Summer Reading Update

So far this summer, I’ve read five books strictly for fun. After a rigorous year of grad work, I thought my brain deserved a little summer vacation of its own, so I’ve been choosing books that fall sqarely into my “compatible” category – a few Nora Roberts suspense/romances, and some realistic romantic fiction from Curtis Sittenfeld.

The Roberts Trio

I love a good crime drama. One of my favorite podcasts is My Favorite Murder, my favorite shows to have on in the background are all Investigation Discovery originals, and I’ve never met a Law & Order: SVU marathon I didn’t like. So when I was scrolling through Goodreads, Nora Roberts caught my eye as a likely fit for my “just for fun” reading selections. I didn’t PLAN to read three in a row, and I didn’t especially LOVE reading any of them, but these novels were a fun, silly way to pass a few weeks.

THE OBSESSION is about a strong, independent woman with an evil man in her past. She works to carve out a life for herself and separate her present from her sordid history. But the past always has a way of catching up to you, doesn’t it? Luckily, she finds the company of a good man and a good dog, and together, they find a way to a happy future.

RIVER’S END is about a strong, independent woman with an evil man in her past. She works to carve out a life for herself and separate her present from her sordid history. But the past always has a way of catching up to you, doesn’t it? Luckily, she finds the company of a good man and a good dog, and together, they find a way to a happy future.

And finally, THE LIAR is about a strong, independent woman with an evil man in her past. She works to carve out a life for herself and separate her present from her sordid history. But the past always has a way of catching up to you, doesn’t it? Luckily, she finds the company of a good man and a good dog, and together, they find a way to a happy future.

(It’s good that I’m so funny, isn’t it?)

Really, each of these was fine. I couldn’t keep myself from reading a few of the cheesier bits out loud to Josh, who is a very good sport. There definitely is a theme to the NR books I read – strong woman finds (and realizes she needs) a good (and slightly stronger) man. Strong woman is smart and knowledgeable, especially about the forest and home renovation/decoration. Strong woman finds herself in danger and is able to fend for herself, but is also very relieved to be ultimately rescued by aforementioned stronger man. Strong woman has (or is close to) a really good dog. Also, strong woman and strong man do not kiss; NR prefers to say “she took his mouth,” or “he took her mouth.” This is maybe my favorite quirk, because it reminds me of when my great uncles used to play “got your nose” with me at family gatherings.

American Wife

I really did enjoy this one. I read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld earlier this year, and as a longtime fan of Mr. Darcy (typical), I really enjoyed her modernized retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

American Wife is romantic fiction inspired by the real-life courtship and relationship between George W. and Laura Bush. I didn’t know this when I borrowed it from the library, and I found myself thinking that the character Charlie must be inspired by GWB before I found that he really was – so good job by Curtis and good job by me, right? I loved the character of Alice, and Sittenfeld is really great at writing about falling in love. Her conversations and banter are clever and flirty, and her conflicts are realistic and often heartbreaking. American Wife wasn’t especially challenging or life-changing, but it was very very good, which is really all I’m asking for this summer.

Yesterday, I devoured Prep, another by Sittenfeld. The ingredients were there for me to really enjoy this one: main character who I could relate to, idyllic East Coast boarding school setting, quippy insults and pithy dialogue. And yet, I was left with just a “Meh” feeling when I finished the book late last night. The structure was disorienting; Sittenfeld plays with time in a way that was just a little too heavy-handed, and several times I got tripped up over where we were in the timeline of the story. This one was disappointing perhaps because of how much I enjoyed the other two I read by her; but I’m not giving up on Curtis. I think Prep was her first novel, so it makes sense that her style has evolved between then and now. She’s one of my favorites at the moment, and I’m really excited to read her collection of short stories coming out soon.