May 11, 2008

Summer Blowout

Summer Blowout by Claire Cook
Contemporary Fiction
2008 Voice (Hyperion)
Finished on 5/2/08
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
ARC - Due out on June 3rd

Book Description

Bella Shaughnessy is addicted to lipstick with names like My Chihuahua Bites and Kiss My Lips, an occupational hazard, since she works as a stylist and makeup artist for her family's small chain of beauty salons in Marshbury, Massachusetts, along with her four half-brothers and -sisters. The owner is her father, Lucky Shaughnessy, a gregarious, three-times-divorced charmer with Donald Trump hair, who is obsessed with all things Italian and still carries a torch for his first wife, Bella's mother. After Bella's own marriage flames out spectacularly when her half-sister runs off with her husband, Bella decides she has seen enough of the damage love can do. She makes a vow: no more men.

Then Bella meets a cute entrepreneur at a college fair, and despite their bickering, they can't seem to stay away from each other. He also gives her a brilliant business idea, one that just might allow her to share her makeup expertise with the world. A small, well-tressed dog finds her way into her life, and her heart, and she decides to chance that, too. When the whole clan heads to Atlanta for a big Southern wedding, sparks fly--in a summer blowout no one will ever forget.

This hilarious, rambunctious novel is pure Claire Cook: full of juicy conflict and unconditional love.

One of my co-workers just got back from a week in Cabo. She and her husband had a great time and she looks well-rested, in spite of her sunburn! I asked what all they did while there and she said they pretty much just soaked up the rays, reading by the pool. Actually, she read every day. Her husband, on the other hand, finished his book (The Ruins) the first day they were there. She said he didn't want to get another book and was perfectly content to just relax in the sun. Boy, not me! I'd find the nearest store and buy at least two more books (not that I'd ever go on vacation without a wide assortment of potential reads).

Anyhow, talking to my friend about her trip brought back memories of a vacation my husband and I took back before we were married. We spent 9 days at a lovely resort in Puerto Vallarta. 9 days was probably a bit too long, as there wasn't a whole lot to do once we'd toured the town and surrounding areas. But this was 1987 and we got a great deal on a hotel/air package as long as we stayed for two weekends. The dollar was certainly worth a lot more than it is twenty years later! (I think the exchange rate was 2,000 pesos to the dollar!) We stayed in a very nice hotel right on the beach, ate lots of lobster, soaked up the rays by the pool, and read lots of books. Looking through my photos, I see that I was in my Danielle Steel phase. (I was young. What can I say?) My husband finished The Tommyknockers (Stephen King), passed it on to me, and headed to the hotel gift shop for something else to read. He settled on Gary Jennings' tome, Aztec. Weighing in at over a thousand pages, it was certain to keep him happy for the remainder of the vacation! (Great book, by the way. I read it at a later date and loved it!)

I've been thinking about vacations and reading. It takes a certain type of trip that allows me the time and setting to read as much as I anticipate. Last summer, I packed far too many books for our cruise through the San Juan Islands. As it happened, I didn't even read an entire book in the two weeks we were gone! I was having far too good of a time snapping pictures of the scenery and wildlife to be bothered with reading. Even when it was too rainy or foggy to head out for our next location, I simply sat in the pilot house gazing out at the water or watching the other boaters in the marina. I didn't want to miss a thing and knew I could always read at home.

The same thing happens when we're visiting family. When we were in Depoe Bay this past fall, I did manage to get a bit more reading in, but for the most part, we played tourists while visiting with my parents. I fell into my normal routine of reading in bed just like I do at home. I certainly didn't need all the books I packed for that visit, either!

Yet summer and reading seem to go hand-in-hand. We have several "Summer Reading" displays at work, and is getting reading to kick off their summer-long Summer Beach Bag of Books promotion. Personally, I think I read more in the winter. I love the long, hot days of summer and find that I spend far more time outside (kayaking, gardening, walking, entertaining friends on our deck) than I do during the winter. Even floating at our favorite pool is too distracting for a good read.

