Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 21, 2021

Setting up some summer duets of reading


As it is officially-according-to-the-calendar the first day of summer, I thought this would be a good time to arrange a few bookish duets.

By that I mean pairing up some of my TBR titles based on author and my own personal seasonal needs. To start, a recent completed read of mine is Jennifer Weiner's latest novel That Summer, where two women with similar names met up yet only one of them knows the real connections between them.

When Daisy Shoemaker keeps getting emails addressed to a Diana S, she's sort of not surprised since her actual name is Diana(her husband Hal insisted on calling her Daisy). By letting the "other Diana" know of the messages she's missed, Daisy finds herself striking up a friendship with this woman, who seems to be more sophisticated and polished than herself.

As it turns out, Diana is not what she seems but her intentions are not directly about Daisy; rather it's about what happened to her fifteen years ago at the same Cape Cod beach where the Shoemakers still vacation at. Those events changed her life in a profound way and finding those responsible for that may change Daisy's life as well.

I don't want to say more to avoid spoilers but many of the themes and plot points have current event connections. The interwoven narratives here(including Daisy's offbeat and charming daughter Beatrice) form an emotional quilt that creates a solid canvas for the characters to showcase their inner lives and outward concerns upon. It's been awhile since I've read Weiner but she doesn't miss a beat in setting up her story lines and making them work in a way that would please Tim Gunn very much indeed.

It turns out that Weiner's previous novel, Big Summer, is briefly referenced in That Summer, which gives me plenty of reason to go back and fully read it this time around.

When budding Instagram influencer Daphne gets a call from high school frenemy Drue, she's more than justified in wondering why. A prank that Drue played on her lead to Daphne's internet fame but it was the last straw in a series of passive aggressive mind games that shut down their alleged friendship for what Daphne considered to be permanent.

Drue is about to get married in a high society Cap Cod set wedding but has no real gal pals to act as her bridesmaids. She begs Daphne to do her this one last favor, stating that it would help both of their public personas. While not fully trusting her, Daphne agrees to be part of the wedding and at first, things seem to go well. Unfortunately, a shocking tragic event places her at the center of a murder mystery that needs to be solved to save her own future!

This sounds like one of those "why-didn't-I read-this-sooner?" books but hey, better late than never, right? Especially when it comes to one of my all-time favorite writers and yes, Jennifer Weiner is high on that list:

I am planning to do some rereading this summer and for that reason, Daisy Jones & The Six is on my literary playlist. I first read this much talked about Taylor Jenkins Reid novel as a library loan(back in the before times!) mainly to see what all the fuss was about.

Well, this oral history of the title music group(said to be loosely based on Fleetwood Mac) was a truly pleasant surprise. As the unseen interviewer brings the various  talking point by members of the band, torn between original lead singer Billy Dunne's artistic vision and newcomer Daisy's more improv approach to music, you get a full fledged portrait of fellow travelers on the musical journey of their lives.

However, before climbing aboard that tour bus again, I want to dive into TJR's latest novel, Malibu Rising.  Set in the summer of 1983,  Nina Riva is preparing to host her annual beach party despite the fact that her tennis pro husband's split with her is very much public news.

Nina is the eldest daughter of famed singer Mick Riva, a distant parent at best. That made Nina the go-to for her other siblings such as pro surfer brother Jay, their half brother Hud whose photography has helped bolster their careers and younger sister Kit, determined to make her own mark on the surfing world.

As this present day party gathers together, some secrets from the past(and a few recent activities) make their way to the surface, making this family reunion more of a fire hazard than a late season festival to say the least.

If that doesn't sound like ideal summer reading, I don't know what is! So far, the book is good juicy entertainment and should offer plenty of fun out of the sun page turning delights as I go on:


Arriving in August is another cool novel from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, this time set in the 1970s, Velvet Was The Night. As the gorgeous cover art suggests, this a noir tale where a dreamy eyed secretary named Maite becomes caught up in a missing person case that may lead to murder and political intrigue.

While looking into the disappearance of her neighbor Lenora, an art student involved in the protest movement against the government, Maite at first teams up with Ruben, Leonora's exe.

As time goes on, Maite crosses paths with Elvis, a young government operative who usually is sent to break up student protests. However, when ordered to track down Leonora, he finds himself drawn to Maite and the two of them join forces to seek out Leonora along with the truth.

Since it'll be awhile before that book is out and about, that gives me time to read one of SMG's earlier works, The Beautiful Ones.

When Nina makes her debut into society during the Grand Season, she hopes that her special telekinetic abilities can stay hidden long enough to make a good first impression.

Unfortunately, that doesn't work out too well for her yet the return of Hector Auvray to town is a game changer for her. His powers are similar to hers and have made him a famous performer with world wide approval.

Hector is charmed by her talents and offers to tutor Nina, who soon falls in love with him. Those feelings are not quite mutual as Hector's motivations for seeking her out stretch back to a former romance with someone in Nina's family circle, who is none too pleased with his supposed change of affections.

This blend of period drama and magical powers is the type of amazing story telling that SMG is an expert in and brings to vivid life on page. The Beautiful Ones should make waiting for Velvet Was The Night a pleasant experience in more ways than one:

I'm sure that many of you out there can match up some of your lingering TBR titles to create a duet or two for summer reading season.  It's almost like a musical duet as you find the right words to tap your mental feet along to and perhaps even share with one of your super friends to enjoy:

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