Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Setting up some summer day reading for July & August

Since we're fully into summer now, making rest and relaxation plans during these hot and humid months are vital.  Whether you're putting up your feet at home or packing up for a big road trip, books are part and parcel for your entertainment needs.

During this July and August, quite a few new reads are expected to arrive on a bookshelf near you and while it may be daunting to keep track of them all, perhaps this list of recommendations can make that particular task more of a pleasure than a chore:


RIDING THE READING WAVE:

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to finish reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman and in my opinion, this was the best way to start my summer.

The leading lady of the title is enjoying what she deems a rather happy existence, with a great job at a indie bookstore, an apartment loaded to the brim with books and competitive fun as a member of a bar trivia team called Book 'Em Danno, plus a cat.

Nina's world gets a few sudden jolts as a visit from a lawyer brings her news of the death of her father, a man she never knew, and a whole slew of relatives, one of which has very blunt opinions about Nina's possible inheritance from the last will and testament. In addition, there's a guy on a rival trivia team(You're a Quizzard, Harry, such a great name!) who is catching her eye but he doesn't seem to be much of a reader, a major check in the negative column.

Nina does have some anxiety problems, which are set off by all of these new changes. Can she learn to adjust to this new set of situations or will she retreat further away from them?  This is the first time that I've read Abbi Waxman and this book is a wonderful introduction to her witty ways with words and people.

I highly encourage any and all bookish types to add this enchanting novel to their summer reading and while this story is set in Southern California, there a bit of a New England Stars Hollow vibe to it that should delight fans of a certain beloved TV show indeed(July):


 For a look into the not so distant literary past, Karen Dukess takes us to The Last Book Party, set in the summer of 1987.

Eve Rosen longs to be a writer as celebrated as Henry Grey, who is practically a living legend at the New Yorker, yet being an editorial secretary at his publishers is enough of a thrill for her.  Getting to meet him and his seeming elite family at his home during a business gathering is pretty much a dream come true.

In order to get closer to the Greys as well as her literary ambitions, Eve leaves her job to work for up and coming author Jeremy Grand as his research assistant. Jeremy went to school with Henry's son Franny and while his talents as a writer are attractive, what he knows about the Greys is less than pretty. Eve learns that lesson the hard way at a book party which is both a beginning and an ending for all involved.

With such rapid changes to the world of publishing, Dukess gives us the gift of reflection upon a somewhat more innocent time that offers plenty of secrets and lies for the page turning(July).

HISTORICAL BLASTS FROM THE PAST:

Laura L. Sullivan offers a different take on The Three Musketeers with Milady, the villainous dame of de Winter. Here, we get her back story as Clarice, a young woman introduced into the intrigues of the court of King James I, mainly for the benefit of her absent nobleman father.

Using her skills for deceit and murder, Clarice makes her way through less than polite society, despite being made into a pawn by various men in her path for their own power games. By the time she does run into D'Artagnan and friends, she has lived more than one adventurous life and is ready to take on more.

If you're a fan of Milady de Winter (and yes, I am), this novel is a dream come true and for those not yet familiar with the classic Dumas tale, this is a good way to make the acquaintance of those fine fellows and the most deadly diva in literature(July):


 In Karen Brooks' The Chocolate Maker's Wife, which takes place in London of the 1660s, Rosemund Tompkins considers it to be her good fortune to be sold into marriage to Sir Everald Blithman, a nobleman who has just opened a chocolate drinking establishment for the upper class.

While happy to get away from the abusive men in her family, Rosemund soon learns that her new husband considers her more of a daughter, as in she resembles his deceased daughter Helena. Further more, Helena's widower, Matthew Lovelace, was never considered to be good enough for her and her father blames him for the early death of his beloved child.

Rosemund contents herself with being a good wife by educating herself on the newly flourishing chocolate trade and becoming a charming hostess at the drinking house. Even when she finds herself an independent woman of means, Rosemund does her best to take life as it comes but it's not without a few obstacles both in and out of her control. This lively look at a woman in the flow of history who makes her own way forward is quite the savory sweet treat(August).

Beatriz Williams can always be counted on for a great read that highlights amazing people in history and in her upcoming The Golden Hour, the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor play a key role.

Reporter Lulu Thorpe is covering the doings of the former heir to the English throne and his wife Wallis Simpson as they set up shop in the Bahamas during the early 1940s. Her ultimate goal is to help her current husband Benedict , an undercover agent for the British,escape from a German prison camp but she still has a job to do and highlighting the Windsors is a necessary evil.

Lulu is no stranger to trouble, having had to ditch a troublesome prior husband, and yet, this plight of her beloved Benedict may be trickier to deal with. A connection from his family's past might be the unexpected key to his freedom, if only she can find it in time. Williams is truly crackerjack when it comes to such stories and her portrayal of the Windsors should be a delightful dish on this literary menu(July):


 FIRE AND FLIGHT: This pair of late summer releases have very different ways of dealing with matters of heart and soul yet each works well for their particular set of fictional situations.

In Lisa Lutz's The Swallows, newly hired teacher Alex Witt is going through some hazing at Stonebridge Academy, a private school in Vermont. As she begins to deal with the bordering on nasty harassment, a student named Gemma informs her of a website where the boys of Stonebridge brag about their sexual conquests, complete with a ranking of their female classmates.

Not wanting to make waves yet unable to ignore the issue, Alex becomes an unofficial advisor to Gemma, who is forming a group of her peers that are planning to take the boys on, especially since they know the patriarchal power system that runs the school certainly won't. As remote as she hopes to be from all of this, Alex finds herself caught up in the maelstrom that eventually ignites but is not unhappy about which side she's on.

Lutz is known for her sharp satire mixed with savvy storytelling and while this novel is set several years before the rise of the push back movement against misogynistic behavior that we see today, this vivid tale of payback rings strongly true to the times(August).


The leading lady of Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is Cassie Hanwell, whose determination to get over the turmoil that entered her life at age sixteen lead her to become a top firefighter in Austin, TX, ten years later.

An unexpected encounter with someone from her past sets off a chain of actions that has Cassie starting over in a Boston firehouse, living with the mother who left her a decade ago.

Dealing with a new crew and a mom that wants to reconnect before her health problems get worse, Cassie has enough on her plate without being attracted to a rookie firefighter named Owen, who is quite friendly but they're competing for the same spot in the firehouse, thanks to budget cuts.

That's not the only reason that she wants to hold off on making emotional bonds yet fate seems to have other things in mind for her, despite Cassie's determination to be an emotional island fortress. Perhaps she has to discover how to rescue herself. This poignant novel of love, loss and self healing sounds like the perfect reading escape for any time of the year(August):


 I hope you all have a great summer and enjoy whatever good times you have planned, especially for the big Fourth of July holiday that is just around the corner. As for me, that holiday is going to be spent in a certain small town where a new mall has opened and along with the fireworks, Stranger Things will be bringing the noise as well as the fearsome funk:


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