Review (quick and dirty #5 FINALLY): Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard 

I’m all caught up! Here’s the fifth and final Friday night quick and dirty book review: 

I love this series set in the French countryside! Emmy is a wonderful Jane-of-all-trades at Rupert’s lovely inn, and there’s no shortage of chick-lit drama. “Interesting” guests, crazy ex-wives, and family secrets drive the plot forward fast and furiously. I like that Emmy is soft-hearted yet doesn’t stand for any nonsense… and the other characters appreciate that about her as well. What most impresses me is how Pollard writes about real life issues with lightness and whimsy. GUESTHOUSE is so fun that you don’t even realize you’ve read about divorce, grief, mortality, trauma, and tolerance. All you feel is love, laughter and friendship — which are balms for all of life’s messy parts. C’est bon. 

-calliope

Buy SUMMER AT THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE

Review (quick and dirty #1): Marry Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

I’m behind on book reviews, so here’s my attempt at redemption: Five quick and dirty reviews on a Friday night. 🙂 

This is the BEST of the Willoughby Close novels — light, fun, witty, believable. Loved Alice’s story, including her realistic fears about feeling settled after being a drifter for so long, and her reactions to handsome-but-snobby Henry. Alice was the perfect companion to elderly and frail Lady Stokely, unobtrusive and kind. I liked the cameos by the Willoughby Close neighbors from previous books in the series, and Hewitt did a fabulous job having them stay true to themselves — as did Alice, even when she fell in love. This is one of my favorite summer British chick lit reads, but you might want to prep by reading book 1 first. 

-calliope

Buy Marry Me at Willoughby Close ($3.99!)

Review: The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses

I love a good love story that includes food and baking and New England locales, but this one didn’t make the grade. The main character leaves her fast paced NYC lifestyle to deliver a letter from the past for her late grandmother. That plot line worked, but not so much the romance (in one week when she spent the first three days annoyed) or the baking (I waited so very long for the bakeshop to make an appearance). I’m not from Maine, but I could think of a dozen ways to get more blueberries into a book with blueberries in the title and on the cover.  I wanted to want to root for the main character but she wasn’t likeable enough. Would’ve loved more of Roy and his family, though!

Cute premise, but the execution fell short. 

-Calliope 

Buy THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE

Review: The Summer House by Jenny Hale

The idea of buying a beach cottage and renovating it all summer has always appealed to me: Painting the deck rails white, power washing the cedar shingles, planting hydrangea, gutting the tiny kitchen and installing beachy-chic cupboards. How great would it be to paint the walls sea beeeze blue, shop for the right outdoor pillows at HomeGoods and commission a beach scene mural? The great thing about The Summer House is you get to have all the fun of a beach cottage reno… without all the work… and with a handsome guy taking you to lunch all the time… and finding an old diary… and a wonderful artist who just needed to reacquaint himself with his muse. 

See, we might not get all that in real life – not in one summer anyway, but Callie and Olivia do. They share their summer with us, beach cottage, romance, family secrets, happily ever afters, and all. 

-calliope

Buy THE SUMMER HOUSE

Review: The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

This book reminded me of First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen: magical! It’s not wand and wizard type magical, but more like “can you believe this is happening I think it’s a miracle” type magical. And I loved it. 

Sanna is a tough nut to crack. She’s the primary worker on her family farm, the sole apple orchard and cider person, and very focused on keeping her farm and family intact. Sanna is protective, territorial, and averse to visitors. 

When Isaac and his son Sebastian appear at the farm and endear themselves to Sanna’s pa, Sanna is more annoyed than anything else. But Sebastian’s presence softens her heart a little … just enough to let Isaac in, too. 

Sanna’s love for the apples and love for her family save the farm from external threats. It’s that love that saves Sanna from herself, too, and provides room for Isaac and Sebastian in her life. 

I just couldn’t get over the specialness of  Sanna’s abilities with the apple orchard. It was nice to see someone care that much about their land and what grows on it. And I appreciated her loyalty to her family and the land. 

This novel was a lot of twinkles and touches and glances and fairy lights. Not my usual fare, and I’m kind of glad about that. The Simplicity of Cider is a special book that will stay with me for a long time. 

-Calliope 

Buy THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER

Review: Kiss Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

I love these quick and fun Willoughby Close novels. Trying circumstances send a person to Willoughby Close to rent a cottage on manor property. The person grows in various ways, gets a hand up if necessary, chooses a direction, and makes their life the best they can. Kiss Me is Ava’s story… and boy howdy does she need a cottage to live in after her rich husband dies and leaves her with next to nothing, not even one of their several homes. 

