Time to take a break from the zoom calls? Grab a cool drink and dive into a great read or two this summer. Don’t forget to take your vacation days even if that means it’s in your own backyard…it will do you good! Here are a few of our picks this month including a brief synopsis by each publisher that are worth ordering online or downloading to the hottest new tablet or eReader…
Sex & Vanity: by Kevin Kwan (fiction). The latest hot read from the author of Crazy Rich Asians. On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can’t stand him. She can’t stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can’t stand that he knows more about Casa Malaparte than she does, and she really can’t stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin Charlotte. “Your mother is Chinese so it’s no surprise you’d be attracted to someone like him,” Charlotte teases. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucie is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world–and her heart. Moving between summer playgrounds of privilege, peppered with decadent food and extravagant fashion, Sex and Vanity is a truly modern love story, a daring homage to A Room with a View, and a brilliantly funny comedy of manners set between two cultures.
The Pull of the Stars: by Emma Donogue (fiction). Dublin, 1918: Three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love, by the bestselling author of The Wonder and ROOM.
In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
Sea Wife: by Amity Gaige (fiction). From the highly acclaimed author of Schroder, a smart, sophisticated page literary page-turner about a young family who escapes suburbia for a yearlong sailing trip that upends all of their lives. Juliet is failing to juggle motherhood and her stalled-out dissertation on confessional poetry when her husband, Michael, informs her that he wants to leave his job and buy a sailboat. With their two kids—Sybil, age seven, and George, age two—Juliet and Michael set off for Panama, where their forty-four foot sailboat awaits them.
The initial result is transformative; the marriage is given a gust of energy, Juliet emerges from her depression, and the children quickly embrace the joys of being feral children at sea. Despite the stresses of being novice sailors, the family learns to crew the boat together on the ever-changing sea. The vast horizons and isolated islands offer Juliet and Michael reprieve – until they are tested by the unforeseen.
Sea Wife is told in gripping dual perspectives: Juliet’s first-person narration, after the journey, as she struggles to come to terms with the life-changing events that unfolded at sea, and Michael’s captain’s log, which provides a riveting, slow-motion account of these same inexorable events, a dialogue that reveals the fault lines created by personal history and political divisions. Sea Wife is a transporting novel about marriage, family and love in a time of unprecedented turmoil. It is unforgettable in its power and astonishingly perceptive in its portrayal of optimism, disillusionment, and survival.
A Woman of No Importance: by Sonia Purnell (non-fiction): A never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine.
In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.
Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.
Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall–an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman’s fierce persistence helped win the war.
The Dishwasher: by Stéphane Larue (fiction). Winner of Canada’s First Amazon novel award. It’s October in Montreal, 2002, and winter is coming on fast. Past due on his first freelance gig and ensnared in lies to his family and friends, a graphic design student with a gambling addiction goes after the first job that promises a paycheck: dishwasher at the sophisticated La Trattoria. Though he feels out of place in the posh dining room, warned by the manager not to enter through the front and coolly assessed by the waitstaff in their tailored shirts, nothing could have prepared him for the tension and noise of the kitchen, or the dishpit’s clamor and steam. Thrust on his first night into a roiling cast of characters all moving with the whirlwind speed of the evening rush, it’s not long before he finds himself in over his head once again. A vivid, magnificent debut, with a soundtrack by Iron Maiden, The Dishwasher plunges us into a world in which everyone depends on each other—for better and for worse.
Little Fires Everywhere: by Celeste Ng (fiction). From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting story that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
This book has also been made into a television series, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, is now available on Amazon Prime Video.
The Moment of Tenderness: by Madeleine L’Engle (fiction): From the beloved author of A Wrinkle in Time comes a deeply personal, genre-bending short story collection that transcends generational divides and reminds readers that hope, above all, can transform suffering into the promise of joy.
This powerful collection of short stories traces an emotional arc inspired by Madeleine L’Engle’s early life and career, from her lonely childhood in New York to her life as a mother in small-town Connecticut. In a selection of eighteen stories discovered by one of L’Engle’s granddaughters, we see how L’Engle’s personal experiences and abiding faith informed the creation of her many cherished works.
Some of these stories have never been published; others were refashioned into scenes for her novels and memoirs. Almost all were written in the 1940s and ’50s, from Madeleine’s college years until just before the publication of A Wrinkle in Time. From realism to science-fiction to fantasy, there is something for everyone in this timeless, magical collection.
Still Here: by Amy Stuart (fiction). From the bestselling author of Still Mine and Still Water—PI Clare O’Dey is on the hunt for two missing persons. Little does she know she’s the one being hunted.
Malcolm is gone. Disappeared. And no one knows where or why. His colleague and fellow private investigator, Clare, is certain she can find him, as she holds the key to his past. She arrives in the oceanside city where he last lived and starts digging around. Not only is Malcolm gone without a trace, so is his wife, Zoe. Everyone who knew the perfect couple sees Malcolm as the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Everyone except Clare. She’s certain there’s more at play that has nothing to do with Malcolm, a dark connection to Zoe’s family business and the murder of her father years ago.
As Clare pulls back the layers, she discovers secrets the entire community is trying desperately to leave in the past. As for Malcolm, his past is far more complex—and far more sinister—than Clare could ever have imagined. He may not be innocent at all. As she searches for the man who helped her build her career as a private eye, Clare discovers that many women are in grave danger. And she is among them.
If You Want to Make God Laugh: by Bianca Marais (fiction). A rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.
In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.
Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to heal, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.
As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?
Gatecrasher: How I Helped the Rich Become Famous and Ruined the World: by Ben Widdicomb (non-fiction). He’s the only writer to have worked for Page Six, TMZ, and The New York Times—an unusual Triple Crown that allowed him personal access to the full gamut of Hollywood and high society’s rich and famous, from billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and the Koch brothers, to pop culture icons Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Now, in Gatecrasher, New York’s premiere gossip-turned-society writer spills the sensational stories that never made it to print.
Widdicombe has appeared at nearly every gossip-worthy venue—from the Oscars and the Hamptons, to the Met Gala and Mar-a-Lago—and has rubbed elbows with a dizzying array of celebrities (and wannabes), and he whisks us past the clipboard and velvet rope to teach us the golden rules of gatecrashing, dishing on dozens of boldface names along the way.
Widdicombe shares secrets for how to crash the parties, climb the ladder, avoid the paparazzi, or make small talk with Henry Kissinger and Anna Wintour. Endlessly fun and extremely telling, Gatecrasher makes the unnerving argument that Paris Hilton conquering pop culture two decades ago lead to Donald Trump winning the White House. “As the gossip pages go, so goes the country,” he says.
*Lead in photo credit: Sonya Davidson. Kevin Kwan’s Sex and Vanity downloaded on the new Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet.