Readers' Favorite

July 27, 2023

Two Great New Summer Books to Put in Your Beach Bag

by Susan Roberts

There are still a few weeks of summer left so whether you have one more beach trip on the calendar or just heading to the pool, you will want to be sure to squeeze these two books into your summer reading.

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Welcome to Beach Town by Susan Wiggs

book cover of women's fiction novel Welcome to Beach Town by Susan Wiggs
June 2023; William Morrow; 978-0062914163
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); women's fiction

A compulsively readable tale of an idyllic California beach town forced to reckon with scandal when a high school valedictorian’s speech reveals secrets that shake the town to its core.

Susan Wiggs is one of my go-to authors when I want a light breezy summer book.  This book did take place on a beautiful beach in California but there was way more to the plot than just happy days.  The main character had to face the consequences of going against the status quo in her town and at her high school.  Her decision affected the rest of her life as she worked to find a place of peace in her life.

Nikki was the daughter of the man who runs the local surf shop.  She's surfed from a young age and feels peace when she's out on the ocean.  The town views her as being from the wrong side of the tracks and when she receives a scholarship from the prestigious Thornton Academy for high school, she is ignored and looked down on by many of the rich and famous students for being a townie.  She decides to work harder than everyone else and ends up as the valedictorian of her graduating class.  Her commencement speech has been approved but she goes off script.  Her best friend had just died and his death was being covered up by the board and their rich benefactors.  She doesn't get her high school diploma and her college scholarship and acceptance are rescinded.   Just when things are at their worst and she is longing to get out of the small town, she is accepted into the world surf tour and falls madly in love with another surfer and they move to Australia.  Her life becomes full of travel and surfing competitions and she gradually loses touch with most of the people at home. After 15 years, her boyfriend/husband dies in an auto accident and she realizes that she has nowhere to go except to go home to the town that she couldn't wait to leave years before.  As she deals with her grief, she begins to accept her town and her family and friends but still doesn't know where she belongs.  Will Nikki be able to settle down in the beach town where her friends and family live or will she leave to try to find what may be a happier life?

Nikki was a great main character and was willing to speak out against what she felt was wrong no matter what the consequences were to her and her life plans.  She had a great affinity for nature and was the most calm and happy when she was out in the ocean on her surfboard.  I wish that the author had gone into more detail about her time in Australia with Johnny but even without that piece of the story, this was a nice summer read. It was the story about discovering love and family after questioning it for years and it was the story of re-kindling friendships and finding new love among old friends.  Put this one in your beach bag to read at the pool or the beach.

Buy Welcome to Beach Town at Amazon

Must Love Flowers by Debbie Macomber

book cover of women's fiction novel Must Love Flowers by Debbie Macomber
July 2023; ‎ Ballantine Books; 978-0593600559
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); women's fiction

Two women at different stages of life find themselves on a journey of renewal after undergoing hardships 

Readers can always depend on Debbie Macomber to give them a great story with well-written characters along with a happily ever after ending.  This one delivered on all fronts but I found it was rather difficult to read about the main character who was dealing with grief.  I am going through that now and even though parts of her journey were very sad, her grief was understandable and well written.

Joan has been a widow for four years and she continues to hide from life and live in her memories.  She has two sons who are grown up and live on their own and know that she needs help re-joining the world but aren't sure how to help.  Her sister continues to encourage her and she finally listens when her sister advises her to rent out a room in her large home because she thinks it will help lessen her loneliness.  In fact, she suddenly decides to listen to her sister on several issues - she goes to the salon to get her first haircut in a long time, she joins a grief support group and (because of a nasty letter from her HOA), she decides to hire someone to take care of her yard.   With all of these changes going on in her life, she begins to feel less lonely and more like the woman she used to be.

Maggie is a nursing student who works as a barista in her free time.  Her mother has died and her father is an alcoholic who needs to be taken care of.  Every penny she makes goes towards paying household bills.  She knows that she needs to get out on her own and is thrilled to be accepted to live in Maggie's house.  As the two women get to know each other, they both begin to feel less lonely and alone.  As they begin to feel better about life, romances for both of them cause even more changes.

Maggie and Joan both find themselves making life choices and leaning on each other for support.  What they finally realize is that family is not just blood relatives but can be made up of the people we love and want to help take care of.  Debbie Macomber has given her readers much more than a romance novel - she's given us a book about making changes and challenging life.  No matter what age you are or whatever circumstances you're in, you can learn to create a happier life.

Buy Must Love Flowers at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

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