday. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. Mackintosh’s twelve years of experience on the British police force makes this one feel incredibly realistic. I ran out and bought my own copy and I am currently re-reading it. It’s that good.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

The Girls in the Garden

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

A few weeks ago I finally read The House We Grew Up In. I finished it in three days. Jewell is an incredibly gifted storyteller and her characters leap right off the page. I was beyond excited when I heard about her new summer novel which hit shelves on Tuesday. I ran out and grabbed a copy and I can’t wait to get started this weekend. Jojo Moyes raves, “Lisa Jewell’s characters are so real that I finish every book half-expecting to bump into one of them. Modern, complex, intuitive, Lisa Jewell just goes from strength to strength.”

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

A Hundred Summers

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

This will be my third historical novel from Williams. I fell in love with both The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Tiny Little Thing (I finished both in just a few days!) I am making my way through all her novels. She never disappoints and her books are made for summer reading.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House: Memorial Day, 1938 Lily Dane has returned to Seaview, Rhode Island, where her family has summered for generations. It’s an escape not only from New York’s social scene but from a heartbreak that still haunts her. Here, among the seaside community that has embraced her since childhood, she finds comfort in the familiar rituals of summer.

But this summer is different. Budgie and Nick Greenwald—Lily’s former best friend and former fiancé—have arrived, too, and Seaview’s elite are abuzz. Under Budgie’s glamorous influence, Lily is seduced into a complicated web of renewed friendship and dangerous longing.

As a cataclysmic hurricane churns north through the Atlantic, and uneasy secrets slowly reveal themselves, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional storm that will change their worlds forever…

Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty [Release Date: July 26, 2016]

Back in March, I finally jumped on the Moriarty train and read What Alice Forgot, The Husband’s Secret, and Big Little Lies all in one week. I was jumping up and down when I discovered she has a new book coming out this summer!

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty turns her unique, razor-sharp eye towards three seemingly happy families.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

Michelle Obama A Life

Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin

This autobiography of the First Lady came highly, highly recommended by one of my favourite bookstore employees. Slevin has decades worth of experience writing about Barack and Michelle Obama as well as political campaigns across the U.S. under his belt.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: This is the inspiring story of a modern American icon, the first comprehensive account of the life and times of Michelle Obama. With disciplined reporting and a storyteller’s eye for revealing detail, Peter Slevin follows Michelle to the White House from her working-class childhood on Chicago’s largely segregated South Side. He illuminates her tribulations at Princeton University and Harvard Law School during the racially charged 1980s and the dilemmas she faced in Chicago while building a high-powered career, raising a family, and helping a young community organizer named Barack Obama become president of the United States.

From the lessons she learned in Chicago to the messages she shares as one of the most recognizable women in the world, the story of this First Lady is the story of America. Michelle Obama: A Life is a fresh and compelling view of a woman of unique achievement and purpose.

No One Knows

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

I love a good thriller and this one has been getting some serious buzz. It usually takes me years to give the much-hyped about books a try, but I’ve got a pretty good feeling about this one. The publisher recommends this one for fans of Gillian Flynn (who I haven’t read), Paula Hawkins (who I also haven’t read), and Liane Moriarty (who I love).

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

The Royal We

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

I’ve been meaning to read this since last summer. It sounds like the perfect summer read! Library Journal gave it a starred review raving, “The authors hit all the right notes in this funny, smart, emotional tale that will definitely appeal to fans of Jojo Moyes.”

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

Before the Fall

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I’ve been curious about this debut from the creator of TV’s Fargo. And after listening to Hawley talk about his new thriller on NPR’s Morning Edition over the weekend, I knew I had to add it to my list.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.

Here's to Us

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Hilderbrand has written 16 novels. Last summer I finally read my first, The Rumor and fell in love with her writing. I keep recommending it to everyone. Her latest Nantucket-set beach read slated for June 14th release is already available at Indigo here in Canada.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Laurel Thorpe, Belinda Rowe, and Scarlett Oliver share only two things; a love for the man they all married, Deacon Thorpe–a celebrity chef with an insatiable appetite for life–and a passionate dislike of one another. All three are remarkable, spirited women, but they couldn’t be more different. Laurel: Deacon’s high school sweetheart and an effortlessly beautiful social worker; Belinda: a high-maintenance Hollywood diva; and Scarlett: a sexy southern belle floating by on her family money and her fabulous looks. They’ve established a delicate understanding over the years–they avoid each other at all costs.

