Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Audiobook Mini-Review: The Summer House

6 Jul

Sometimes it takes losing everything to find yourself again.

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago — just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins — a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over — and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

 

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

Find her at LaurenKDenton.com or on Facebook (LaurenKDentonAuthor), Instagram (LaurenKDentonBooks), or Twitter (@laurenkdenton).

 

My Impressions:

I was looking for a perfect beach read and found it in Lauren K. Denton’s latest novel, The Summer House. So what made this one a winner for me? The setting is all Southern goodness in a small coastal Alabama community. The senior adult village of Safe Harbor is filled with engaging and often quirky supporting characters. The two mains — Lily and Rose — have stories that touched my heart. Second chances at life and love predominate the narrative giving this book a hopeful feel. And I laughed and laughed. 🙂 The narrator was excellent and captured the rhythm of the book perfectly.

The Summer House is recommended for those needing some warm summer breezes, a little water therapy, and a feel-good, down-home reading experience, even if your beach this year is your backyard. 😉

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

If You Liked . . . Magnolia Storms

30 Jun

Magnolia Storms by Janet Ferguson has a lot going for it — great setting, characters with chemistry, a bit of humor, and a strong faith message. If you liked it, I have a three book recommendations for you. The three novels share all of the above qualities while putting their own unique spin on things. I hope you enjoy these too!

Importance of Family

Practically Married by Karin Beery

Ashley Johnson moved to northern Michigan to finally meet her fiancé face-to-face, but she arrived in time to attend his funeral. With no home back in Ohio, she decides to stay in what would have been their house, except his cousin Russ lives there too, and Russ has never heard of Ashley. To complicate matters, her fiancé accidentally willed her the family farm house. Eager to please everyone and desperate to disappoint no one, she proposes a marriage of convenience that could solve her and Russ’ problems, if they can get past her aunt, his sisters, and an ex-girlfriend.

 

Overcoming Fears

When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham

When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?

Past Impacts Present

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help — and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship — and the very future of the farm?

 

Reading Road Trip — Actual Road Trips

23 Jun

I know a lot of you are itching to go somewhere — anywhere! That’s why this week’s Reading Road Trip features actual road trips! Whether for fun, for pilgrimage, for the Grand Tour, or to find safety, all of these books feature some type of travel. Characters and genre are varied, so there is something for all reading tastes. I hope you find a book that will take you on an exciting journey!

 

Actual Road Trips!

 

The Pilgrim by Davis Bunn

In his latest historical epic, worldwide bestselling author Davis Bunn takes readers on a journey through an ancient landscape. Travel with Empress Helena from Caesarea to Judea. Abandoned by her husband, in danger because of her faith, but with an implacable will to do what God calls her to, she takes a perilous pilgrimage. Along the way she meets those who would help her (the wizened and wise bishop Macarius; the rough-edged but kind-hearted sergeant Cratus; the young soldier Anthony, a man who has lost everything, including his faith) and those who would harm her (the menacing and murderous Roman assassin Severus). Miracles seem to follow this humble but determined woman as she wins many over to the faith, and changes lives forever—including her own.

This unforgettable story of the discovery of the True Cross will thrill readers with its adventure, and with its vivid portrait of one of Christian history’s most

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington’s life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father’s health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her.Cora is invited to take the “Grand Tour” of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person’s education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she’s never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning.

Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King – a Father who is the only One who can truly heal.

Elvis Takes A Back Seat by Leanna Ellis

Determined to fulfill her husband’s last request, Claudia McIntosh is hauling a three-foot bust of Elvis Presley in the back seat of a vintage Cadillac from Dallas to Memphis, hoping to locate the kitschy sculpture’s rightful owner.

Along for the ride are her eccentric aunt who knew the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and a temperamental teen with a suspicious mind of her own.

When the road trip hits the Heartbreak Hotel, these three women uncover pieces of their past along with the bust’s mysterious history, discoveries that will leave them all shook up and change their lives forever in Elvis Takes a Back Seat.

