As I do each year, I have listed here my favorites for the first six months of the year so you can easily find them to take to the beach. Like last year, 2023 was light on 5-star books, but there are more 4.5-star choice to enjoy.
I will post another list of those I am reading this summer – who knows if they are going to be good or not…happy summer, everyone!
A Likely Story by Leigh McMullan Abramson has been on my booklist for a while. Amazon: “Growing up in the nineties in New York City as the only child of famous parents was both a blessing and a curse for Isabelle Manning. Her beautiful society hostess mother, Claire, and New York Times bestselling author father, Ward, were the city’s intellectual It couple. Ward’s glamorous obligations often took him away from Isabelle, but Claire made sure her childhood was always filled with magic and love. Now an adult, all Isabelle wants is to be a successful writer like her father but after many false starts and the unexpected death of her mother, she faces her upcoming thirty-fifth birthday alone and on the verge of a breakdown. Her anxiety only skyrockets when she uncovers some shocking truths about her parents and begins wondering if everything she knew about her family was all based on an elaborate lie.” It was a good story and clever, but it reminded me of others I have read.
Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone is one of my all-time favorite books. So, it was with great excitement that I purchased his latest, The Covenant of Water. Oprah has said it is one of the best books she has ever read. However, when I received the book in the mail (go indy bookstores – it came before it was out anywhere else – and you know how much it takes for me to spend money on a book…) I realized that it was 700+ pages!!! “The Covenant of Wateris the long-awaited new novel by Abraham Verghese, the author of the major word-of-mouth bestseller Cutting for Stone, which has sold over 1.5 million copies in the United States alone and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years. Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. At the turn of the century, a twelve-year-old girl from Kerala’s long-existing Christian community, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her forty-year-old husband for the first time. From this unforgettable new beginning, the young girl—and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi—will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants.” (Amazon) I did love it, but it was far too long. I can’t tell you how it could have been shorter and still covered the territory it did, but even in loving it, it made me weary.
My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan was a wonderful and quick read that felt a lot like Me Before You. It is a great choice for your beach bag. Amazon: “Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks. American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day. When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret. Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.”
I really enjoyed Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (review here) and have read great reviews of her new book, Hello Beautiful, so I was excited to get it from the library. It has a great start and you will fall right in. “William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos. But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?” (Amazon) I LOVED this book. From start to finish, the voices, the characters, the ending, everything. Highly, highly recommend.
I love Jojo Moyes. So, I was really excited for her new book, Somebody Else’s Shoes. “Nisha Cantor lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband announces a divorce and cuts her off. Nisha is determined to hang onto her glamorous life. But in the meantime, she must scramble to cope–she doesn’t even have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in. That’s because Sam Kemp – in the bleakest point of her life – has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. But Sam hardly has time to worry about a lost gym bag–she’s struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When she tries on Nisha’s six-inch high Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, the resulting jolt of confidence that makes her realize something must change—and that thing is herself.” (Amazon) This was a good story with a satisfying ending, but it was far too long. If it was 25% shorter, it would have received a higher star rating.
I really enjoyed The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell, and it was a quick read. Amazon: “Every summer for the past ten years, six awe-struck bakers have descended on the grounds of Grafton, the leafy and imposing Vermont estate that is not only the filming site for “Bake Week” but also the childhood home of the show’s famous host, celebrated baker Betsy Martin. The author of numerous bestselling cookbooks and hailed as “America’s Grandmother,” Betsy Martin isn’t as warm off-screen as on, though no one needs to know that but her. She has always demanded perfection, and gotten it with a smile, but this year something is off. As the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.” If you are a fan of “The Great British Baking Show” and like a good mystery – though part of it was easily figured out pretty early – then this one is for you.
The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki seemed like my kind of read.”The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry. Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead. Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.” (Amazon) This was a good book, and I really enjoyed it, but it was way, way, way too long.
Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore felt a lot like Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. In fact, the feel of the book was entirely the same. This would be a great beach read. Amazon: “Truth: Sherri Griffin and her daughter, Katie, recently moved to the idyllic beach town of Newburyport, Massachusetts. They’ve been welcomed by Rebecca Coleman, unofficial former leader of the Newburyport Mom Squad, and her teenage daughter Alexa, Katie’s new babysitter. Truth: Alexa has time on her hands after a falling-out with her friends involving her popular YouTube channel. Katie can’t be left alone because of nightmares that don’t jibe with Sherri’s vague story about her past. Rebecca Coleman has been spending time with someone she doesn’t want people to know about just yet. Lie: There’s no new man in Rebecca’s life, and it’s definitely not one connected to the Mom Squad. Alexa isn’t seeing anyone new herself and plans on shutting down her YouTube channel before leaving for college. Sherri Griffin’s real name is Sherri Griffin, and a bad divorce is all she’s running from.” Nothing amazing here, but a good read.