But their fragile detente threatens to come crashing down after Deacon’s tragic death on his favorite place on earth: a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage. Deacon’s final wish was for his makeshift family to assemble on his beloved Nantucket to say good-bye. Begrudgingly, Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett gather on the island as once again, as in each of their marriages, they’re left to pick up Deacon’s mess. Now they’re trapped in the crowded cottage where they all made their own memories–a house that they now share in more ways than one–along with the children they raised with Deacon, and his best friend. Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett each had an unbreakable bond with Deacon–and they all have secrets to hide.

Before the weekend is over, there are enough accusations, lies, tears, and drama to turn even the best of friends–let alone three women who married the same man–into adversaries. As his unlikely family says good-bye to the man who brought them together–for better or worse–will they be able to put aside their differences long enough to raise a glass in Deacon’s honor?

Food and the City

Food and the City by Ina Yalof

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: In Food and the City, Ina Yalof takes us on an insider’s journey into New York’s pulsating food scene alongside the men and women who call it home. Dominique Ansel declares what great good fortune led him to make the first cronut. Lenny Berk explains why Woody Allen’s mother would allow only him to slice her lox at Zabar’s. Ghaya Oliveira, who came to New York as a young Tunisian stockbroker, opens up about her hardscrabble yet swift trajectory from dishwasher to executive pastry chef at Daniel. Restaurateur Eddie Schoenfeld describes his journey from Nice Jewish Boy from Brooklyn to New York’s Indisputable Chinese Food Maven.

From old-schoolers such as David Fox, third-generation owner of Fox’s U-bet syrup, and the outspoken Upper West Side butcher “Schatzie,” to new kids on the block including Patrick Collins, sous chef at The Dutch, and Brooklyn artisan Lauren Clark of Sucre Mort Pralines, Food and the City is a fascinating oral history with an unforgettable gallery of New Yorkers who embody the heart and soul of a culinary metropolis.

Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This new summer release hit shelves on Tuesday. Honestly, Gyasi’s debut historical novel wasn’t on my radar. But it’s a staff pick at my neighbourhood bookstore and I trust their taste.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: A riveting kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, charting the course of two sisters torn apart in 18th century Africa through to the present day.

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonist, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising “half-caste” children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon, before being shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery.
Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi has written a modern masterpiece, a novel that moves through histories and geographies and–with outstanding economy and force–captures the intricacies of the troubled yet hopeful human spirit.
The Travelers

The Travelers by Chris Pavone

 

Last summer I read The Expats on the recommendation of a bookstore employee. This spring I read The Accident in three days flat.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House: It’s 3:00am. Do you know where your husband is? Meet Will Rhodes: travel writer, recently married, barely solvent, his idealism rapidly giving way to disillusionment and the worry that he’s living the wrong life. Then one night, on assignment for the award-winning Travelers magazine in the wine region of Argentina, a beautiful woman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Soon Will’s bad choices—and dark secrets—take him across Europe, from a chateau in Bordeaux to a midnight raid on a Paris mansion, from a dive bar in Dublin to a mega-yacht in the Mediterranean and an isolated cabin perched on the rugged cliffs of Iceland. As he’s drawn further into a tangled web of international intrigue, it becomes clear that nothing about Will Rhodes was ever ordinary, that the network of deception ensnaring him is part of an immense and deadly conspiracy with terrifying global implications—and that the people closest to him may pose the greatest threat of all.
The Shell Collector

The Shell Collector: Stories by Anthony Doerr

 

I discovered my love of short stories after giving the genre a chance for last year’s MMD Reading Challenge. Last spring, I found The Shell Collector in a used bookstore soon after reading and loving All the Light We Cannot See. It’s been on my shelves ever since. The summer seems like the perfect time to dig into the author’s debut short story collection.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr’s debut collection take readers from the African Coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties—metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts—conjuring nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of the characters in these stories contend with hardships; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the ravishing universe outside themselves.
my sunshine away
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

Walsh’s debut was on my list of 8 books I can’t wait to read in 2015. Honestly, I’ve picked up this mystery a number of times and had to put it down after a couple of chapters because it just felt too real. I think I’m finally ready to stick with it until the final page.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.