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life — or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal — complete with an unfulfilled bucket list — Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb — a friend from her years in and out of the hospital — reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus by Joyce Magnin

Aging and recent widow Harriet Beamer insists she’s getting along fine with her dog Humphrey in Philadelphia … until she falls for the fourth time, injuring her ankle, and causing her son and daughter-in-law to cry foul. Insisting Harriet move in with them in California, they make a bet that her ankle is broken, and she foolishly promises to move if they’re right. Four x-rays later, Harriet’s ankle — and her heart — are broken. She packs up, ships her huge salt and pepper collection to California, and prepares to move away from the only life she knows. The only catch? She’s doing it her way. Just wait till her daughter-in-law hears Harriet will travel cross country only by public transportation and alternate means. What follows is a hilarious, heartwarming journey by train, metro bus, ferry, and motorcycle. Along the way, Harriet discovers that although her family thinks it’s time for her to be put out to pasture — God has a different plan.

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

Sometimes going home means leaving everything you have ever known. When the doctor pronounces “incurable cancer” and gives Bobbie Blake one year to live, she agrees to accompany her niece, Tracie, on a trip back to Austria, back to The Oasis, a ministry center for refugees that Bobbie helped start twenty years earlier. Back to where there are so many memories of love and loss. Bobbie and Tracie are moved by the plight of the refugees and in particular, the story of the Iranian Hamid, whose young daughter was caught with a New Testament in her possession back in Iran, causing Hamid to flee along the refugee Highway and putting the whole family in danger. Can a network of helpers bring the family to safety in time? And at what cost? Filled with action, danger, heartache and romance, The Long Highway Home is a hymn to freedom in life’s darkest moments.

Miles from Where We Started by Cynthia Ruchti

Weeks away from their one-year wedding anniversary, Mallory and Connor Duncan can’t even agree on how to end their marriage. But when a last-minute crisis lands them on a three-thousand-mile road trip together, Mallory wonders if their story may not be over after all.

The trip begins to unravel before the key is even in the ignition, and an at-risk, trouble-seeking missile of an eleven-year-old is unexpectedly launched into their travel plans. Close quarters get even tighter, and the couple believes this whole experience will spell disaster.

Their first year of marriage hasn’t been the arm-in-arm togetherness they expected. How can they find a new beginning when the road ends?

The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee

Within the course of a week, marriage expert Natalie Marino is dumped by her husband, receives an urgent call home from her father, and discovers her estranged sister, Lindsay, is pregnant.

A road trip on Route 66 may not help, but it sure couldn’t hurt. Or so Natalie thinks, until Lindsay’s boyfriend starts stalking them. Will their trip down the Mother Road bring the two sisters closer, or turn out to be the biggest wrong turn of their lives?

 

Book Review: Magnolia Storms

18 Jun

Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except . . . she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south — into the storm.

The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting — even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their child care seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.

Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?

Janet W. Ferguson is a Grace Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. She writes humorous inspirational fiction for people with real lives and real problems. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a cat that allows them to share the space.

 

My Impressions:

I am excited to introduce my book club to Janet Ferguson. I have read a couple of her books, and knew that Magnolia Storms, the first book in her Coastal Hearts series would be perfect for our summer reading. Okay, the book is not set during the summer, but it is set in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and has numerous references to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Mississippi coast. Hurricanes and beach communities say beach read to me, just sayin’ 😉 . Main character Magnolia Maggie Marovich’s life was impacted by Katrina leading to her choices of career (meteorologist), residence (safely inland), and even her preferred vacation location (the mountains). She avoids the coast at all costs, except when her family needs her. She tucks her emergency pack in the trunk of her car and her fears in her back pocket, and heads down to her hometown to rescue her sister, niece, and aunt. What Maggie does not know, is that she needs rescuing most of all.

I loved the interactions, and let’s face it, the great chemistry between Maggie and her childhood sweetheart Josh. Magnolia Storms is after all a romance. But really it is so much more as Maggie not only faces her extreme anxiety but tries to overcome it. I have friends in Ocean Springs, and have visited from time to time. Ferguson’s descriptions brought back memories of a quaint coastal town. She captured the essence of the place and people well. The overarching theme of trying to control the uncontrollable was developed in ways that I could relate to. God is always in control, even when we won’t acknowledge that or feel we know better than Him. Maggie learned a lot, and I anticipate some great discussion from my book club on the subject.

