Summer fun reading means something different to everyone. For some it’s a chance to finally slow down and sink into longer, deeper reading, but for others it’s a time of toss-away reading—books that you’re not invested in, that you don’t care if they get left behind at the beach, pool, or vacation spot. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a welcome relief after reading really marvelous fiction that challenges or makes you think. Here are three options that while they didn’t get high marks, worked as reading-lite when I needed it.
Bethlehem by Karen Kelly
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Joanna has agreed to move her family from their home into Brynmor, the estate owned by her husband’s family. As founders of Bethlehem Steel they are among the old, wealthy elite in Pennsylvania, but now that her father-in-law has died her husband feels he needs to live with his mother and elderly grandmother. Joanna finds herself going from a cozy casual life with children’s birthday parties that feature pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey to etiquette she’s never heard of (it’s rude to leave your napkin on the chair?) and parties with a full circus.
Bethlehem is set in the 1960s with forays back into the 1920s. The focus is on Joanna in the present and Susannah, her mother-in-law, in the past. Susannah, who is quiet and dignified has quite a history—which, of course, will come out at some point. In the meantime, there’s Joanna and her struggle to figure out her place in this moneyed world.
This is the kind of book I call historical chick-lit. If you’re looking for the kind of reading that requires no mental input at all, something you’ll read by the pool, Bethlehem will suit you fine.
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Eve is in an entry level job at a publishing company. She wants to be a writer, but can’t seem to make any headway into actually writing. When she is passed over for promotion, she takes a job working for a well-known writer for The New Yorker. The work is interesting as is the new proximity to famous writers and the literary crowd found in summertime Cape Cod. She thinks she getting her life figured out, until it’s clear she’s not.
The Last Book Party is one of those kryptonite novels for me—it has book in the title and is about the world of publishing and writers. Sadly, it is one more example of why I have got to have more self-control when presented with shiny trigger words. It’s not a bad book, but it has no surprises and lots of clichés. Eve is young but not so young she has an easy excuse for falling prey to the whole older-wiser-mentor scenario.
Dukess’s writing is good so while this is not a novel of twists or depth it is just right for a very quick light summer read. I look forward to seeing if she ups her creativity game with her next novel.
That's What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield, Lauren Gershell
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication date: July 30, 2019
Apparently, anything having to do with fitness is the subject du jour for women’s contemporary fiction. Last week I reviewed Breathe In, Cash Out about a young woman making oodles of money who really wants to be a yoga teacher. Last year saw Fitness Junkie and Radiant Shimmering Light both of which scored as outrageous satire on the ‘whole health’ fitness movement. Now, That’s What Frenemies Are For, authors Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell go for a one-two punch and sends up lightweight fiction about spinning AND wealthy, NYC mommy culture.
Julia is used to being the trendsetter in her group. She’s not the richest or prettiest, but somehow, she always finds what’s hot and new. So, when she wins a gift certificate to a new cycling studio and meets Tatum, the earnest young blonde instructor, she’s sure she’s not only going to get her figure back, but that she’ll make Tatum the hottest fitness guru in NYC. Great plan, but it would be a boring novel. Tatum may be working an innocent, trailer park Barbie look, but she has her own plan. The novel spans one summer when Julia gets fit, but everything else in her plan goes wrong.
This plot should make for amusing reading and by and large it does, but because I’m a really judge-y person I was hoping for a more satisfying ending. Instead, the drama gets a bit looney and then the novel fizzles out.
What counts as summer fun reading for you? Any recommendations to share?