On the Bookshelf

With Janine Kluckhohn

Spring and summer usually bring more opportunities to sit outside, find some sun and grab a good book.  Whether you’re going to be on the beach, relaxing in the mountains or sitting in your backyard, I’ve picked a variety of genres and books that I think will appeal to many readers. I hope that even if you don’t gravitate towards some of these genres that you’ll give them a chance. I’ve never been a huge romance reader, but there have been so many smart books that I’ve missed just because I used to think “oh that’s not for me.” 

While we’re still in a time of uncertainty, reading offers an opportunity to transport you to a different time and place which is a wonderful thing when so many of us have been in the same place for so long! Maybe your annual summer trip to Cabo is on hold, well pick up “The Guncle” and be transported to Southern California or grab “Of Women and Salt” and picture yourself driving down the streets of Cuba! I really believe that you will find something amongst this list that makes you excited to read! If you are interested in finding more recommendations, you can visit my Instagram page @DowntoGettheFictionOn where I am always sharing what I’m reading and loving, or in some cases, reading and not loving.  

LITERARY THRILLER – We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Walk has spent his entire life living in the same California town where he once roamed with his three best friends. One fateful day, Walk’s world is forever changed when his best friend, Vincent King, is sent to jail. Now a lifetime later, he’s the chief of police, Vincent is being released and the town is not ready to accept him back. Duchess is a 13-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw who takes care of her brother because their mother can’t even take care of herself. As tragedy comes back to their coastal town, Walk, Vincent and Duchess find themselves in one another’s business. This book is beautifully written, atmospheric, dark, gritty, funny, and filled with flawed multidimensional characters. “We Begin at the End” has everything that I love in a book as I am always drawn to a book that I don’t want to stop reading but also don’t want to end.  

CONTEMPORARY FICTION – The Guncle by Steven Rowley 

Patrick is a semi-retired actor who lives alone in California until family tragedy strikes, and he reluctantly agrees to care for his young niece and nephew after the death of their mother. Unprepared for temporary fatherhood, he plans to use this time to share his wisdom through “GUP (Gay Uncle Pat) Rules” while never forgetting to stress to them the importance of brunch. Hoping to help them deal with their grief, he finds he himself isn’t quite ready to deal with his own feelings of loss. Filled with sarcasm and heart, “The Guncle” is a delightful book that handles grief in an authentic and heartwarming way and became an instant favorite. I would have read another 100 pages of their family adventures and GUP Rules. 

YA FANTASY – The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Deka is awaiting the Blood Ceremony which will determine if she’s impure or an accepted member of her village. As she’s always struggled with feeling like an outcast and the fear of her blood running gold, she finds out that her fears are justified. Now she must decide if she will join the other girls of her kind and fight for the emperor or succumb to her fate in her village. What follows is a story of survival, hope, power and the ability to control your own destiny. Deka is a character you will find yourself rooting for, and there’s a lot of twists along the way that kept me turning the pages. I am not typically a fantasy reader, but I loved the world building, the relationships, and the ending made me excited for more! It’s an empowering novel and is great for readers of all ages.  

ROMANCE – Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez 

Vanessa is an adventure seeker who lives each day like it could be the last because she also fears it will be. Adrien is her hottie neighbor who lives to work. When Vanessa is left to care for her infant niece, she gets an unlikely helper in the middle of the night in Adrien. As Adrien and Vanessa get to know one another the lines of their friendship begin to blur, but they’re each battling their own personal issues. Abby Jimenez is the master at mixing romance, humor and real issues in her books. I always find myself laughing and invested in her characters. This is her third book and features overlapping characters from the first two books, but each can be read as a standalone book. You’ll find yourself laughing and smiling while reading.  Perfect to grab for a long weekend or trip to the beach. 

MYSTERY – Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay is a hot mess mom who’s struggling to pay her bills, finish her book and take care of her kids since her husband left her and their two children. When she is overheard explaining the plot of her latest book and mistaken as a contract killer, her life spirals and takes an unexpected and unpredictable turn. This genre-crossing book is part mystery, part dark comedy and part family drama. If you love the show Dead to Me, you will love this book. Finlay is both relatable and hilarious as she tries to navigate her life as a single mom and possible part-time hitman. A complex and well-crafted story, Finlay and her spunky best friend, Veronica, make this book both fun and original. Don’t let the bright pink cover fool you—this book will be both dark and mysterious while also highly entertaining!  

HISTORICAL FICTION – Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Carmen is a Cuban immigrant living in Miami who tries to erase her family’s past by ignoring any talk of Cuba or her mother whom she hasn’t seen in many years. Her daughter, Jeanette, struggles with addiction but in a time of sobriety takes in her neighbor’s daughter, Ana, after her mother is detained by ICE. Told in a nonlinear timeline, the stories of these women intersect while we learn more about their own past and about life in Cuba. While considered historical fiction, this is also a story about family, personal struggles and how betrayal can change the trajectory of one’s path. I love a multigenerational family saga and really thought the historical elements from 19th-century Cuba to present day Miami really added to the story. It was an intricate telling of what this family had to overcome while dealing with what was happening historically during their lives.  

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