I was blessed to receive an advanced reader copy of Rachel Hauck’s upcoming release, THE BEST SUMMER OF OUR LIVES.

The summer of 1977 was supposed to be the best summer of Summer, Autumn, Spring, and Snow’s lives. Friends since elementary school, the “Four Seasons” had big plans for the summer between high school and college, but they end up on probation as camp counselors in Tumbleweed, Oklahoma. But by the end of the summer, the Seasons are shattered apart by a secret and headed in four different directions.

Twenty years later, Summer Wilde is back in Tumbleweed, longing for the peace that’s eluded her since her summer at camp.

The book switches timelines and points of view seamlessly. The story is engrossing and the secrets are doled out skillfully enough to keep me turning the pages well into the night.

This story includes all the elements of a great Rachel Hauck novel: compelling characters, a fascinating story, and spiritual lessons with a special touch by God’s supernatural grace.

Rachel’s fans will gobble up (and love) this story. New readers will immediately look up her backlist books.

The book will be released June 27, but is available now for pre-order from all your favorite retailers.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: Quick Reviews

The last of the books I read on vacation, what I’m reading now, and what’s next on Mount To Be Read (TBR).

THE WEDDING VEIL by Kristy Woodson Harvey (ebook)

This is my second novel by Ms. Harvey and (I believe) her first time-slip (two storylines in different time periods). The story follows the real life Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter, Cornelia, and the wedding veil they both wore that had been in their family and worn by all the brides for generations. That’s the historical time line. The contemporary story is about Julia whose family also has a legacy veil with a legend that each bride who wears it will be blessed with a long and happy marriage.

I enjoyed this fictionalized glimpse of what life may have been like in the early 20th century for one of the wealthiest families in America, the owners of the largest private home in the country and the upkeep and maintenance it required. Julia’s story was well done also, with a loving and supportive grandmother. Both women embark on journeys with the other one to cheer them on.

THE MESSY LIVES OF BOOK PEOPLE by Phaedra Patrick (ebook)

Liv is a wife/mum/daughter/cleaning lady who is shocked to find that one of her clients, a reclusive and best-selling author, asks Liv to complete her current manuscript. The task gives Liv a set of experiences and life lessons that test her marriage and her faith in her family and her memories.

I enjoyed watching Liv’s journey from feeling like a nobody and embarrassed about her lack of marketable skills to a woman, confident in her knowledge, instincts, and people skills.

Currently Reading:

THE GOLDEN HOUR by Beatriz Williams (ebook)

I love Beatriz Williams’ historical stories, both her own titles and the ones she writes with Lauren Willig and Karen White. I’m slowly working my way through the backlists. THE GOLDEN HOUR is from 2019, so not terribly old. There are 3 timelines, following two main characters. Elfriede in Germany in 1900, Lulu in 1941 and 1943. I don’t want to say much more because I’m about halfway through and I don’t want to give anything away. And while I see how Elfriede’s story will intersect with Lulu’s, I’m not there yet. But so far, it’s up to what I expect from Williams: sharply drawn characters, an intricate plot, and intense dilemmas.

THE LOST GIRLS OF IRELAND by Susanne O’Leary (paperback)

This was given to me on vacation by a friend who’d finished it and was passing it on. Her assessment: It’s pretty good, I guess. Mine: I set it aside after the first few chapters and decided not to finish it. But at the last minute I stuffed it in my suitcase and brought it home. I will finish it. It’s not a hard read and I can knock it out in another couple of hours.

It tells the story of a “society” wife in Dublin whose husband dies suddenly and she finds she’s broke and he was leaving the country after defrauding his company. But luckily, she owns a cottage in west Ireland left to her by her aunt, so she takes her teenage daughter and moves there.

The writing has no nuance, no real voice. The story is predictable and not very well told. Not recommended, at this point. I’ll let you know if I change my mind when I finish it.

