Review: Sweet As Honey by Jennifer Beckstrand 


Jennifer Beckstrand wrote the Huckleberry Hill series, and I enjoyed every one of them. I was excited to start this new Honeybees Sisters series — and Sweet As Honey is every bit as good as the Huckleberry stories. 

Beckstrand masterfully blends strength of character and physical strength with humbleness, faith in God, and love for neighbor. I especially liked that the Honeybee sisters and their aunt take care of themselves and their land, demonstrating that many hands make light work. 

This first book in the series illustrates a romance between Lily and a young Amish gentleman. Beckstrand realistically wrote the  roller coaster of emotions and the tension between families. Family relationships, beekeeping, and being neighborly rounds out the story, making it much more than a romance. Excellent! Can’t wait for book two. 

-calliope

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Review: Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax


This fun 4th in a series is set in the St. Pete’s area of Florida – near the famous pink castle, Hotel Don Cesar. 

In Sunshine Beach, a group of women find a run down property and hope to renovate it for their cable show “Do Over.” Problem is, the property has a mystery behind it, and the current owners are reluctant to sell. 

You’ll enjoy following Maddie, Avery, Nikki and Kyra — and their significant (and not so significant) others — as they try to solve a mystery, nail down their love lives, and use the paparazzi to their best advantage. 

I’ll admit that the characters and their relationships to each other confused me at first. Then I realized I hadn’t read the first three in the series! So if you want to pick up this cute summer read, do yourself a favor and read book 1 – Ten Beach Road – first. 🙂

-calliope

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Review: Bookends by Jane Green


I love this story with an ensemble cast. Four friends grow up: one flies the coop, one gets married, one finds too much love, and one finds not enough. Green does a wonderful job making Cath the main character without taking time or page space away from the others. The writing is excellent, the plot moves at the perfect pace, and most importantly, there  aren’t so many characters that I have to work to understand who’s who. 

Favorite part: the bookshop, of course! 

Second favorite part: Cath’s romantic interest. Of course. 😉

This British rom com — about the development of relationships, the relative degrees of loyalty, and finding your true self behind the defensive walls we put up — is an oldie but goodie. I wanted to read a Jane Green novel, I did, and now I’ll be reading more!  

-calliope

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Review: The Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant


This was a cute rom com, short on the rom and com, though, in my opinion. I read it more like a slice of life in a small town. I loved the characters, except for the villainess who seemed a little overly wacky and cruel for a light book. Millie was quirky and emotional, Jas and Rich were a fun couple, Dylan and Spencer were good male characters who made tremendous growth and development by the end of the book. Millie’s potions should have been edited a little to make them either more important or not in the story at all. I felt like her “magic” was an afterthought.

As usual, I was glad for the romance that eventually developed, and for the happily ever after, even as neatly tied up as it was.  
I did enjoy reading The Little Village Bakery, but wished there were more pastries, fewer psych problems, and a smidge more focus on the magic.  

-calliope

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Review: The Last Days of Summer by Sophie Pembroke


Wow. I thought this was just going to be a bit of fluff based on the publishing imprint (Carina) and the title. But no. It’s almost a saga. There are juicy family secrets, tensions between siblings, eccentric writers, hidden woodland hideouts, varied buildings on the family estate, and the sudden appearance of an assistant, an envelope, and a diary. 

The Last Days of Summer explores deeper issues, too. I especially loved the discussion of the blurred line between truth and fiction — and the ways it can help or hurt a relationship. Pembroke also broaches the topics of forgiveness, honesty, and loyalty. 

My favorite character had to be carefree Caroline, though she was followed closely by her older sister, main character Saskia. I was enamored by their dad and grandfather… their warmth came right through the pages. 

Pembroke really showed her talent for weaving a complicated tale that reads easily. From the arguments to the embraces, the clothes-horse auntie to the raggedy writer, this story had threads of consistency throughout. Pairs of characters on benches, the office, the woods… Every repeated instance kept the storyline tight and moving forward. Brava! 

I sort of want to keep talking and writing about this book, but I don’t want to end up giving away spoilers… so I’ll end here! Don’t miss this excellent read. 

-calliope 

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Review: The Tulip Factory by Kacie Davis Idol


I loved waitress-turned-receptionist-turned-successful-you’ll-find-out Corinne. And I loved James, student of the school of hard knocks, climbing his way up and out and free. 

Though I liked the characters and the trajectories Kacie Davis Idol wrote for them, I struggled with some technical aspects of this book:

  • I don’t like chapters that alternate narrators, but I can get over it… unless the author also uses flashbacks and flash-forwards. One or the other may have worked. As it stands it’s confusing for the reader. 
  • The author took up pages and pages describing things that didn’t move the plot forward: Corinne’s outfits, her sister’s wedding, that night at the bar… If it doesn’t add to character or plot development, it’s not needed. Once I realized the chapters were 80% extraneous, I started to skim over the pages of irrelevant details. 
  • The tone for James was inconsistent. Sometimes his chapters made him sound like a sensitive, artistic, loving guy. Other chapters made him seem callous and cold. I’m not sure a man crassly talks about his “kid” one minute and then says he’s in love with the baby a few moments later. 

I think this book has promise. With some paring down of details, reformatting of the order of the chapters, and an editor helping with consistency, The Tulip Factory would have been an enjoyable cute coming-into-her-own story. 

Review: The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner


This is a reader’s book for sure. English professor Hugh and wife Meryl have three daughters: Meg, Amy, and Jo. Sound familiar? 🙂 

When the three young ladies accept marriage proposals from their respective – and wealthy and socially prominent – boyfriends, a triple wedding is planned. 

I very much enjoyed the characters and the plot outline in this book. The writing was technically excellent, and the dialogue was on point. But there was something imperfect about it. Part of my struggle was that I thought this book was going to be quirky and fun, but it didn’t quite make it there. Brenner maybe needed to write with a little more jaunt and insouciance. Or if whimsical wasn’t the goal, more dramatic and saga-type scenes would have helped me identify the mood. 

Brenner did impress me by keeping the characters true to themselves, right up until the very end. I appreciate an author who will take a risk with every single character, making them face their own truths in order to be authentic to the people around them. ❤

-calliope

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