Maybe in Another Life

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve never read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I keep coming across her third novel and I’ve heard good things about it. Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review saying, “Entertaining and unpredictable, Reid makes a compelling case for happiness in every life.”

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: From the acclaimed author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do comes a breathtaking new novel about a young woman whose fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame; in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

Unbecoming

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Scherm’s debut novel came out last spring and landed on my list of 8 books I can’t wait to read in 2015. But I never got to it. Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel and highly praised by numerous critics, this thriller is a must read. One of my favourite authors, Kimberly McCreight says: “Artfully constructed and beautifully nuanced, Unbecoming is an elegant, page-turning mystery of theft, betrayal, and young love, which brilliantly reveals that the very worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.”

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: A highly praised debut novel of psychological suspense about a daring art heist, a cat-and-mouse waiting game, and a small-town girl’s mesmerizing transformation.

On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, and resets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. In truth, home is Garland, Tennessee, where two young men have just been paroled. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace planned. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague, contraband in her bag. As Grace’s web of deception unravels, she begins a cat-and-mouse game that echoes the best of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith and is sure to appeal to fans of The Girl on the Train.

Louder Than Words

Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice by Todd Henry

I’m a huge fan of Henry’s books and an avid listener of his podcasts.

Synopsis from Amazon.com: Are you doing your best work, or are you just getting by? Are you fulfilled at the end of the day, or are you just glad the day is over? In today’s marketplace, you don’t have the luxury of going with the flow. If you want to succeed – and thrive – you have to do work that sets you apart.

But how do you do work that is truly remarkable? How do you begin to make your unique mark? You have to find your “sweet spot”, or the place where you will be most effective.
The key to doing so is to harness the power of your authentic voice. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a writer, a designer, or a manager building a brand, you have to understand what makes you unique, and make bold decisions that put you in your sweet spot of effectiveness. The result not only be more impact, but also greater personal satisfaction with your work.
Louder Than Words offers specific strategies and tactics for uncovering, developing, and bravely using your authentic voice to create a body of work you are proud of, that resonates deeply with others, and that ultimately impacts the world.
Dear Carolina

Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey

 

Summer just isn’t summer without a good dose of Southern fiction. Kristy Woodson Harvey’s debut novel came highly recommended by my bookstore.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House: One baby girl. Two strong Southern women.And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make. Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made…

The Making of a Chef

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman

I added Ruhlman’s book to my reading list after the manager at my neighbourhood bookstore raved about it.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Just over a decade ago, journalist Michael Ruhlman donned a chef’s jacket and houndstooth-check pants to join the students at the Culinary Institute of America, the country’s oldest and most influential cooking school. But The Making of a Chef is not just about holding a knife or slicing an onion; it’s also about the nature and spirit of being a professional cook and the people who enter the profession. As Ruhlman―now an expert on the fundamentals of cooking―recounts his growing mastery of the skills of his adopted profession, he propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great food.

Summer Reads 2015

Summer is made for reading.

And with a mountain of books at our disposal, deciding what to pick up next can prove daunting at times. Back in May, I finally got a library card and in preparation for this season’s reading list, I checked out tons of books and gave them a test run. Generally, one chapter in, I know whether a book is worth my time or not.

To welcome summer with a splash, I’m sharing the books I can’t wait to dive into — books by popular authors I’ve never read before, titles that have sat on my to-be-read list for ages as well as a couple of hot new summer releases.

the other language

The Other Language by Francesca Marciano (2014)

Hailed by critics as “moving”, “suspenseful”, “astonishing” and “sublimely crafted”, the Rome-born author’s collection of nine short stories transports us around the world – from a summer holiday escape in a Greek village to the film festival in Venice to the tiny southern Italian village of Andrano to a dance community in India. Marciano’s stories centre on characters stepping outside their comfort zones and finding new passions.

Review: “This outstanding book has a quality I find only in the best collections: that after each chapter I cannot immediately flip to the next but need time to absorb what has just unfolded so memorably before me.” — Tom Rachman, bestselling author of The Imperfectionists

the new yorkers

The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine (2007)

I’ve never read anything by the bestselling author, so I decided to start with her seventh novel. Inspired by her account in The New Yorker of adopting a troubled dog named Buster, this novel is a story of neighbours overcoming shyness, making unexpected connections, and falling in and out of love. Schine introduces us to five lonely New Yorkers living on the same Manhattan block whose paths intersect thanks to their four-legged friends.

