Emily Henry’s romantic Beach Read offers all you hope to find during a coastal getaway. Packed with the flirtatious fun expected in a romantic comedy, Gus and January’s banter have you grinning constantly. Both authors facing deadlines and writer’s block, the former rivals unite in creating a challenge to finish their new books. Clever connections to classic movies, budding love, and a fun story setup keep you glued to Beach Read. To prove the story goes beyond the “everything is roses” layer, it explores deep topics as well. These issues allow character and relationship exploration that seal the book as a full picture of love and personal growth.
Sarah Addison Allen weaves magic into real life, and the enchanting Lost Lake does not disappoint. Emerging from her initial mourning period, widow Kate takes her daughter to Lost Lake for fresh perspective. The destination that used to draw crowds for vacations no longer holds its allure, but it still pulls Kate and Devin into its orbit. They connect with the regulars at the lake as they too face new adjustments. Together, they find hope and resilience no matter their ages. Rich in backstory, small town camaraderie, and love, Lost Lake has you rooting for its characters to reach their next growth point.
Sarah Dessen’s latest novel The Rest of the Story hit shelves just in time for summer reading. It even takes place at a lake during summer as Emma Saylor visits her maternal grandmother she hadn’t seen since early childhood. As she reunites with her mother’s extended family years after the loss of her mother, she starts to learn some background. Dessen tackles developing new family relationships, handling the risks of alcoholism, and first love all within the view of a North Carolina lake. The slowly budding romance brings both sweetness and depth as Saylor develops her identity. Though generally revolving around teens, the story delivers a reminder to readers of all ages that we can learn more about ourselves and family by acknowledging the details, flaws and all, rather than ignoring them.
I had the pleasure of reading the last part of this book set on a lake resort at a lake at a state park with my best friend. We read it together for our long distance book club, this time reading the final section and discussing it in person.
The first day of summer coincidentally also begins the weekend. As another season starts, I recommend these fun stories that take place during the summer. They have an easygoing flow yet still have depth as the characters face new circumstances and face the heat.
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen: This book came out this month, just in time for summer. Emma Saylor finds herself reuniting with a grandmother she hasn’t seen since early childhood. As she connects with cousins at North Lake, where her parents met, she discovers more of her deceased mother’s history. In turn, she learns how to root her identity to grow into her future.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen: With a character going by a similar name in a similar storyline (even the same state) to Sarah Dessen’s latest, this Sarah’s novel follows Emily Benedict as she ventures to her grandfather’s house in Mullaby, North Carolina. She too reconnects with the community of her mother’s past and finds a connection to another family. Learning about her mother’s past, she overcomes some generational obstacles in a magical setting.
The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks: Ronnie also returns to North Carolina, this time to stay with her dad for the summer. Having struggled since her parents’ divorce, she grows in her new scenery as she develops stronger roots with her father. Between the summer, the beach, and a love interest, Ronnie experiences the ocean’s beauty, waves, and tides.
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal: Baker Romola welcomes her stepdaughter-in-law to her home and develops a new relationship as she aims to save her bakery. As they grow closer, Romola examines her own roots. A summer she spent with her aunt as a teenager shapes her future familial relationships.
I read The Girl Who Chased the Moon, my first Sarah Addison Allen novel, and it may have made a sweeter treat than my funfetti cake with pink icing (my birthday fell on a Wednesday). The setting came to life enough to make me wonder if I’d rather move to a small town like Mullaby, North Carolina or back to a big city. I felt summer’s warm air as Emily gazed at the mysterious light in the trees outside her window and longed for some quiet reflection of my own. Then I wanted to go to Julia’s bakery to chat with Mullaby’s finest as each character had their own charm, making me want to belong to a community like that. This enchanting story floated as smoothly as the lights danced across the yard in the middle of the night, and with its fun came some depth in its female leads and their discoveries about their families’ pasts. It certainly only began my love for Allen’s magical stories and neat women.
Fun Note: I got this book at a meetup and book swap some of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members, including our leader Anne Bogel, had in Nashville last summer.
I received a copy of Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter from NetGalley.
Summer by the Tides makes for breezy fun at the beach as a positive summer read. After losing her treasured job and her boyfriend, Maddy returns to Seahaven to find her missing grandmother. Her two older sisters, who are estranged from each other, arrive at the cottage as well. The family goes through the physical and emotional process of clearing out the attic and their past. Maddy even finds a nice, handsome next door neighbor. The story unfolds rather straight forward and predictably, making it a comforting read as you imagine beach waves just off your porch.
Look for this book on May 21 as it releases just in time for summer.
I received a copy of Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson from Revell Books in exchange for an honest review.
Once again I got a third in a series, but this one also didn’t require knowledge of the previous books for me to enjoy this novel. This time I had the added pleasure of reading a sweet summer love story during the summer months. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the characters, especially the protagonist Nicole.
Nicole, a high school art teacher, moved from Seattle, Washington to Savannah, Georgia to run a family friend’s art gallery for the summer. She agreed to the arrangement with the hope of not feeling stuck in her job and relationship status. While there, she encountered new career experience, difficult co-workers, friendships, and a budding romance. She even took one of her friend’s children under her wing.
I appreciated Nicole’s character since her experiences and time of life resembled my own. She showed strength in trying a new angle to develop her career and skills, moving to gain perspective and allowing a nice gentleman to pursue her for a relationship. I too made a faraway move to gain perspective and job experience and could relate to the uncertainty. It felt hopeful to read about someone else doing it and overcoming the obstacles.
My only knocks on the book were that some of the dialogue seemed contrived. The content still made sense; they just didn’t flow as naturally as real dialogue usually would. However, the situations and characters still maintained their authenticity and relatability. In a way the story had a certain simplicity, but I enjoyed it and appreciated the positive outlook.
I received a copy of The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
This book introduced me to Beverly Lewis as well as Amish fiction, and I’ve enjoyed my first encounter with both. Twenty year old Sallie made a good protagonist to demonstrate a healthy curiosity for the wonders of the world around her. Her situations in the story served as good examples for people exchanging culture and living peacefully together.
Sally’s background differed from mine a lot, ranging from her having ten kids in her family while mine had two to her family living the Plain lifestyle while mine lived a pretty Christian and mainstream one. However, I could relate to her wanting to experience more than what she knew. I too spent my young adult years reading books to learn more about cultures and places. We both also got to reach our dream locations, hers being the beach and mine being London. Then it seemed like those trips led to beginnings of a greater enlightenment of the world and other cultures.
Sally lived with a family for the summer who did not live the Plain lifestyle, and she got to see more modern tools like iPhones, Google and a washing machine. She noticed how the family who hired her didn’t look at her or treat her differently because of her attire but also noticed how they had more material goods at their disposal. Later, she met a nice young man who shared a similar family background but differed. Sallie’s life really flourished in many ways through her experiences as a nanny in a beach area summer home.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked learning more about Amish culture, and I appreciated how it showed a positive way to learn about other cultures through genuine interactions with others. Sallie also demonstrated a healthy yearning to learn and experience those cultures and learn about the world and its people.
spring is coming
but summer never left
heat makes constant presence
a blanket of too heavy heft
magnolias bloom white
blossoms big and wide
no new color, no new life
no lush green on this side
April waves roll on the beach
I let the water wash me
praying my season to change
salt of the earth to be