“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling
Whenever New York Times publishes book recommendations for summer, I go mad with jealousy. A change of season warrants a whole new category of books? But I live in year-round tropical heat! I assume we’re entitled to perpetual summer reading.
As working adults navigating the new reality of work from home, there will be never-ending chores and household duties so let’s be realistic about that to-be-read (TBR) list. Forgoing long-form fiction (sorry George R.R. Martin) and we’re going for the shorter stand-alones here.
I’ve picked 5 recent cross-genre biases, spanning fantasy, thriller, time-travel, contemporary women’s fiction, new adult and feminist fiction. All of them diverse and individually unique. Here we go!
|The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue||V.E. Schwab||Fantasy|
|The Silent Patient||Alex Michaelides||Psychological Thriller|
|People We Meet On Vacation||Emily Henry||Contemporary Women’s Fiction |
|The Hating Game||Sally Thorne||Contemporary Women’s Fiction|
|Olga Dies Dreaming||Xochitl Gonzalez||Contemporary Fiction|
FANTASY & TIME-TRAVEL
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by V.E. Schwab
Addie LaRue was mesmerizingly lyrical, and so hard to put down.
It’s 1714, a 23-year-old girl seals a deal with a god, in order to escape a loveless marriage and a life of mediocrity. For three hundred years, she lives like a ghost no one remembers, until a man running a New York City bookstore surprises her with three words she hasn’t heard in centuries: “I remember you”.
In a similar vein to Life After Life, or The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Addie belongs to an ageless cast who cannot die. She lives through some of the most memorable historical events. Here is a girl with a powerful hunger for life. Addie craves to see the world, not to live and die on the same patch of land, buried in the same graves as her ancestors. But she pays the price, for she is doomed to a sad and lonely life.
“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?” – While unable to leave any trace of existence, Addie finds she can influence artistic creations. Her transporting tale through the ages is embellished with works of art capturing bits and pieces of her – paintings, photographs, music. Even if she cannot physical leave any trace on her own.
“But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten.
To remember when no one else does.”
It is only in 2014 that she meets a very special Henry from the bookstore, who takes her to the movies, buys her coffee, listens to her stories and remembers her face when they wake up the next morning. Henry is special. We find out why. We are on a fast train to the big reveal and thankfully it was a weekend night, because I absolutely couldn’t put this down. The ending is every bit as magical and sad as Addie is doomed to be. No spoilers there.
Some of my friends flailed towards the middle, but I had no trouble at all. Luc (the god that doomed Addie, and whom Addie named after Lucifer) is by far one of the characters I love most. He created the undead Addie, and while he had been promised her soul, he appears at times to save her, to dare her, to agitate her, to kiss her, and to dine and dance with her. With Luc, life is never predictable nor boring.
Addie LaRue is now a permanent fixture by my bedside waiting to be picked up again for a second read. V.E. Schwab is now on my author watch-list for sure. I’ve got her Shades of Magic trilogy and Vicious/Vengeful duo due to arrive in my mail any day now.
Having just read the author’s beautifully written coming-out story on Oprah Daily, I have even greater appreciation for the bisexual characters in Addie LaRue
MYSTERY & THRILLER
The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides
The book starts off with a murder scene – Alicia Berenson is found guilty of shooting her husband at point blank, found at the scene with the gun in her hand. For seven years since, she hasn’t spoken. Theo Faber is a psychotherapist with a keen interest to help her, inspired by Alicia’s work as a painter. The suspenseful psychological thriller begins with Theo’s insistence that only he could help Alicia talk again.
On hindsight, there were nuggets of truth that the author hid in plain sight. I just couldn’t see it then. I was kept guessing right till the end. There were certain characters I was so sure had murder intent, but were also excellent decoys. I loved the allusion to a Greek tragedy by Euripedes, the Alcestis was one of his most famous plays. I kept trying to wrap my head around this reference throughout the book, and the plot twist tied it down neatly.
This debut was brilliant, I’m definitely looking forward to his next book, The Maidens, which should be out mid-June!
CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION
People We Meet on Vacation
by Emily Henry
Here, Alex and Poppy goes on ten summer vacations that saw their platonic friendship blossom into an unlikely romance between two utterly opposite individuals. Poppy works as a destination travel writer for R+R so she gets paid to travel like a queen, while Alex stays put in his hometown and takes up teaching at their high school. Since their fateful car-pool home from their first year at college, they had promised to take a summer trip together every year. So each year they meet for a short summer trip, seeing each other through pneumonia, heartbreaks, unlivable vacation homes, and more heartbreaks.
This book is as much about Alex and Poppy, as the quirky, spontaneous and fun people they did meet on vacations. Their holiday tales made me laugh so hard, I sorely miss the idea of packing up for a trip anywhere. I especially loved how Alex and Poppy’s idea of a perfect summer retreat includes poolside lounging with books of their choice. Mirrors exactly what I did with PWMOV.
PWMOV retains the sharp wit and sense of humor I loved in Beach Read, with even more witty banter and amusing mutual pining. I can’t wait to see what else the author has to offer in future!
This copy I have is the UK version published by Berkley Publishing Group. Understand she has another version that will be out under the name “You and Me on Vacation”. Both covers are bright and lovely, as summer reads should be.
CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION
The Hating Game
by Sally Thorne
“Love and hate are visceral. Your stomach twists at the thought of that person. The heart in your chest beats heavy and bright, nearly visible through your flesh and clothes. Your appetite and sleep are shredded. Every interaction spikes your blood with adrenaline, and you’re in the brink of fight or flight. Your body is barely under your control. You’re consumed, and it scares you.“
Sally Thorne is a master of workplace antics – I laughed out loud like a mad person at The Hating Game. It’s been 5 years since initial publication, but the work-rivalry-turned-romance trope never gets old.
Lucy Hutton is determined to beat arch-nemesis Joshua Templeman at the upcoming promotion, and all their little games before were just a prelude to war. It’s a light-hearted read that got me light-headed, because seriously, there are explosive scenes written to set off firecrackers and blow your minds off.
“Both love and hate are mirror versions of the same game – and you háve to win. Why? Your heart and your ego. Trust me, I should know.“
And the best part is? It’s hitting the big-screens soon as The Hating Game Movie, and Lucy Hale looks like the perfect Lucy Hutton.
Olga Dies Dreaming
by Xochitl Gonzalez
Olga is a Puerto Rican businesswomen approaching her forties, and her brother is a charming politician. Both of them are strong, driven characters who overcomes racism and social inequality to uplift their social status, but remain grounded thanks to deeply-rooted Puerto Rican culture.
This is Xochitl Gonzalez‘s debut, and her writing is well-thought out and compelling. She is a powerful new voice that deserves some recognition! She deals head-on with various social imbalances that people of color face on a daily basis and even sheds light on the lovely culture and traditions of the Puerto Rican people.
Received an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) on Netgalley from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Flatiron Books for making this accessible! For NetGalley users, you know where to get an ARC! For the general public, this debut novel comes out in January 2022, so get it marked down for next year.
Well this has been fun.
In a blink of an eye we’re facing June head-on. I don’t think I’m in the right headspace to tackle the second half of 2021 yet. How is everyone dealing so far?
I do post whenever on Goodreads – feel free to be my friend so we can openly and mutually stalk one another.