Review: ‘There’s plenty of unexpected romance, but it would be a mistake to think that this is merely a love story about dogs or their people. It’s really about Schine’s love for the city that contains them – a Manhattan of the not-so-distant past… A rich snapshot of urban life.” — Time Out (New York)

daring greatly

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (2012)

Dr. Brené Brown has spent the last thirteen years studying human connection; with a focus on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. After watching, loving and sharing her popular TED talks on the power of vulnerability and listening to shame, I decided there is no better time than now to pick up Daring Greatly. In her widely popular book, Brown challenges us to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to be brave and to engage with our whole hearts.

Review: “Will draw readers in and have them considering what steps they would dare to take if shame and fear were not present.” — Publishers Weekly

It's What I Do

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario (2015)

Lynsey Addario’s work has appeared in National Geographic, Time Magazine and The New York Times (her photo of a Syrian child bride who left an abusive marriage has never left my mind). She has covered conflicts from Afghanistan to the Congo. In her memoir, the award-winning photojournalist conveys the role of gender, how she set out to prove herself in a male-dominated profession and how motherhood has helped her on the job.

Review: “Addario has written a page-turner of a memoir describing her war coverage and why and how she fell into—and stayed in—such a dangerous job.” — Booklist

the expats

The Expats by Chris Pavone (2012)

I picked up Pavone’s debut spy thriller last week and it’s been my constant travel companion. Meet Kate Moore: a woman bent on forgetting her past. So when her husband Dexter gets offered a contract from a private overseas bank, they move their family from Washington, D.C. to Luxembourg. Wife, mother and now, expat; Kate’s schedule is filled with coffee mornings and playdates. But she is also hiding a life-defining secret—one that’s become so unbearable that it begins to unravel her newly established expat life.

Review: “Expertly and intricately plotted, with a story spiraling into disaster and a satisfyingly huge amount of double-crossing, The Expats certainly doesn’t feel like a first novel.” — Guardian (London)

The Knockoff

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (2015)

When Imogen Tate, 42-year-old editor in chief of Glossy magazine walks into her office after a six-month hiatus, she barely recognizes her own magazine. She discovers that her ambitious 26-year-old former assistant Eve Morton is back – armed with an MBA from Harvard and a business plan to reduce her magazine to an app! The Knockoff turns the spotlight on the ever-changing world of fashion in the digital age.

Review: “Jo Piazza and Lucy Sykes’ compulsively readable corner office drama, The Knockoff, [is] summer’s juiciest beach read.” — Elle.com

eight hundred grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (2015)

In her brand new summer release, Dave explores the messy realities of familial and romantic relationships. A week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia Ford finds out her fiancé has been keeping secrets. As she’s always done: Georgia escapes to her family’s gorgeous Sonoma County vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents and her brothers. But to her surprise, her fiancé isn’t the only one who’s been keeping her in the dark.

Review: “Laura Dave paints Sonoma County and its inhabitants with both warmth and smarts in this delicious novel. Eight Hundred Grapes is fun and thought-provoking, and is guaranteed to make you deeply thirsty for some Pinot Noir.” — Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers

the painted girls

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (2012)

Buchanan’s novel, set in late-19th century Paris, tells the heart-wrenching tale of two young sisters struggling to escape the slums through the magic of ballet. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their world flipped upside down. Without his wages and their mother squandering the small amount she earns, the girls have no choice but to find work. Marie is sent to the Paris Opera where she will be trained to enter the famous ballet while her older sister, Antoinette lands a part as a laundress in Emile Zola’s naturalist play L’Assommoir.

Review: “The ethereal ballerina from Degas’s famed sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen comes to life in this richly imagined novel. Amid the glamour of tutus and art emerges a surprisingly gritty story of survival in the gutters of Belle Epoque Paris.” — Entertainment Weekly

my salinger year

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (2014)

With dreams of becoming a poet, Rakoff moves to New York City and lands a job as assistant to J.D. Salinger’s literary agent. She paints a vivid portrait of literary New York in the late nineties, a world where Dictaphones and typewriters rule. Faced with the task of answering Salinger’s fan mail, Rakoff finds herself sucked into the emotional world of Salinger’s fans. She abandons the agency’s decades-old form response, starts writing back, and finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s.

