Family Life

Joy’s Summer Reads

The sun is shining. The waves are crashing. The afternoon showers are pouring. We are getting to 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? 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, thrillers, and sunny stories 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. 

Emily Henry Trio
Emily Henry is the author who I have christened as the Millennial Nora Ephron. Yes, I know that is verging on romcom sacrilege, but I will stand firm. Emily Henry saturates her novels with witty banter, 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. 

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
This travel romcom centers on Poppy and Alex, two friends who take an annual vacation together. After an incident two years ago, their vacations have stalled and their relationship is off kilter. Beneath their friendship lies affection and romance for one another, but has too much happened to move Alex and Poppy into relationship territory? Think 2010s When Harry Met Sally vibes. Emily Henry writes with humor and meticulous detail, and her characters and plot are made for a perfect Netflix romcom. People We Meet on Vacation is literally the ideal summer read. Henry’s chapters alternate between the two friends’ current lives and their many vacations over the years. This book did make me want to travel REAL BAD, though, so hopefully that can happen soon! Pick it up for a page-turning trip of your own!

Beach Read by Emily Henry 
Beach Read revolves around two authors with writer’s block who spend the summer together. January and Augustus are both prominent authors, but of different genres. By happenstance, the two find themselves next door to each other on Lake Michigan, and they challenge one another to switch genres for the summer. Emily Henry creates such memorable and multidimensional characters that I got all sucked into their world. She writes witty banter and authentic dialogue well. Even though this is a romcom, Henry tells a great story about emotional and personal development. Definitely pick this one up this summer for a light read with some depth, some romance, and some laughs. 

Book Lovers by Emily Henry 
Book Lovers features Nora and Charlie, a book agent and an editor, who find themselves unexpectedly working together in a quaint Stars Hollow/Schitt’s Creek North Carolina town. The backdrop is editing/publishing, and the characters are well-developed and memorable. Nora discovers herself and a few other things during her summer holiday, including how to let go, how to cry again, and how to like, even love someone. This is an entertaining enemies to lovers trope that extends into self-actualization and personal growth. Emily Henry’s snappy flare and emotional characters are sure to capture you. Book Lovers is an escapist journey that delivers!

The Guncle by Steven Rowley 
This sweet novel about a reclusive gay former TV star has similar Emily Henry vibes, but it morphs into a really beautiful exploration of grief and healing. Patrick O’Hara is a former TV star nearly retired in Palm Springs when his widowed brother asks him to do the unthinkable: keep his two kids for the summer. Patrick, Maisie, and Grant are a trio for the ages, and their adorable relationship blooms in the scorching desert sun. As the weeks pass, Patrick deals with his own grief and guides the kids through theirs. The Guncle really did it for me. Great humor, lively settings, gorgeous character development, and lovely prose about grief make this a must read! Perfect for summer.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
Imagine if My Big Fat Greek Wedding and You’ve Got Mail had a baby, and you have this heartwarming, delightful, and considerate novel, Hana Khan Carries On. Except put it in Toronto and the entire cast is South Asian. Ambitious, brilliant Hana is 24 and pursuing her dream of broadcast journalism and podcasting. While developing her voice, she continues helping her mom run their family’s Indian restaurant. Hana is figuring it all out when a threat to her family’s livelihood moves in down the street. Through a series of events, family secrets, and revelations, Hana finds what’s most important and who she really loves. Hana Khan Carries On was the perfect blend of comedy, family struggle, love, cultural awareness, and dramatic irony. 

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany is a complete treat, an Italian escape perfect for this time of year! Family drama, personal awakening, touch of romance, descriptive beauty, and a stunning love story make this a delightful reading journey. I am head over heels for the characters: Poppy, Emilia, Lucy, and Rico! The second-born Fontana daughters have been cursed for generations, unable to find love and marry. Emilia and Lucy, the second-born of their family, are trapped in this curse in their own ways when their Great Aunt Poppy invites them on a tour of Italy to return to their family’s homeland. The trip is more than they imagined as new experiences unfold.

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! 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is quite a beautiful tale of Old Hollywood, secrets, true love, sacrifice, and truth. This novel goes far deeper than expected. Evelyn Hugo shines as a Marilyn Monroe/Elizabeth Taylor icon who is ready to tell her life story and the truth behind her seven marriages. She chooses an unexpected writer to divulge her secrets to, and the story takes several surprising turns. I have yet to find a person who doesn’t completely lose themselves in this page turner. It may not have a summer vibe, but Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an addictive read that fits any summer day or night. 

