5 books I’m going to read by the end of summer

By this time next week, I will be in my dear-old hometown of Philadelphia, most likely sweating profusely and wondering why I left the not-very-humid, mild Stockholm behind. But I need my annual dose of America. I never travel without my Kindle, and I’ve already begun stocking it with books that I’m itching to read. So what’s on my list?

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I’ve heard a lot of good things about In Black & White by Catherine Lavender, so I’ve already 1-clicked it for my Kindle. 

Micah Winters always knew that she was different. It was the pigment of her skin and the texture of her hair that revealed that she was a woman from biracial parents. For five decades, Micah’s African American mother has remained silent about Micah’s estranged father (Sidney Irving). It is not until after Sidney Irving’s death that Micah learns that she is the daughter of the legendary novelist and screenwriter. Now with her mother’s memory fading away from Alzheimer’s disease, Micah can only rely on a novel that was written from her father years ago to understand her parents’ past during the time of segregation in the United States. Micah’s once simple life is not so simple anymore as she tries to make sense of an unfamiliar world as she inherits her father’s wealth and private past. With an abandoned heart, Micah must forgive the past in order to discover who she really is.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 23.45.14I’ve been a fan of Kathleen Tessaro since I read her debut novel, Innocence. Her latest novel, Rare Objects, sounds like the perfect read for a historical fiction fan like me. It’s set in Depression-era Boston centers around an unlikely friendship  and a secret. I’m already hooked. 🙂

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 00.01.08I love Dorothy Koomson’s novels and I 1-clicked her latest, When I Was InvisibleWhen I Was Invisible, a few weeks ago. I haven’t started reading it yet, but it’s probably going to be one of my Philly reads.

‘Do you ever wonder if you’ve lived the life you were meant to?’ I ask her.

She sighs, and dips her head. ‘Even if I do, what difference will it make?’

In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 00.17.07Rowan Coleman‘s We Are All Made of Stars sounds like the sort of book that will make me weepy (which I love!), so I’ve 1-clicked it! Rowan is also known as Scarlett Bailey (who has written some of my absolute favourite Christmas novels). Looking forward to diving into this decidedly non-Christmasy book! 🙂

A dedicated nurse, Stella finds comfort at the hospice where she works the late shift, especially since her husband returned from Afghanistan—cold, distant, and shattered by painful memories he refuses to share. The hospice at night is another world, where the dying receive closure by creating the letters that Stella helps them write. The pages are filled with love and humor, sometimes regret, and, occasionally, even instructions for a perplexed husband on how to run appliances. There’s one rule: The letters are mailed only after the patient has passed.

Suddenly Stella is faced with a dilemma: A woman under her care, Grace, has written a confession to the son she abandoned many years before. The letter clearly needs to be read before Grace dies. But if Stella mails it now, she breaks the rule—and risks tampering not only with Grace’s wishes but also with fate.

Navigating passion and grief, loyalty and loss, and a marriage threatened by silence and secrets, Stella discovers that letters hold a special power: granting solace, saving memories, nurturing relationships. As the words endure, love redeems.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 00.30.23Finally, I still haven’t had a chance to read Pulling Doubles by Christina C. Jones, so I need to remedy this before the end of the summer.

All Devyn wants – besides a tall, fine husband and eventually a few babies to fulfill her “about to turn thirty, running out of time, cute black family” dreams – is to finish her yearlong internship at University Hospital. She’s excited about the experience, eager to learn, glad to help wherever she can… it should be easy, right?

Well, it would be… if it weren’t for arrogant, know-it-all, always-got-something-to-say Dr. Joseph Wright. Devyn can’t stand him, and if his attitude is any indication, the feeling is mutual… or is it?

Joseph doesn’t “do” doctors. Or nurses. Or patients. Or anybody else who has anything to do with the hospital, for that matter. University Hospital has infiltrated enough of his life, and the last thing he needs is a blurring of the lines between professional and private.

… until smart, sexy, sassy Nurse Devyn Echols comes along, and stomps all over those lines.

