Thanks to partners NetGalley and Atria Books for the digital ARC of Rebecca Serle’s One Italian Summer in exchange for an honest review. The book is out on March 2!
Rebecca Serle has a beautiful touch with magical realism. Whether it’s dining with special people—alive and dead—in The Dinner List or a five-year journey forward in time in In Five Years, Serle uses these magic premises to wring truth from reality.
She performs that same magic in One Italian Summer. The premise here is (relatively) simple to explain: Katy is grieving the death of her mother and decides to take the trip that they had planned together. She tells her husband that she’s not sure she can be with him anymore, boards a plane, and takes the solo vacation she and her mom, Carol, have been dreaming about for years.
Carol had spent time in the small town of Positano and yearned to show Katy everything she loved about it, so Katy vows to follow the itinerary her mother had set up. Soon, she begins to enjoy small moments in a way she hasn’t been able to since her mother fell ill.
Then, one day, Katy sees her mother. Yes, she’s much younger, but it’s her. And suddenly, Katy feels as if she has a second chance to get to know her mother in a way she never had, to forge a friendship with the woman she loved so much.
Serle explores Katy’s grief, her hope, and her joy so vividly here. There’s laughter, some romance, vivid descriptions of food, and an amazing sense of the Italian landscape. One Italian Summer is a gorgeous, moving book. I absolutely could not put it down.
Thanks to partner Edelweiss for the digital ARC of Roselle Lim’s Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on Tuesday, August 4, 2020.
The course of Vanessa Yu’s life changed on her third birthday, when she made her first tea leaf-prompted prediction. Part of a family history of women gifted with the ability to tell fortunes, Vanessa wants nothing more than to be able to stop seeing the future. While her family loves having the inside track, Vanessa dreads hurting those whose fortunes pour out of her in an unstoppable flood.
The other wish her family has for Vanessa? A love match. She’s the oldest unmarried person in her generation, and she vividly feels the pressure to find love.
After a matchmaker shares some bad news with Vanessa and then Vanessa describes an unfortunate future that she can’t take back, Vanessa--eager to escape--agrees to go to Paris with her glamorous Aunt Evelyn, who is opening a tea shop. Vanessa will help her, and in return, Evelyn--who also has the gift of prophecy--will help her develop and control her gift.
Lim includes elements of romance here--Vanessa would love to build a relationship that she doesn’t ruin with an ill-timed prophecy--but the novel is more about Vanessa, as she comes to understand herself and this central part of her identity that she can’t control. The author tells a story full of magic--of course, there’s the fortune telling, but there’s also magic all around, with gold appearing on her skin at a key moment and painted butterflies coming to life. The style immerses the reader in this world in a way that is just lovely.
For those who enjoyed Lim’s first novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a worthy follow up, and I enjoyed this magical book even more!
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.