Having said that, I know many of you (especially students and teachers) look forward to three months of reading and relaxation. Do you prefer to use this time to catch-up on some of the heavier tomes such as Moby Dick, War and Peace, or Les Miserables, or is this a time for fluffy brain-candy? If you choose the latter, I've got just the book. Summer Blowout is light & fluffy and thoroughly enjoyable. I laughed out loud just as I did when I read Cook's hugely successful, Must Love Dogs. Throw in a few cute dog antics and you're guaranteed several chortles and snorts.

I won't spoil the book for those of you who want to read it, but here are a couple of amusing passages:

The door to the Olde Marshbury Taverne opened, and the father of the bride emerged. He was holding Precious straight out in front of him, and he had a pile of money tucked between one hand and the dog. He walked right over to me and said something about the Board of Health. Or possibly it was the Whore of Wealth.

And then he gave me Precious, still in her cornflower blue taffeta dress with the broach. "Sleep it," he said.

Or maybe it was, "Keep it."


After that, we just checked each other out for a while. I had no idea what kind of dog she was, since I knew nothing about dogs. She looked kind of like a flying squirrel, except for the ears. She had the ears of a fruit bat. I wonder what she was thinking about me. Maybe she thought I had ears like a fruit bat, too.


I rifled through my lipstick drawer, looking for something strong, confident, and hydrating. Beeswax, shea butter, jojoba, and almond oil are all great moisturizing ingredients. I found a tube of Tarte Inside Out Vitamin Lipstick in a deep rose called Revive. It had jojoba, vitamins A, C, E, and K, plus acai, green tea, and lychee extract, so I figured I was covering pretty much all the bases. Maybe if I ate the whole thing like a Popsicle, I wouldn't have to take my vitamins for a couple of months.

This is a fun read that sucked me in from the first page. I'd say it's perfect airplane material or a good one for a few hours out by the pool. Even the cover's cute. How can you possibly resist that adorable little face?

I'm heading to the beach later this summer (Hampton, VA) and plan to pack Cook's Life's a Beach in my bag. Maybe this trip I'll actually read a book!


  1. I just looked at your recently read books -- I'm currently reading Compulsion. I like to get Kellerman books out of the library for a really quick read.

  2. Great post! I always bring too many books with me on vacation. Between visiting with family, sightseeing, or taking care of my daugher, little reading gets done until bedtime. I was thrilled recently when she and I traveled by plane and I actually got a little reading in which she was occupied. Hmm, Summer vs. Winter. I don't know. I don't think my reading material necessarily changes over the summer but I suspect there is less time for reading overall.

  3. Katya - Kellerman reminds me a bit of John Sandford and Robert Parker, although not quite as humorous. I'm getting ready to write my review for Compulsion. It was pretty good!

    Tara - Thank you! I'm like you. I seem to get most of my vacation reading accomplished on the flights to and from!

  4. Aloha les!
    Well I think I'll have some time to read for the 18 hours or so it takes to get to London from Honolulu LOL!
    Or maybe I can actually get some revising done on novel number 2?
    well since I am summer all year around I have to say my reading has taken a severe nose dive but I may have to try out that book!

  5. You mean someone else has a lipstick drawer?! I'm so getting this book. ;)

    Your lovely post actually makes me a bit wistful because as you know, reading is my passion, and my beloved husband does not love it as much as I. So, a trip to him means, "Get out! Explore! Do! Eat!" (Much as Saturday mornings.) It does not mean "Lay by the pool relaxing with long volumes." Sigh.

    In the evenings, I read and he watches television to relax. I used to watch with him until I became wild at the wasted hours.

    Anyway, I envy your reading hours together (in a good way). And, to answer your question about winter vs. summer readings, I find myself so caught up in the atmosphere that I far prefer Russian novels in the Winter, and something lighter in the summer, even though I have more time. Winter just seems a better time for classics. To me.

  6. Just finished reading "Compulsion," which I listened to, actually. Quite enjoyable. My vacation reading? Highly eclectic. I usually like to have ONE book that I am REALLY excited about. One year it was "The Lovely Bones." I wouldn't crack it open until we were in the car and on the way.