Part romance, part women’s fiction, and all Southern, Magnolia Storms is a winner! It is book one in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. I have already read books 3 and 4 — now I need to go back and finish up with book 2!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased a copy of Magnolia Storms. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top Ten Tuesday — Summer TBR

16 Jun

This summer I am going to play catch-up with my reading. I have some new releases I have scheduled to read, but there are some books that I have missed. My reading will be a mix of physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks — I read just about anything in all formats!

What are you reading this summer?

For more bloggers’ summer reading lists, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

A Dream within A Dream by Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci

Trudi Coffey only realizes that she hasn’t seen Samuel Hill in weeks when the FBI shows up asking questions about him. After a strange encounter with an armed man demanding her help and an attack by a member of the Boston mob looking for someone named Dream, Trudi manages to find Samuel–or rather, he finds her. He’s made some pretty powerful enemies, but right now his full attention is on protecting Dream from the mob. Because Dream has something they want–the map to the location of artwork stolen from the Gardener Museum during the infamous 1990 heist.

With danger closing in from all sides, Trudi and Samuel will have to call on all of their allies to keep Dream safe and discover the identity of the people who have been hunting down Samuel. The real questions are whom can they trust? And who will make it out of this thing alive?

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the heroic but reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. A tragic accident shows Peyton the depths of his parents’ devotion to each other but interrupts his own budding romance with the girl of his dreams, Lisa Wallace.

Struggling to cope with a young life upended, Peyton makes a daring decision: He will retrace a journey his father took at fifteen, riding his bicycle all the way to Key West, Florida. Part declaration of independence, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will bring him more than he ever could have imagined–namely, the key to his unknowable father, a reunion with Lisa, and a calling that will shape the rest of his life.

Through poignant prose and characters so real you’ll be sure you know them, Valerie Fraser Luesse transports you to the storied Atlantic coast for a unique coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them — or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what’s next. She couldn’t have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton

Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago — just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.

Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over — and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

Then Sings My Soul by Amy K. Sorrells

1904, Chudniv, Ukraine. Playing hide-and-seek in bucolic fields of sunflowers, young Jakob never imagines the horrific secrets he will carry as he and his brother escape through genocide-ridden Eastern Europe.

1994, South Haven, Michigan. At age 94, time is running out for any hope that Jakob can be free from his burden of guilt.

When Jakob’s wife dies, he and his daughter, Nel, are forced to face the realities of his worsening dementia―including a near-naked, midnight jaunt down the middle of main street―as well as emerging shadows Nel had no idea lay beneath her father’s beloved, curmudgeonly ways.

While Nel navigates the restoration and sale of Jakob’s dilapidated lake house, her high school sweetheart shows up in town, along with unexpected correspondence from Ukraine. And when she discovers a mysterious gemstone in Jakob’s old lapidary room, Jakob’s condition worsens as he begins having flashbacks about his baby sister from nearly a century past.

As father and daughter race against time to discover the truth behind Jackob’s fragmented memories, the God they have both been running from shows that he redeems not only broken years, but also the future.

The White Rose Resists by Amanda Barratt

The ideal of a new Germany swept up Sophie Scholl in a maelstrom of patriotic fervor — that is, until she realized the truth behind Hitler’s machinations for the fatherland. Now she and other students in Munich, the cradle of the Nazi government, have banded together to form a group to fight for the truth: the White Rose. Risking everything to print and distribute leaflets calling for Germans to rise up against the evil permeating their country, the White Rose treads a knife’s edge of discovery by the Gestapo.

Annalise Brandt came to the University of Munich to study art, not get involved with conspiracy. The daughter of an SS officer, she’s been brought up to believe in the Führer’s divinely appointed leadership. But the more she comes to know Sophie and her friends, the more she questions the Nazi propaganda.

