Review: Before Everything by Victoria Redel 

This book is a lot of work to read. It’s emotionally taxing (although I didn’t even cry until near the end) and, frankly, depressing. Anna is dying of cancer. And that’s no spoiler, pal. That’s the premise of the book. 

Before Everything is also about love and friendship and family and a few secrets. Victoria Redel designs Anna’s friendships so realistically that the secrets the women have make me remember secrets I have with my friends … not contrived or hyperbolic or beyond belief, but just stuff we know about each other because we’ve been friends for so long. 

I read this book in hopes that I’d come to a better understanding of what it’s like for the family of a person dying of cancer. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself feel it 100%. So instead I read with my shoulders tensed, my mind rushing to get to the next scene, and only half my heart with Anna. 

It’s a good read if you can let your guard down. I held back because otherwise it would’ve been too painful. Thinking about that, well, maybe I did learn what it’s like to be close to someone who’s dying. 

-calliope

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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: Any Day Now by Robyn Carr

Sierra shows up at Sullivan’s Crossing and finds more than just her brother and sister-in-law with welcoming arms. Sierra finds a father figure, some peace of mind, and Connie (Conrad) the firefighter. 

Carr did a wonderful job pacing the romance and the family dynamics, making the relationships realistic as they grew. I liked that Sierra and Connie had a support system, and that the people around them were part of the fabric of the story – not just background characters. 

I’m not exactly a fan of the “quirky drifters appearing at the campground” type setting of these Sullivan’s Crossing books … but the endearing characters make up for it. 

-Calliope 

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Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

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Full of beauty and sorrow at the same time.  Heartbreaking but also uplifting.  A tale of despair yet also one of hope.  All of these things together make this an unforgettable story.

Hope and Jack have a great life.  They have three beautiful daughters, a nice home, a successful business.  Happiness.  But then tragedy strikes. And they are left with just two daughters.  Each family member copes, or doesn’t, in their own way.

A year later, they are at a standstill.  Time has put distance between them and their grief, but they haven’t really moved on.  Jack loses himself in his lobster fishing.  Hope loses herself in the memories of her lost daughter.  And the younger girls just go on being kids.

Everything comes to a head when a forgotten part of Jack’s past shows up at their door.  High school rivalries are reignited, this time with adult consequences.  Through it all Hope and Jack struggle to move past their grief and save their family.

Tragedies happen, families have to find ways to deal with them.   Told from alternating perspectives, this book takes us deep inside one family’s grief and their attempts to overcome it.  Each family member is dealing with their own struggles along with the collective struggle of the family.  It’s beautifully written, almost poetically so.  A story I won’t soon forget!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Salt House

 

Review: Every Other Wednesday by Susan Kietzman

This is the story of three women moving from one phase to another in their life journeys, meeting for lunch to vent and learn and make decisions.

I would’ve liked more depth of character and personality in Joan, Ellie and Alice. I saw a lot of their behaviors but didn’t feel like I knew them very well. And because I didn’t know them, their behaviors annoyed me instead of endearing me, which is too bad because this could’ve been a terrific book. 

Unfortunately, the book seemed more like a list of “sins” (in the characters’ eyes) — gambling, homosexuality, a woman making her own money —  than a story of three authentic women. 

I did like the title, and it reminded me of another “Wednesday” book I’ve read — one I absolutely adored: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton, which got 4 fat and happy stars from me. 

-Calliope 

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Review: A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery


Zoe, her friend Jen, and Jen’s mom Pam are all at different stages of life – Zoe is living alone after a much needed breakup, Pam is afraid to love again after losing her husband, and Jen is getting used to married-with-a-baby life. Life is complicated for each of them, and made even more so because of the dynamic among the three ladies.  

This is a cute story filled with cliches and stereotypes… predictable but enjoyable. I liked Jen’s brother and his lovely way of wooing Zoe without being obnoxious. Pam annoyed me with her meddling, and Jen annoyed me with her self-centeredness. However, I’ve acted just like Pam and Jen in various circumstances, so their ways are pretty realistic! 

A Million Little Things pales in comparison to Mallery’s past novels, but it’s worth a look if you enjoy light women’s fiction. 

-calliope

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