Ah, summertime, and my book stack is full of guilty pleasures to devour on audio or tablet. I don't look for heavy or depressing. Light and happy, please. A touch of romance. Well-written oozing with juicy characters. And the baddie? Just base enough for a rousing "Boo-Hiss!" and no flinging death across the universe.
I just finished four such books all published within the 12 months or so. Coincidentally, each is written by a woman. More coincidence, all are penned in first person point-of-view and alternate chapters between main characters, like a he/she ping-pong match.
Kiss Quotient is quite frisky.
Something in the Water is dark and twisty,
The Flatshare is fun quirky.
One Day in December is a feel-good you won’t want to end.
Read on to find the publisher's summary of each
and my spoiler-free reasons
why this quartet tops
my summer reading stack.
Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoag
352 pages, Berkley
Why I like it
Caveat: I turned up the air conditioning, blushed, and was glad no one overheard the audio as I listened to this book in the car. I was okay with the content, but some might think Kiss Quotient is, well, too much kissing and not enough quotient. Beyond-bodice-ripping passages alert!
However, I adore Stella, the MC! She's portrayed brilliantly as a high-functioning Aspie through the lens of author Helen Hoang, who is also on the Spectrum. Stella’s perplexities over social situations ring true to the Aspies I supported as their college writing coach.
Minor characters shine in her orbit with smart dialogue. Some understand Stella. Others try. A few disrespect her. Best, the male protagonist, the extremely hot Michael Phan, learns from Stella’s goodness and honesty to grow in his own right.
There are a few #MeToo moments in Stella’s work place that crushed me, and I hoped the MC would’ve handled the situations differently. In retrospect, I believe the scenarios were true to the way an Aspie would react.
I give Kiss Quotient a Catly thumps up for its #inourownvoice character portrayal and the stamina the narrator had for performing so many blush-worthy scenes in the audiobook.
One Day in December, by Josie Silver
416 pages, Broadway Books
Why I like it
Don't be fooled by this winter-sounding title. Even at the beach in July, One Day in December is a perfect feel-good summertime tale....especially the audiobook that's alternately narrated by Poldark's Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) as Laurie and Charlie Anson performing as Jack. Yum! Their story spans several years, with detours and obstacles that keep them apart and make you want to scream.
I adore the sub-plot highlighting strong bonds between Laurie and her BFF, Sarah, who initially falls hard for Jack before Laurie can find him after glimpsing him afar from a bus. Every woman longs for a friendship like Laurie's and Sarah's that stands the tests of time ... and boyfriends!
Light. Breezy. Witty. Well-written. Makes the heart smile. Even though you won’t want the book to end, you’ll cross your fingers for Jack and Laurie until the very last page.
Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman
352 pages, Ballantine Books
A Reese’s Book Club, Hello Sunshine book pick
Why I like it
The darkest of my summertime picks, Catherine Steadman's voice literally shines throughout this debut novel, a zinger of a psychological thriller.
Yep. Wary at first because Steadman also narrates this book, BUT what's not to love about an audiobook read and written by Lady Mable Lane Fox of Downtown Abbey, aka Catherine Steadman? Crackling good writer, actor, and narrator!
The book grabs you with its opening chapter. No spoiler here. Readers know up front that Erin, the female protagonist, is frantically burying her husband under cover of night. Yikes! Cue the chill bumps. Erin's anxiety jumps off the page as she tackles her gruesome task, and you'll feel it alongside her, too.
Here's the mystery: you don't know WHY or HOW Erin gets to this point. Erin doesn't tell you. Steadman subsequently drops clues like break crumbs with a backward telling of what leads up to this event.
From its claustrophobic ocean dive descending to 20 meters in the South Pacific to an explosive ending, the tale kept my earbuds buzzing. Is that final chapter a complete resolution? It's satisfying, but methinks Steadman is leading to a follow up novel. Or at least I hope so.
The Flatshare,by Beth O’Leary
400 pages, Quercus
Why I like it
FlatShare hits all my sweet spots. You root for Tiff and Leon because of their quirks and vulnerabilities. Minor characters in their circle sparkle, too, like the eccentric author of Crochet Your Way, who insists on having Tiff as her crochet model. You'll want Tiff’s awesome BFFs and Leon’s brother on your team, trust me!
Big fan here of plot devices that develop the MCs slow-moving relationship. Tiff and Leon scribble Post-it notes to each other! Super-cute messages become longer and more personal, eventually covering every surface in their shared space. You’re reading those Post-its as Tiff and Leon reveal themselves, and you’ll root for them on their bumpy road to self-awareness and growth.
Scripted like a screenplay written in present tense, Leon’s chapters intrigue me. They're like enhanced stage directions in a stream of consciousness without any “said” dialogue tags, as in this excerpt when Leo phones his mother as his night shift ends to deliver bad news:
Mam: Shall I call Sal? ****
Leon: No, no. I’m dealing with it.
Long miserable silence. We wallow in it.
Mam, with effort: Sorry, sweetheart, how are you?
Return home afterward to find pleasant surprise: home-baked oat bars on sideboard….I see the note beside the tray.
Hope you have a good day/night.
An excellent development. Will definitely endure high levels of clutter…and 350 pounds per month AND free food.
****Excerpt from The Flatshare, by Beth O'Leary
While Flatshare is a feel-good tale, it’s also laced with heavier themes. Leon’s nights with his hospice patients both uplift and sadden. No spoilers, but O’Leary sprinkles wrongful imprisonment and emotional abuse into the mix. She makes you think but never brings you down.
And that’s the essence of my perfect summer read.
Thanks learning about my beach read faves. Have you read any of my quartet? Any interest you (it's okay if not!)? What's on your TBR stack this summer? Please share in the comment section. Always looking for the next great book here.
btw....I'm on Goodreads. You? Would love to connect with you there and share more bookishness -:D.
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