Our summer reading list packs some flavor… like dark comedy, diverse cultural family dynamics, friendship, divorce, romance, spirituality, a touch of crazy, and of course, bloggers and book snobs. Perfect summer reads and just what you’d expect from a collection of awesome, book-lovin’ Jersey Moms.
Let us know in the comments what you’re reading and loving this summer, then ENTER THE SUMMER READ GIVEAWAY down below to win 3 fabulous new books courtesy of Tandem Literary and a $20 Gift Card to River Road Books.
LADIES’ NIGHT by Mary Kay Andrews – recommended by Cristie Ritz King. This is not an easy task, writing well enough to be interesting yet not taxing for my brain, but Mary Kay Andrews has done it. I just finished reading Ladies’ Night which is about a Lifestyle Blogger who as a condition of her messy divorce has to attend a counseling support group. Talk about the perfect book! A blogger who goes to counseling? It’s as if she wrote it just for me. Anyway, spot-on main character aside, I loved the book from start to finish. Great characters, a fantastic story and just enough plot twists to keep me coming back for more.
I LIKE YOU JUST THE WAY I AM by Jenny Mollen, recommended by Teicia Gaupp. I’m bringing it straight to the gutter with my summer read, and I’m sorry that I’m not sorry because this girl makes me LAUGH and that’s the space I’m in right now. Jenny Mollen, wife of Jason Biggs from Orange is the New Black and those American Pie movies we hate to love (or love to hate), is my new bff on social media and in book stores. In her own words: “Decorum went out the window when Madonna made the movie Truth or Dare, Ladies. We don’t need to be perfect. We need to be real.” She’s pretty hardcore with her humor (warning for those who offend easily) and makes zero apologies for her raw and real sense of self, but somehow – someway, balances that with a softness and vulnerability as a new, breast-feeding, sleep-deprived mother with her rapidly growing Twitter and Instagram presence. If you want to continue to laugh your @ss off when you’re done with her book, follow her over here too.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU by Jonathan Tropper, recommended by Brie Latini. I have a ridiculous book habit and I always have a stack in the queue! I might have what one would call a “book problem”. This Is Where I Leave You was optioned for a movie that will come out in the next few months. It is a dark comedy about a family who comes together to sit shiva after the patriarch of the family passes away. Each person- the widow, their children, the neighbors and extended family- are in some sort of life crisis of their own, and they are all forced to work through it as they get through the traditional week of Jewish mourning. It is darkly hilarious and very, very sharp writing.
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng, recommended by Deanna Quinones. I just flew through a fantastic debut novel. It features a mixed-race family living in Ohio in the ’70s. The father, of Chinese descent, has spent his life in isolation, harrassed or ignored by peers from childhood on. The mother, a suburban girl who dreamed of being a doctor and scandalized her mother by marrying an Asian, is a classic desperate housewife (as well as, ironically, the classic Tiger Mother!). Their three children are paying the price of their parents’ deep-seated miseries, and when their favorite — beautiful middle child Lydia — disappears, the family begins to disintegrate. The mystery of Lydia’s fate is slowly brought into focus through beautifully crafted examinations of each character’s private pain. This is a book that’s getting lots of great press and the author is coming to NJ for the new Morristown Festival of Books in September. Looking forward to that!
THE CONSCIOUS PARENT by Shefali Tsabary, PhD, recommended by Gina Wieboldt. It’s about seeing your children as the mirrors of your forgotten self-in actuality they are here to teach us. Wow. I find myself needing a quiet corner to read this one, and I do enjoy delving into that spiritual arena lately. Next up is the very lofty A Course In Miracles. I suppose this is the summer of my spirit.
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin, recommended by Amy Byrnes. I’ve been in a reading rut lately. The problem is that I’m too lazy to really commit to a substantial piece of fiction but then when I’m in the middle of some easy beach read, I’m annoyed with the writing and usually unsatisfied with the ending. It’s the equivalent of opting for the Doritos over the handful of almonds. You know the nuts will satisfy your hunger far longer than the junk food — which just leaves you with bad breath and orange fingertips — but somehow the salty snack is the more tempting of the two.
I found the perfect compromise recently – a book that straddles smart fiction and readability – in the smart and fun new novel “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry.” The title character is a persnickety bookstore owner on a small New England-based island who finds love not only in his precious books but in unexpected places in his life. There’s romance and humor but most of all, the book references over 50 literary works – everything from “Infinite Jest” to “Caps for Sale.” You know you’re in the right place when the main character is a book snob and “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” lets you pretend to be one as well, as you breeze through the fun and easy story.
I’ve been reading MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT SLOW by Stephanie O’dea, recommended by L. Klonsky. The crockpot is one appliance I cannot do without since, no matter what the season, my family always seems to be on different schedules. This book is giving me so many recipes that at least three family members love. They’re all easy and it’s tough to burn food in the crockpot, so no visits from the Fire Department!
