Review: The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis

  
Here we go! Another summertime novel set on Cape Cod. I AM LOVING these beach reads. 

In The Summer of Good Intentions, the three Herington sisters and their families spend a few weeks at their beach house on the Cape. They don’t anticipate that the gradual changes that have been happening in the past year will all come to a head right there at the beach. 

I liked these women and their families – but surprisingly I liked their spouses even more. Francis wrote sympathetic but realistic male characters, which is refreshing in a world of literary men that are either too perfect, too cynical, brutish, or just plain silly. 

There are some sad parts of this book. There’s a hint at Alzheimer’s, a house fire, the diagnosis of a chronic and incurable disease, and a death. But there’s also beautiful reconciliation of a marriage, a promising new romance, and a children’s unrivaled gift to their mother. 

-calliope

Buy THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS

Review: The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery 

 

Three women in an L.A. suburb find themselves in the middle of some changes. Big changes. Marriage, divorce, pregnancy, death, grief, friendship, and new beginnings all play a part in this new series by one of my favorite authors. 

The writing is excellent, from the fleshed out characters to the descriptions of the coastal setting. Technically, everything is on point as Mallery invites us into the lives of three women of different ages, their families and friends, their businesses.

But there’s something missing for me. Excitement, maybe. And I get it that lack of excitement is one of the relationship issues in the book, but the reader should still somehow be pulled into the book… And I just wasn’t. For one thing, there was a lot of “telling instead of showing” (like when one character sat across from her friend and next to her other friend and put her purse on the free chair). I liked the book enough, but I wasn’t totally invested in it. It didn’t thrill me. 

On the other hand, Mallery successfully shows the reader real emotions. For example, one character is mourning a loss. Brava for getting to the nitty gritty of being beside oneself with grief. The scene at Goodwill – I can picture that kind of thing because I have seen people just UNDONE like that. I’m thinking WOW as I remember reading Mallery’s take on it.  And the spa scene with the possible future stepchild – realistic and full of tension. 

Although this particular plot was a bit of a downer for me, I enjoyed Mischief Bay and its inhabitants. I’ll be on the lookout for book number two. 

-calliope 

buy THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY

Review: Stella Mia by Rosanna Chiofalo

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Stella Mia is a novel about love, gypsies and looking for a home, and the beautiful beaches of Italy. But mostly it’s a hauntingly beautiful tale about mothers and daughters.

Julia finds her mother’s diary, and because her mother left when she was young, it’s a treasure to Julia. The book opens with Julia’s story, but really pulls you in during the flashback to Julia’s mother’s life. The flashback is the bulk of the story.

We find out how Julia’s mother Sarina grew up, how she made her own way, how she fell in love, and how she sacrificed her own happiness for someone else.

The end poignantly brings the story back to Julia. I didn’t know how invested I was until I felt tears running down my face, in sorrow and joy at Julia and Sarina’s love for each other.

Stella Mia is sad, I’ll be honest. It’s harsh at times, disturbing, and heartbreaking. But it’s all worth it when you get to the parts about holding hands on the beach, singing Stella Mia, and feeling the love when someone says Ti voglio bene. Kinda just like life.

-calliope

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Review: Mocha Sunrise by Julie Carobini

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Best friends Livi, Bri and Gaby love each other like sisters, including telling it to each other straight even when the truth hurts. When Livi is mentally tortured by her antagonistic cousin/roommate, Bri and Gaby give Livi good advice – that she fails to follow.

Then Caleb enters the picture. Though he’s fighting his own demons, he forms a trifecta with Bri and Gaby to defend Livi. They push Livi to get out of her rut, push through, face her fears, make some decisions.

I like that Julie Carobini writes this story based on friendship, and maintains that main plot even while other things are happening to Livi – getting arrested, having job problems, meeting a new guy. I read a lot of contemporary romances, and none seem to hold the friendships in as high a regard as the romantic relationship. Mocha Sunrise focuses on the strength of friendship even while the best friends have romance in their lives.

I totally loved seeing Livi and Caleb find themselves as individuals and come together as a couple. Their transformations were amazing – from two uncertain and uneasy characters to honest and discerning people who were so authentic that I shed tears for them. 🙂

I appreciated Carobini’s hopeful and uplifting messages delivered by Caleb. And as I read Mocha Sunrise I felt a sense of peace and joy. How appropriate for this Christmas season.

-calliope

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Review: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

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What FUN! 1930s England, vacationing at the shore, a rocky marriage, social climbers, and a MURDER!

This reminded me so much of Agatha Christie, but with a contemporary bent. The inclusion of romance and implied social commentary on marriage… brilliant.

