Recent Reading Roundup 8.5.20

It was a busy summer reading season between mid-June and July. This month’s selections included a variety of genres and books that were great summertime reads. Check out the books below:

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate paints a vivid picture of beach community Hatteras Island, located in the Carolinas and draws you into the story of Tandee Jo, who is charged with cleaning out the home of her recently deceased landlord. During the cleaning process, the single mom comes across shoe boxes filled with prayers that takes her on a journey of self-discovery that changes the lives of herself and her two children. Love blooms, and a life of responsibility and spiritual devotion blossoms as she learns the history of the woman who lived in the home and she and her friends work to preserve the landmark.

This was not always a comfortable read. Tandee Jo doesn’t start off as the most responsible mother, which is difficult to get through. But her journey is inspiring and the ending is satisfying. The book is filled with colorful characters, secrets, and redemption in more ways than one. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series. Rating: A-

Deadly Sweet Tooth by Kaye George

I really liked the premise of this book. The sweet shop setting in Texas opens up a lot of possibilities. However, I had a hard time investing in the characters. The main character always seemed stressed and that made me stressed. Some of the plot elements seemed to come together too easily or not at all. The mystery was compelling and even though I figured out the mystery about 2/3rds of the way through, I was wrong about some of the circumstances. A fine book, just not for me. Rating: B-

Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an electronic review copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

Andre Leon Talley is a pillar in the last 40 years of the fashion industry. An insider, first at Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, then at Women’s Wear Daily and W, and finally at Vogue, Talley has all the scoop on those in the know of the fashion industry. This dishy book names names and gives an inside look at Talley’s 40 year friendship with Chanel’s late Karl Lagerfeld and a unique look at his on-and-off friendship with Vogue editor Anna Wintour. He name checks throughout the book, with talk of YSL, Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, even a bit about Alexander McQueen. The book also focuses on his experiences as a black, gay man in fashion and his continuing battle with his weight. He serves up the scoop with manners in line with his Southern heritage. It’s a great ride for anyone with an interest in fashion, but could feel a little dense for those who don’t know all the names (especially the early ones). This is definitely aimed at fashion fans, not fashion beginners. Rating: A

Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews

Loved this book! It follows reporter Conley Hawkins as she returns to her small town and is set up by her Grandmother to work at the family’s small weekly temporarily with her sister (with whom she doesn’t really get along) who is editor in chief. Right away Conley starts ruffling feathers with the story of a local Congressman eho dies in a mysterious car crash. She also reconnects with her childhood crush who broke her heat and live two doors down from where she grew up. 

Family drama ensues and Conley and her sister fight blowback on the stories and find new ways to save to paper. Political shenanigans I. The Congressman’s family also tear up as truths come out. 

Lots of good twists and turns. I love a good mystery/romance/political drama. Conley is a strong character with being overly abrasive. Other stories are well interwoven. A joy of a book and a great summer read! Rating: A

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an electronic review copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Summer By the Tides by Denise Hunter

This Christian family drama-romance is the epitome of a summer read. Three sisters, Maddy, Nora, and Emma are called to their grandmother’s beachside North Carolina cottage when she is reported missing by neighbor Connor. Turns out the whole this was a set up by grandma to get the sisters to settle their differences. Nora and Emma have been feuding for 20 years since Nora stole and married Emma’s fiancé. But each of the sisters is bringing secrets and baggage to the cottage and as Gram returns and a storm brews, the sisters begin to untangle the web of anger and betrayal that has affected them all. During the whole process Maddy and Connor strike up a growing attraction. The fallout from the stormy weekend will change all of their lives.

