Review: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

Christmas! And sisters! And Scotland! Could there be a better combo? I don’t think so. Ok actually there could be – if Morgan added in some cutie pie kiddos and an awesome set of grandparents and the perfect love interests for the sisters. Which she did. Sigh.

I really liked all the references to New York, Washington state, and then the European locations outside of Scotland. I felt like I was traveling from the comfort of my sofa. And the other thing I so enjoyed was Jason’s admission that being a stay at home parent is not all bon-bons and soap operas. Even though his realization and apology was a teensy bit out of character and not 100% realistic, it was gratifying to read it all the same.

Morgan did a fantastic job individualizing the three sisters, giving them different perspectives on the same childhood tragedy they all suffered, and writing a believable and heartwarming resolution. Love and forgiveness are powerful, especially when you have the support of those around you.

Morgan also added in comic relief in little Ruby, Martha the chicken, and Eric. Beautifully done!

-calliope

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Review: Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber

When Annie moves to the Pacific Northwest, she’s just looking for a safe place to grieve, a comforting and uplifting place. What she finds is a cottage that needs some love, a garden that needs all that love and a bowl of cereal, and a couple people from her past who she can’t quite put her finger on.

Macomber does a great job tying together Annie’s new friendships with the experiences from their pasts. Though the characters don’t dwell on their youth, we see how it colored their behaviors as adults – and how grief and trauma in childhood or adolescence can be debilitating for the long-term.

I found compassion for Annie’s friend Mellie, who seemed so unstable and isolated until she was surrounded by love. I was in awe of Keaton, who shed no tears over how badly he was treated by family and community for decades, but came to the rescue in a heartbeat for those who needed his help or protection.

Macomber created a story of hope and belonging out of a medley of troubled folks. This book could have been depressing – but it wasn’t. It opened my eyes to the hurt people may be walking around with, and showed that people put their mark on the world in varied and unexpected ways.

-calliope

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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: The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Can’t beat a story about three sisters, all together for the summer with their families – including mother and grandmother. One of my own favorite memories is of visiting my childhood home at the same time my brother and sister were there. We enjoyed that at-home feeling. Not that we didn’t have our own homes, but there was something comforting about being in the backyard while Dad grilled dinner, mom brought out the sides, and we all talked. Easy, cozy, safe.

That’s the mood Harvey sets forth in Southern Charm. The three sisters get along, annoy but love each other, and take care of each other’s families. My favorite part was when Sloane’s husband wasn’t sure they should take Caroline’s offer to stay in her house for a while. Sloane said that what was Caroline’s was hers, because she, Caroline and Emerson were all the same one person.

Despite the ups and downs of life, the heartbreak and the grief, that’s how I feel … my siblings and I will always be the same person. We are rooted in our parents love, as are these three Southern sisters.

The book is a little slow (boring? overly descriptive) in some places, and could use some tightening up. There are also a few plot lines that I take moral issues with. Besides that, I enjoyed it, and it brought back some nice memories for me.

-calliope

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Review: A Vicarage Reunion by Kate Hewitt

Oh Esther and Will… hard workers, loyal to a fault, family-oriented… and then one trauma busts it all up and unearths some unexpressed feelings. Thankfully, their little town — including Esther’s family — provides the guardrails to help Esther and Will find their way.

Their struggle was real. I’ve felt it and I’m sure all married couples have felt it at some time in their marriage. Things are going fine until they aren’t. And sometimes the solution isn’t exactly staring anyone in the face. That’s why I am grateful for all the family and friends who witness wedding ceremonies – they’re there to help support the marriage when it’s foundering.

Kate Hewitt wrote more than just Esther and Will’s relationship though. There were family dinners, lonesome walks, friends meeting at the pub, sibling love, the wisdom of a mother, the comfort of a father, and so much forgiveness … all in a little village around an old vicarage in a wonderful, delightful series.

-calliope

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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

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Review (quick and dirty #4): The Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses 

I chose this cute story because it’s set on the Connecticut shore, where I spend some time on the beach with my children each summer. I liked meeting Grace, and seeing the family dynamics as she temporarily stayed with her parents. I enjoyed meeting the people in her hometown, especially the bike shop peeps. But then Grace got a little unlikeable: immature (re)actions toward men she’s crushing on, blundering through her home life, and making some disappointing choices. The bike rides were beautiful, though, and so was the happily ever after, but the ride could’ve been a little smoother. 

Note: If you like your heroines seriously flawed, you’ll appreciate this book more than I did. 

-calliope

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