Happy Summer! Here are a few quick reviews of three very different books to grab for the beach:
Book 1: Hotel Magnifique By: Emily J. Taylor
Hotel Magnifique is sold as a YA fantasy adventure, so if you have a young person in your household, I highly suggest this book! Or if you’re just an adult taking a breather from your murder mysteries, I have to say – I loved this one. I thought it had the perfect amount of fantasy and realism, a “believe-able” but out there story with details that allowed you to paint the setting in your mind. It was a joy to read!
Jani and Zosa are an orphaned pair living a boring day-to-day life in a seaside town of Durc. Jani’s main focus is taking care of her little sister and finding ways to survive. When Hotel Magnifique shows up in town, Jani recognizes her chance to get a job with a dash of magic. The enchanted hotel is one that “moves around” the world, stopping to welcome guests and hire ordinary folk looking for an adventure. Jani can’t believe her luck, as she’s always dreamed of what it’s like beyond her everyday. It’s the perfect opportunity for the sisters, especially since Zosa can also make her keep as a performer. However, everything is not as it seems with dangerous maitre, a handsome doorman and magical elements on every corner. Consider each chapter – opening you with its magical arms to singing birds, shapeshifting artifacts, and a man locked in a frozen room. The descriptions and details allow you to picture the setting in your mind – similar to how it was for me when I read Harry Potter. Hotel Magnifique is a true adventure I highly recommend.
Book 2: The Wishing Game By: Meg Shaffer
A DELIGHTFUL BOOK that follows the path of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As you know from my previous reviews, I often lean into the thrillers and fiction novels. I was happy to grab The Wishing Game for another summer break from my usual! The author shared that she absolutely loved stories like Willy Wonka since she was in third grade and it heavily influenced her tale. If you grab this one, you’ll see why.
Lucy is a kindergarten teacher on the West Coast, struggling in life but happy to be free of her ex-boyfriend and everything that tied her to her childhood in Maine. She finds comfort in her co-teacher friend and a young boy named Christopher, a child she’s taken under her wing as he navigates his way through a difficult childhood and foster care. It is her dream and goal to be able to one day provide him with a loving home and adopt him. (Note: As a former teacher, this back story grabbed me by itself!) It’s only when her favorite childhood author, Jack Masterson – the Mastermind, asks her to return to Maine and his home on Clock Island to participate in a riddle-solving contest does Lucy find her dream within reach. With only slight hesitation, she heads back determined to do this for herself and Christopher.
Jack takes on the Willy Wonka role, with Lucy as the Charlie Buckets – but add on Hugo, the illustrator and an enchanting island off the coast of Maine and it’s a grown-up version of your favorite childhood book. I thought it was creative enough to keep me entertained throughout, but I felt threads of Wonka throughout. It was just heartwarming and a great quick summer read with enough current 2023 real-world connections, I thought it was perfect!
Book 3: The Whispers By: Ashley Audrain
Many of us read Ashley Audrain’s first book, The Push, and we walked away disturbed. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it – not that this is a sequel, just that it was her first and had the OMG/WOW factor. Now, about her second one – I was legitimately stressed reading this, but in the best kind of domestic thriller type of way.
This book is perfect for someone who enjoys neighborhood, nosey (and mostly wealthy) drama. In The Whispers, from the street outside looking in, Whitney’s life is close to perfect. However, when her young son falls out of a top floor window and lands in a coma in the hospital,” the whispers” begin. The title highlights the noise or “whispers” that mothers hear – from anyone and everyone that may or may not have an opinion about what they are doing with their children aka the what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s popular, what’s missing, is everyone judging me? – and more.
The other main characters all are connected to motherhood in their own way while watching Whitney’s drama unfold. One is a hospital doctor in a struggling marriage – trying to figure out her own path to being a mother with a husband that isn’t as enthusiastic. Another is an elderly next door neighbor, who’s love for her ill son continues even though he has passed on. The third is admired by other mothers for being the “mother of the year” type – but we see her wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. All four mothers live on the same street, connected by the idea of what it means to be a mother. As I read it I imagined each one trapped in their glass homes looking out, thinking everyone is looking in – emotions and secrets whirling about. I think that as you read it, each one has parts you will identify with, parts that will anger you and others that you may sympathize with. I’m not a mother, but there were underlying themes or things I wanted to shout out loud at certain pages.
And the ending… WHAT AN ENDING. Please come back and let me know your thoughts if you do pick this one up!
Trigger warning: I wanted to let folks know ahead of time that some parts reminded me of the Lindsay Clancy situation on the South Shore in Massachusetts, involving a mother suffering PTSD and her children.
If you got this far, thank you! Let us know what you think via the comments on @caughtinsouthie or catch me at @glossinbossin / @josiegl on Instagram.