Soon Annalise joins their double life — students by day, resisters by night. And as the stakes increase, they’re all forced to confront the deadly consequences meted out to any who dare to oppose the Reich.

A gripping testament to courage, The White Rose Resists illuminates the sacrifice and conviction of an unlikely group of revolutionaries who refused to remain silent-no matter the cost.

 

Audiobook Mini-Review: Perennials

15 Jun

Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

Eva Sutherland — known to all as Lovey — grew up safe and secure in Oxford, Mississippi, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries it caused, changed everything. Her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage. Bitsy became the homecoming queen and the perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.

At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona. Free from Bitsy’s vicious lies, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself. But at forty-five, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that led her here.

When her father calls insisting she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at her wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.

Lovey is quickly engrossed in a secret project — a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise. But the landscaper who’s also working on it is none other than Fisher, the first boy she ever loved. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, the power of second chances, and how to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Julie Cantrell is known for writing inspirational works that explore the hard truths people typically keep secret. While she delves into emotional issues, she does so with a compassionate and open heart, always bringing readers through to a hopeful path for peace, empathy, and healing. All four of her novels have reached the #1 spot on Amazon.

A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie was honored to receive the 2012 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship and to be named a finalist twice for the Mississippi Arts & Letters Fiction Award. She also received the 2016 Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writer’s Colony, which is awarded to a writer who encourages spiritual growth, healing, and care through his or her work.

Learn more:
Website: http://www.juliecantrell.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliecantrellauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieCantrell
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliecantrell/
TEDx: http://bit.ly/TEDxJulieCantrell

 

My Impressions:

I haven’t read women’s fiction in a while and was looking for a good one to listen to on my daily walks. Perennials by Julie Cantrell has been on my radar for a while. I read her first two novels, Into The Free and When Mountains Move, and found them to be excellent. Those are both historical novels, but obviously Cantrell’s writing talent transcends genres. Perennials tells the story of Lovey Sutherland in her own first person voice. The narrative switches from present day to flashbacks of pivotal childhood and adult events in her life. I wondered if Lovey could be trusted to tell the truth (you will understand that bit of irony if you read the book), but found her to be true to herself and others in the descriptions of her interactions with family, co-workers, ex-lovers, etc. Most of the book is set in Lovey’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. She left at 18, and never really looked back. Her memories haunt and hurt her. Complex relationships are explored — not a few of which I connected with. The book is one of endings, beginnings, and second-chances. I went to college in Mississippi and married a Mississippi boy with relatives in Oxford, so I am somewhat familiar with the small university town. Even for those readers who have never been there, you will feel right at home. The novel also has a wealth of references to two of Mississippi’s literary greats — William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. I loved how Cantrell incorporated their books, homes, and even gardens into the plot. You don’t have to be steeped in the lore of southern authors and their fiction to enjoy Perennials, but it did add a special something to my reading enjoyment.

I am glad to find that I can read any Julie Cantrell novel and enjoy it. She has a couple more I am ready to explore.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Summer Cover Love

2 Jun

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday challenge is summer vibes. I don’t know about where you live, but here in the Sunny South, summer has arrived — temps in the 90s and lots of sun. I decided to head to my shelves to find book covers that just say summer to me — June weddings, lush vegetable gardens, special visitors to the bird feeder, 4th of July celebrations, and travel to new places, or just the title. As I looked at the covers of these books — some I have read and others I have not — I thought ahh, that’s summer.

Do you have a summery read awaiting you?

 

For more summer vibes, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Top 10 Summer Vibe Covers

 

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

Lauren Elliott has waited years for her long-term boyfriend, Todd, to propose, yet he seems more focused on his career than their relationship. When Lauren learns that her younger sister is pregnant before she herself even has an engagement ring, she feels overjoyed yet disheartened. Knowing she can’t put her future on hold, Lauren prepares to make a bold choice — one that leads her to a man she never dreamed she’d meet.
 