Review: “Here is the story of a reader becoming a writer, of a young woman deciding who she will be, of the power of books.” — Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

The girls at the kingfisher club

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine (2014)

“By 1927 there were twelve girls who danced all night and never gave names, but by then the men had given up asking and called them all Princess.” And so begins Valentine’s retelling of the fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In jazz-era New York City, Joseph Hamilton, bitter over not having a male heir (his wife produced girls; twelve in all) keeps his daughters locked away in the upper rooms of his Fifth Avenue townhouse. Jo, the oldest of the twelve, mothers them, teaches them how to dance and gives the signal each night as they sneak out and escape to Manhattan’s underground speakeasies. Together, the girls elude their distant and controlling father, until he announces his plans to marry them all off.

Review: “But even more than the characters, their voices or the sharp, quiet slicing of the understated prose, what I loved about this book was its own tense dance with its source materials.” — NPR

the oyster catcher

The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas (2013)

In her award-winning debut novel (a runaway bestseller in ebook), Thomas introduces us to Fiona Clutterbuck. On her wedding night, Fiona finds herself alone in the Irish coastal town of Dooleybridge. After abandoning her new husband right after saying “I do”, Fi realizes she can’t go back. So she seizes the opportunity to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer. A romantic, feel-good adventure on the Irish coast.

Review: “A world you long to live in with characters you love.” — Katie Fforde

the summer of good intentions

The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis (2015)

At the heart of Wendy Francis’ latest novel lies the love that brings family together and the secrets that tear them apart. The Herington girls — Maggie, Jess and Virgie, along with their newly-divorced parents,  husbands and kids meet up at the family’s house in Cape Cod for their annual summer getaway. The sisters are counting on this seaside vacation to wash away their personal problems. But an accident reveals a new secret that brings the family together in heartbreak and healing.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading this summer in the comments.

Summer Reads 2014

I’m currently reading Jason Priestley: a memoir and it’s a real page-turner. I highly recommend it! I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it by next week and I’m already on the lookout for my next read. Whenever summer rolls around, I always have at least 5 books on my reading list. When I’m heading out, I make sure to throw a book in my bag. The subway is so unreliable and I don’t like being stuck with nothing to do.

When I’m having trouble finding my next read, I usually turn to What Should I Read Next? and Goodreads for recommendations. Here’s a list of the books I hope to get lost in this summer.

paris lettersParis Letters by Janice MacLeod

The author Janice MacLeod sums it up perfectly: “After 110 years of writing junk mail in advertising, I devised an exit strategy to finance my own sabbatical. My Shawshank Redemption, if you will. When I met my financial goal, I skipped town and traveled with nothing more than my suitcase and a small set of watercolors. Along the way, I painted letters about my travels and mailed them to friends.”

The Art of FallingThe Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

Craft’s debut novel is the story of a young woman trying to come to terms with her body and the dance world that has repeatedly rejected her. After suffering a traumatic fall, Penny wakes up and is forced to confront the memories that have always haunted her.

the fault in our stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Named “#1 fiction Book of 2012” by TIME Magazine, The Fault in Our Stars has been on my must-read list for a year now. I guess I’ve been stalling because, as a thyroid cancer survivor, I tend to shy away from reading books about cancer. But I’ve heard nothing but praise so I don’t think I can hold back for much longer.

someday someday

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

The debut novel from Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood fame centers around a struggling actress trying to make it in New York City.

delicious

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

Named one of the “18 Books you can’t miss this May” by Oprah.com, Reichl’s new novel is about a young woman who moves from California to New York to take a job at the iconic food magazine, Delicious.

girlboss

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

Part memoir, part career handbook, #GIRLBOSS tells Amoruso’s extraordinary personal story and offers career advice for young women and insights on entrepreneurship.

what i was doing

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

In her debut memoir, TV writer Kristin Newman shares her adventures traveling the world and falling in love with strangers while all her friends at home are getting married and having kids. I finished the first chapter in the bookstore. It’s definitely a fun read.

Have you read any of the books on my list? What’s on your summer reading list?