The conflicts in this book were a little uncomfortable, but they were well drawn and each of the characters was sincere in their beliefs and crafty with their secret keeping. The ending is far from pat and shows the journey each of the women and Connor went on throughout the story. Highly recommend to fans of Christian fiction. Rating: A-

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

What a fun book set in a great location (Santa Barbara)) for a summer read. Robbie is on vacation For her ten year high school reunion and comes across information that her mother, who died of a brain aneurysm, might have been murdered instead. Before she knows it, she’s trying to sort out a feud with a high school nemesis, a toxic chemical, and an old friend trying to get her life together. This has a few twist and turns with no shortage of clues. I liked the ending but kept expecting one more twist that left me feeling a little unsettled. Would definitely recommend. Rating: A

Nacho Average Murder by Maddie Day

What a fun book set in a great location (Santa Barbara)) for a summer read. Robbie is on vacation For her ten year high school reunion and comes across information that her mother, who died of a brain aneurysm, might have been murdered instead. Before she knows it, she’s trying to sort out a feud with a high school nemesis, a toxic chemical, and an old friend trying to get her life together. This has a few twist and turns with no shortage of clues. I liked the ending but kept expecting one more twist that left me feeling a little unsettled. Would definitely recommend. Rating: A-

Thank you to NetGalley providing me with an electronic eview copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

July Reading Challenge Review

As with many plans, my reading challenge choices changed as the month went on. I originally planned on reading Rodham, Hello, Summer, One Perfect Summer, Summer by the Tides, Nacho Average Murder, and Peachy Scream. Rodham is a very long book, and I only had a short hold on it, so I set it aside for The Guest List. I finished Hello, Summer, Summer by the Tides, and Nacho Average Murder. One Perfect Summer is in progress and Peachy Scream will be early on my August reading challenge. (All other books on this list were read in late June.)

Count: Books in Challenge completed: 3; Extra Books completed: 1; Books in progress: 1, Books held over: 1; for a total score of 4/6 for books read in July. August’s challenge (posting tomorrow) includes a higher number of shorter books, but is a bit ambitious. We’ll see how it goes.

How has your summer reading been going? Have you been able to read at a pace that is enjoyable? Any books still on your list that you want to get read before summer officially ends in September? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

With all the “extra” time we all have while we’re sheltering in place, I have had a difficult time focusing on reading. I’ve heard the same thing from some other bloggers and people in my life. I’m not sure if I’m distracted because of all the COVID-19 news (I’m a news writer by night, so I write a lot about the virus), or if it’s just a reaction to being trapped inside for so much time. I’m still reading, but my pace has really slowed. If you’re looking for an escape from the current crisis, try one of these:

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

I love Jen Hatmaker as an author. She has a great voice and a nice amount of snark (without being mean). The book was well written, and interesting. I also like the idea behind this project: to cut the excess from your life. And it was interesting to read through her experiences. It clearly took a lot of effort and hard work to put together this book.

What struck me with this book was the rhythm of it: summary of challenge, confession, good things, gripes, challenging information about how awful we all are in that area of our lives, final summary. Each of the chapters followed this rhythm and it got a bit repetitive and predictable.

I appreciated the information she shared, but it almost sounded like it came from a position of privilege. It’s easier to cut down to seven areas of spending when you have more than seven to begin with. It also would be difficult to meet some of these challenges in areas that don’t have organic markets or a lot of places to regularly buy local.

I think Ms. Hatmaker wrote this book from a place of good intention and performed each challenge with the best of everything in mind. I just think the execution of the book didn’t do justice to her efforts or translate well into other people’s experiences.

I will continue to read books by this author, because I really like her writing style and point of view. This one just didn’t click with me.

Who Murdered Mr. Malone? by Hope Callaghan

I love cozy mysteries, and this Christian cozy mystery doesn’t disappoint. The characters are interesting and the mystery is plotted pretty well. I liked getting to know the “garden girls club” and following their adventure together. This is the first in a series, so I would definitely read the next one. I will say the ending was not what I expected, and I’m not sure if I liked it or not. But the rest of the book was worth it and I’m guessing some questions will be answered and characters fleshed out in the next book.

Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel

I love Anne Bogel’s approach to life in this book. It may seem like a small thing, but overthinking can be really draining. Bogel offers practical tips that work for any lifestyle and budget. She includes helpful questions at the end of each chapter to prompt the reader to explore the topic in their lives more deeply (without overthinking it). I look forward to her next book and am a big fan of her blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next? Podcast. 

**Thank you to Netgalley and Anne Bogel for the review copy. I also bought a copy of the book.**

I’ve got plenty of books on my TBR, and plan to work through seven of them this month. What are your reading goals? How has your reading life been going? Comment below with your thoughts.

Happy reading!