Review: One Distant Summer by Serena Clarke

What a cool book! Jacinda Scott goes to New Zealand to take time off from the pressures of LA life. She doesn’t bank on staying next door to Liam Ward, cute younger brother of her decade-old teenage fling. 

One Distant Summer isn’t a simple story. Author Serena Clarke does a phenomenal job giving us something more than just unrequited love or “I fell for the wrong guy.”  Jacinda has her own life with fun and loyal friends. She focuses on a successful career, but not to the detriment of her own welfare. She’s a whole person… who just happens to fall into Liam’s neighborhood. Subplots abound — always in support of the main storyline. 

Without too much angst, Liam and Jacinda fall in and out of like and lust, trying to determine what will hurt the least. There are lots of gatherings with friends, sandy beach talks, and stolen moments with guitars, as the couple journeys to find a resolution. Serena Clarke successfully takes the reader on that journey — the characters feeling like my own friends, and New Zealand feeling home.  

-calliope

Buy ONE DISTANT SUMMER

Advertisements

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

I loved Nina and her van full of books! As she traveled and matched up the right books with the right people, Nina also experienced personal growth. Along her journey from England to Scotland, Nina did more than just drive some kilometers. She transitioned from roommate-situation to living alone, and from depressed to wide-eyed in awe. 

I also liked Nina’s relationship with her roommate Surinder – everyone needs a best friend who can share unvarnished truths. And Surinder was so fun! Nina also had a beautiful friendship with teenage Ainslee, a girl who just needed a good book and a nudge in the right direction. 

I didn’t enjoy the Marek storyline at all, but I did see the necessity of a “transition” guy during Nina’s transformation. So while Marek and his subplot made a lot of sense, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  The chapters with Nina’s landlord were similarly nose-wrinkling. He was a great guy, but I didn’t like his circumstances in the story. 

Overall, I sailed happily through this lovely story about a woman making a big life change. While the romantic parts weren’t my cup of tea, Nina’s friendships and journey of self-discovery were on point. Author Jenny Colgan made me feel like I was part of Nina’s book van, and that was a thrill in itself! 

-calliope

Buy THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER

Review: Solo by Jill Mansell

Solo is a mad adventure by two women who have their hearts set on something: for Holly, it’s Max, handsome hotel owner;  for Tessa, it’s being left alone and not being tied to a man. Unfortunately for them both, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 

Tessa is involved with Max’s brother Ross in a love triangle of the most unexpected kind. Holly tries too hard. And Ross and Max have their own agendas! Cougar Antonia brings her own melodramatics that turn everyone’s lives into a soap opera. 

I always adore the fun and crazy that Jill Mansell writes, and this is no different. The characters are unique from book to book, Solo’s plot is multilayered, and the dialogue is believable even when it’s over the top. 

Thanks Ms. Mansell for taking me completely out of reality and into the world of fancy hotels, infidelities and karma, and simple girls who live in simple cottages quite happily enough. 

-calliope

Buy SOLO

Review: Meet Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

A Cotswold Christmas introduced this series, but you can certainly read Willoughby Close as a standalone. Willoughby Close is a little collection of charming cottages on a large estate of a lovely royal-ish elderly lady. I have a feeling a collection of charming people will inhabit them all by the time the series is finished! 

For now, we meet Ellie and her daughter Abby. Ellie has a new job at the University, and Abby is looking forward to making a fresh start where friends are concerned. 

I so love how Hewitt wrote professor Oliver — the guy  Ellie works for. He’s nerdy and introverted and stays true to himself. Hewitt did a phenomenal job developing Ellie, as well. Ellie is a little nervous and quirky, and she’s quite unsure of herself most of the time. That could be annoying, but not here. Hewitt made her real and relatable. I like Ellie’s mom side and her romantic side – she appears to the reader as a whole fleshed out character with different facets – just like a pal in real life!  

I also really like how the new neighbors moved in and they’ll be the focus of the next book in the series. And how the Close’s superintendent is a flirt! This is a fun read that touches on some harrowing issues in just the right way. 

-calliope 

Buy MEET ME AT WILLOUGHBY CLOSE

Review: The Cottage at Firefly Lake by Jen Gilroy

Sometimes you just want some easy reading. Maybe you just finished something heavy, or maybe your life is a little crazy and an effortless read is just what the doctor ordered. The Cottage at Firefly Lake is your medicine, baby. 

After her mother’s death, Charlotte returns to her family’s summer cottage to get it ready for the real estate market. She runs into teenage sweetheart Sean, whose family business is in town – has always been and will forever be. Their past love is now colored by adult responsibilities and expectations… and emotional baggage. 

Though the plot and writing were very simple, I enjoyed the way Gilroy seamlessly wove in the lakeside setting and that vacation-y feeling.  She also did a great job including Charlotte and Sean’s families. Even though the main plot line was about a possible romance between the couple, Gilroy gave the supporting characters meaningful and fun roles. 

I think Gilroy went a little heavy on trite romance novel phrases, but I can forgive that for a first-in-a-series. With a little more originality, Gilroy could have a series that sits up with Robyn Carr’s Virgin River books. I sure hope so! 

-calliope

Buy THE COTTAGE AT FIREFLY LAKE

Review: On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Kate and Ainsley are half sisters, but they feel worlds apart most of the time. Kate is reserved, classical, and practical. Ainsley is fashionable, whimsical and fun. But when they each find themselves alone after their respective romantic situations fall apart, their sisterly love shines through righteously. 

Some of this story just broke my heart, and I wasn’t sure I could get through the despair. Then I noticed I was only a quarter of the way through the book, leaving PLENTY of time for redemption, hugs, and gluing hearts back together. 

My most favorite part of this whole book, even more awesome than the sister love (which is pretty awesome, and a big part of the story), even snazzier than the Tiffany ring (big!), and even more heartwarming than the boss finding a soft spot in his heart for an employee (unexpected!), was Daniel the Hot Firefighter. Higgins masterfully wove him in as comic relief and a reliable pal, but he was so much more. Aside from his witty banter and alpha male-ism, Daniel the Hot Firefighter symbolized Hope… hope for a future when the present is bleak, hope for women looking for a good man, hope for children needing a father figure.

I kind of guessed where Daniel the Hot Firefighter would end up at the close of the story, and I was so glad that my guess only scratched the surface. Look for your Hot Firefighter, people. You never know when you’ll need to be rescued, and he will be there with a generous heart… and a smile. 

-calliope

The first six chapters… FREE!
Buy the book (preorders until Jan.31)