Review: A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson

While I love Melody Carlson’s ability to create fresh plots with believable yet quirky characters, this particular novella required me to suspend my disbelief just a little too much.

Christmas in Maine is cozy – and it was fun to see Wendy and her son set up their little home and become part of the town. But the romance seemed contrived and totally out of character for a worrier like Wendy. And it happened way too fast! A couple of weeks might be enough time for a young single person to let their guard down and fall in love with someone they’re spending 24/7 with… but Wendy didn’t spend all that much time getting to know Caleb, and I thought she’d be a little less trusting due to her nature and just the fact that she’s a mom.

I’ve enjoyed other Carlson books in the past – Christmassy ones too. You can find the link to those reviews below.

-calliope

Buy A CHRISTMAS BY THE SEA

Read Calliope’s reviews of more Melody Carlson books (loved some of these!)

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Review: Minding the Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher

I’m so glad I found this Nantucket Legacy series. Fisher has converted me into a historical-Quaker-fiction fan — and I think I was eased into it because I already loved Fisher’s Amish stories.

Minding the Light certainly reflects the hardships in a burgeoning yet still isolated Nantucket community. It also demonstrates the hypocrisy of religion when what we practice doesn’t align with what we preach. Most significantly, it illustrates the many kinds of love we are able to share when push comes to shove.

Despite some tragic plot lines, I really enjoyed the Captain’s story. From his time on the boat to his trust in Abraham to his growing love for his children, the Captain was what we should all strive to be – dignified, respectable, caring, and open to hearing what others think of us.

This novel wasn’t all seriousness and morality lessons, though. There were Patience’s smirks, the children’s fun personalities, some love stories, a maverick business partner, and quite a caricature of a mother in law!

I was entertained, learned more about the Quakers, and enjoyed the oceanfront setting as I await my own vacation to the shore.

-calliope

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Review: California Summer by Anita Hughes

I love a good starting-over story. In California Summer, Rosie doesn’t have much of a choice. Her Hollywood life fell apart and she ended up in Montecito – uncertain of her future. But, a mother figure/ butler friend/ bff/ neighborhood guy later, and Rosie’s on her way back up. Question is, does she want to go back to the fast lane, or does she want to settle in to Montecito life with the ones she loves?

I loved every fish taco, every Estelle dinner party, and every rose garden chat. Anita Hughes rocked the luxuriousness, as usual, and threw in some pop stars and surfers for good measure. The plot twist was perfect – completely believable and not overdone – and endeared me to Rosie’s boyfriend even more.

The only shortcomings of this novel were that Rosie had two very annoying habits: 1- wearing the same red, full length cocktail dress randomly and to every gathering under the sun, whether it was appropriate or not, and 2- Rosie ran and hid like a toddler from any uncomfortable situation. I just wanted her to get a new dress and grow a set!

Apart from those two things, I liked all the characters, even spoiled Angelica and Hollywood agent Ryan. Hughes did a great job rounding out character development and writing someone for every reader to identify with. My favorite parts were meeting Esmerelda through Rosie’s eyes, and watching Rosie finally grow up.

-calliope

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Review: The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

Abby, Caroline, and Lee hop on a cruise ship with their guys and their kiddos… to celebrate a 20th wedding anniversary, share some personal news, await a proposal, and straighten out some of life’s twists and turns.

I loved the cruise ship setting. So fun! For an hour or two each night I was whisked away into the land of lounge chairs and umbrella drinks — and hot sunny days. Wendy Francis did a fantastic job making the friendships real and easy. The women were like sisters with each other – just how I’d imagine this trio in real life. And although some of the plot was predictable, Francis developed it in a fresh, engaging way. I was in it for the whole cruise: laughter, tears, and mouth agape. Nicely written, very entertaining!

-calliope

Buy THE SUMMER SAIL

Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

This reminded me of Beaches. Yep, the movie. The plot wasn’t the same, but it just had that same kind of feel. 

Sister and cousins all return to a beach house one summer to share memories from their childhood summers, and to spend time with Megan who has cancer. 

The beginning of the book pretty much focuses on Megan and her needs. Then we hear about Charley and her current life problems as they relate to her childhood problems… but Megan kind of fades away in the background. I was like Hey! Don’t forget about that Megan character! 

Sadly, it happened again when we are introduced to Krista, the ex con. Megan is barely mentioned, and Krista totally overshadows the Charley character. I had just gotten invested in Megan and Charley… and they were dropped like a hot potato. 

Carr’s Virgin River series illustrated how to have a developed protagonist as well as an ensemble cast. I was hoping for the same in The Summer That Made Us. Had the character development been more balanced, and had the characters not been such stereotypes, this novel would have an extra star!

I enjoyed the somewhat predictable plot, I appreciated the well-written dialogue, and I was impressed that Robyn Carr still comes up with fresh ideas for new novels. This one just wasn’t for me. 

-calliope

Buy THE SUMMER THAT MADE US

Review: Need You Now by Emma Douglas 

Caleb White, tennis player extraordinaire, needs a distraction from his recent decision to retire. When he visits Cloud Bay he meets the perfect distraction — Faith. Faith runs a huge music festival, mostly because she’s the daughter of a famous (and deceased) rock star, but also because she’s really really good at it. 

I was hooked on Caleb and Faith, separately and together. But I wasn’t hooked on the music festival because music festivals just aren’t my bag. I kind of wished for more island-ish happenings – like catching rays, boat rides, and digging toes in the sand. But that’s just me. I have no idea how I thought this book was going to be about coastal living, but I was definitely wrong! I was right about one thing however – that Emma Douglas would give me a happily ever after.

So there’s rockers and romance… and family dynamics, a little bit of dysfunction, some nice architecture (hello million dollar coastal homes), and a good look at ambition, which I loved. If you also appreciate outdoor festivals, rock band life, and all things musical, this book is for you. 

-calliope

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Review: Emerald Coast by Anita Hughes


Love the luxuriousness and glamour that this book exudes – like Hughes’ others. Lily and Oliver were a cute couple, even divorced, so I enjoyed their banter and rapport. 

Unfortunately, Emerald Coast was a little too predictable even for me, and I wasn’t a fan of the cliched reasons why Angela and Ricky were looking for a mate. I’ll always love Anita Hughes for her rich descriptions, beautiful writing, and memorable scenery. I just wasn’t cut out for the plot of this particular story.

-calliope 

Buy EMERALD COAST