The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant GinderCynical Paul and snarky Alice are siblings who have reluctantly agreed to attend their half-sister's over-the-top wedding in England. That neither of them is in a successful relationship (Paul's boyfriend feels unfairly restricted by monogamy, while Alice is having an affair with her married boss) fuels their long-standing resentment of Eloise's privilege and their anger towards their mother, Donna. Narrated by multiple members of this dysfunctional family, this sardonic tale has a bite -- and plenty of drama.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur JaswalGiven the title, you should expect some stories of a saucy nature, but this novel, set in a Punjabi community in Southall, London, is less concerned with titillation and more interested in upending biases towards widowed women, illuminating multicultural life in England, and exploring the push/pull of tradition and modernity. With warm, engaging characters, plenty of humor, and descriptive details of the community, this story of a group of Punjabi widows who turn their writing class into an opportunity to tell stories and build community has already been optioned by Hollywood.
Touch by Courtney MaumForemost trend forecaster Sloane Jacobsen has just accepted a job with a massive tech firm in Manhattan, mere miles away from her semi-estranged family. She's tiring of her long-term boyfriend, a man whose sensitivity and intellectual curiosity seem to have been swallowed by social media stardom. If these weren't stressors enough, she's realizing that the trend she's seeing -- a move towards more touch, less tech -- is in direct opposition to the job she was hired to do...which leads to a lot of difficult situations. Clever, thought-provoking, wrenching, and quite funny, Touch is an engaging take on the relationship between humanity and technology.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidHollywood icon Evelyn Hugo was born Evelyn Herrera, but she hid her Cuban roots in order to get acting jobs. Now 79, she has chosen to tell her life story -- and the story of her seven husbands -- to inexperienced journalist Monique Grant. But why? The fully developed characters, details of movie-making in the 1950s, and the complications of the decisions that Evelyn makes to improve her life will captivate fans of Beatriz Williams' equally complex Schuyler sister stories, like Along the Infinite Sea.
Home Away from Home: Hotels, Motels, and Inns
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill CleggAfter losing her entire family in a house fire the night before her daughter's wedding, June Reid is nearly catatonic, hiding out in a motel room thousands of miles from her hometown. Told from her point of view as well as others affected by the fire (some tangentially, as with the wedding florist), this "ineffably sad" (Booklist) fiction debut is also incredibly moving and deftly written; for a similar feel, try Per Petterson's tale of survivor's guilt, In the Wake.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-BennThough the cover suggests a light and sunny read, this complex, character-driven debut addresses topics of class and identity, sex and social status in stark and emotional terms. Set in Jamaica, where lavish resorts displace existing communities and exploit poor black residents, it revolves around two sisters and their abusive mother. Though Margot has a prestigious hotel job, she also has a sideline in sex work to earn money to provide a better life for her sister, Thandi. Thandi, however, isn't interested in Margot's vision for her future. Jamaican patois may slow down some readers, but vibrant characters make for a deep and often heartbreaking read.
Sweet Tomorrows: A Rose Harbor Novel by Debbie MacomberIn this conclusion to the heartwarming five-book Rose Harbor series, innkeeper Jo Marie is torn between two romantic relationships. Her boarder Emily is starting over in a new town, heartbroken but ready to begin chasing her dreams. While reading the previous four books would be helpful (especially in understanding why Jo Marie's decision is so painful), even newcomers to the series will be soothed by its themes of hope and healing. (Purists can start with The Inn at Rose Harbor).
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise MillerAfter pastry chef Livvy Rawlings accidentally sets fire to the ritzy Boston club that employs her, she flees to Vermont to lick her wounds, landing a job at an inn. Though it wouldn't seem likely that a James Beard-nominated chef would find a home in rural Vermont, she soon does just that, joining a local contra dance band and forming strong new friendships. With memorable characters and descriptive writing (especially about food and music!) this debut novel about starting over is a charmer.
The Rocks by Peter NicholsThough they live on the same island (gorgeous, windswept Mallorca), Gerald and Lulu have managed to avoid each other since their brief marriage dissolved more than 60 years ago. But the book opens with the two of them meeting by chance on the cliff near Lulu's seaside hotel -- and falling to their deaths together. Moving backwards through time, The Rocks explores the rift between them, as well as the curious nature of the relationship between Lulu's son and Gerald's daughter. More tragic than romantic, this novel nevertheless "melds comedy and compassion" (Booklist).
Beautiful Ruins by Jess WalterThough not strictly historical fiction, for half the book takes place in present-day L.A., this romantic, enjoyable novel will delight those yearning for the good old days of Hollywood glamour. It follows a young Italian who, in 1962, hosts a beautiful American starlet in his mediocre hotel. Pasquale is immediately smitten by Dee Moray, who's in hiding; her costar Richard Burton also appears, while an oily publicist takes pains to keep Dee hidden from view. Zipping between past and present, author Jess Walter offers both a twisty narrative and writing that is "funny, brash, [and] witty" (Kirkus Reviews).
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