Summer vacation is but a memory as kids are back to school, fall weather is looming and Christmas decorations are popping up in stores. (Believe it or not, my Kindle is quickly filling with Christmas-themed books for holiday season reviews – hard to get in the mood, too, when it’s 94 degrees and I’m sweating on my patio.)
But I digress…as we get back into the swing of homework, sport practice, dance lessons and the like, you KNOW you are going to need some downtime, so when you can find it, I have the perfect reads for you. I’ve had my nose in a book all summer, so the following are (a few of) my favorite reads of late, just in time to add to your fall reading list.
These first three books are a delight. The first two have the right amount of quirky in the characters, which you know I love. The third is a true chick-lit pick for those of you who are going to tell me that you NEVER have time to read.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Date of Publication: January 1, 2016
Number of Pages: 394
Quirky characters, a resourceful heroine, and a delightful plot – this was a fun read, and the perfect book for those of us who LOVE books.
Why? Because this is a book about a girl who loves books. In fact, it is her love of books that brings Sara from Sweden to the tiny, tired town of Broken Wheel.
Ok, the premise is an unusual one – girl from Sweden comes to America to find out her host has…died. In fact, she arrives after the funeral has just ended. But she has vacation time and a return ticket, so she stays. The townspeople don’t know what to make of her, but look after her, bewildered by her need to start a bookstore and her passion for books.
I fell in love with the characters, as well as all Sara’s talk of books. Because she talks a lot about books in a town that doesn’t understand her love of books.
This book has been translated from the Swedish, and translated well (because you wouldn’t know from the reading of it.) Fans of The Storied Life of AJ Fikry and The Little Paris Bookshop will love this book.
The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Date of Publication: August 9, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
A slightly irresponsible (I’m being kind here) struggling artist finds herself in a bind. While Lily is selling paintings, they aren’t bringing in enough to support her, and she’s currently blocked as an artist (stuck painting the same view of her window over and over). As a result, she loses the tiny apartment she’s lived in since graduating from art school. Her gallery agent boyfriend is disappointing, and the brother she bailed out countless times lets her down. In the process of packing up her apartment, she discovers paperwork that should have been filed to annul an impulsive drunken quickie Vegas wedding 10 years prior.
She decides that she’d start the next part of her life with a clean slate and manages to track down her “husband”, who clearly doesn’t want to be found by anyone. She makes her way to small Minnow Bay to find her former dot-com millionaire husband living off the grid. He certainly didn’t expect (or want) to see her, but some of his friends think she is just the person he needs.
I fell in love with the town of Minnow Bay, the excessive amount of male Hutchinsons (yes, all related to Lily’s husband Josh) , and some of the townsfolk’s attempts at getting the two to stay married. Fans of Cathy Lamb will really love this fun book. I know I loved it so much that I went looking for Harms’ first book, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, and devoured that just as quickly. I’m looking forward to much more from this author.
The Girls Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date of Publication: February 23, 2016
Number of Pages: 352
I’ve read a lot of books by Debbie Maccomber, and quite honestly, I think this is one of my favorite novels to date. It’s a tale of new beginnings, reinventing oneself, and of friendship as a woman and her mother-in-law both leave troubled marriage and start over.
Nichole leaves her husband Jake when she learns he has been unfaithful and works to balance a new life with her young son Owen, a new job, and volunteer work. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law Leanne, who has ignored her own husband’s cheating for decades, makes some decisions of her own after watching Nichole walk away from the all-too-familiar situation. Both women move into apartments across the hall from one another and develop the titled “guide” to moving on from their broken relationships.
Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming baker from Ukraine. However, life doesn’t always fall into guidelines. Jake isn’t happy about the relationship that develops and tries to win Nichole back at any cost, and despite Leanne’s determination to avoid relationships, Nikolai’s enthusiasm proves hard to resist – until an unexpected tragedy tests her new relationship.
Now, I’ll be honest: Maccomber doesn’t necessarily write the deepest of novels or the most complex of characters, and more frequently have felt pretty formulaic, the last few I’ve read reflected this. However, this felt a bit different from her usual style, and a bit deeper. Nikolai leans a bit towards a caricature, but his enthusiasm and simplicity is irresistible. If you’re looking for a light escape read, (or are recovering from a breakup), this empowering story is for you.
This next one is a beautiful story that I simply fell in love with. I do believe I also cried me a river, so have a box of tissues standing by.
The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper
Genre: Fiction/Magical Realism
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Date of Publication: August 2, 2016
Number of Pages: 336
Rose and Lily Martin were very close as children, but have been estranged as adults. Circumstances arise that force Lily home to the family farm to care for Rose’s daughter. Antoinette is autistic and has never spoken. She also has a powerful gift of healing: with one touch, she brings flowers back to life, heals wounds and even eases a neighbor’s tremors.
The gift is not without cost, and each time she uses she suffers herself, and it is a gift that their neighbor’s husband is desperate to have use of. Rose herself is struggling with health issues while Lily comes to terms with her past.
This is a story of dedication to family, loyalty and of forgiveness and acceptance . The character of Antoinette is simply lovely; she embodies all that is good and hopeful, and Knipper does an incredible job of portraying all the limitations and affects of her autism, while showing the beautiful soul trapped inside her body. Rose’s relationship with her daughter was beautifully drawn. There were so many elements that I find fascinating: the language of flowers, the magical realism, and it pretty much ripped my heart from my chest. It was a beautiful book that I will read again and again. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will find a kindred spirit in Stephanie Knipper.
If you aren’t in the mood for quirky or light, and want something that is rich and sweeping, this is my pick. I’ve read this twice now, and it doesn’t lose anything in the second reading, it’s that gorgeous. It required a second read to savor, because I read the first in one sitting.
One long sitting, during which not much else – ok, nothing else was accomplished.
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction
Publisher: Kensington Books
Date of Publication: November 24, 2015
Number of Pages: 352
I’ve gushed about this to so many, I’m not even sure where to start. This is a story about fate and re-inventing oneself, of family and loyalty, spanning several decades. The story opens on Alcatraz Island as searchlights sweep the area. One of the prison guard’s daughters is missing and an inmate hides in the greenhouse. We don’t know why Tommy Capello is hiding, or where the little girl is…and then the story jumps back 20 years or so to Dublin, Ireland, where a young Shan Keegan lives with his uncle and makes money trying out his beloved vaudeville material in the local pubs. He dreams of a bigger life and of someday finding his father in America, and soon finds himself on a ship headed to New York.
However, tragedy strikes during the crossing, and as he lands in New York, he has to reinvent himself. His story takes us through the end of vaudeville and the beginning of burlesque, Prohibition and the rise of the drinking clubs and the mobs that ran them. The writing is rich, the settings vividly portrayed. McMorris has researched the period, and historical fiction fans will love this book. With the included reading guide, it’s an excellent pick for fall book clubs, too.
Check back in later this week for reviews of Sarah Sadler’s Southernmost, perfect for those who love Mary Alice Monroe with a bit of sass, and Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Shop, a slip-time novel that blurs the lines between contemporary romance, Christian romance, and historical fiction.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, Thomas Dunne Books, Ballantine Books, Algonquin Books and Kensington books, who provided advanced reader copies in exchange for my honest reviews. All opinions and typos are my own!
This post also contains affiliate links; clicking on them brings you right to the book’s Amazon page and costs you nothing but helps keep me in coffee so I can stay up late reading.