The annual end-of-summer party at Nina Riva's palatial Malibu home is the event at which to be seen - after all, the four Riva children's father is the legendary singer Mick Riva, and they too are making names for themselves in the aftermath of their mother's early death. Nina is a model and surfing-star, Jay is an up-and-coming surfing professional and his brother Hud documents in photos his quick rise to the top of that world, and youngest daughter Kit is also talented and fearless in the water. Malibu is their backdrop.
Here's where it gets tricky. The whole book takes place in two parts over twenty-fours on Saturday, August 27, 1983. Starting at 7:00am, we witness the family history of the Riva family, from its humble beginnings at a tiny seafood shack through Mick's marriage and rise to stardom and his children's success in young adulthood - all intertwined with the sibling's preparations for the evening festivities.
And at 7:00pm, the legendary party starts, our cast of characters multiplies exponentially, and the story becomes as frenetic as the party itself before it simply combusts.
I loved this book. Reid has a gift for giving us character's perspectives at a breakneck speed (cleverly name-dropping as she goes) but bringing it all into focus by the end. I usually reserve the term "page-turner" for a thriller, but Malibu Rising deserves the description.
So, my mama was right. She's loved Ina Garten's cookbooks for years (don't even get her started on the subject of her Beef Bourguignon or Coconut Cupcakes) but it wasn't until this week that I picked up Modern Comfort Food. The forward is a nice explanation of why comfort food now - the stress of the last year had people running for sweets and/or martinis but also cooking more often. And we can all use a little comfort.
Garten focuses on using simple, excellent ingredients and demonstrates that even comfort food can be lightened up a bit sometimes and still taste cozy. And she also shows us how to take a childhood favorite - a tuna sandwich and tomato soup, for example - and tweak it towards more mature tastebuds. The photos are gorgeous, and this is a cookbook I'll turn to often.
I was admittedly not a big fan of John Boehner's when he was Speaker of the House, but I enjoy reading both sides of political issues if they are fact-based and not derisive. Boehner is certainly partisan, but he is also fair is his praise and derision for members of both parties. His front row seat for the financial crisis of 2008, presidential elections, and the beginnings of the Tea Party gives him a unique perspective, and he pulls no punches in his opinions of key Washington powerhouses, including Barack Obama, John McCain, the Clintons, and Ted Cruz.
I was particulary interested in the way he was influenced by growing up the second of twelve children in a hard-working blue-collar family. He and I share an enthusiasm for ironing, which is nice.
His language is as salty as his vices, but he spins good stories in his folksy, Rust Belt-native style.
We last saw Emmy Lake in Dear Mrs. Bird, in which she was not fired from Women's Friend magazine for clandestinely answering letters to the Agony Aunt column. While she'd planned to become a hard-hitting Lady War Correspondent, she is happily working with a senior staff member to now answer those letters with sensitivity and to offer real help - all while volunteering for the war effort, falling in love, and bucking up her best friend Bunty, who lost her fiancé in a bombing. But the Ministry of Information asks the women's magazines to help recruit female armament workers, and while Emmy is happy to contribute to the patriotic plan, it takes her spunk and the help of her friends forge a real solution to the challenges the new workers face. Yours Cheerfully is a delight, full of optimism and kindness even against the backdrop of war-torn London.
Chasten Glezman Buttigieg emerged on the national political scene as the husband of the first openly gay man to run for president, but his memoir begins with his childhood in rural Chum's Corners near Traverse City. Feeling as if he didn't fit in with his classmates, Chasten nevertheless joined the bowling team and the local 4-H, where he blue-ribboned twice. He worked hard at after school jobs and became his family's first college graduate, but financial struggles and his own naivete left him with mountains of student debt and no real job prospects. Coming out was difficult and led to a couple of bad boyfriends, but it also led him to meet and marry "Mayor Pete" Buttigieg and become not only strong campaigner but a voice for many in the queer community.
Chasten taught middle school, and his writing style reflects this, but he's funny and charming and I enjoyed his road to becoming the First Gentleman of South Bend.
Nella Rogers loved her job as an editorial assistant at Wagner Books, a New York publishing house, but she's not wild about standing out as the firm's only Black girl. She's thrilled when Hazel McCall starts working in the next cubicle - Hazel is cool, confident, and friendly, and the two bond over hair care regimens and office gossip. Until then a note appears on Nella's desk, and its threat is undeniable - it says LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
Nella can't believe her ally - the other Black girl - would do such a thing.
The rest of the office doesn't know what to think.
The Other Black Girl is as much social commentary as it is a suspenseful thriller, and while often uncomfortable to read - author Zakiya Dalila Harris also worked for a publisher for almost three years, so her debut novel has an air of authenticity - the story is twisty and fast-paced, and I loved it.
Vivian Howe was a fiction writer with a house in Nantucket, three children she adored, a bonus child in her son’s best friend, and a book – titled Golden Girl - poised to become her breakout novel. But on a perfect June morning as she took her morning run, Vivi was killed in a hit-and-run accident.
She’s not ready for this, but as she ascends to the Beyond, she’s met by Martha, who takes pity on the abruptness of her death, and gives her seventy-five days and three “nudges” to ease the adjustment and maybe change some outcomes on Earth. And with one daughter on her third miscarriage, the other partying her life away, her son struggling with his terrible girlfriend, and her son’s best friend being questioned for her accident, well, Vivi has some unfinished mothering to do.
Elin Hilderbrand wrote this in first-person for all her main characters, so we have perspectives from not only Vivian and her children, but her ex-husband’s girlfriend, the chief of police, and Nantucket itself. This was a page-turner and my favorite since The Identicals.
It was a sad day indeed in the world of beach reads when Dorothea Benton Frank died. She was queen of them. And so her friends, family, and colleagues compiled a tribute she would have loved, and titled it after the book on which she was working.
You'll recognize the authors of Reunion Beach - Elin Hilderbrand, Adriana Trigiani, Cassandra King Conroy, and others - and they all contributed works that would honor their friend Dottie, and the result is summer in book form. All are enjoyable, but my favorite was a funny interview in the afterworld between Pat Conroy and Dorothea Benton Frank.
Oh! And the recipe for the peach cocktail in the back...
Peyton was on top of her morning news broadcasting game and poised to climb to the next level, in part over her stories about the college admissions scandals. Her husband was supportive and loving, and their talented daughter Max, although she would have preferred film school, was ready to start Princeton in the fall.
Peyton's sister Skye lived an idyllic life in a posh New York City suburb, raising funds for both the PTA and a home for underprivileged girls so that they might attend the highly rated suburban high school.
Both have secrets that could destroy them, and to tell them here would spoil the fun.
Author Lauren Weisberger is the New York Times bestselling author of the The Devil Wears Prada, and her insight into high-level media talent is certainly evident here. I loved this fun, dishy read.
Abigail Baskin was celebrating her upcoming wedding at her bachelorette party in wine country when, after a few too many glasses, she meets a charming stranger whom she nicknames "Scottie" and sleeps with him. She regretted her rash act, but with renewed commitment to her relationship with the handsome, rich Bruce Lamb, she enjoyed her idyllic wedding - until she sees Scottie in the bushes outside reception.
The newlyweds left for their honeymoon on remote island off the coast of Maine, and while it was beautiful and luxurious, Abigail began to notice some very odd things - there were more staff than guests, only one other woman, and...Scottie. Again. And after Abigail spotted the only other woman in a bloody nightgown just before she disappears, things start to get really creepy.
Every Vow You Break is a properly disturbing psychological thriller. I really enjoyed Swanson's previous book, Eight Perfect Murders, and I can't wait to read more of his work.