The Summer Sisters

What I read: The Summer Sisters by Sara Richardson

Why I picked it up: I got this out months ago and returned it without reading, then picked it up again before realizing it’s the second in a series. (That I have now discovered wants to be read in order.)

How I read it: On paper at dinner, before bed, and before work. So quickly!

What it’s about: It picks up six moths after the previous novel with Dally having moved to Juniper Springs with her kids, Rose renovating the Inn so they can reopen the week of Sassy’s 70th birthday, and Mags just having had her little baby. There’s a lot of healing and restoration and love. It wrapped up nicely but could also have another book in the story.

What I liked: I want to visit this inn, to spend a week there with no worries for a delightful summer.

What I disliked: I don’t think any of them handled Maya’s anxiety about her mother dating very well.

Genre: Family saga, sisters, closed door.

Rating & Recommendation: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and as a follow up to the first, yes.

Home for the Holidays

What I read: Home for the Holidays by Sara Richardson

Why I picked it up: I got the second in this series weeks ago from the library and decided to read number one first.

How I read it: On paperback in just a couple of sittings.

What it’s about: Three flowers, three sisters: they’re invited to their aunt’s inn out in Colorado for Christmas and each say yes for a different reason. A rough engagement, a holiday when her ex has the kids, a broken heart for a baby that just won’t come. They reconnect with their aunt and each other.

What I liked: There are some aspects of a love story here but it’s really about the sisters, which I loved.

What I disliked: Their mother never redeemed herself, and that made me sad. I’m sure she and the one daughter’s fiancée will find much to complain about together.

Genre: Sisters, family saga, Christmas.

Rating & Recommendation: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and yes, even in July when Christmas is months away!

The Summer Getaway

What I read: The Summer Getaway by Susan Mallery

Why I picked it up: I like her books, and it was on the new release shelf last time I was at the library.

How I read it: On hardcover today. It was a nice escape read.

What it’s about: Robyn takes the summer to go spend time with her Aunt Lillian as she comes to the realization she has no firm plans for her life. Everyone around her who’s having the slightest concern about life ends up following her.

What I liked: Robyn sounded like a delightful person who I thought “I could be a bit like her.”

What I disliked: Mindy and her decision to cheat, that’s not a story line I can get behind. There were two characters who seemed to struggle deeply with monogamy.

Genre: Family drama, open door.

Rating & Recommendation: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and maybe, if you like this kind of thing.

A Place for Us

What I read: A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Why I picked it up: I purchased it when it released in 2018 because Anne Bogel said it was one of her best books of the year. However, I just picked it up this month when I chose it as our book club read for April.

How I read it: Alternating between the audio and the hardcover.

What it’s about: An Indian family’s life in America from the beginning of Layla’s arranged marriage to her daughter’s marriage for love. It really seemed like it was the story of the son’s walking away from faith around the time of September 11th and later his walk away from the family who raised him.

What I liked: I liked the story, it’s very character driven rather than plot driven. The characters were delightful, but I would have liked more action.

What I disliked: It felt slow, I liked it but struggled a bit which is why I buddied the audio with the hardcover.

Genre: Family saga, immigrant story, fiction.

Rating & Recommendation: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and yes. I’m looking forward to discussing it.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

What I read: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

Why I picked it up: Anne Bogel recommended it forever ago and it somehow got in my mind again recently so I picked it up.

How I read it: The hardcover, from the library, in two days.

What it’s about: Anna Kate comes back to her family’s hometown after her grandmother’s passing. She finds her father’s family, friends, and healing while running the cafe.

What I liked: Everything! This is my favorite book of the year so far! It’s got hope, healing, love, family, friends, belonging!

What I disliked: I wanted ten more chapters about what happens next!

Genre: Magical Realism, family, finding yourself after loss.

Rating & Recommendation: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and run, don’t walk, to get this one!! I might need a copy for my shelf so I can reread at my leisure!

The Vineyard at Painted Moon

What I read: The Vineyard at Painted Moon by Susan Mallery

Why I picked it up: I’ve loved this author and needed some audiobooks for my trip so I downloaded her new one.

How I read it: On audio while driving.

What it’s about: Mackenzie and Reese decide to divorce after living five years as roommates. The complication is that she’s THE winemaker at the family vineyard. Except she’s not blood family so now she’s starting over.

What I liked: I loved Mackenzie, Stephanie, and Four along with Bruno and how they rally around Mackenzie and her new adventure. Also I want to tour her winery and taste her wines!!

What I disliked: Barbara and Reese were terrible and never redeemed. Even in the epilogue set three years in the future, they were awful. I yelled at her a bunch!

Genre: Contemporary women’s fiction with a side of starting over.

Rating & Recommendation: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and yes if you can stand terrible mothers in law!

