Friends, hello! Grab your SPF, summer is upon us! And you know what that means: Beach Reads Season! Summer can be a confusing time for the discerning reader, as buzzy new novels are as plentiful as garden zucchinis.
What a terrible metaphor!
What I mean to say is this, dear discerning reader: do not fear finding yourself stranded in the sand with nothing good to read because I've got you. Here are my deep thoughts on four of this season's HOTTest new releases, perfect for all of your summer reading needs. (See what I did there?) (Just spelled the word correctly but with some fun capitalization?) (That's called poetic license, my friends.)
Stop rambling and get to the books? You got it, dudes!
As always you can check the HottReads tab above or #hottreads on the 'gram for all of your burning literary queries.
Now let's do this.
Tina Fontana is an executive assistant to a hotshot investment banker, helping facilitate his baller life as she lives paycheck to paycheck, drowning in student loans.
(Sound familiar? OOF.)
One afternoon Tina receives a corporate check with the comma mistakenly in the wrong place (still pennies to her multi-billion dollar company) and decides to keep it to pay off her crippling debt. Soon she finds herself the Robin Hood of student loans, embezzling from the company to help her fellow plebes pay their bills. Hijinks ensue.
The Assistants is snappy and charming, Tina and her cohorts are funny and fully realized and it's just the David and Goliath story we need in this era of massive wealth disparity and student debt. A societal take down wrapped up in a sassy, satirical, fun-as-heck bow.
Recommended for: anyone who started from the bottom (now they here); anyone with student loans (what up, my peoples!); fans of what we might call "elevated chick-lit"
Your Summer Reading Scene: On a summer Friday, savoring a few delicious hours outside of the corporate grind.
I have a confession to make. I have only read half of a Jane Austen book. Like, ever. In 6th grade I famously set out to read Pride and Prejudice for a book report but found it utterly boring and a little advanced for a 12-year-old, even one with a high school reading level (brag). Luckily PBS came to the rescue with a perfectly timed P&P episode of my very favorite show Wishbone. I did an entire Jane Austen book report based off of an afternoon TV special starring a Jack Russell terrier as Mr. Darcy. I got an A. Andddd never revisited the Austen well again. Whoops. As a professional bibliophile that's got to be some kind of mortal sin. But here we are. Promise never to tell?
Lucky for my cheaty-cheatster self, Curtis Sittenfeld, one of my favorite authors whose books I have actually read, is here with modernization of Pride and Prejudice to help me keep my streak alive, to keep reading Jane Austen without, you know, actually reading Jane Austen.
Eligible takes the famous tale and sets it in the present day, in the greatest place on earth: Cincinnati, Ohio. Her Elizabeth Bennett is Lizzy, a 39-year-old, unmarried NYC magazine writer with four increasingly silly sisters, all still single, much to the chagrin of their old-fashioned, social striving parents. Home in Cincinnati one long, hot summer she meets snobbish yet roguishly handsome ER surgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy and the two instantly butt heads. But could their animosity actually be - swoon! - love in disguise?!
If you've read Pride & Prejudice (or Helen Fielding's masterpiece of an homage, Bridget Jones Diary) you know what happens. Lizzy somehow falls in love with Darcy, despite the fact that Darcy is a dog and they live happily ever after. At least that's how it went down in Wishbone.
Jane Austen aficionado or not, there will be very few plot surprises in this novel but it's a fun and sexy ride all the same. I was reading at a bar one night while waiting for a friend to join me and was genuinely hoping she would stand me up so I could sit and read all night, I was that hooked. The romantic tension is A+, the dialogue is witty, the characters loveable, the hunks hunky and no star shines brighter than the great city of Cincinnati.
Recommended for: fans of Jane Austen, Curtis Sittenfeld, Bridget Jones, and/or Wishbone; kooks who remain oddly obsessed with the city of Cincinnati; hopeless romantics; readers with lots of sisters; unmarried 30-somethings whose parents won't just lay off already, Mommm
Your Summer Reading Scene: en-route to your family reunion, the Bennetts will make you treasure your own clan, no matter how nutty they may be.
I have to be honest right upfront and admit that I approached this novel with a Costco-sized bag of chips on my shoulder. Stephanie Danler is gorgeous and blonde and got a sizeable book deal and her novel has scooped up every coveted publicity hit from The Skimm to a Wall Street Journal profile to a flat-out rave from the New York Times. I was (am) personally and professionally jealous and thus was prepared to fully despise her novel and damn it, y'all. I liked it.
Don't you just hate the taste of crow?
Sweetbitter unfolds over the course of one year, following 22-year-old Tess, a new college graduate who arrives in New York with little more than some hope and a backpack, an age old tale but one well told. Tess lands a coveted position on the waitstaff at a hip Union Square cafe and is drawn into the tumultuous restaurant world full of ambition and lust and late nights, with plenty of booze and drugs. This novel is sensuous. And I don't mean that in a pervy way (though sex is definitely an element) but in the literal definition. Danler's writing draws on all of the senses as she evokes the din of the bustling restaurant, the scent of a just-shucked oyster, the taste of wine, of whiskey, of exotic black tea, the oppressive heat of New York City in July and the bitter January chill, the cocaine drip down the back of the throat. (I mean, I have never done cocaine, obviously, but in reading I though maybe I have?! It felt so real!) The plot instantly hooks and I was hugely impressed by the ending - I won't spoil it, but if you do read, let's chat!
What ultimately captured me, and sticks with me still is how she evokes the absolute chaos of life in New York City. I underlined the quote below in my copy and it's lingered with me since I finished:
"As I contemplated the skyline this double feeling came to me as one thought, pressing in from either side of the bridge, impossible for me to settle or process: It is ludicrous for anyone to live here and I can never leave."
I've been here for nine years and I still feel like that every single day.
Recommended for: anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry; anyone who moved to a strange, scary city nearly a decade ago and still finds themself in awe that this is their real life; jealous haters who need to be taken down a peg; foodies
Your Summer Reading Scene: on a patio al fresco alongside a crisp glass of sancerre and a dozen briny oysters.
Another splashy debut, this from a 23-year-old wunderkind. Loosely inspired by the women of the Manson Family, The Girls is set in the famed Summer of '69 in Northern California. Evie Boyd is 14 and lonely, ignored by her recently separated parents, hovering in that murky danger zone between childhood and adulthood. She becomes enraptured by a group of seductive older girls who are part of a cultish group living on the outskirts of town, led by the charismatic Russell. We know that the other girls' story will end with great violence, an act in which Evie will have no part, leaving her at once involved and innocent, a barely-known footnote in a legendary story. Though the criminal cult backstory is the obvious hook (got me and got me good), The Girls is ultimately not about murder or Manson but about yes, girls. Their relationships to the men in their lives, their bodies, the world around them, and particularly to one another. Emma Cline so painfully and vividly captures the tiniest minutia of being a young girl, all the boredom and frustration and hormones and insecurity and longing and curiosity and guilt and sadness and wonder.
I just finished this book yesterday and I already want to dive back in.
Recommended for: readers who don't mind a lingering haunt of darkness; anyone who has ever fallen into an internet rabbithole reading about cults (haiii); GIRLS
Your Summer Reading Scene: in a comfy deck chair with a stash of drinks and snacks handy so you don't even have to think about moving until you're finished.
And there you have it, friends. These should keep you busy until at least July. Happy reading and happy summering. And seriously please do remember to wear sunblock!!
xoxo Liz Ho