On top of my TBR:

WELCOME TO BEACH TOWN by Susan Wiggs (paperback)

**I won a copy of this upcoming June 2023 release through a Goodreads giveaway.**

From the Amazon description:

Every town has its secrets…

In idyllic Alara Cove, a California beach town known for its sunny charm and chill surfer vibe, it’s graduation day at the elite Thornton Academy. At Thornton, the students are the worldly and overindulged children who live in gated enclaves with spectacular views. But the class valedictorian is Nikki Graziola, a surfer’s daughter who is there on scholarship. To the shock of everyone in the audience, Nikki veers off script while giving her commencement address and reveals a secret that breaks open the whole community. As her truth explodes into the light, Alara Cove will face a reckoning.

Nikki Graziola’s accusation shakes the foundation of Alara Cove, pitting her against the wealthy family whose money runs the town. Her new notoriety sends Nikki into exile for years, where she finds fame—but not fortune—overseas as a competition surfer…until a personal tragedy compels her to return to Alara Cove.

 As Nikki struggles to rebuild her future, she finds that the people of the town have not forgotten her. But time has changed Alara Cove, and old friendships, rivalries, and an unexpected romance draw her back into the life of the beach town she’s never quite forgotten, and where joy and redemption may be possible after all.

I’ve read and loved Susan Wiggs’ other books so I’m looking forward to this one!

FLYING SOLO by Linda Holmes (ebook)

Once I finish THE GOLDEN HOUR, this is next in my Kindle queue.

From the Amazon description: Smarting from her recently canceled wedding and about to turn forty, Laurie Sassalyn returns to her Maine hometown of Calcasset to handle the estate of her great-aunt Dot, a spirited adventurer who lived to be ninety-three. Alongside boxes of Polaroids and pottery, a mysterious wooden duck shows up at the bottom of a cedar chest. Laurie’s curiosity is piqued, especially after she finds a love letter to the never-married Dot that ends with the line “And anyway, if you’re ever desperate, there are always ducks, darling.”

Laurie is told that the duck has no financial value. But after it disappears under suspicious circumstances, she feels compelled to figure out why anyone would steal a wooden duck—and why Dot kept it hidden away in the first place. Suddenly Laurie finds herself swept up in a righteous caper that has her negotiating with antiques dealers and con artists, going on after-hours dates at the local library, and reconnecting with her oldest friend and her first love. Desperate to uncover her great-aunt’s secrets, Laurie must reckon with her own past and her future—and ultimately embrace her own vision of flying solo.

With a cast of unforgettable characters and a heroine you will root for from page one, Flying Solo is a wonderfully original story about growing up, coming home, and learning to make a life for yourself on your own terms.

I’ve seen many recommendations for this one, as well as Holmes’ previous book, EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER. Stay tuned for my thoughts on this one in a few weeks.

Book Talk Thursday:

Once more, I’ve read a ton of good and great stuff, so I’m going to post some quick reviews. Check back next week, I’ll have some more. I was on vacation and got to read some really good books! Also, I only review books I enjoy and recommend.

THE SISTER EFFECT by Susan Mallery (hard cover)

I’m a sucker for:
Susan Mallery books
Family drama books
Smart and capable heroine books

The Sister Effect has all that and more! I laughed and cried and had all the feels.
Finley is raising her niece, Aubrey, while Aubrey’s mom works on her sobriety. She’s determined to keep Aubrey safe and happy, while also trying to keep her sister from drinking again. Then Finley’s estranged grandfather moves in with Finley, her mom, and Aubrey. Finley has vowed to never forgive the man for something that happened two decades ago.
While working through the issues with her sister and grandfather, Finley is also developing feelings for local developer Jericho, who has his own family drama to deal with.
I really enjoyed this latest from Susan Mallery and I’m looking forward to her next book!

I received an advance copy of this from the publisher, but it did not induce me to post a review, favorable or otherwise.

PLEASE, SORRY, THANKS by Mark Batterson (ebook)

I love Batterson’s transparency. (Previously I’ve read and loved DRAW THE CIRCLE, and WIN THE DAY.) He shares personal stories and solid teaching in a relatable way. Each of the important words has the potential to change hearts and restore relationships.
Batterson writes with warmth, humor and humility. Yet this book isn’t an “easy” read. I was challenged and convicted by the idea that a simple word of apology or gratitude could have a profound impact on someone else. A few quotes I especially loved:“Nothing opens doors like please. Nothing mends fences like sorry. Nothing builds bridges like thanks.”