ALL FALL DOWN by Jennifer Weiner, recommended by M.B. Sanok. What happens when a mom, wife, and blogger like you and me or any average American woman falls under the spell of painkillers to cope with everyday life? Read Jennifer Weiner’s new book, All Fall Down, to find out. Although it’s a departure from her usual fare (and I eagerly anticipate every book she writes), I think I liked this book even more than her others because while entertaining it’s a realistic-sounding portrayal of an unlikely addict. She takes more chances and balances between serious topic and the flavor of a “bring to the beach” book. And I love how she mentions places in Philadelphia where she resides and Cherry Hill, NJ.
THE ONE AND ONLY by Emily Griffin, recommended by Mira Park. I’ve been on a bit of a romantic fiction kick this summer. While on vacation I read The One & Only. Emily Giffin always turns out a solid book with relatable characters but I found the age difference of the characters a bit discomfiting. My friend’s sister has been recommending books to me and so far they’ve been greatI just finished reading On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (another book with a big age difference but handled really well) and before that, her book Covet. She also recommended “Nowhere but Here” by Renee Carlino and I’ve found it enjoyable so far. Next up is Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas and Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella.
AFTER I DO by Taylor Jenkins Reid, recommended by Kimberly Kopecky. Not all marriages are perfect and I know mine could always use some work. Reading After I Do put mine into perspective for me. Taking a break and writing email drafts to your partner seems sort of silly, but it works for the characters Lauren and Ryan. I will admit that I cried more in After I Do than in A Fault In Our Stars.
I think I may take up the idea of email drafts for my husband. If you are looking for a great beach read I recommend After I Do.
NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT by Derek B. Miller, recommended by Stacie Carter of River Road Books in Fair Haven, NJ. Miller’s savvy and intelligent mix of literary novel and thriller is an excellent choice whether you don a tankini or swim trunks. When you’ve reached your vacation destination successfully and you’re ready to get lost for a while, give yourself the gift of Norwegian By Night.
In Norwegian, Sheldon Horowitz, a widowed aging war veteran has opted to move from New York to Norway to live with his granddaughter and her husband. Sheldon is stubborn, difficult and absolutely perfect. Through the voice of Sheldon, Miller has birthed a complex flawed hero dismissed by and seemingly hopeless in a modern world.
Meg Walker of Tandem Literary offers 3 great summer reads and a Giveaway for each these books which you can enter below.
TEMPTING FATE by Jane Green. Jane Green is a perennial favorite of so many women and for good reason. You immediately feel you know her characters, that’s how real they seem. TEMPTING FATE centers on Gabby, a happily married mother in well-to-do Westport CT. Approaching middle age and beginning to feel invisible, Gabby is flattered when a much younger man falls for her. What starts out as harmless flirtation blossoms into something more and Gabby’s seemingly perfect life begins to unravel. Juicy and utterly addictive, TEMPTING FATE will have you wondering, “what would I do” as you turn the pages late into the night as a fly-on-the-wall to this top-notch domestic drama.
SAVE THE DATE by Mary Kay Andrews. It’s not summer til that new Mary Kay Andrews book lands in stores the first week of June. With her trademark wit and Southern charm, Andrews always creates female characters you want to root for in settings that make you want to book a vacation stat. In SAVE THE DATE we meet Cara who is an up-and-coming florist in Savannah GA. She’s unlucky in love and determined to make it on her own as soon as she pays off her hard-nosed dad the business loan he granted her. With an arch rival out to destroy her and bridezillas and stepmonsters straight off of Bravo, she has her work cut out for her. Throw in a hunky love interest, some adorable dogs, the lush surroundings of Savannah and the South Carolina low country, and a truly sweet and satisfying ending, and you have the ultimate beach read—light, escapist, and just plain fun.
THE FEVER by Megan Abbott. Megan Abbott writes teen girls better than anyone. It is a marvel how she can make you feel like you are right back in the halls of a high school dealing with all the angst and drama that defines that tumultuous time. On top of that, Abbott has major chops as an author of noir and crime fiction. Her latest, THE FEVER, has a “ripped from the headlines” premise—a bunch of girls from the same small town high school are stricken with bizarre and unexplained seizures and tics. In Abbott’s deft hands, you get swept up in the frenzied hysteria that befalls this town. Is it the water in the mysterious lake they’ve all been told to avoid? Is it a side effect of the HPV vaccine? Is it something environmental in the school? Or is something far more sinister at play? I suggest reading this book in a couple big gulps. It is short and all the action takes place over a couple of days. THE FEVER will give you the creeps, make you glad you’re a grown-up, and have you filling your shopping cart with more potboilers by the masterful Megan Abbott.
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Meg Walker is President & Director of Marketing at Tandem Literary, a marketing and PR firm for authors and publishers. She works out of her home in Oceanport, NJ, where she lives with her husband, two kids, and a dog. Learn more at www.tandemliterary.com.