Family Life, Me Time, Uncategorized

Joy’s Hot Reads for Hot Months

The sun is shining. The waves are crashing. The afternoon showers are pouring. We are in those sweaty, humid days when our shirts get damp just walking to the car. This means pool days with our kids or beach days with our families. Don’t we all need something to read by the water or in the cool AC? If you’re like me, you may want something light and breezy or maybe you want a good thriller with a mystery to solve. I’ve got a mix of romcoms, page turners, and thrillers for you.

If romantic comedies are your genre of choice as the waves crash or your children splash, then these are sure to captivate you.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
If you are looking for a comfortable and kind escape, turn these pages! Hannah Brooks is a high level bodyguard, an Executive Protection Agent, who is having a few rough weeks when she gets assigned to the hottest action star’s detail. Jack Stapleton is in Houston to support his sick mother, and due to a fanatic stalker, his studio has hired a protection agency. Hannah must protect Jack by masquerading as his girlfriend, which is pretty great since he is a total heartthrob. However, this also means living at his parents’ ranch and becoming a (fake) part of their family. Typical of a Center novel, there’s so much more to both main characters, like fear, grief, and trauma. The fake dating evolves into something more after sweet moments and lots of laughter.

Abby Jimenez Trio
Abby Jimenez is an author who writes adorable romance with real life struggles and great banter. Jimenez saturates her novels with dynamic characters, sweet moments, and just enough romance. Here are her three summer-ready romcoms that are perfect for vacations, pools, lakes, beaches, and travel.

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez
Yours Truly is a slow-burn romance with complex characters and memorable themes of anxiety, sacrifice, friendship, and family. Briana Ortiz is a recently divorced ER doctor who is definitely not interested in dating. Jacob Maddox arrives in Briana’s ER as the new doctor. Crippled with anxiety, Jacob is dealing with the awkward situation of his brother and ex-girlfriend getting married. Briana and Jacob get involved in a fake dating relationship to ease the weirdness during the wedding festivities. But of course, they really do fall for each other. Which one of them will be brave enough to be honest about their feelings?

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez
Life’s Too Short delivers snappy banter, lovable characters, multi-dimensional backgrounds, and real life issues. Vanessa is a famous YouTuber and travel vlogger whose life has radically changed since she started fostering her sister’s infant daughter. She crosses paths with her hot lawyer neighbor when she is desperate for baby help. Adrian, the hot lawyer, is captivated by Vanessa and taken with her cute baby. They quickly join lives as friends and neighbors, helping one another get by. Vanessa, a possible carrier of ALS, refuses to date, but these neighbors turn into lovers. They must overcome the very real issues in their lives: grief, chronic illness, fear, family struggles, family member’s addiction, and heartbreak.

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
Part of Your World includes small town warmth, relationship realism, a hefty dose of romance, and a pinch of fairytale magic. Alexis Montgomery is the heir to a prestigious medical legacy in Minneapolis, and she lives a high maintenance life as an ER surgeon. Her predictable life gets shaken up when a raccoon runs in front of her car and she lands in a muddy ditch. A handsome carpenter/innkeeper helps her out, and sparks fly. Soon Alexis and Daniel are seeing more of each other, and the attraction is more than either can handle. Alexis must choose between her family dynasty or a true love in a small town. Along the way, she discovers who she really is and where she belongs.

Ali Hazelwood STEM Duo
Ali Hazelwood has a unique voice and extremely addictive writing style. Her STEM romcoms are self aware and full of nerdy science. She uses Kylo Ren and Rey as broad character inspirations for her love interests. Her books are steamy and anatomically graphic, but also full of humor and wit.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Olive is a devoted PhD student at Stanford who is determined to improve early indicators in cancer diagnoses. When her best friend catches feelings for her ex, Olive initiates a kiss and fake dating agreement with the hot, “unapproachable and antagonistic” professor on campus. As the ruse progresses, so do their feelings for one another (of course), and like most romance tropes, they fall hard. There’s more involved, and the situation gets complicated. I really loved the setting in academia and the devotion to science and research that the characters shared.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
Love on the Brain, an enemies to lovers trope with a fierce and spunky neuroscientist, is a super enjoyable romcom escape. Dr. Bee Konigswasser is pumped for the chance to work at NASA doing neuroimaging for a fancy astronaut helmet. Her dream job falls apart when she learns her grad school nemesis, a grumpy yet handsome engineer, is her co-lead on the project. Upon arrival in Houston, Bee discovers the project is not going as she expected. Through a comedy of errors, Bee and her co-lead, Levi, become friends and then MUCH MORE THAN FRIENDS. Bee plans on leaving Houston and Levi when the project ends, but then all goes awry.

Curtis Sittenfeld Duo
Curtis Sittenfeld is my new favorite author, and I want to read everything she has written. If you like smart, sexy, hilarious, and insightful characters, dialogue, and genuine moments, this brilliant writer is for you. She has several titles, and I’m going to share my two favorites.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
This book was written for me! And all the other SNL-obsessed women in their 30s and 40s! Sally Milz is a veteran writer at The Night Owls, a long-running live sketch show modeled on SNL. She is brilliant and well-loved for her consistent writing on the show. When Noah Butler, a global pop star, shows up to host, Sally finds herself working closely with him and unexpectedly experiences sparks. Filled with self-doubt, Sally cannot believe their feelings are real. Fast forward to the lockdown, and Sally and Noah begin emailing and falling fast as they rekindle their TNO chemistry. Is it real? Can a comedy writer and a “smoking hot” pop star really be a couple? Hint hint: it’s a happy ending!