Newly married to her second husband, Max, Bethanne Scranton is blissfully in love. But with Max’s job in California and Bethanne’s in Seattle, their long-distance marriage is becoming difficult to maintain. To complicate matters, Bethanne’s cunning ex will do anything to win her back.
 
Lydia Goetz, too, is wonderfully happy with her husband, Brad, though lately she worries about the future of A Good Yarn. As she considers how to bring in business, she discovers that someone has beaten her to the punch. Baskets of yarn are mysteriously popping up all over town, with instructions to knit a scarf for charity and bring it into Lydia’s store. Never before has her shop received so much attention, but who hatched this brilliant plan?
 
As three women’s lives intersect in unexpected ways, Lydia, Lauren, and Bethanne realize that love heals every heart, and the best surprises still lay ahead.

Hope Springs by Lynne Hinton

Pull up a chair and discover the strength and sustenance of friendship with Jessie, Margaret, Louise, Beatrice, and Charlotte, as the unique bond forged between these five remarkable women is put to the test when one of their own is stricken with a deadly illness. Filled with the mystery and wonder that make life worthwhile, Hope Springs will lift your spirits and warm your heart.

 

 

Lemon Jelly Cake by Madeline Smith

A surefire cure for the headaches and stomach upsets of the twenty-first century, The Lemon Jelly Cake carries readers back to kinder, gentler times in a small town at the turn of the last century. Evoking a forgotten America of lush lawns, bountiful summer picnics, and shady front porches, the tale is set when the day’s toughest decision might have been what to serve for dinner or which suit or dress to wear.

 

‘Mater Biscuit by Julie Cannon

It is summer in Euharlee, Georgia, and Imogene Lavender’s garden is bursting with snap beans, okra, and tomatoes. The household — made up of Imo; her daughter Jeanette and her new baby; and Lou, Imo’s niece — is about to grow as well. Imo’s estranged mother, Mama Jewell, has begun to show signs of senility, and Imo has decided that it is her duty to take her mother in. Mama Jewell brings with her some secrets from the past, including the story of Lou’s mother, a revelation that sends Lou in search of her ne’er-do-well father. For Imo, who is feeling the squeeze of being in the middle of the generations, Mama Jewell’s temperamental nature stirs up long-buried memories of a difficult childhood. And much to everyone’s surprise, wild Jeanette is so determined to find a husband that she joins the church choir to be closer to the handsome and enigmatic young reverend.

‘Mater Biscuit is a wonderful evocation of small-town life in the South, a world where hard work and prayers unite the community. Life isn’t always easy for Imo and her girls, but they have only to look as far as Imo’s beloved garden to be reminded that all things change with the seasons.

Magnolia Storms by Janet Ferguson

Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except…she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south — into the storm.

The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting — even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their child care seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.

Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?

On Hummingbird Wings by Lauraine Snelling

“But Mother is always dying,” is Gillian Ormsby’s sarcastic response when her younger, favored sister tells her that she has to go take care of their hypochondriac mother. Much against her will, since she and her mother never have gotten along, Gillian arrives in California to find the garden and yard dead, the blinds all drawn, and her mother indeed in bed–waiting to die. But when Gillian talks with the doctor, he assures her there’s no medical reason behind her mother’s state.

Now on a mission to restore her mother to health, Gillian insists Mother get out of bed, eat, exercise and hopefully, choose to live. She also sets about reviving the garden to its former glory, enlisting the help of Adam, a handsome man who owns a family gardening business with his father. Gillian is delighted when a pair of hummingbirds appear, and her friendship with Adam grows.

Soon, Mother’s health improves, and one day she announces she and her friend Enzio are going on a cruise. Before Gillian has time to turn around, her mother is gone and she is left high and dry again, and wondering, what is she going to do with the rest of her own life?

Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson

Sometimes you have to go a little bit crazy to discover the life you were meant to live.

Heather Curridge is coming unhinged. And people are starting to notice. What’s wrong with a woman who has everything — a mansion on a lake, a loving son, a heart-surgeon husband — yet still feels miserable inside?

When Heather spends the summer with two ancient Quaker sisters and a crusty nun running a downtown homeless shelter, she finds herself at a crossroads.