When you’re pulling doubles with the person you hate to want so bad… something is bound to ignite.

That’s it for me today! Next week, I’ll be writing to you from Philadelphia and I’ll be sure to share with you my bookstore finds!  

Which books have you 1-clicked this summer? Share your recommendations in the comments and one lucky commenter will win a $10 Amazon gift card. Hurry! I’ll be choosing + announcing the winner on Monday, July 18th. 

 

 

5 books to read if that 4th of July cookout is boring…

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 23.16.45It’s a long weekend for all my Canadian and American friends–Happy Birthday, Canada and USA!–and that means cookouts…and as nice as they are, you know you’re going to need to escape and recharge your social batteries. (Let’s face it, all of bookworms go through this. We need time, space…and then we can deal with people again.) Instead of hiding in the den or the basement and watching TV (you know they’ll find you there!), load up your tablet or e-reader with some summer reads and find a good hiding place–don’t forget to grab a huge glass of wine or something.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 21.47.43  I met Estelle Ryan in Matera last year and have had her Genevieve Lenard series on my TBR list for a while. If you like thrillers and art heists, then The Gauguin Connection could be your cup of tea. It’s the first book in a 9-part series  and it’s free, so you can try it out risk-free. So what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

Murdered artists. Masterful forgeries. Art crime at its worst.

As an insurance investigator and world renowned expert in nonverbal communication, Dr Genevieve Lenard faces the daily challenge of living a successful, independent life. Particularly because she has to deal with her high functioning Autism. Nothing – not her studies, her high IQ or her astounding analytical skills – prepared her for the changes about to take place in her life.

It started as a favour to help her boss’ acerbic friend look into the murder of a young artist, but soon it proves to be far more complex. Forced out of her predictable routines, safe environment and limited social interaction, Genevieve is thrown into exploring the meaning of friendship, expanding her social definitions, and for the first time in her life be part of a team in a race to stop more artists from being murdered.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 21.44.15More in the mood in the mood for a love story? How about four friends-to-lovers stories? Then make sure you check out Because My Heart Said So: a friends-to-lovers collection by Nia Forrester, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java and Rae Lamar? I’m nearly done reading it and I can vouch for it being an excellent summer read! I’ll be posting a review soon. Here’s a little something to get you interested: 

Four Stories. Four Authors. For Love.

“Acceptable Losses” by Nia Forrester: Quentin is in the middle of a separation from his wife that seems to have no conclusive end in sight, while Lena is stuck in Single Girl Hell. The only respite either of them have is their regular coffee dates, while working on shared projects at a very demanding job. Sick of hearing about Lena’s semidisastrous attempts to couple-up, Quentin decides to fix her up. With his brother. Seems like a perfect solution; after all, his brother is a decent enough guy and Lena deserves that. Perfect … until it appears that the fix-up might actually work.

“Blind Expectations” by Jacinta Howard: Aristotle once said the only thing constant in life is change. Or was that Confucius? Whatever. People are fluid—they come into your life for a while, and when it’s time for them to float on, Leah has no qualms waving goodbye. The only exception is her neighbor and best friend, Trevor. When all else fails in her crazy world, Trevor is always there, reliable, steady… real. But then one night a heated argument leads to a revelation that shakes Leah to the core. Suddenly, Leah is forced to make a choice. But will her heart survive her decision?

“Blackbirds” by Lily Java: Once upon a time Sydney Tarr and Elliott Vance were friends: fast friends, ride or die, pledge of allegiance, take it to the mat, “friends”. And the fact that Sydney loved her friend more than she should didn’t matter until finally… one unusual and spectacular night, it did. It mattered very much. Still, not every story is a fairy tale is it? Friends do part — sometimes forever — but, not always.

