Best Books of Summer

Even though it’s currently hotter in LA than it’s been all year, the summer season is “officially” over. And in spite of (or maybe because of?) the fact that I spent six hours at the beach yesterday, I feel like now’s the perfect time for a roundup of my favorite books of the summer.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

In this book, hypnotherapist Ellen gets lucky in love (finally!!) when she meets the charming, attractive widower Patrick and his son. Everything is going great, but Patrick has a secret — his ex-girlfriend is stalking him. When Ellen finds out, she’s both relieved (it’s not his fault he has a stalker) and intrigued. From a professional standpoint, she’d love to get inside this ex-girlfriend’s head. Little does Ellen know, she already has.

Like Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (another favorite of mine), the storyline is unique, the writing is solid, and you find yourself rooting for all her characters, even the stalker ex, by the end.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

If there was one book I saw everyone reading this summer (besides 50 Shades of Grey), it was this one. Without giving too much away, this story is about a marriage gone sour. On the fifth wedding anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne, Amy disappears. Husband Nick becomes a suspect and although he maintains his claims of innocence, diary entries from Amy paint a pretty unpleasant picture of Nick — including violence, bitterness, and a torrid affair with a college student.

The book takes a turn at the halfway point with an unpredictable twist, and by the end, I surprisingly didn’t like any of the characters and was okay with that. I thought this thriller was dark and pretty disturbing. I can’t wait to see if there will be a film version and if it will do this book any justice!

Where We Belong by Emily Griffin

TV producer Marian lives a fabulous, if somewhat superficial, life in Manhattan. One night, Marian answers a knock on her door to find Kirby, the daughter she gave up for adoption 18 years earlier. Kirby represents a part of her identity that she’s hidden from everyone in her life. For Kirby, who has always felt different from the rest of her adoptive family, meeting Marian helps her grow up, as her world suddenly expands and she finds herself tenuously joined with Marian as the two embark on a journey to redefine and rediscover themselves.

I think Emily Griffin represents chick lit at its best. Her books are really well written, her characters are vivid and developed, and her books have heft, unlike many others in this genre.

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Inspired by Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, this book charts the upset of Adam’s life in a devoted Jewish community in London, where he’s engaged to Rachel, his girlfriend of 12 years, and working for her father. He falls hard for her cousin Ellie, who is a pot smoking model — the antithesis of lovely, proper Rachel. Torn between passion and family, drama and reliability, Adam finds himself in love with two very different women, and with little clue how to handle the situation.

I thought this book was charming and captivating. The story seemed sweetly old-fashioned at times, but is also funny and warm. I related to all Segal’s characters, especially Adam, who seemed to genuinely love both women and was torn between living a life dictated by circumstances and life propelled by his own actions.

Honorable Mentions

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This story vacillates between 1962, off the coast of Italy, and present day Hollywood. At the start, a young Italian innkeeper meets a beautiful American actress who has been told she’s dying. The two forge a tenuous but solid friendship, when the story fast forwards to today, where the same man, decades older, shows up on at a movie producer’s office looking for this mysterious woman. The plot moves forward as the egomaniac producer who links the Italian and the actress together helps search for her, but not without his own hidden motives. The book detours as we learn more about the characters’ lives in the past fifty years, with stories that are both surprising and a bit heartbreaking.

I thought the book was very engaging, but that the characters seemed stuck. Fifty years go by, and it’s only when the two story lines merge that the people really seem to blossom into themselves, which felt like a frustrating waste of time to me.

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

Amina meets George online and moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, in a modern day arranged marriage. For Amina, George represents a better, more stable life, and for George, Amina is a woman without a lot of drama or baggage. The two are almost strangers, yet married and bound together for better or worse. When Amina returns to Bangladesh to bring her parents back to NY, their cultural differences and past secrets threaten to destroy the life they’ve tentatively built together.

My favorite part of the book was following Amina’s new life in the US. Little narratives, like when Amina buys a box of clearance Christmas ornaments for her extended family back home knowing that these will be highly coveted prizes, painted clear and simple pictures of the drastic differences between her two lives. I wanted both characters to be happy, but in the end, I’m not sure if either of them found what they were looking for.

The Bourne Imperative by Eric Lustbader

What can I say? I love the Bourne books, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The plots are always complex, and there are dozens of characters to follow, but I enjoy taking my time sorting through it all, and the action and energy are spot on.

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