At Willoughby Close, Ava learns how to interact with people on a friendly and neighborly level, reach out when someone needs help, and show her true colors instead of putting on a façade. Ava finds more than just her strength at Willoughby… she also finds the handsome and sensitive alpha groundskeeper, throwing a wrench into all her plans to be independent. 

While Ava is surrounded by good people who want to help her, she does plenty of helping herself — and even taking the time for a young woman who could use a break. 

I love that Hewitt focuses on second chances, and it’s uplifting to see good people making something positive out of those chances. 

-Calliope

Buy KISS ME AT WILLOUGHBY CLOSE

Review: Four Bridesmaids and a White Wedding by Fiona Collins 

What a hoot! Wendy’s getting married, and the bridesmaids do some early celebrating on a spa weekend. Except the spa part falls through and they’d never guess what was in store for them instead. 
Collins successfully writes this romcom with a true ensemble cast. Each woman reminded me of someone I know in real life, so reading this book became something of a movie in my head with my friends as the actors.  I won’t name names here, but if you read it you might recognize yourself. (For the record, I’m either Tasmin or JoJo.)

Four Bridesmaids is lighthearted for sure, but does take a somewhat serious look at the sacredness of relationships and our responsibilities in maintaining them. Collins also illustrates the strong bonds of female friendship. Sometimes all it takes is knowing you’ve found a kindred spirit to shine the light of truth on your life, and give you a happy nudge forward. 

-Calliope 

Buy FOUR BRIDESMAIDS AND A WHITE WEDDING ($2.99 hey now!)

Review: A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery


Zoe, her friend Jen, and Jen’s mom Pam are all at different stages of life – Zoe is living alone after a much needed breakup, Pam is afraid to love again after losing her husband, and Jen is getting used to married-with-a-baby life. Life is complicated for each of them, and made even more so because of the dynamic among the three ladies.  

This is a cute story filled with cliches and stereotypes… predictable but enjoyable. I liked Jen’s brother and his lovely way of wooing Zoe without being obnoxious. Pam annoyed me with her meddling, and Jen annoyed me with her self-centeredness. However, I’ve acted just like Pam and Jen in various circumstances, so their ways are pretty realistic! 

A Million Little Things pales in comparison to Mallery’s past novels, but it’s worth a look if you enjoy light women’s fiction. 

-calliope

Buy A MILLION LITTLE THINGS

Review: Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

When Kate unexpectedly gets a job in the admissions department of a Manhattan private school, she finally pulls out of a year-long slump caused by an emotional break-up. 

I loved the premise of a lost girl landing a high visibility position at a fancy prep school. The interaction between Kate and her superiors sort of reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada. For chick lit, the mood was a little gloomy for me, though. I like my rom coms light and fluffy… and this tended toward slightly dark and quite eccentric.  I liked Kate’s relationships with her besties, but not the constant worrying and correcting by her domineering older sister. I liked the idea of Kate’s academic, hippy-ish parents, but not their devil-may-care attitude toward their daughter’s welfare. 

I was totally annoyed with the italicized chapters written from Chloe’s point of view. They jarred me from the flow of the story- and I kept having to consciously tell myself whose point of view I was reading at the moment. 

I most enjoyed the interviews with prospective students and parents. Who wouldn’t like to be a fly on the wall in an admissions office?! I would have loved more of those entertaining, slice-of-adolescent-life clips that made me nod knowingly … or, astonished, bug my eyes out. 

-calliope

Buy SMALL ADMISSIONS

Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

01 at You can’t capture love in a bottle. You can’t hold on to it with both hands and force it to stay with you.

This is my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book. I’ve heard many people rave about her books, but I just never got around to trying one, since she seems more like chick lit, and that’s not my usual. But I did something out of the norm and read the blurb of this book, and I was immediately punched in the gut. I knew I had to read this.

SYNOPSIS
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

Oh my gosh!! Can you imagine this? What do you do? Here’s this poor girl faced with an impossible decision. He loves both men, but she must choose one. My nerves were all twisted up in this one. One can’t possibly just choose and be done with it. Emma has to learn who she is and what she wants before she can even think about making this choice.

From the very first sentence, I was sucked into this world. I could feel what Emma felt and it broke my heart. After missing her husband for almost three years, all those past feelings come flooding back into her. She must face her past and decide who she wants to spend her future with.

While this isn’t your traditional happily ever after, but rather a bittersweet ending, I am glad to have gone this journey of reflection and growth. I am happy to see Emma face this decision head on. While the journey did make me wince a few times, since I made my own choice, I can see that Emma did what needed to be done in order to make her choice.

There is nothing more romantic than this. Holding the very person that you thought you’d lost, and knowing you’ll never lose them again.

~Melpomene

Buy One True Loves