The Friday Life Edit: Five recent reads
It’s high beach read season. I’ve been reading so much already this summer, a good mix of novels and nonfiction. Despite not living near a beach, I love a beach read (or maybe ‘pool read’ or ‘porch read’) during the summertime. I tend to slow down on my own fiction writing during the summer months, and it’s a lot easier to read novels when I’m not actively trying to write one.
Today, I’ve rounded up a few novels I’ve read recently and enjoyed. Leave a comment if you’ve read any of these or if you have a recommendation!
The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
I read this on the recommendation of everyone on Instagram. It was the first of my official ‘summer reads’ this year. Getting back into reading novels is sometimes challenging for me. I’m the worst at nitpicking, which makes it hard to relax and enjoy a book.
Once I turned off the part of my brain that runs in edit mode, I really did get pulled in by the plot and the way three separate authors wove together the three separate plot threads. Plus, I didn’t see part of the plot twist coming, which was enough to shut off my naysaying edit-y brain.
Personally, I liked Lucky’s story the most. It reminded me a bit of my own book series, and I also liked the tension created by it being in the middle of three plot threads.
Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber
My in-person, IRL book club’s early summer pick. A review on Goodreads said this book was ‘like reading a Hallmark movie,’ which is very true. I wouldn’t say that’s a downside, although the small town bakery setting did make me crave pie. Fortunately, a fellow club member brought a pie to our meeting.
The book is billed as ‘magical realism,’ and I don’t really enjoy fantasy. I might not have picked this up if not for book club, which is a handy thing about being part of a book club. The magical element was fairly subtle with family connections and friendship taking center stage. It’s more a modern take on Southern Gothic than a fantasy novel, and I do love a Gothic setting.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry
This was a wonderful read! One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s the story of author Joy Davidman, who eventually married C.S. Lewis. Speaking of not being into fantasy, I never read Narnia growing up and haven’t read much of C.S. Lewis’s work. And this was the first I’d ever heard of Joy Davidman. That didn’t at all stop me from loving this novel. I even ended up checking The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe out of the library to read with my daughter this summer.
This book is a slow burn, but it’s not at all boring. Even without looking up the real story on Wikipedia (guilty), it’s a bit obvious what’s going to happen, but it’s fascinating how the author develops the characters both individually and within their relationship. The writing itself is beautiful and vivid. The book takes place in the 1940s-1950s, but highlights themes any female creative in any era knows all too well - putting her creative work last, trying to balance a family on top of a burning need to produce creative work, being underrated for dealing with ‘women’s’ topics.
I’m sure I’ll re-read this book in future and am also looking forward to exploring more of this author’s work.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
A short (157 page) novel written as a collection of snapshots of the life of the narrator. All of the snapshots deal with themes of connection and isolation. Feeling alone while surrounded by others was a frequent topic in the book, which really hit home for me.
This was a novel that Lahiri originally wrote in Italian and translated into English. It takes place in Italy, and it’s fascinating how she treats the setting. A lot of U.S.-based authors romanticize European settings, but Lahiri described a beautiful setting while keeping a realistic and pragmatic eye on it. For being a short book, it took me a little while to get through.There’s a lot of food for thought in each snapshot chapter.
The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
I read this on the recommendation of Suzanne, who was featured here a few weeks ago! It reminded me a bit of The Lost Summers of Newport above, except it’s set off the coast of Scotland.
This book is very long - I’m a fast reader and had to renew it twice - but I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the island and the intricate mystery that’s drawn between two separate plots. The story switches back and forth between 1910 and 2010 with clues to the mystery woven through both narratives. Like the book above, I didn’t see the plot twist coming. If I fail to predict the ending, that generally esteems a book in my eyes.
We’re also full speed ahead on the summer reading challenge with the Dayton Metro Library. Our house has already grown by a new book and a rainbow unicorn pop-it, which means DML has clearly done their due demographic research on the intended audience.
I hope you get the chance to enjoy a book this weekend!
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