I loved the travelling, Amory’s husband Milo’s gracious loyalty, Gil and Emmaline’s warm sibling relationship, and the obnoxiousness of some of those guests at the Brightwell. You can’t even make this stuff up. (Well, okay, Weaver DID make it up, but it seemed pretty real to me!)

Love, hate, selflessness, mayhem, sweet nothings … You get much more than a mystery with Murder at the Brightwell.

-Calliope

buy MURDER AT THE BRIGHTWELL

Review: The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

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This would be a fantastic book to listen to in the car on the way to the beach for a week. Or while basking in the sun on your back deck. It’s a beach read… about the beach and its freedom and isolation and peace.

I admit I went into this book expecting something heavy. Instead I found an easygoing story about four women who get together for two weeks at the beach. The catch is, one woman is the new girl. The other three don’t let her forget it, and make her life miserable until personal tragedies bring them all together.

The Girls of August leaves many loose ends: we don’t know what happens with the health of two of the women, or the marriages of the other two. We never find out what happens to the island natives, or to the land that was supposedly left to one of the husbands. We don’t know if there’s a next vacation planned or a wedding.

I’m uncomfortable finishing a book without closure. I felt like I read a short story that was supposed to share a moral or a theme, but left the plot hanging.

However, The Girls of August has the wonderful redemptive quality of authentic friendships and introversion. These ladies were real with each other. They were snarky and sarcastic and bitter and loving and comforting and witty. They used the quiet of the beach to peel away their layers and discover themselves – not the women other people *expected * them to be, but who they really were. These women didn’t necessarily change, they just figured out who they were and who they were going to be from now on.

–Calliope

buy THE GIRLS OF AUGUST

Review: Home to Seaview Key by Sherryl Woods

20140122-142516.jpg Home to Seaview Key, second in a series, will be released January 28. It’s a charming tale of a small island with grassroots businesses, opinionated grandmothers, and a strong sense of community. Abby returns there to find herself. Seth moves there to mentally recuperate after fighting in Afghanistan. They share their broken hearts and decide to give friendship – or maybe more – a chance.

I enjoyed the characters and the plot, loved the whimsy of the oldest Seaview Key generation, and appreciated the realism of the ups and downs in a new relationship. However, the story was a little flat. There wasn’t enough intensity, and lots of things were glossed over with an explanation instead of showing what happened. It was a nice, enjoyable story but not one I was particularly excited reading. You’ll enjoy it if you’re looking for a low-key, easy read to relax with.

-Calliope

Buy it now Home to Seaview Key

Price Drops on Some Favorites!

Waking up on the weekend to price drops on books by a favorite author … sigh … It can only be beat by a lovely cup of coffee. 🙂

Julie Carobini writes sweet, charming beach reads. I’ll be picking up a few more today for $0.99!

Enjoy!

-Calliope

20131019-073717.jpg Buy it now Chocolate Beach

20131019-073726.jpg Buy it now Truffles by the Sea

20131019-073737.jpg Buy it now Sweet Waters

20131019-073747.jpg Buy it now Fade to Blue

20131019-073755.jpg Buy it now The Spa at Winter Beach

Review: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

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Oh. My. Goodness. A Hundred Summers was so good and so substantial that I had to stop every few chapters to reflect on and digest what I just read. I consumed this novel, and it consumed me. I was smiling as I read. Grinning from ear to ear. I’m happy even thinking about it now. A Hundred Summers is a conventional love story with unconventional twists and characters who made my eyes bug out of my head. There were several mouth-agape, palm-over-mouth gasping moments as well as full chapters that got my shoulders a-tense.

It’s the writing that makes this book a winner. Williams’ cleverness impressed me. She used metaphor and symbolism expertly: a football game, a snowstorm, a hurricane. What you see isn’t what you get; you get something even better.

Reading A Hundred Summers, I was surprised at every turn. I could not predict a thing (well, until the end, and even then I was afraid I was wrong). The characters surprised me, their circumstances shocked me. Their behavior — for the 1930s, especially! — entertained me.

Nick and Lily were an item six years ago. They had even planned on getting married. But family issues, misunderstandings, and Lily’s friend Budgie interfered. Budgie ended up with Nick. Budgie’s old flame Graham wanted Lily. No one’s intentions were pure … Jealousy, ego, anger, hurt and vengeance all played a part.

The plot explains how Nick and Lily untangle themselves from the scandal that was built around each of their families, but it isn’t a straight and narrow road. The twists and turns will pull you in, and drag you around the beach for a hundred glorious summers.

A Hundred Summers is going into my Favorites collection, along with Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed and Conroy’s The Prince of Tides.

-Calliope

Buy it now A Hundred Summers