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
This modern update of Pride and Prejudice takes place in Cincinnati and involves a Bachelor-like reality show. As a massive Austen fan, I was very curious. Liz and Jane Bennett live in NYC while their family remains in their Tudor home in Cincinnati. When their father has heart surgery, the two older sisters return home to help in his recovery and run errands. Mary, Kitty, and Lydia, the three younger sisters, still reside at home, unaware that their father’s inherited fortune has diminished into deep debt. Jane meets the “Eligible” Chip Bingley, a former Eligible bachelor on the hit tv dating show. They hit it off, but Liz has fewer sparks with Chip’s uppity friend, Darcy. As the story goes, a comedy of manners, misunderstandings, pride, and prejudice take Liz and Darcy on a series of turns.

Page Turners!
The following summer reads are more difficult to categorize, so I am grouping them together as page turners you can’t put down. Their settings, genres, and themes vary, but one thing they all have in common: obsessive compulsive reading!

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach
This novel was an unexpected and emotional journey. Sally and Kathy are close sisters growing up in Connecticut. They talk about everything and can be their weird selves with each other. Sally is 13 when her adored big sister dies in a car accident. Sally and her family struggle with grief while she also goes through her teen and college years. The one person she is totally herself with is Billy, her sister’s boyfriend. Their friendship sustains both of them for 15 years. No one knows the depth of their pain and the depth of their love. Allison Espach tells a moving story from sister to sister that is so honest and candid that it feels so real.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Ordinary Grace is a novel that pierced my heart and captivated my imagination. It’s the summer of 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota. Frank Drum, the son of a Methodist minister, is 13 during a summer of awakening and loss. Multiple deaths occur in the small town that force Frank and his younger brother Jake to confront grief and their faith. They see their parents as real, vulnerable people and others in their town as complicated humans with issues. Throughout the summer, the boys witness all sorts of events that change them and their community. The Drum family walks through trauma and difficulty together while questioning God and seeing His faith, hope, and love in the midst of suffering.

Although I don’t read many in this genre, I know lots of readers love thrillers and mysteries, so here are a few I have read that I guarantee will have you guessing.

Dark Corners by Megan Goldin
Set in the true crime podcasting world, Dark Corners is a perfect escape into an investigative journalist’s search for truth. Rachel Krall is the fierce reporter behind Guilty or Not Guilty, a popular true crime podcast. When a suspected serial killer is about to be released from prison, the FBI ropes Rachel into meeting him to find out information about a missing influencer who visited him before she disappeared. To discover what’s going on, Rachel joins Buzz Con, an obnoxious influencer convention in Daytona Beach. As the body count rises, and a mysterious tattoo ties together all the victims, Rachel and FBI detective Joe Martinez must put together the gruesome pieces to find the real killer and locate missing vlogger Maddison.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
This thriller is psychologically deep, trauma aware, and exceptionally detailed. Psychologist Chloe Davis has spent the last 20 years trying to recover and heal from the summer that her father killed six girls. Her past still haunts her, even though she is engaged and successful in her career. Shockingly, a girl turns up missing in Baton Rouge almost 20 years to the date of her father’s first victim. Another girl disappears soon after, and Chloe chases theory after theory while in a self-medicated haze. Who is this killer? Why do the girls have something to do with Chloe? Willingham gives her characters dimension and fully developed interior lives. She employs paranoia, misdirection, clues, disorientation, and complex family dynamics in her mystery.

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
We Were Never Here is a twisted tale of toxic friendship and dangerous travel. Best friends since college, Kristin and Emily share an exotic vacation every year. They explore unexpected corners of the world and experience adventure until a fateful trip in Cambodia ends in disaster when they accidentally kill an attacker. Emily spends the next year suffering from PTSD and depression, but finally starts to heal in time for their next trip to Chile, where, inconceivably, a similar death happens. The two Midwestern 30 year olds find themselves at fault for two deaths in two years. As Emily deals with guilt and paranoia, Kristin intensifies and increases her control and possession of Emily. Their friendship devolves into gaslighting and manipulation as Emily tries to figure out who her best friend really is.

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
Killers of a Certain Age is a little Sex and the City, a little Charlie’s Angels, a little Kingsmen, and a little Golden Girls. Assassins in their 60s come together to celebrate their retirement, and of course, the leisurely cruise turns into a violent action adventure. Billie, Mary Alice, Natalie, and Helen were all recruited in their early 20s to be a part of an elite assassin squad called The Sphinxes. For 40 years, they travel the world taking out the bad guys and gals who cause others harm. When it comes time to hang it up, they are surprised to be targets for the first time and must think rapidly how to save themselves. On a series of missions, the killer ladies work together to make a safe way for themselves and their loved ones.

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