Sandpiper Drift by Vanessa Del Fabbro

When journalist Monica Brunetti enters the town of Lady Helen, she is awed by its beauty. A tiny jewel on the west coast of South Africa, its bright tin roofs and swaying palms seem made for picture postcards, not the real-world problems that have led her there. But the village takes hold of her heart, especially the beleaguered residents of Sandpiper Drift, who are threatened with eviction from their tranquil neighborhood beside the lagoon. And so Monica packs up her laptop, her adopted sons and housekeeper Francina, who’s wrestling with a major decision of her own, for the journey of a lifetime.

Still Waters by Lindsey Brackett

Cora Anne Halloway has a history degree and a plan: avoid her own past despite being wait-listed for graduate school. Then her beloved grandmother requests — and her dispassionate mother insists — that she spend the summer at Still Waters, the family cottage on Edisto Beach, South Carolina.

Despite its picturesque setting, Still Waters haunts Cora Anne with loss. At Still Waters her grandfather died, her parents’ marriage disintegrated, and as a child, she caused a tragic drowning. But lingering among the oak canopies and gentle tides, this place also tempts her with forgiveness—especially since Nan hired Tennessee Watson to oversee cottage repairs. A local contractor, but dedicated to the island’s preservation from development, Tennessee offers her friendship and more, if she can move beyond her guilt.

When a family reunion reveals Nan’s failing health, Cora Anne discovers how far Tennessee will go to protect her and — Edisto — from more desolation. Will Cora Anne choose between a life driven by guilt, or one washed clean by the tides of grace?

 

June Book Club Selection — Magnolia Storms

1 Jun

My book club got to meet in person last night! It was a backyard social distancing affair, but it was great to finally see everyone. We usually meet in a local restaurant, but nothing is normal right now. We are hoping that June may offer us a return to our old structure. June usually means a beach-y read for us, and this year is no exception. We will be discussing Magnolia Storms by Janet Ferguson.  Below are all the details. Have you read it? We would love to know what you thought.

Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except . . . she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south — into the storm.

The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting — even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their child care seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.

Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?

Janet W. Ferguson is a Grace Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. She writes humorous inspirational fiction for people with real lives and real problems. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a cat that allows them to share the space.

 

 

Reading Road Trip — Beach Reads

27 May

A lot of plans have been disrupted this year. My bucket/birthday trip to Ireland is postponed, hopefully just until next year. For a lot of you, summer vacation is going to look so much different from previous years. So I decided to list some titles that make for great beach reads. Whether you will be sticking your toes in the sand or sitting in the backyard with a cool drink, the books on my list will take you away. I previously have visited the Atlantic Beaches and The Gulf Coast in my Reading Road Trip posts — you will find even more great books there.

Did you know there is actually a definition for beach read? Me either, until I googled it.

Beach read: a book you can take on holiday, which is good enough to keep you engaged, but not so serious it will spoil your holiday. (Macmillan Dictionary)

Really?! I think I have higher standards than that. I want a good story foremost, and you will get that from the books on my list. And whether you want action and suspense, romance, or all the feels, you will find a book to suit your mood. Most are actually set at the beach (or near enough) — win-win, while others capture the essence of summer. I hope you find one to enjoy.

 

Reading Road Trip — Beach Reads

 

The Art of Rivers by Janet Ferguson

Rivers Sullivan bears both visible and invisible scars — those on her shoulder from a bullet wound and those on her heart from the loss of her fiancé during the same brutal attack. Not even her background as an art therapist can help her regain her faith in humanity. Still, she scrapes together the courage to travel to St. Simons Island to see the beach cottage and art gallery she’s inherited from her fiancé. When she stumbles upon recovering addicts running her gallery, she’s forced to reckon with her own healing.

After the tragic drowning of his cousin, James Cooper Knight spends his days trying to make up for his past mistakes. He not only dedicates his life to addiction counseling, but guilt drives him to the water, searching for others who’ve been caught unaware of the quickly rising tides of St. Simons. When he rescues a peculiar blond woman and her sketch pad from a sandbar, then delivers this same woman to his deceased grandmother’s properties, he knows things are about to get even more complicated.