    For a fun, light, hilarious read, give "Landmark Status" by Alan Rolnick a look. It's set in Miami and involves real estate deals, Ponzi schemes and fraud, but all very funny and very fast-paced. There's a romance of sorts, too, between Benjy and Delia (lawyer and broker) -- their wisecracks will keep you laughing. This is Dave Barry-funny. I haven't had so much fun with a book in a long, long time.

  7. I didn't realize Claire Cook has a new book coming out. I enjoyed Life's a Beach -- hated Must Love Dogs, but I'm glad I gave her a second chance.

  8. Pat - OMG! 18 hours?! I thought 8 was bad enough. Well, at least you'll have lots of time to read a book or two. Or maybe WRITE a book or two! ;)

    Bellezza - As soon as I began to read this book, I immediately thought of you! If you can hold off for a couple of weeks, I'll send you my copy. I'm going to loan it to another friend first, but you're more than welcome to it when she's finished.

    I think I really lucked out when I married my book-loving husband. Not only does he love to read (and reads quite a few of the same books I enjoy), he understands the desire to be surrounded by books. Of course, most of his "keepers" are nonfiction, but he's never given me a hard time for the stacks and stacks of read (and unread) books in our house. Our ideal vacation is to stay in a cabin near a lake with a boat for fishing, a hammock or comfy chairs, and a stack of books. Forget the sightseeing and touristy stuff!

    Neither of us like tv anymore. I occasionally turn on the Food Network, but really, the only time the tv's on is when we're watching a movie we've rented from Netflix. We try to limit that to a couple of nights a week.

    Liz - It was an enjoyable book, wasn't it? I'm looking forward to reading more by Kellerman. Thanks for the recommendation for Rolnick's book. My husband loves Dave Barry, so I'll have to see if he's interested in this one.

    Thanks for stopping by. Do you have a blog I can visit?

    Nancy - You hated Must Love Dogs?? I guess we're even. I tried to read Life's a Beach, but gave up after the first chapter. That was when it first came out last year, so I'm planning to give it another try now that I've read and enjoyed Summer Blowout. I'm all about second chances. :)

  9. Les, I'd love the book if you get a chance to send it this way. It'll be the perfect choice for the First Book Read This Summer. School gets out June 5, not that I'm counting or anything. If you ask me, there is no better vacation than a cabin in the woods.

  10. Hi Les! Great review!!!! I am with you on the bringing too many books on vacation. This past vacation I think was my most reasonable. I only brought two books with me and only bought one other book while I was there. However, we made a stop at a Barnes and Noble and there were 6 books that I really wanted to get and in my "old days" when I just bought whatever I wanted they would have been going home with me. I will put them on a list and then work on getting them one at a time.

    Hey, in answer to your question, my Dad's boat is at Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island. It is breathtaking there.......

    One good thing about being home is catching up on all the great blogs, yours especially!

  11. Bellezza - I'll get it to you as soon as my friend's finished. Might be a couple of weeks, so maybe not for the First Book Read This Summer, but I'll try!

    Yah, I'll take a cabin in the woods any day!

    Laura - Thank you! And welcome back. I'm sure it was difficult to leave such a beautiful area. At least you're returning while all the spring flowers are still looking pretty (and the grass is green). It'd probably be terribly depressing to get back home to snow and ice!

    I'm heading to San Diego next week and have 5 books stacked up ready to go in my bag. I'm only going to be gone 5 days, so I'm not sure why I think I need to take all of them! :)

    What's the name of your dad's boat? What kind of sailboat is it?

    Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I'm sure I'll go through blog-withdrawal while I'm away, too. I may just have to get online when I get a free minute.

  12. this where I admit to having taken five books and a loaded Kindle on a recent weekend trip?

    After being a bit disappointed with Life's a Beach, I'm looking forward to Summer Blowout. Claire Cook is a local author, and I have gone to her readings/signings--she's delightful, down-to-earth and a joy!

  13. Marcia - Nothing like being prepared! I took a bunch of books to California with me, but wound up only reading on the flights to and from. It's pretty much impossible to concentrate while in visiting someone in a hospital.

    Hmmm, so you were disappointed with Life's a Beach, eh? Maybe I'll just skip it since I've already tried a chapter and couldn't get interested. Hope you enjoy Summer Blowout!


I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!