“Blur” by Rae Lamar: Jade Warner is back home. The bad part? Starting over. The best part? Reconnecting with Kyle Malone. Picking up where they left off years ago, it feels just like old times…except for the mutual attraction and questionable feelings, which are all brand new. For Jade and Kyle, it’s unthinkable to hook up given the history of their fail-safe friendship, but anything can happen when you live under the same roof…

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 22.13.07Now, after reading sexy love stories, another thriller will do you good. And Death at the Duomo by Ann Reavis is set in my favourite place–Italy. Ann used to live in Florence, Italy, where the novel is set, and she knows the city like the back of her hand, which means you’ll feel like you’re walking the streets of Florence as you read. So what’s it about?

An explosion rips through the Easter festival in front of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, but no one claims responsibility. The vicitms are not only Florentine, but also visitors from throughout the world. The security forces of Europe and the United States join together to hunt down the killers.

Caterina Falcone, a Florentine investigator, and Max Turner, an agent from the U.S. Embassy, team up to find out why an American student was at the cathedral when the bomb exploded. Max hunts a bomber who sows death around the globe. Inspector Falcone believes the identity of the perpetrator can be found close to home. Together they race across Tuscany to stop a killer before more people die.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 22.34.26After reading Death in the Duomo, you’ll probably be in the mood again for a love story. So travel north to Stockholm and give the Stockholm Diaries: Caroline by Rebecca Hunter a try. I’ve read all three books in the series and loved them. I think you will too. Check out the review I wrote for it. 

A pro hockey player with a rough reputation.
An American looking for a taste of adventure.
A chance to turn an intense attraction into something more.

Photographer Caroline Mendoza finally sheds her safe life in Michigan for adventure and a fresh start, and her first stop is Sweden. But Stockholm suddenly becomes more than just a casual stopover when Caroline discovers her reclusive next-door neighbor is ex-Red Wings player Niklas Almquist, whose high-profile alpha bad-boy image, both on and off the ice, has followed him back to Sweden.

While Niklas’s darker side draws her to him, she knows the sensible decision is to move on from Stockholm before she gets too attached. Her time in Stockholm is running out. She must choose between what is safe and what her heart tells her is right. Is she strong enough to take the risk?

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 23.03.49After all this love, maybe you’re in the mood for something post-apocalyptic? Alyssa Cole’s Radio Silence— the first book in the Off the Grid series–could be just what you need. 

No one expects the apocalypse.

Arden Highmore was living your average postgrad life in Rochester, New York, when someone flipped the “off” switch on the world. No cell phones, no power, no running water—and no one knows why. All she and her roommate, John, know for sure is that they have to get out, stat. His family’s cabin near the Canadian border seemed like the safest choice.

It turns out isolation doesn’t necessarily equal safety.
When scavengers attack, it’s John’s ridiculously handsome brother, Gabriel, who comes to the rescue. He saves Arden’s life, so he can’t be all bad…but he’s also a controlling jerk who treats her like an idiot. Now their parents are missing and it seems John, Gabriel, their kid sister, Maggie, and Arden are the only people left alive who aren’t bloodthirsty maniacs.

No one knows when—or if—the lights will come back on and, in the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel are finding that there’s a fine line indeed between love and hate. How long can they expect to last in this terrifying new world, be it together or apart?

These are just a few of my suggestions for summer reads. Check back next week–I’ll tell you which 5 new releases I’ll be reading reading now that July is heating up Stockholm!

Don’t forget to tell me which books are on your must-read list for July! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Brunch at Ruby’s by DL White

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 09.55.15DL White has done it: written a wonderful book about friendship and all its foibles in such a way that you don’t want the book to end. In Brunch at Ruby’s, we meet lifelong friends Debra, Renee and Maxine when all three are a crossroads in their lives: Maxine is convinced she’s met Mr. Right (based on standards her mother has instilled in her since her youth–wealthy and cultured and above her station), Debra has been caught in a clinch with her lover and the shit is about to hit the fan at the school where she’s principal (especially since her lover is the Athletic Director at the school) and Renee is struggling to deal with her father and his quickly declining case of dementia.