Tragic circumstances draw Cooper and Rivers closer, but they fight their growing feelings. Though Cooper’s been sober for years, Rivers can’t imagine trusting her heart to someone in recovery, and he knows a relationship with her will only rip his family further apart. Distrust and guilt are only the first roadblocks they must overcome if they take a chance on love.

As The Light Fades by Catherine West

After her carefully constructed life crumbles, Liz Carlisle finds herself back on Nantucket, picking up the pieces. With the family estate under renovations, the solitude she craves seems out of reach.

Matthew Stone intends to steer clear of his new tenant. She’s carrying a load of baggage, but as long as she pays the rent, he’ll let her be. He’s got enough to deal with caring for his wayward niece, Mia.

Liz doesn’t have time for teenagers and her track record with men is abysmal, but an unlikely friendship forms between the three.

When her former boyfriend is charged with assault, Liz is called to testify against him. But he knows the darkest secrets of her life — secrets she’d hoped to keep buried forever, and he’s ready to reveal them. Telling the truth is the right thing to do, but it may cost her everything she’s worked so hard for, and all she’s come to love.

The Bridge Between by Lindsey Brackett

Louisa Coultrie Halloway has returned home as caretaker for the family home on Edisto Island, but years before she left this world behind. Now she flounders to find her place. When Liam Whiting, a local professor studying tidal creek preservation, invites Lou to join his research team, she welcomes the opportunity for purpose.

David, her ex-husband, has followed Lou and their children to Edisto. As he finds his footing in this new life, their once strained relationship eases into a familiar rhythm — and he hopes for more.

But the past still has a hold on them all, especially in the presence of Grace Watson, whose son intends to marry Lou and David’s daughter. Somehow, Grace and Lou must let the past of a shared love settle between them.

In this idyllic setting, relationships deepen and shift. And once more, Lou finds herself caught between the life she’s chosen — and the love that might be meant to be.

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton

The only thing certain is change — even in a place as steady as Perry, Alabama, on a street as old as Glory Road.

Nearly a decade after her husband’s affair drove her back home to South Alabama, Jessie McBride has the stable life she wants — operating her garden shop, Twig, next door to her house on Glory Road, and keeping up with her teenage daughter and spunky mother. But the unexpected arrival of two men makes Jessie question whether she’s really happy with the status quo. When handsome, wealthy businessman Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s lavish wedding, Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. Then Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school, moves back to the red dirt road, and she feels her heart pulled in directions she never expected.

Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and navigating a new world of emotions — particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses and faces a frightening, uncertain future. Once again, Jessie feels her protected and predictable life shifting.

In one summer, everything will change. But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve.

The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

When investigative reporter — and Finn’s boss’s sister — Gabby Rowley arrives, her unrelenting questions complicate an already volatile situation. Now that she’s back, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark?

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck

When Beck Holiday lost her father in the North Tower on 9/11, she also lost her memories of him. Eighteen years later, she’s a tough New York City cop burdened with a damaging secret, suspended for misconduct, and struggling to get her life in order. Meanwhile a mysterious letter arrives informing her she’s inherited a house along Florida’s northern coast, and what she discovers there will change her life forever. Matters of the heart only become more complicated when she runs into handsome Bruno Endicott, a driven sports agent who fondly recalls the connection they shared as teenagers. But Beck doesn’t remember that either.

Decades earlier, widow Everleigh Applegate lives a steady, uneventful life with her widowed mother after a tornado ripped through Waco, Texas, and destroyed her new, young married life. When she runs into old high school friend Don Callahan, she begins to yearn for change. Yet no matter how much she longs to love again, she is hindered by a secret she can never share.

Fifty years separate the women but through the power of love and miracle of faith, they each find healing in a beautiful Victorian known affectionately as The Memory House.  

