I love to write. Though it’s come to me late in life, it’s quickly become a passion of mine. Not only does it fill me with great joy, it’s therapeutic as well. If I’m not working on content edits for my debut novel, WHERE THE GRASS GROWS BLUE, for my publisher, Red Adept, I’m polishing my second WIP (work-in-progress), ASHES TO ASHES. When I get stuck there, I start mapping out the timeline of my third novel, TOBACCO ROAD (I’m really excited about that one). As you can see, I love the entire creative process. But all these words and ideas are a bit overwhelming. So many stories are running through my head at the same time. What do I do to relax? How do I calm myself? I simply pick up one of life’s greatest joys...a book. It’s a salve to soothe my chaos.
I read lots and lots of books. Tons, in fact. I will read anything if the opportunity arises. I read when I’m exercising. I read when I’m having my morning cup of beloved coffee before the sun comes up. I read while sitting in an infrared sauna at one hundred and fifty-five degrees, sweating my way to health. I always have a book in hand. All I do in my free time is read (and play tennis, but let’s focus on one obsession at a time, shall we?)
I’ve been lucky to stumble across some incredible books in the last few weeks that have been created by some fantastic authors. Netflix cannot compete with a good story mixed with an active imagination. Trust me, the book is ALWAYS better.
Now that summer is upon us (we’re halfway through it if you can believe it), I want to share some gems. If you’re looking for your next great novel to take on vacation or just read in the coziness of your home, these are the books for you. (Click on the arrows to find out what I thought about each one!)
LAST LIAR STANDING by Danielle M. Wong - THRILLER
"The average person has 13 secrets right now." What an incredible opening line! Veronica Kwan, the victim of a hit-and-run accident, wakes up believing it’s 2013. Not only is she unable to recall the previous nine years, but she also has no memory of her husband, who was murdered just days before her accident. Now Vonny must begin piecing together her life in a city she doesn’t remember, in a house she has no connection to, surrounded by strangers, not knowing who to trust. This is an intense thriller with tons of twists and turns along the way that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I absolutely loved this book, devouring it in one day. I highly recommend this one!
IN A JAM by Cindy Dorminy - ROMANCE
"Some sticky situations have a sweet solution." This delightful book is full of southern charm, romance, and memorable characters. Andie Carson inherits her late grandmother’s lottery winnings. But in order to "cash in," she has to sober up, spend a month running her grandmother’s coffee shop in the small town of Smithville, Georgia, and enter a jam contest. Sounds easy enough, but Andie’s life is messier than the jam she’s trying to make.
THE HOTEL NANTUCKET by Elin Hilderbrand - WOMEN’S FICTION
Summer has officially begun because one of my all-time favorite authors has released another gem for the season! Lizbet Keaton, coming off a painful and public break-up with her boyfriend, is hired to run the newly refurbished Hotel Nantucket, which has lain in ruins for decades. But she’s been tasked with doing more than just running a hotel, she has to make good on her London-based billionaire boss’s odd request. Two women must be impressed by his latest acquisition. One is a mysterious woman he won’t name, and the other is an Instagram travel influencer who has never awarded a property a "five key" rating in her buzzed-about reviews. Lizbet must accomplish this while managing a complicated staff who all have secrets of their own while tending to some outrageous hotel guests' requests and needs. Oh, and there happens to be a one-hundred-year-old ghost lurking about, haunting the place. It all makes for a delicious read. As with several of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels, you will be fully immersed in the charming island of Nantucket. It’s full of scrumptious food, which will make your mouth water (don’t read this on an empty stomach), island gossip, romantic entanglements, and a little paranormal activity. It even brings back some beloved characters from earlier books, like Fast Eddie and Mario Subiaco from The Blue Bistro (which is my favorite Elin Hilderbrand book). Much to my surprise, by the end, I was most invested in two characters: Grace, the 19-year-old ghost who died in a fire at the hotel, and Alessandra, the devious front desk clerk. At first glance, I didn’t think I would connect with either of them, but by the end, they were the ones I hated saying goodbye to the most. Elin Hilderbrand has done it again. She remains the Queen of Summer. *Note: The last chapter is the author’s own personal guide to Nantucket called The Blue Book. It’s mentioned several times as a fictional reference and plot point. Lucky for us, she included it.
THE LOST SUMMERS OF NEWPORT by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White - WOMEN’S FICTION
I have no words. It’s simply brilliant. Three different timelines. Three different women’s POVs. It was written by three different authors. I’m in awe. Money, secrets, mansions, Newport…this novel has it all. Spanning decades, it weaves together these complex women’s lives in a way that will shock you. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Especially Lucky. I was immediately invested in her journey from the start. (Secretly, I wanted a separate book that spotlighted only her because she’s such a memorable character.) If you love The Age of Innocence, like me, and are a fan of The Gilded Age series on HBO, this is literally your cup of tea! It’s a must for anyone’s summer.
THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE Kristy Woodson Harvey - WOMEN’S FICTION
This is the last book in the Peachtree Bluff series by Kristy Woodson Harvey. It’s bittersweet to read this book while knowing my time in Peachtree Bluff is coming to an end. I fell in love with these characters from the start. SLIGHTLY SOUTH OF SIMPLE was delightful, and I adored THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM as well. I truly hate saying goodbye to Ansley, Caroline, Sloane, Emerson, and, of course, Jack. THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE is narrated by Ansley, the mother of the Murphy girls, and her youngest daughter, Emerson. It picks up where the second leaves off. Although this book can stand on its own, I highly recommend reading all three in order. This book has it all. First loves, the unique bonds of sisters, a charming southern setting, dark secrets, second chances. THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE is an entertaining read, perfect for a day at the beach or curled up on the couch. In honor of my last hurrah, I made Emerson Murphy’s "signature" cocktail to toast these three incredible books and the talented author who created them. Cheers! "The Starlite Starlet" by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Champagne A splash of Bourbon muddled mint 1 cube of sugar Two strawberries * I’m from Kentucky and have never liked the taste of bourbon, though I love to bake with it, but this drink could change my mind! A recipe? What’s not to love?
PERENNIALS by Julie Cantrell - WOMEN'S FICTION
If you’ve read my blogs or seen any of my Instagram posts, you know I’m a sucker for flowers. So much so, I call them "my girls". Julie Cantrell speaks my language in this book. She understands flowers. There’s always a lesson rooted deep in the soil. All you have to do is dig a little bit and find the answer. Lovey Sutherland left Mississippi for Phoenix, Arizona years ago. Thanks to her sister, Bitsy, and her lies, Lovey hasn’t gone back home. That is, until her parents' golden anniversary approaches, and she has no choice but to return to Oxford. Now she must face what she’s been running from. A sister who hasn’t changed; parents who adore her but have never stood up for her; and her first love, Fisher. This moving story is filled with life lessons, complex family dynamics, and second chances. PERENNIALS is my cup of tea. Bravo!
Happy reading! And happy drinking, too!
Until next time…