Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Queen of Summer: Claire Cook

I've been reviewing Claire's delightful books for years now, and I have to say, I can't think "summer" without thinking about Claire. Light and funny, these books still have a strong theme of empowerment for women, hitting home for those of us who remember our twenties but are glad we grew out of them (more or less).

Seven Year Switch is her latest novel.

Jill Murray had been living a man-free existence since her husband walked out on them when their daughter Anastasia was just a toddler. She cobbles together a living by doing telephone work for Great Girlfriend Getaways (who specialize in all women trips to exciting places) and teaching an "Around The World" cooking class while fitting in a bit of cultural coaching on the side (helping business people to learn cultural mores for business trips, etc). On the plus side, she's just met a great guy--the first to even make her consider dating again. On the minus side, her daughter is developing "pre-teen attitude" early. But the real problems start when Jill's husband turns back up in town.

As always, Claire populates her books with quirky characters and funny situations while delivering an important message. This is a fantastic summer, or any time, read!!!

The Wildwater Walking Club
This one, newly out in paperback, follows 32 days in the lives of 3 neighboring women who come togetherfor fellowship and understanding as they set their pedometers for their daily walks. Noreen just took a buyout from her job and got dumped by her boyfriend. Tess is a school teacher suffering through her daughter's last contentious summer at home before leaving for college. And Rosie is a "tweener", raising young sons and taking care of her father and his lavender farm after the death of her mother. Cook once again blends familiar and serious issues with her keen sense of humor to serve up yet another summer treat for her vast legion of fans.

Summer Blowout

Summer Blowout is another great summer beach read that will make you laugh out loud darn near every page. This time she introduces us to Bella Shaughnessy, a hairdresser and makeup artist who is addicted to lipstick. She works in the big, chaotic family business though things have been rather awkward since her half sister started dating her exhusband. Things get even more interesting after tiny "purse pooch" Precious and handsome entrepreneur Sean enter the picture. There are many giggles and makeup tips in this breezy summer read--it's too fun to miss (especially the "combover intervention"--you just HAVE to read it).

Life's A Beach

Oh, what a lovely and entertaining book! This will make a perfect lighthearted summer read. This new book introduces us to 41 year old Ginger Walsh who hasn't quite figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. She's currently living in her parents FROG (finished room over garage) and free lancing as something of a jewelry designer, though there is some doubt to whether or not it's she or her cat Boyfriend who has the better design eye. Add a sister obsessed with turning 50, a mismatched set of parents who are pretty far out there, a nephew in a shark attack movie that's missing a shark and some romantic confusion about gaffers and glass blowers and you have the ingredients for a book that is very difficult to put down and will surely make you laugh out loud at least once...more likely once a page!
(I have to admit I developed a deep longing for beach glass after reading this book!)

Full disclosure--I haven't read these last three books yet. But they are on my (freakishly long) "to read" list because I know that they will make me giggle, and who doesn't need more giggles in their life, right? I did see the movie "Must Love Dogs", though, and I very firmly recommend it.

Multiple Choice
There was a time when March Monroe thought she and her daughter Olivia would never really cut the cord. Now Olivia is off to college and March is secretly doing the same thing. It's a high-voltage shock when they run into each other as student interns at the local radio station. This effervescent story will strike a chord with women of all ages-whether they have kids in college or are just now choosing their majors. Required reading for absolute enjoyment!

Must Love Dogs

Forty-year-old Sarah Hurlihy, a divorced preschool teacher whose life is her classroom, is about to meet her first date in more than a decade. It was the "Loves Dogs" that hooked her in the personal ad, and now she is scanning her neighborhood café for the man with a yellow rose. And find him she does, but he's the last person on earth she expects to find there . . .

In Must Love Dogs, hilarious missteps abound. Sarah's widowed father, Billy Hurlihy, with six adult kids, is seeing at least two women. And he and Sarah aren't the only Hurlihys with romantic challenges. Her brother Michael, for one, has a rocky marriage that Mother Teresa, his St. Bernard, just may put over the edge. With self-deprecating humor and a laugh-out-loud view of the way we live now, including shar pei/Labrador crosses and a transgenerational body-piercing experience, Must Love Dogs is a perfect beach read that melts the heartache of dating with warmth and humor.

Ready to Fall

Where can a 40-ish woman turn when her marriage has gone stale and her kids treat her like an unpaid chauffeur? In Beth Riordan's case, it's to cyberspace. She takes a zany romp with love through wry, revelatory e-mails to Thomas, her handsome neighbor in a New England suburb, travel writer in the middle of a divorce. Although the families have not previously been close, Thomas asks Beth to attend to his pet rabbits while he is away researching a new travel guide. Beth begins to confide her own unhappiness in series of poignant yet funny e-mails to Thomas while he is on the road. Nothing in Beth Riordan's life is about her. She drives her daughters to endless swim practices. Her husband no longer notices her. Her best friend is self-absorbed. The baby of the family is 10 and needs her less every day. Thomas replies cautiously at first to Beth's stories of truck drivers who ignore her for her nubile daughters, family conversations that repeatedly fail to focus on her needs, a week-long excursion to a self-discovery camp with a feminist girlfriend. When Thomas returns from his trip, longing and love, family and friendship combine to produce a climax that surprises Beth and the reader alike.



Claire Cook said...

Jackie - I just touched down between SEVEN YEAR SWITCH book tour legs to find your post!! You are so talented and you have such a huge heart, and I am forever grateful for your continuing support. I wish I could jog from Boston to Denver to give you a big hug and buy you a drink! Thank you thank you thank you! You are such a gift to authors everywhere, and Tattered Cover is so lucky to have you!! xxxxxxClaire

Sustenance Scout said...

This is such a well-deserved tribute!

Jackie said...

Ah, shucks Claire, you are making me blush! I wish your tour was taking you to Denver, but....hopefully some day.

Thank you for your kind words and your fantastic books!