On A Coastal Breeze by Suzanne Woods Fisher

For Madison Grayson, life is good. Newly licensed as a marriage and family therapist, she can’t wait to start her practice. Despite the unfortunate shortage of eligible bachelors on the island–they’re all too young, too old, or too weird–Maddie feels like she’s finally found her sweet spot. Not even one panic attack in the last year. Not on

And then Ricky O’Shea drops in. Literally. Floating down from the pure blue sky, the one man in the world she hoped never to see again–the one who’d been her archnemesis from kindergarten through her senior dance–parachutes into town, landing on Boon Dock, canopy draping behind him like a superhero. Ricky O’Shea. Now Pastor Rick, the new minister on Three Sisters Island.

Time to panic.

With wit and a bit of whimsy, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to Three Sisters Island where family, forgiveness, and a second chance at love await.

One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

It started with one little lie. But Jane Hardy will do everything in her power to uncover the truth in this gripping new romantic suspense.

Jane Hardy is appointed interim sheriff in Pelican Harbor, Alabama, after her father retires, but there’s no time for an adjustment period. When her father is arrested for theft and then implicated in a recent murder, Jane quickly realizes she’s facing someone out to destroy the only family she has.

After escaping with her father from a cult fifteen years ago, Jane has searched relentlessly for her mother—who refused to leave—ever since. Could someone from that horrible past have found them?

Reid Bechtol is well-known for his documentaries, and his latest project involves covering Jane’s career. Jane has little interest in the attention, but the committee who appointed her loves the idea of the publicity.

Jane finds herself depending on Reid’s calm manner as he follows her around filming, and they begin working together to clear her father. But Reid has his own secrets from the past, and the gulf between them may be impossible to cross—especially once her father’s lie catches up with him.

The Secrets of Paper And Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Brought together across time by a love of story, three women in England fight to defy expectations, dream new dreams, and welcome love into their lives.  

As a counselor, Sophia Barrett is trained to help people cope with their burdens. But when she meets a new patient whose troubles mirror her own, she realizes she hasn’t dealt with the pain of her recent past. After making a snap decision to get away for the summer, Sophia moves overseas to an apartment above a charming bookstore in Cornwall, England. She is hopeful she will find peace there surrounded by her favorite thing: great literature. 

Bookstore owner Ginny Rose is desperate to save her business without asking for help from a husband who’s decided to take a break from their marriage. Ginny never imagined she’d be solely responsible for keeping afloat her husband’s dream, but the unexpected friendship with her new renter has her feeling more optimistic. Between the two of them—and Ginny’s brother-in-law, William—the bookstore might stand a chance. 

Then Sophia finds a notebook in the bookstore that contains journal entries from Emily Fairfax, a governess who lived in Cornwall more than 150 years ago. Sophia learns that Emily harbored a secret passion for becoming an authoress—as well as a deep love for her childhood friend, Edward, whose station she dared not dream to touch. 

Eager to know more of Emily’s story, Sophia goes on a quest—dragging Ginny and William with her—to discover the heart of the woman behind the beautiful entries. Soon Ginny’s need to save the bookstore becomes more than a way to save her marriage, and Sophia finds new purpose of her own. Together they find that sometimes both heartache and hope can reach across the centuries.

Starfish Pier by Irene Hannon

A year ago, ex-Delta Force operator Steven Roark left the rigors of combat behind to run fishing charters in Hope Harbor, decompress, and talk some sense into his kid brother. Business is good–but making peace with his past is more challenging than he expected.

First-grade teacher Holly Miller leads a quiet, low-profile existence — until she’s recruited to advocate for a cause that’s dear to her heart. When she solicits Steven’s assistance, sparks fly — especially after they find themselves on opposite sides of an issue that disrupts their placid seaside community.

As these two seemingly incompatible souls search for common ground, might they discover a deeper connection–and find that love can banish darkness and light the way to a future filled with promise?

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Opening Lines

26 May

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday challenge was kind of a snap for me since I also participate in First Line Friday hosted by Hoarding Books. I just went through the archives and selected some of the most attention getting opening lines. I hope you find one that grabs you!

For more opening line fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

 

Top 10 Opening Lines