“The best predictor of success in life, in love, and in leadership is your proficiency at please, sorry, and thanks.”

“Legacy is not what you accomplish. Legacy is what others accomplish because of you.”

Overall, I loved this book and I highly recommend it!

I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley, from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

DEAR HENRY, LOVE EDITH by Becca Kinzer (audio)

I enjoyed this one a lot. It’s original and includes some fun characters. Edith is a young widow who needs a place to live until her passport arrives and she can leave for her mission trip to Africa. Henry’s niece inveigles him to let Edith, the “elderly widow” volunteering in town to have his upstairs room. Henry has injured his leg and has been living downstairs only as it heals.

Both Henry and Edith think the other is elderly and leave notes as they keep missing each other. The book is part epistolary, part narrative. It’s set in a quirky small town and many misunderstandings ensue.

(I bought and paid for this one. No advance copies here!)

FRASER by Susan May Warren (ebook)

Another book I bought and paid for. And Susan May Warren is another author I love and I auto-buy everything she writes. FRASER is the first in her newest series, The Minnesota Marshalls. We previously met another branch of the family in The Montana Marshalls series.

Fraser is the oldest in the Fraser family. He’s ex-Navy SEAL, injured, and trying to figure out what’s next. He gets a panicked call from his kid brother, Creed, who then disappears in Europe. Fraser goes to find Creed, because that’s what he does.

Pippa is about to ready to tie down Princess Imani. Pippa is the princess’s security as they’ve been traveling the world for the last year. But when Imani disappears on Pippa’s watch–along with the young American man she met in Switzerland–Pippa must join with the man who claims to be that young man’s brother if she wants to find her princess and keep her job.

I loved this and can’t wait for Jonas’ story, out next month.

POIROT AND ME by David Suchet (ebook)

A few months ago I started listening to a podcast called ALL ABOUT AGATHA. The two co-hosts break down Agatha Christie novels and short stories, discuss them, and rate the novels. They also talk about any film adaptations. The podcast started in about … 2014? I think. I’m listening to the episodes in order, from the beginning. I’m up to about 2017. (SPOILER ALERT: One of the hosts died very suddenly near the end of 2021. They were close to finishing the last of Christie’s works and the remaining host chose to go ahead and finish without the other. I expect to be a basket case when I get there, eventually. The remaining host still posts occasionally about goings on in the Christie universe.)

Because of the podcast, and because they discuss screen adaptations, I got curious about the British series, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and Stud Muffin and I started watching them (available on BritBox through Amazon Prime). Then I decided to read this book, POIROT AND ME, a memoir by the actor who played the Belgian detective.

This is filled with details about Suchet came to get the role, how he prepared for it, how the series evolved, which episodes he loved, which he didn’t, what was going on in his personal life, and so on.

I enjoyed this glimpse into a character actor’s life and it made me like Suchet enough that I will probably also read his autobiography and will definitely look for other movies he’s made.

THANK YOU FOR LISTENING by Julia Whelan (ebook)

This author, Julia Whelan, is also an audio book narrator, so she knows about she writes.

Sewanee was an up and coming actress until she left show business and became an audio book narrator. She got her start in Romance, but has moved on and doesn’t do Romance novels anymore. Until she’s made an offer she can’t refuse. And she gets to work with a male narrator who’s super popular and completely anonymous. They hit it off via emails and texts.

There’s a pretty big “twist,” that any romance reader will know right away, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of this fun read.

Book Talk Tuesday: What I’ve Been Reading

I read some really good books at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. Rather than post long reviews of each, I decided to give a few sentences about what really stood out to me.

The last two books of 2022:

REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES by Shelby Van Pelt: The title refers to the Giant Pacific Octopus, specifically Marcellus, a captive specimen at a Pacific Northwest aquarium, and one of the Point of View characters. I listened to this one on audio and loved it! It’s fun and funny. Besides Marcellus, the POV characters include a widow in her sixties and a young man searching for his biological father.

LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn: A young woman who does custom hand lettering/calligraphy is blocked. She’s also developed a bad habit of weaving secret messages into some of her projects. She’s shocked when one of her clients wants to know how she knew his marriage was doomed. I read this as an ebook and loved it. The writing is beautiful and the characters engaging. (Open door sex. I often skip/skim sex scenes, but this one actually added to the character’s growth and I found myself actually–gasp–reading it!).

January 2023:

ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS by Nicole Deese: This won all kinds of awards and rave reviews and I finally got around to reading it and I’m so glad I did! A faith-filled romance about a social media influencer who volunteers at a home for teens and young adults transitioning out of foster care finds herself changed forever. I read this as an ebook and plan to read the next book in the series.

THE PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry: I’d read Emily Henry’s books before and and after this one, but hadn’t gotten around to this one yet. Two best friends since college have vacationed together every summer for twelve years until an unfortunate incidence in Croatia. Two years later, she’s determined to get their relationship back and invites him along to Palm Springs. In July. What could go wrong? I read this in paperback. (Open door sex that I skimmed.)

February 2023:

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin. When this was released as a movie last year, I saw lots of people rave that it was one of their favorite books of all time. I listened to it on audio and while I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t call it an all time favorite. I’m not even sure it’ll make my Top Ten of the year. Though it definitely could. It tugs at the heart strings and it’s set in a bookstore. What’s not to love? It covers several years in the life of A.J. Fikry and his adopted daughter who was abandoned in his bookstore as a two-year-old. I also watched the movie after I finished the book and the movie followed the book very closely. Both are worth the time.

THE CARTOGRAPHERS by Peng Shepherd: This is another that was raved about and it sounded intriguing. A young woman cartographer’s career was ruined seven years ago by her father, a renowned and respected cartographer, over a cheap, mass-produced road map from the 1930s. But when her father and another New York Public Library employee are found dead, Nell realizes that map may be a lot more valuable than she thought. This has a fantasy element I wasn’t expecting, but I still enjoyed it. I read it as an ebook and found the ability to enlarge the included maps and sketches very helpful.

A DAY LIKE THIS by Kelley McNeil: I read this for a book club. The member who recommend it said she enjoyed it because the author kept her guessing until the end. I got some inklings of the solution a bit before that, but I still found it a satisfying read. A mom of a young girl is in a traffic accident and when she wakes up, the doctor and hospital and EMS responders insist there was no daughter in her car. When her husband arrives at the hospital, he tells her they lost their baby in a miscarriage over five years ago. This sends Annie on a quest to find the daughter she knows exists. I enjoyed this one and read the ebook in a day and a half.

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading? Any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!

Book Talk Thursday: SUNDOWN

Sundown is the final installment in Susan May Warren’s Sky King Ranch trilogy. I’ve been eagerly waiting for Colt and Tae’s story since Colt was introduced to us with the Kingston triplets in the first book, Sunrise. We got a bit more of Colt and Tae in book 2, Sunburst, but their story comes to a full and satisfactory conclusion in Sundown.

Colt Kingston is determined to get to the bottom of Taylor–Tae–Price’s story. His brother Dodge and Dodge’s fiancee, Echo, found Tae in a blizzard in book 1, Sunrise. She suffered amnesia and wasn’t speaking for a long time. Once Tae remembered some things, she was too terrified to speak. When she does tell her story, it’s almost too preposterous to be believed.

Tae knows her tale sounds crazy, but it’s true, every word. When her past follows her and endangers the whole Kingston family, she has to leave to keep them safe. Too bad Colt can’t let her go alone.

Adventure, suspense, and intrigue follow to the nail-biting conclusion. Another worthy addition to the Warren tradition of romantic adventure stories with strong and determined heroines and the wounded but willing men who love them.

I love Warren’s stories and Sundown was worth waiting for. I love the twists and turns. I love the interconnecting stories and cross-over characters. I love how a story thread that Warren started stitching in book 1 will complete a lovely pattern in the final book. Although each book can be read as a stand alone, I think they’re enjoyed more if read in order. And since all 3 are available, why not? I highly recommend this book and the whole series!

I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but that did not induce me to leave a review, favorable or not.