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. 



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 Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate

Whitney owns a restaurant up north and has an inheritance to deal with down south. She has enough on her hands without the addition of old letters from her grandmother’s family, a sleazy real estate developer trying to cash in on her building, a possible romance with a conflict of interest, and an Outer Banks legend being brought to light. 

I liked the mystery, the history, and the family dynamics. Adding a love interest and townie in trouble added authenticity to Whitney’s life. The constant reference to her restaurant struggles took me out of the main story and kind of ruined it for me. I was happy just being in North Carolina, with the shop downstairs and the old coot upstairs, the developer coming around each week, and the visits to the museum. 

Too many points of conflict blurred the focus of The Sea Keeper’s Daughter. But when I concentrated on the events in OBX, I was rewarded with a beautiful tale that illustrated lots of love coming full circle. 



Review: Help Yourself by Rachel Michael Arends

Ever the optimist, Merry gladly accepts her mediocre life in a backwoods town with a bossy boyfriend and dead-end job. But it all turns on a dime when Merry is notified of a conditional inheritance. She travels to the coast and stays at her late father’s beach house, under the supervision and direction of his barrister. Merry has to complete a handful of tasks before she can inherit the house and some of her father’s millions.  

This book is based on pretense, but written in such a fun way that it seems more like little surprises rather than deceit. I enjoyed every beautifully-created character, from the red-faced ex boyfriend to the cheating best friend to the psychologist father (remember the show Growing Pains?!) and the eccentric old man. They may have had bits of stereotype, but Arends put a fresh spin on them all. 

I’m a sucker for the beach and a love story, and this novel had both. Though Merry’s self-improvement and uncovering secrets drove the plot forward, the romance and the beach provided a steady undercurrent (no pun intended). 

Help Yourself is creative, fun, and emotional. From the gimmicky chapter titles letting me know whose point of view I was about to read from, to the delicious descriptions of the ocean, Arends made something new out of something familiar. I had a ball reading it!