Deborah Copaken Kogen
Every 5 years Harvard grads are asked to update their classmates. These mini-memoirs are published in the so called Red Book. Kogen's cynical spin is that the updates don't tell the full story. Her novel focuses on 4 women from the class of '89 at their 20th reunion. Jane, an adopted orphan from Vietnam, is struggling as a journalist/single mom in France. Biracial Clover was raised in a hippy commune and then lost her Wall Street job in the crash of '08. She longs to have a child like the others, but may have left it too late. Addison is spoiled and dramatic Mia is painfully naive, but we still get attached to this mismatched foursome. The Red Book is a quick, easy read, but also offers some thoughtful reflection on what it means to be a modern woman, balancing career and family. The author is a Harvard grad, and as one myself, I can say she got most of it right if absurdly exaggerated to the point of satire. But that's what makes this novel fun.
State of Wonder by Anne Patchett: a literary novel set in the Brazilian Amazon (reviewed last August.)
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
I'm 60% through this 925 page tome on my Kindle, and it's a slow but addictive read by one of my favorite authors. I also bought this hardcover at Gulf of Maine Books as a gift for my husband, but I found it too heavy to hold! This recently released novel is set in 1984 Tokyo, with a nod to George Orwell. Aomame assassinates rapists. She is facing her toughest job: a cult leader. Her childhood love, Tengo, has ghostwritten a bestseller novel about the mysterious Little People. The teen author is the runaway daughter of the cult leader. Under the shadow of a double moon, Aomame's and Tengo's dual narratives converge. In this mysterious world of alternative realities, it's hard to know what to believe.
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
A fictional account of the first Native American graduate of Harvard. Set also on Martha's Vineyard so sounds right for the beach and islands. Comes well recommended.
The Last Nude by Ellis Avery
A bisexual artist and her model/muse in1920s Paris (reviewed last January.)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Cromwell in Henry VIII's court. My husband loved this and is currently enjoying the sequel, Bringing Up the Bodies.
Young Adult Fiction
Historical fiction that might be better suited to adults than to teens. A captured British spy spins a story for her Gestapo interrogators about her pilot, another young women and her close friend. World War II is a bit dark for summer, but I couldn't resist picking up this new release at the Harvard Book Store last Sunday. The writing looks fabulous with a very appealing narrator. Reminds me of Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Airplane romance between an American teen girl and a British Yale student (reviewed in April.)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Boy/girl narrators and island setting with a touch of horror (reviewed 3 weeks ago.)
The final installment of the Notebook series (first 2 books reviewed here.) Zeta and Wendall are spending the summer together on the coast of Mexico. There is a jaguar in the jungle and sea turtles on the beach. Zeta faces poachers, a witch, her elusive father and an uncertain future with Wendall. A gorgeous setting with innocent romance, appropriate for tweens as well as teens.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
In this dystopian future people have an internet chip imbedded permanently in their brain. Humorous but dark satire with a male protagonist. Written for teens and adults and recently re-released on its tenth anniversary (reviewed last month.)
Small Damages by Beth Kephart
A pregnant American teen is sent to Seville, Spain to give away her baby. I'll be reviewing this novel in July, near its release date. Best for mature teens/adults.
Disclaimer: all books were bought by me without compensation, with the exception of The Last Nude and Small Damages (ARCs.) The Red Book was borrowed from a friend, who recommended it to me.