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August 29, 2020

Getting Caught Up With My Reading

by Susan Roberts

With more time spent at home due to the Covid crisis, I have had a chance to read some of the books on my shelf.  I spent the first two months of the stay at home order unable to read much but since then I am reading constantly - probably because there is nothing on TV this summer and I have quit watching the news so my TV rarely even gets turned on.  I have been reading several different genres and here are reviews of the last four books that I've read.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read
May 2020; Berkley; 978-1984806734
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); women's fiction
“Bad things don't dig down through your life until the pit's so deep that nothing good will ever be big enough to make you happy again. No matter how much shit, there will always be wildflowers.”
(p 68)
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

This is a perfect book to tuck into your beach bag and take to the beach or the pool.  It's a romance with two very endearing characters who struggle not to fall in love even as they are falling in love.  At first, they think they are enemies but the more time they spend together, the more it's just the opposite.

January is a romance writer in a writing slump.  She has been betrayed by her father and (she feels) ignored by her mother.  Her father left her a beach house on Lake Michigan so she is convinced she can write her next book - which is due very soon - while she has the peace and quiet.  Augustus in a popular novelist of literary fiction.  He too is in a writing slump and trying to get his next book written.  He lives in the beach cottage next to January.  At first, they make fun of the genres that the other writes.  Augustus doesn't feel that books with a happy ending are very realistic because life doesn't always have happy endings.  January feels like literary fiction is usually bleak and unhappy.  They make a deal -- during the summer, January will write a book of literary fiction and Augustus will write a romance.  To help them along, every Friday Gus will take her to do research to write literary fiction, and every Saturday, she will take him to do something that could show up in a romance novel.  When they start to spend more time together, their feelings for each other begin to change but there's still a lot of baggage that needs to be settled before they can have a relationship.

Beach Read is more than just a light fluffy romance.  I enjoyed both of the main characters and what they went through after they switched genres.  I enjoyed their relationship with each other - they were both very witty and parts of the book were very funny.  But each had a very serious side and both definitely wanted to write a great book.  Grab this book and go out in the sun to read it.

Buy Beach Read at Amazon

The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

The New Husband
April 2020;  St. Martin's; 978-1250107497
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); domestic thriller
"If somebody had told Nina a few years ago that she would end up living with the social studies teacher from her daughter's middle school, in a new house they had bought together, she would have broken into a fit of laughter."
(p 5)

What makes Simon Fitch so perfect?

-He knows all her favorite foods, music, and movies.
-Her son adores him. He was there when she needed him most.
-He anticipates her every need.
-He would never betray her like her first husband.

The perfect husband. He checks all the boxes.

The question is, why?

Things are not always what they seem to be.  Nina's husband had been gone for 18 months.  He disappeared on a fishing trip and all that was found was his bloody boat - was he dead or did he run away with the woman he was having an affair with. Now, much to her parents' and her best friends' dismay, Nina has bought a house with Simon who appears to be the best husband ever.  He wants to take care of her and her two children and he is loving and attentive - all the things that her husband hadn't been.  Her 16-year-old son really likes Simon and they spend a lot of time together.  Her 13-year-old daughter, Maggie,  wants her dad and there is no way that she will allow Simon to take her dad's place.  Her reluctance to accept Simon is keeping the household in turmoil and Nina and Simon both work to make her accept Simon but Maggie sees something sinister in him -- is she missing her dad or is Simon not really the perfect boyfriend that Nina thinks he is???

The New Husband is a fun book to read - there are lots of twists and turns and even though I guessed the ending early, I wasn't aware of how cruel this person could be (not going to tell you who).  My favorite character was Maggie - she knew something was wrong with her Mom's new boyfriend and went out of her way to prove it to her mom.  Nina was pretty naive and missed some important clues until things got so bad, she could no longer ignore them. This is a great book to read to take you away from everything that's going on in the world right now.

