top 5 wednesday: Summer Reads

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

May 17th: Summer Reads:  The weather is heating up (for half of the world), so what books remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads?

I’ll be honest: I’m not much of a seasonal reader.  I get the logic behind it – some books being better suited for certain seasons – but I can’t say that’s a huge factor in me deciding what’s next on my TBR.  I mean, I read A Little Life in July – coming in at around 700+ pages of pure depression, I’m pretty sure that should be a February book, but not for me.

That said, I’ve read a lot of books that I think would make for good summer reads!  So if you’re looking for something quick, thrilling, and addicting to read at the beach this summer, maybe give one of these a try:

51xb75isx7l-_sx343_bo1204203200_The Last Night at Tremore Beach by Mikel Santiago

The one sentence summary: The recently divorced Peter Harper decides to spend his summer on the idyllic Irish coast, which turns out to be anything but peaceful as this vaguely paranormal thriller unfolds.

Why it’s a good summer read: The beach setting and the page-turning storyline makes this a fantastic summer book.  You won’t want to put it down until you get to the end, making it a great book to take with you while you spend the day by the ocean.  (Ironically, I read this in December.)

9781250098221Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

The one sentence summary: Barry Bleecker and Sophie Ducel’s plane crashes somewhere in the Marquesas, leaving these two strangers to survive together on an island.

Why it’s a good summer read: Because reading about this beautiful tropical island in the middle of winter is going to make you cry.  This short and sweet book is best consumed with a body of water nearby.  As it’s under 300 pages long, this is the perfect book to read in a day, and it’s so compelling that you won’t want to put it down.  If you’re looking for something addicting to help you get back into the reading groove on your summer holidays, look no further.

19542841More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

The one sentence summary: 16 year old Aaron Soto is finally settling back into a routine in the months after his father’s suicide, supported by his mom and his girlfriend Genevieve; but then Thomas moves into the neighborhood, and everything Aaron thinks he knows is called into question.

Why it’s a good summer read: The stifling heat of summers in the Bronx is captured so well in these pages.  Though it starts out slow, this is ultimately a compelling story with believable and sympathetic characters.  I read this in my garden on a hot summer day, and it was the perfect atmosphere to complement the evocative setting of this novel.

30304221Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

The one sentence summary: Ingrid has been missing for years, presumed dead; but little does her family know she’s actually left a series of letters behind, chronicling the years and then months leading up to her disappearance.

Why it’s a good summer read: This is another one that takes place by a beach, but it’s the addicting prose and refreshing storyline that makes this the perfect summer vacation book.  Though the mystery is compelling, it’s really the characters and the family dynamic that make up the meat of this story, so this is recommended to anyone looking to unwind with a quiet sort of family-driven literary contemporary.

51p7ayjdy3l-_sx327_bo1204203200_

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The one sentence summary: Two mothers (sisters by marriage) give birth on the same night in the same house, and they come to an agreement which ends up having indelible consequences on their lives.

Why it’s a good summer read: This addicting family saga of a novel will keep you turning pages, even well after you’ve figured out the twist.  Short and sweet and and unexpectedly emotional ride, this is the perfect book for anyone looking for a compelling and unique family drama to devour in one sitting on your holidays.

So what are your favorite summer reads?  Have you read any of these books?  Comment and let me know!

book review: Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

9781250098221

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

US pub date: April 4, 2017

★★★★★

This is an unassuming little book, the sum of which somehow manages to exceed its parts and become something unexpectedly extraordinary. There’s nothing terribly original about this book’s premise – a plane crashes, two strangers need to learn how to survive together – but reading Castle of Water is like taking a breath of fresh air. I was surprised by how much I loved it.

Barry Bleecker one day decides to leave his corporate Manhattan job and travel to the grave of his favorite painter, Paul Gauguin, which lies somewhere in the Marquesas. French architect and newlywed Sophie Ducel and her husband Étienne are on a honeymoon in French Polynesia, and they decide to take a detour to visit the grave of singer Jacques Brel, incidentally buried a few yards away from Gauguin. When their plane crashes somewhere between Tahiti and the Marquesas, Étienne and the pilot die on impact, leaving only Barry and Sophie to survive on a small island together – which is complicated not only by Sophie’s grief, but also by a limited patience and understanding for each other’s language and culture.

Dane Huckelbridge’s prose is hard to describe. Castle of Water is told in third-person omniscient narration which is almost insensitively concise; full of facts and devoid of any sentimentality. This story is also told with a weird, offbeat humor that resists any temptation of melodrama. It’s not at all what you’d expect and should theoretically clash with the premise of the story, which invites an onslaught of emotion and introspection. But, somehow, Huckelbridge’s approach works. Better than it should, and yet, better than its maudlin alternative. This story isn’t heartless, it isn’t cold and unfeeling. And it isn’t a comedy, either. At its core this is a bitterly, achingly sad story, which managed to both make me laugh out loud and break my heart.

Sure, this book is full of unrealistic conveniences: the survival kit they salvaged from the plane has literally everything they could possibly want; they each have unique survival knowledge that transcends the very basics you’d learn in the boy scouts; there is no universe in which three pairs of contact lenses being worn every single day is going to last a person several years; Sophie is magically able to continue to have her period despite her drastic weight loss and without any mention as to how on earth she dealt with it without an unlimited supply of tampons (this one really bugged me), but getting hung up on these details is to miss the point, because this is so much more than a simple Survival Story. If you want to read 300 pages about people surviving in the elements with nothing but the clothes on their backs, there’s plenty of fiction and nonfiction about that already. In giving these characters certain basic necessities, Huckelbridge is bending this story in a different direction, making it less about Survival and more about the characters themselves, how they interact, and how their relationship progresses. Castle of Water is first and foremost a story about humanity; about two imperfect strangers drawing on each other’s strengths in order to endure – not only to physically survive, but to sustain themselves on a deeper level.

It’s hard to communicate what exactly was so special about this book which seems so unremarkable. I can only say that Castle of Water is a book with many hidden depths, and it was a joy to read. Though there weren’t a lot of surprises, plot-wise, the big surprise was really the emotional reaction these character elicited from me. Barry and Sophie were incredibly sympathetic and complex in their own right – Sophie in particular I grew rather attached to – and I’m sad to be leaving them behind.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Dane Huckelbridge.

+ link to review on goodreads