It’s Better This Way

Find it on Goodreads

I always love seeing an older woman featured in a love story, someone over the age of 30. This one delivered. Julia was married for over 30 years before her marriage ended when her husband met someone else. She did everything she could to save her marriage, but to the new woman’s children she was just blocking their mother for happiness.

One thing that frustrated me about the story was the blame put on Julia for “blocking Edward’s happiness with Laura” when she was the one blindsided by her husband cheating. She was just supposed to accept that Laura was better for him and what’s done is done.

It’s so often that women aren’t allowed to have emotions of anger or hurt when they’ve been wronged. There’s an expectation that forgiveness will just be given because everyone else sees this is best.

I did appreciate that so many stories were intertwined in this novel. I’d really like a follow up for how it turns out with the kids!!


“This is something I learned from my father. He was the one who reassured me when life turned bleak and I couldn’t see anything good coming out of it. He’d tell me: It’s better this way.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ghosts

Find it on Goodreads

Annie Jones recommended this on last month’s reading recap so I put it on hold immediately. It’s sad and true to life and maybe the best representation of what it’s like to be a single woman in her 30s today. When all her friends are married and having babies and online seems to be the only way to meet someone but she hates it and men her age just have no idea who they are or what they want so they go all in too fast and then pull out and disappear because they’re scared and can’t even identify why they’re scared.

Whew!

Nina is in her early 30s and tries an online dating app for the first time when she learned her ex (who’s she still best friends with) is getting married. She meets a guy within the first few weeks, goes out on a date, and it gets serious very quickly. She’s prepared to jump in, but Max tells her on the first date that he wants to marry her, “she’ll see.”

Then he just disappears, like a ghost. She doesn’t understand how a human being can just ‘delete’ another human being (because seriously, who does?) – and moves on with her life and the hardship that having a father with Alzheimer’s really is.

Max is the worst kind of ghost though – because he comes back to haunt her.

The story is a great illustration of what it feels like to be single – the best I’ve seen in fiction in quite some time. She’s not quite one of those “angry single ladies” that we aren’t allowed to be, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders and is really striving to be her best self and present that to the world. I highlighted 66 passages because I just felt to “see” in the writing. The author did an amazing job!


“I can confidently declare at thirty-two years old that there are three things I can do flawlessly: arrive anywhere I need to be on time with five minutes to spare; ask people specific questions in social situations when I can’t be bothered to engage in conversation and I know they’ll do all the talking (Would you say you’re an introvert or an extrovert? Would you say you are ruled by your head or by your heart? Have you ever set anything on fire?); and poach an egg to perfection.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

God Spare the Girls

Find it on Goodreads

What a debut! A book about some of the long term consequences of purity culture, commentary on sin, and how it effects those are you.

Caroline is the narrator of the story, but her father’s affair is the main plot driver. He’s a pastor at the 3rd largest evangelical church in Texas and found himself famous when he and his oldest daughter, Abigail, wrote a purity pledge with the theme, “Hope for More.”

But a purity pledge from a man who’s been cheating on his wife doesn’t sit well with the girls (no one else seems too bothered by it, “everyone gets tempted”). The girls go to the ranch for the summer to work through it. And prepare for Abigail’s wedding.

It’s heartbreaking and thoughtful and excellent.


“Maybe her happiness in this space had been completely dependent on her belief, or maybe her belief had blinded her to all of the things that should have been making her unhappy all along.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Early Morning Riser

Find it on Goodreads

Annie Jones (host of From the Front Porch podcast and owner of The Bookshelf in Thomasville) recommended this a few weeks back. I put the audio on hold and then almost let it slip by without listening because I had such a hard time finishing the last audiobook I got. I’ve been focused more on podcasts when I have time to listen. I’m glad I dove in on Friday though.

This was a delight. It spans two decades. Jane moves to town to be their 2nd grade teacher (and is throughout the book). Within a few months of moving in she locked herself out of the house and Duncan came by to help (he’s a locksmith/jack-of-all-trades) and then stayed the weekend.

They were inseparable after until she pursued marrying someone else and then there was an accident and everything changed. the bulk of the book is from that point forward and how she rearranges her life to make up for the accident, which she believes is her fault (I don’t think it is, but that’s neither here nor there).

The listening experience was good. I did have to listen at 1.25 speed though because the narrator was SO SLOW I almost turned it off. The speed really helped! I also was able to listen in long chunks, which is how I best absorb fiction audiobooks.


“Was it possible that Jane’s whole life didn’t lead back to that one event? ‘I myself believe I have lived so long due to my avoidance of alcohol,’ Jane’s mother said. ‘That and I always vote for whichever presidential candidate seems most likely to win. It has saved me untold disappointment.’”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️