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

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Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

This is a cute summer read set in Savannah, where we find art teacher Nicole house-sitting for a family friend and working at an art gallery. Nicole thought she’d have a quiet summer with plenty of time to paint, but instead finds herself overwhelmed with a difficult co-worker, childhood friends-turned-handsome-men, and a teenager who just needs a little love and direction. 

I loved all the references to art and architecture, the Savannah sunsets, and the diplomatic way Nicole finessed her way through a few unexpected situations. As usual for her novels, Carlson includes a little bit of God to illustrate his presence, but doesn’t use the novel to preach or proselytize. And as usual for my favorite summer reads, this one ends in a happily ever after. 

-Calliope 

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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 

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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

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Review: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

25650078I absolutely loved this book and I devoured it in less than 24 hours and really wish I could go back for more second helpings!

How refreshing it is to have an author that doesn’t feel the need to rush two people into a bed to keep the reader engaged and invested in the story. Of course we knew (or hoped!) what was going to happen, but it was a joy to read the pages until we got there. It was also refreshing to read a novel about a girl who didn’t rely on the world (or a man) to help her. She had her moments of self-pity, but instead of wallowing in it, she picked herself up and moved on. She didn’t let her disappointments and the downfalls that were happening in one part of her life prevent her from enjoying the other parts that life has to offer.

We could all learn from that.

Perhaps this isn’t my usual book that I absolutely love, but what’s not to love about a book that keeps you up late at night reading it, loving it, and wanting more like it? One mustn’t get stuck on the same old menu day after day…sometimes it really pays off to try the chef’s special and go outside your comfort zone…whether or not we’re discussing books or eating, it’s best to reserve final judgement until you’ve at least sampled the offerings…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review

buy it now The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

Review: Being Dead by Jim Crace

92559This is one of those books that I found very difficult to choose between a 5 star read and a 3 star read.

I don’t believe you’ll find many other books out there quite like this one, I will give that to Crace. It’s hard to find a really original book out there this day and age, and this is certainly that for me.

The forward in the start of the novel says it all really…

Don’t count on Heaven, or on Hell.
You’re dead. That’s it. Adieu. Farewell.
Eternity awaits? Oh, sure!
It’s Putrefaction and Manure And unrelenting Rot, Rot, Rot,
As you regress, from Zoo. to Bot.
I’ll Grieve, of course,
Departing wife,
Though Grieving’s never
Lengthened Life
Or coaxed a single extra Breath
Out of a Body touched by Death.

‘The Biologist’s Valediction to his Wife’ from Offcuts by Sherwin Stephens

It only gets worse from there. This is a story not about murder, but about death. DEATH. Don’t go into this novel expecting a happy ending. The ending is there, even before the story begins. Hell, even the title gives it away.

Being. Dead.

It depressed me if I am to be honest. Perhaps that is why I can’t decide if I should rate it high or low. Please don’t think the talk of death is what depressed me. For it was not. I actually found that a bit fascinating. But once again, I felt it was forced. Page after page after page after many a page talking about the changes in the body and of nature’s attempts to wipe their image from the face of her good clean Earth…well, it just felt forced. I felt as if Crace was trying to pound it into my brain. I can certainly see where many people would be turned off by that writing (an example to follow at the end of the review). Me? It’s things I’ve often wondered over. I once dreamed of being a forensic scientist. Of course, that was before I realised how much schooling in biology was needed! At any rate, I could deal with that, I just wished that the natural felt…well…more natural…ha!

What depressed me was, what’s the meaning of all of this. Tragically we are led to believe of this great love. Here’s a quote and proof for you!

The plain and unforgiving facts were these. Celice and Joseph were soft fruit. They lived in tender bodies. They were vulnerable. They did not have the power not to die. They were, we are, all flesh, and then we are all meat.

Joseph’s grasp on Celice’s leg had weakened as he’d died. But still his hand was touching her, the grainy pastels of her skin, one fingertip among her baby ankle hairs. Their bodies had expired, but anyone could tell – just look at them – that Joseph and Celice were still devoted. For while his hand was touching her, curved round her shin, the couple seemed to have achieved that peace the world denies, a period of grace, defying even murder. Anyone who found them there, so wickedly disfigured, would nevertheless be bound to see that something of their love had survived the death of cells.

See, there is romance there, is there not?

It made me happy to go on…”devotion defying even murder.” Whoa, Dude! I want some of that….

However, the more I read, the more I got depressed. I have to admit, I’ve struggled with religion that last few years…no….wait….that’s a lie….I’ve struggled with NOT struggling about religion for the last few years…This book….no, it’s not religious…well, not really….I guess, it’s just that here we are, swooning over this image of these two murdered people…projecting our views unto them…romantic views…even death can not end their love….blah blah blah….they died in each other’s arms…blah blah blah….their last instinct was to comfort one another…again, blah Blah BLAH…

The reality is, they are dead. They are crab bait. Further more, as the reader goes deeper into the story, the more they realise that perhaps it wasn’t some great love story…there lives weren’t really even that interesting even to them…

What if it’s true…we only have a short lifetime to be alive…and what if we’re all wasting it on “only” existing and not really LIVING? What happens when we, like every other single person we know, settles in life? We settle on the quiet night at home. We settle on keeping quiet to keep the peace. We settle on no change because it’s just so easy?

What if the greatest story of our lives is that some stranger makes up for us at the end? Because they romanticised some dead hand that seemed to reach for another? What if that’s the last story? One that isn’t even true? What happens if that last false impression isn’t even close to who we really were? Who will correct the misconceptions? How soon will all we tried to do in this life be lost after we have died? Especially if we leave no one behind that really gives a shit? What’s the point?

See! Brilliance! 5 HUGE stars…..

But damnit….that’s what I’m feeling in my head after reading the novel! Whilst reading it, after the half way point I just wanted it to hurry up and END!!! 3 FAT stars.

Sigh….

Here’s but one sample of Crace’s writing style. I loved it….and yet, page after page after page after yet page, I hated it as well….

The dead don’t talk – but bodies belch for hours after death. A woman bends to kiss her husband for the final time. Despite the warnings of the morgue attendant – sweet-breathed or not – she puts a little weight upon his chest, and is rewarded with the stench of every meal she’s cooked for him in forty years. The morgue could sound, at times, as if a ghoulish choir was warming up, backed by a wind ensemble of tubas and bassoons. It could smell as scalpy, scorched and pungent as a hairdressing salon. The breath of these cold choristers was far worse than the onion breath of clerks. But no one said that bodies weren’t sincere. There’s nothing more sincere than death. The dead mean what they say.

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Being Dead by Jim Crace

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

  
Want to know what Louisa does after she loses Will in ME BEFORE YOU? I did too. I fell in love with Lou (CLARK!!!!) and I couldn’t let her go. 

AFTER YOU shows us Lou’s grief, her attempt at supporting the Traynors, her meandering spirit as she tries to find her way back in life, and her maternal side. 

I liked the meandering the best. I mean, when we lose someone, we don’t just jump back into reality. We look for supports and crutches and strongholds… And we are picky, because we don’t want to choose one that will cause more loss. 

Thanks Jojo Moyes for giving us more Louisa. It was enough that we lost Will. 

-calliope

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