Cathy Austin September’21

Book Bites Summer Reading Review

By Cathy Austin

Thrills times three with these fabulous fiction reads! And each features strong female leads, great settings and topical plots. Let’s go:

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner has 15-year-old Diana working as a babysitter for the summer at a colleague of her mom’s summer place on the Cape. After becoming friendly with some boys along the beach, falling for one of them, and being invited to a beach party (Diana knows this might not be a good idea), the unthinkable happens. The memory of the sexual assault haunts her all her adult life until her mid 30’s when she discovers the ‘boys’ full names and how to confront them. Diana is a work in progress, hesitant to trust any man but does, finally, find a good man in Michael who stands by her quest to get closure. Diana makes friends with Daisy, Hal – the boy’s – wife. This is an unusual way to meet Hal in person, now, all these years later and Diana is not surprised that he is the same – superior, above blame. Daisy has been fashioned by him to serve, be there for him, do his bidding. Ironically, Daisy and Diana like each other, and feed each other’s strengths, Daisy’s long dormant. Daisy’s daughter Beatrice is a spunky teen, a delightful character, strong and smart. These three form a bond, good things happen for them. For Hal and his pals, not so much. Weiner has created a page turner with solid characters, a sordid event on a lovely backdrop – Cape Cod – and addresses the MeToo movement with a unique story.

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author on the way up and her latest, Malibu Rising is a gem of a page turner set over a number of years from the 1950’s to 80’s on the Malibu coast, a place that’s just home for those living and surfing there, never trendy but does set trends as time goes by. The Riva name is an iconic one on Malibu and the Riva family is well known to all and sundry especially stars, and wannabes. Nina hosts her annual end of summer party, open invites to locals but this last party in 1983 is a little different. The four siblings who are as close and in tune with each other as possible are a bit fractured; their long absent and famous father, Mick, decides to show up at the bash. It’s usually a fun affair, but not this year, as coke on platters makes a manic appearance. A young girl shows up claiming to be Mick Riva’s daughter. There’s chaos, faceoffs, fist fights, chandelier swinging, orgies in the hot tub and fire – the curse of the Santa Ana winds. This is a fast-paced well-written novel with outstanding characters, a fabulous beach setting, what’s not to like? Strong kick-ass female leads in Nina, her mom, sis Kit, and friend Tarine.

A sure pleaser is Sophie Kinsella’s Love Your Life. What a fun read! Romantic Ava meets her guy, Dutch, at a writer’s retreat in Italy. Sparks fly, passion and adventure follows! Then, it’s back to their real life in London. Can they do it? Be a couple, like what the other likes, friends, jobs, Ava’s crazy dog Harold who eats shirts?! Humour has been a mainstay in Kinsella’s books – think Shopaholic series – and there’s no shortage of it here. Ava is a delight; funny, unpredictable, scattered but a force, and loyal with a set of quirky friends. Dutch who is really Matt, the head of the biggest dollhouse company around, is a bit staid by day; beat down by his parents (who do not approve of Ava), so there are challenges. They do find a way to be a couple through a number of events and challenges, sadness, hilarity, all of it. Such a good book and a quick page turner, not easy to put down!

Will you enjoy these reads? Absolutely!