White takes us through the highs and lows of the women’s lives in alternating points of view and does so with a deft hand. There is NO head-hopping here; instead, we have confidently drawn characters whose voices are unique and whose storylines are differentiated enough that we understand all the time whose story we’re following. This pleases me as there are far too many books out there told from alternating POV in which less confident authors jump from head to head mid-paragraph and end up confusing readers.

What I love about Brunch at Ruby’s is that DL White has taken everyday life and made it so compelling that you don’t want to put the book down. This is a story every woman can relate to–the ups and downs of friendships, marriage problems, dealing with ageing parents–and it does so without becoming maudlin or predictable. Loved this book! Looking forward to DL White’s next release!

My rating?

5_Star

Three More Books to Read This Summer

You all know how much of a book nerd I am. I proudly fly my book nerd flag. 🙂 So while everyone else around me has been going clubbing or sailing or disappearing to summer houses or the Greek islands (and all those other things Stockholmers do when it’s summer), I’ve been working and reading. You may remember I took two weeks off in June, went to Italy, wrote and lived la dolce vita. Since then, I’ve been working, working, working and taking the occasional weekend trip. And all the while I’ve been reading. 🙂

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Cover of Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh

It’s been a while since I read any sci-fi novels. None has really jumped out at me. So I was really pleased when I heard about Love Minus Eighty through a Twitter connection. The story is set in a future version of New York where one’s love life is as closely monitored like a reality TV show and death isn’t always the end–especially if you’re an attractive woman on the right side of thirty. This addictive novel follows the stories of several interconnected characters as they try to figure out romantic love in an age where technology has taken over. This is not your usual sci-fi novel. It reads more like speculative literary fiction and is a real page-turner. I loved sinking my teeth into it, and I think you will too. The world presented is like Facebook on crack…no, more like Facebook on the most psychedelic drug you could imagine. Hats off to Will McIntosh for such a brilliantly written novel! This was the first time I’d ever read his work and I am already a fan. 🙂

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Cover of French Kissing by Catherine Sanderson

French Kissing – Catherine Sanderson

French Kissing is not a new book. It was originally published in 2009, but I only just heard about it a few weeks ago. I was thinking about booking a weekend trip to Paris and stumbled upon a short interview with Catherine Sanderson and her experiences as an expat living in France. And as an expat living in Stockholm, I always find it fun to read books about others wading in the murky waters of another country’s culture and unwritten rules of society. And Sally, French Kissing‘s heroine, is doing just that while also trying to raise her four-year-old daughter Lila and maintain an amicable relationship with her ex, the faithless Nico. While Nico has moved on with two other women, Sally hasn’t dated and decides it’s time to take the plunge and rejoin the dating market. She does so via Rendez-Vous, the French version of match.com. We follow Sally through a few dreadful dates, a few not-qute-right-but-nice-enough dates and all the while get an idea of what it’s like to date in a foreign language. Sanderson does a great job of giving the reader insight into how the French (and especially Parisians) date and what it’s like raising a bilingual child while also trying to maneuver as a newly single mum. Sally is an extremely likable character. She is definitely not an all-too perfect Mary Sue. And her journey from coupledom to singledom while looking for love is an addictive read!

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Cover of S.G. Redling’s Damocles

I first heard about the plot of Damocles during a Matera brainstorming session. I thought the story–of a crew on a one-way expedition into deep space mission to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence–was intriguing. I couldn’t wait for the book to finally come out, and it doesn’t disappoint. Linguist Meg Dupris and her crew have the daunting task of making first contact with the humanoid inhabitants of Didet, an earth-like planet with eternal sunlight. But first they must overcome the Didetos’ fear that the “earthers” are there as invaders…and they must find a way to communicate when there is no common language. The story moves quickly, with Meg and Loul, a Dideto who predicted that “aliens” would come, struggling to figure out how to interact and learn from one another–and realizing they have more in common than they think. What I really liked with Damocles is how the story is told from both Meg and Loul’s perspective. So we get a very interesting view of just how first contact might be. Two thumbs up!

OK! That’s it for now! Happy reading (and writing)!