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Malibu Rising is the summer read you have to get and devour. The Riva family is unforgettable, and so is the setting: 1983 Malibu with flashbacks of the 1950s-1970s. This novel takes off three pages in and careens its way through relationships, disappointment, family crisis, broken hearts, disaster, and sunny Malibu nonstop until the last page. And it ties in with Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo! The Riva family is unforgettable. Four very different siblings who stand together through it all, and who can forget their parents? A crooner à la Frank Sinatra/Frankie Valli and a beautiful beach mom. Come for the drama, stay for the pop culture references and a party to remember! 

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
The People We Keep is a beautiful coming of age story of growth and healing. Our protagonist April is a neglected teenager who lives through her songwriting and guitar. She is desperate to escape her small town, and she drives to find a new home in Ithaca. After she finds a home and belonging, events occur that propel her on the road again, performing and surviving. Along the way she learns we are all broken, and the people we meet are the ones that can help mend us. Music and found family propel April to a new start. Her discovery becomes ours, as we travel along with her. This novel delivers mid-nineties nostalgia, vivid characters, tender moments, and recovery. 

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams 
If you want some sizzle, then Seven Days in June is just for you. Tia Williams tells an intense and beautiful story of two wounded writers who are trying to be true to themselves as they rediscover each other. Eva, a single mother and erotic author, is managing chronic pain and her career when Shane, her love from the past, reappears. They reconnect 15 years after their week-long love affair when both were in dark places. Seven Days in June is jam packed with sharp dialogue, vulnerability, Black love, honest treatment of chronic pain, and a relationship you won’t forget. It can get steamy, so if you want your love scenes to match the Louisiana heat, this is a good one. 

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. 

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave 
If you’re up for a quick page turner that’s a little John Grisham, a little Liane Moriarty, this is for you. The Last Thing He Told Me has been described as a thriller, but it’s more like a family secret mystery. Hannah Michaels is shocked one afternoon when she is given a note from her missing husband that only says, “Protect Her.” He has disappeared, and now she and her 16 year-old stepdaughter have to uncover the truth about this man who was hiding much more than they could have imagined. Relevant topics addressed: fraud (Theranos vibes), organized crime, tech stuff, stepmom issues, family dynamics, and relationships. From Sausalito to Austin, this novel will take you on a mysterious trip rife with family drama.

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell 
The Night She Disappeared is an immersive page turner with some surprising twists. If you want to get lost in a plot, try this British puzzle. Kim, a 40-year-old grandmother, is watching her grandbaby while her daughter Tallulah is on a date. Her daughter and her boyfriend never return home. One year later, detective novel author Sophie upends her London life and moves into a quaint English country town with her boyfriend, the head of a posh residential high school. While on a walk at the edge of the forest, she discovers a sign that says Dig Here. This sign will lead Sophie to unraveling the mystery of Kim’s daughter’s disappearance. Multiple POVs and alternating timelines lead the topsy-turvy journey towards several gasp-worthy reveals. 

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James 
This thriller was so captivating and enjoyable. The Book of Cold Cases is the perfect combination of a haunted house, a mystery, and personal growth. This novel focuses on rich and beautiful Beth Greer, an orphaned heiress, who was tried for two brutal murders in a seaside Oregon town in 1977. Forty years later, Shea Collins is a true crime blogger and survivor of a child assault who is obsessed with the Lady Killer murders. After a chance encounter, Shea interviews Beth about the crimes. Secrets unfold and terrors ripple and crash all around Shea once Beth enters her life. If you love ghost stories, haunted horror houses, and strong female protagonists, guaranteed this will be a fun ride. Stylish suspense galore with a heavy dose of supernatural.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Earnshaw
A History of Wild Places is a mystery, a love story, an idealistic fantasy, and a thriller all in one. Travis Wren finds people. Through his special gift, he can touch objects and see images of people, after images, he calls them. He sets out to find Maggie St. James, a missing children’s author who vanished into the woods five years earlier. Travis follows Maggie’s tracks and disappears as well. Two years later, Theo, a villager in an off-the-grid commune, finds Travis’ truck, and the discovery will unravel the world that he loves. The peaceful community of Pastoral is not what it seems, and Theo is going to uncover what’s hidden. Beautiful writing about nature and wilderness makes this twisty thriller a gentle ride that accelerates into something else entirely.

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