Buy The New Husband at Amazon

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

Nothing More Dangerous
November 2020; Mulholland Books; 978-0316509725
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); southern fiction

"You'll never change what a person thinks in their head or what they feel in their heart by passing a law.  If a man doesn't want to look at who he is deep down, he's not going to much care what the law says about it."
(p 168)

Summer, 1976 in Jessup Missouri.  Boady Sandem is 15 years old and lives with his mother in a small house on a dirt road.  He hates small-town life and is saving his money to leave as soon as he's 16.  He's a hard worker and works several jobs to help out his mom but he always saves some money to add to his fund that will help him leave town.  His dad died when he was five and his mom has been alone and depressed since then so Boady and his mom live in the same house but don't really interact as a family.  Their next-door neighbor, Hoke, taught Broady how to fish and gave him good advice while he was growing up.  Near the end of the school year, Broady is anxious for summer vacation so that he can start working several jobs that will make his escape fund grow even quicker.  When a new black family moves in across the road, Boady becomes friends with Thomas, who is the same age. Many of the people in town want to send a message to the new family that they are not welcome there. There is a small white supremacy group in town that is leading the plan to get rid of the black family.  Boady and Thomas get caught up in some of the things that are going on and as a result, their lives are in danger.  Boady begins to see the lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town -- and he will be forced to choose sides.  

This is a poignant coming of age novel for Boady.  He feels that he isn't prejudiced but when he starts to think about some of his basic beliefs, he realizes that he sees black people as different. He is basically a kind compassionate person and his growing friendship with Thomas and his family show him that there are no real differences between them.  He was still a teenager and managed to get himself into some tough situations but it was very interesting to watch him grow and begin to understand the world around him.  This was my first book by Allen Eskens and it's time to read his older books.

Best Book of the Year: Florida Sun-Sentinel * Library Journal 
In a small Southern town where loyalty to family and to "your people" carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition.

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand 

28 Summers
June 2020; Little, Brown and Company; 978-0316420044
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); women's fiction

"'You could come back to Nantucket every Labor Day, no matter what happens.  We could do all the stuff we did this weekend.  Make it a tradition.'"
(p 59)

28 Summers is only the second book that I've read from this author out of the 25 books she's written.  I thought that she was mainly a romance author but her last two books are more women's fiction along with romance.  This book is a perfect beach read where you can suspend your questions about what could have gone wrong with their yearly plans and just believe that it all worked out.

Mallory and Jake meet on Labor Day weekend 1993, in Nantucket.  Jake was her brother's best friend and even though she had talked to Jake on the phone, they'd never met.  When the whole weekend goes wrong and everyone but Jake leaves, they begin a romance that will last for 28 summers but they will only meet once a year on Labor Day weekend.  Each year of the 28 years is a separate chapter and each chapter starts out with what was going on in the world that year.  Each chapter highlights the Labor Day weekend romance of these two.  No matter what happens -- marriages, romances, babies - they spend that weekend together and then say goodbye for another year.  It was an interesting premise based on the movie Same Time, Next Year but their romance actually affected their entire year - it kept Mallory from having a lasting relationship with anyone else and it caused Jake not to give his marriage all of his attention because he was always thinking about Mallory.  How were they able to keep this a secret from friends and family for 28 years or was their secret eventually uncovered?

What I liked about this book - I enjoyed the setting of Nantucket with the beach right outside the door and quirky restaurants in town.  I enjoyed the friendship that Mallory has with her brother and with her best friend on the island.  I enjoyed the love that Mallory has for her island, for her job and for her son.  I also liked the chapter headings of what we were talking about that particular year.

What I didn't like about it  - You can call it a romance but it basically was adultery and that didn't seem to bother either of them.  And I definitely didn't like Mallory's best friend when she was growing up who acted more like an enemy than a friend.

Overall, it was a fun read - perfect for a hot day on the beach.

Buy 28 Summers at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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