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Two Must-Read Novels to Finish Out Summer!


Many thanks to Smith Publicity for sending these great novels in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Okay, I know it feels like summer is basically over. But the season of summer doesn't officially end until September 22nd, so until then, grab your sunglasses and wine slushies, and grab one of these books for some reading to finish out this summer with a bang! 

First up, check out Once in a Lifetime. 

Author Suzanne Mattaboni doesn't disappoint in this light and easy fiction piece, published May 2022.  The story unfolds during the summer of 1984. Main character, Jessica Attentro, and three female roommates find themselves putting away the college books and moving to New Hope, PA for a summer full of adventure, self-growth, and some work thrown in. 

The plot of this story is plausible and probably reminds most of us of our young adult days. Summers full of new adventures, new relationships, all while crammed into crappy apartments earning small wages and tips. As a 80s baby, I didn't grow up in the Punk Rock genre, but I can appreciate the art, the music, and the worries that young adults had about finances and their future. 

While it's hard to write a novel with in-depth characterization, I am struggling with the depth these characters bring to the story. We didn't get into the nitty-gritty of their identities and personalities, almost to the end of the book. It would have been nice to discover this beforehand, but I also understand that the realities young women face, especially when they were in between college years and either home or working.  I think this mostly has to do because it's set in such a short time frame, and these girls were pitting their own identities against the rules of society. It's hard to figure out how to achieve what you want when the world is telling you otherwise. No matter whether it's relationships, societal conforms, or work; there is always something clashing and pulling at our cores. 

Once in a Lifetime also touches on some hard subjects: sexual relationships, AIDS, drugs, abuse are mentioned and wrapped up in the story line. This leads to some great stories and a good plot-line as the girls wrestle with their core values and convictions. Ultimately, each one had to decide which path to take and how their summer would affect their outcome. We really don't get to dive into the other female roommate's characters, but I'd imagine that if Mattaboni wrote books based off the viewpoint of each one, each would struggle in their own way. 

This is a very easy read despite some touchy subjects. I appreciate the way that Mattanoni addresses the societal, cultural, and feminist realities women faced in ways that morph into normal every-day reality. I could find myself pondering each decision, each choice, and how I would have faced it at the age these girls were, given their circumstances and setting. It also made me appreciate the choices and life that I've led up to this point, giving me pause to ponder my "basically boring" summer this year.

Overall, I definitely recommend Once in a Lifetime for a good summer read. I wouldn't call it light and easy, because it's not fluff. It's a true fiction novel that does bounce character identities and stories from chapter to chapter, and it dives into some subjects some folks may want to avoid. It definitely would make for some interesting book club conversations!

Check out more about Once in a Lifetime and Suzanne Mataboni 

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Number Two on the must-read list is Earning It by E.F. Dodd. 

Filled with witty comebacks and lots of intimate steamy scenes, this is definitely one that will captivate any true romance novel lover. Earning It follows the story of Regan Murphy and Donovan McLeod as they face the remnants of a past relationship and figure out how to start, restart, or dismantle their relationship when they run into each other several years later. Add in the best friends, an exotic trip, and alcohol, the plot line is sure to twist into expected but yet unexpected places! 

I have to admit, while I loved this story line, the banter between the characters, and even some steamy sex scenes, the plot lines led to predictability about the flow of this romance story. The plot set-up was perfect to lead into a steamy beach romance between the main characters. Yet, the rise and fall of their relationship followed normal romance story patterns. Facing past relationship drama while inevitably being drawn together with hotels next to each other of course is going to lead way to arguments and a fight about the path both are headed towards. Ultimately, our characters wind up happy as well as their friends. 

I would have even loved a bit more characterization about the depth of the main character's feelings and identities. I could feel the push-back from the main character's hurt and anger regarding her past love, and his frustration at recognizing mistakes and figuring out how to move them forward in the current setting. Romance novels are usually about the steamy pull between two characters, so that was obviously the focus, rather than revealing the depth of each character's identity. It wasn't lacking, but I just would have liked more. 

Earning It is a steamy summer romance novel that is right up my alley for pool, beach, and patio days. It doesn't take much to remember the plot line, but is engaging enough that I finished the book relatively fast! I wouldn't say it's the type of book to have me reading until I finished it, but the grasp of my attention was enough for me to give it a thumbs up. The title is a perfect indication of what the main characters go through-they definitely have to earn it. The "it" is letting go and resolving past anger, of moving forward rather than being stuck, and finding love again (with each other, of course!). Neither character lets the other character off the hook, which adds to the drama and banter. 

Overall, this is a great easy and light read that will have you smiling, laughing and being frustrated at the characters along the way! I definitely found myself immersed in this plot, imagining like I was physically watching this storyline unfolds, and hope you feel the same.  

Earning It starts publication on August 23rd but is currently available for pre-order

More about E.F. Dodd

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Happy Reading!

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