Reading is my favorite outdoor activity. Seriously, is there anything better than lying in the grass, sipping a tall glass of iced tea, and turning the pages of a book? Forget camping and fishing and hiking. It isn’t truly summer until it’s warm enough to stretch out on my favorite park bench and read until the sun sets. With that in mind, here are 7 must-reads that are being released this summer, plus a little inside scoop on how fantastic their plots really are.
1. Everybody’s Son
Release Date: June 6th
Plot Summary: David Coleman never imagined he would grow to love his new foster son so much so quickly. When his biological son died several years prior, it seemed that nothing would fill the hole left in his and his wife’s home. He knows that this foster child wants to go back to his real mother. But how could this nine-year-old really know what’s good for his future? Perhaps it would be best if his mother wasn’t released from prison. If David were to do something to ensure that, who would have to know?
Review: I read this book in two days. The plot flows so well and the characters are so relatable that you’ll hardly notice just how heavy the themes are. The Colemans are a rich, upper-class, and liberal family. However, just because they don’t fit the usual stereotypes, doesn’t mean their capacity for internalized racism is any less. Umrigar explores complex issues much deeper than just black and white, such as what it means for a black boy to grow up in a white person’s world, and how the well-educated sometimes still have the most to learn.
2. Final Demand
Release Date: June 6th
Plot Summary: Natalie’s life so far has been a huge disappointment. It’s bad enough that she’s in her thirties and still working the same dead-end job. After her boyfriend leaves her, she decides she’s finally ready to start experiencing life. Of course, she’ll need money to get there. She decides that embezzling it from the phone company that employs her is the easiest way to get it. All she’ll have to do is marry a man she doesn’t love, change her last name, and not get caught. But the consequences of her actions will have far-reaching effects that she would never have anticipated.
Review: Moggach is best known for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever. And if you aren’t familiar with one of those two works, then you’ve probably seen the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, for which she wrote the screenplay. A suspenseful crime drama doesn’t seem like Moggach’s usual fair, but her intriguing take on facing the consequences of our actions defies genre, proving that sometimes stories of theft and crime are the most intriguingly human of all.
3. Watch Me Disappear
Release Date: July 11th
Plot Summary: Wife and mother Billie Flanagan has been missing for almost a year. After failing to return from a solo hiking trip, she is presumed dead. Her husband, Jonathan, believes he’s come to terms with her death and is currently writing a memoir about their life together. Then his daughter Olive starts having visions. She thinks her mother is communicating with her telepathically in an attempt to bring Olive to find her. Could there possibly be some truth in what Olive is seeing? As Jonathan digs deeper into the time surrounding his wife’s fated disappearance, he begins to uncover secrets that he would rather remain hidden.
Review: I’d say this book is more suspense than thriller. It’s not a heavy crime drama like Gone Girl. Instead, it focuses on the relationships between the characters and the family drama their lives create. The ending was not as climatic as I was expecting. However, it was a surprising twist, and overall a satisfying end. A must-read if you like mysteries with strong character development.
4. Hum If You Don’t Know the Words
Release Date: July 11th
Plot Summary: Nine-year-old Robin has been recently orphaned. She must now live with her aunt who has no experience raising children. Her African nanny Beauty is the only constant in her life, but Beauty has problems of her own. She is desperate to stay in Johannesburg to look for her own daughter, who went missing after a student protest against Apartheid turned violent. South Africa in the 1970’s is a world wrought with tension and bloodshed, and it’s not a place where biracial friendships are encouraged. While the bond between the young white child and her African nanny starts as loving and innocent, it is hard for their relationship to remain that way, especially when Beauty’s biological daughter reenters the picture.
Review: This book is being marketed to fans of The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. It’s easy to see why. Hum has strong female characters, a riveting historical setting, and explores the themes of racial tension, female friendships, and the meaning of family. It’s definitely a book with a Hollywood-like presence, and I could definitely see a movie adaptation being made.
5. The Almost Sisters
Release Date: July 11th
Plot Summary: Leia Birch is pregnant, and she doesn’t know anything about her baby’s daddy. Besides, of course, that he was dressed in a batman suit the night their child was conceived. If this was her only problem, her life would be much simpler. Her sister’s marriage (to Leia’s high school crush) is on the rocks. Also, her grandmother has been suffering from dementia for years and decided not to tell anyone. However, these aren’t the only family secrets. When Leia heads to Alabama to take on the role of caregiver for the family matriarch, she discovers a trunk of human bones in the attic, and Grandma Birchie is refusing to tell anybody whose they are.
Review: I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. At first glance it seems to contain nothing more than the drama and bad decisions of a chick-lit beach read. But the results are actually a lot less Bridget Jones and a lot more focused on strong character development and all the racial/social issues you can find in a small southern town. However, the mystery behind the trunk in the attic turns out to be the real plot twist.
6. The Story of Arthur Truluv
Release Date: July 25th
Plot Summary: Arthur is a widower whose one joy in life is visiting his wife’s grave every day. Maddy is a troubled motherless teen who is bullied at school and feels like her father doesn’t understand her. They don’t seem the most likely of friends, yet when Maddy decides to hang out in the local cemetery after cutting school, she meets Arthur. Each might be what the other is needing.
Review: Warm and fuzzy while still tugging at your heartstrings, this book reads a little like a Hallmark original movie, but a surprisingly good Hallmark movie. It’s the kind that you sit down to experience on a whim, but you get so engrossed you forget to drink your hot cocoa. By the end you can’t stop smiling, even if you are also crying at little.
7. Drinks with Dead Poets: A Season of Poe, Whitman, Byron, and the Brontes
Release Date: August 8th
Plot Summary: Imagine taking a college class where the writers you’re studying each week show up in person. That in itself would be pretty cool. But when you find out the authors you’re studying are all famous poets who’ve been dead for over a hundred years, it starts to get a little trippy. This is exactly what happens to Professor Glyn Maxwell, who is supposedly teaching the class. Yet he has no idea how he got to this remote college campus, who wrote his syllabus, or how the dead poets keep showing up. Will his life ever go back to normal? Does he want it to?
Review: This is a book for the hardcore English major. I can’t begin to explain most of the symbolism and literary references in this book, mostly because I didn’t fully grasp all of them myself. Yet, it’s hard not to appreciate the creativity of what Maxwell is doing here. He’s created an Alice in Wonderland-esque world where he gets to hold conversations with his literary idols, and he does it while repeatedly breaking the fourth wall and making fun of traditional poetic tropes. The result reads like a bizarre hallucination, but definitely an enjoyable one.
What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer? Tweet us @litdarling and let us know.
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