Summer Reads 2021
Updated: Oct 18
Sharing what I read June, July and August! I usually try to publish these posts monthly, but summer just seemed to fly by! As always, I share my quick review, a star rating (with 5 stars being the best) and the publishers book description for you. I get almost all of my books from my public library - I constantly have books on hold! If you prefer to buy your books, I've linked all of these as well! If you choose to purchase through my links, I do get a small commission at no additional cost to you.
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson ****
It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.
Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.
Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.
This books covers many important issues from race, to poverty to abandonment. Ruth is a character that at times was unlikable which is always a struggle for me. However, I really enjoyed the way the character Midnight was woven into the themes and provided insights into the time period.
Little Pieces of Me Alison Hammer ****
When Paige Meyer gets an email from a DNA testing website announcing that her father is a man she never met, she is convinced there must be a mistake. But as she digs deeper into her mother's past and her own feelings of being the odd child out growing up, Paige begins to question everything she thought she knew. Could this be why Paige never felt like she fit in her family, and why her mother always seemed to keep her at an arm's length? And what does it mean for Paige's memories of her father, a man she idolized and whose death she is still grieving? Back in 1975, Betsy Kaplan, Paige's mom, is a straightlaced sophomore at the University of Kansas. When her sweet but boring boyfriend disappoints her, Betsy decides she wants more out of life, and is tired of playing it safe. Enter Andy Abrams, the golden boy on campus with a potentially devastating secret. After their night together has unexpected consequences, Betsy is determined to bury the truth and rebuild a stable life for her unborn child, whatever the cost.
When Paige can't get answers from her mother, she goes looking for the only other person who was there that night. The more she learns about what happened, the more she sees her unflappable, distant mother as a real person faced with an impossible choice. But will it be enough to mend their broken relationship?
This book is told through dual timelines from Paige's perspective and Betsy's. We see the struggle Betsy is faced with and the ways that her decisions affect her daughter. We also see the ways Andy's life was so limited when he didn't' fit the mold society wanted to put him in.
Honey Girl Morgan Rogers **
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
When reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
I've been trying to diversify the books I read to include characters unlike myself and this book came recommended. I however didn't really get into it. Grace is dealing with a lot of trauma and baggage and I didn't feel like it was addressed in the ways it could have been. I appreciated the search for self aspect that Grace is going through as a 20 something entering the"real world" The dive into diversity and queer culture felt rather shallow and I wish it had been done in a way I could've connected to it more.
Mother May I Joshilyn Jackson ****
Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.
Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.
Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daughters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.
The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.
To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.
Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?
I really enjoyed this thriller. The unfolding of the kidnapping investigation and learning about the motive behind Robert's disappearance was intense. I read this one in 2 days as I couldn't put it down!
The End of Her Shari Lapena **
It starts with a shocking accusation...
Stephanie and Patrick are recently married, with new-born twins. While Stephanie struggles with the disorienting effects of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she knows for certain – she has everything she ever wanted.
Then a woman from his past arrives and makes a shocking accusation about his first wife. He always claimed her death was an accident – but she says it was murder.
He insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. But is Patrick telling the truth? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?
This one fell flat for me. A lot of moments when I was rolling my eyes or questioning the authors thought process. The twist at the end seemed so out of the blue that it just disappointed me.
Love you More Lisa Gardner ****
One question, a split-second decision, and Brian Darby lies dead on the kitchen floor. His wife, state police trooper Tessa Leoni, claims to have shot him in self-defense, and bears the bruises to back up her tale. For veteran detective D. D. Warren it should be an open-and-shut case. But where is their six-year-old daughter?
As the homicide investigation ratchets into a frantic statewide search for a missing child, D. D. Warren must partner with former lover Bobby Dodge to break through the blue wall of police brotherhood, seeking to understand the inner workings of a trooper’s mind while also unearthing family secrets. Would a trained police officer truly shoot her own husband? And would a mother harm her own child?
For Tessa Leoni, the worst has not yet happened. She is walking a tightrope, with nowhere to turn, no one to trust, as the clock ticks down to a terrifying deadline. She has one goal in sight, and she will use every ounce of her training, every trick at her disposal, to do what must be done. No sacrifice is too great, no action unthinkable. A mother knows who she loves. And all others will be made to pay.
There were a lot of twists and turns in this one and the suspense kept me guessing throughout the book. The character Tessa was admirable for her strength and determination in finding her daughters kidnapper on her own terms.
Never Tell Lisa Gardner ****
A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.
D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman--Evie Carter--from a case many years back. Evie's father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.
Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim--a hostage--and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad's murder.
But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?
I fell in love with Flora Dane in other Lisa Gardner books and loved watching her in action in this book too. This book was captivating and suspenseful and the characters were all amazing protagonists. Definitely recommend!
Look For Me Lisa Gardner
In #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner's latest twisty thrill ride, Detective D. D. Warren and "Find Her"'s Flora Dane return in a race against the clock to either save a young girl's life . . . or bring her to justice.
The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.
Another amazing Lisa Gardner book that is fast paced and multifaceted. I loved the character Roxy whose strength was astounding
When You See Me Lisa Gardner *****
FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective DD Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. And when a disturbing piece of evidence comes to light, they decide to bring in Flora Dane who has personal experience of being imprisoned by Ness.
Their investigations take them to a small town deep in the hills of Georgia where something seems to be deeply wrong.
What at first seems like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister as they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed.
Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers - and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.
While this book is part of a series, I don't feel they have to be read in conjunction with one another or in order. I grabbed this one off the library shelf and then immediately went back and grabbed all the other Lisa Gardner books I had yet to read. This one really hooked me. A thriller that is chilling and has so much depth to it.
Good Company Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Flora Mancini has been happily married for more than twenty years. But everything she thought she knew about herself, her marriage, and her relationship with her best friend, Margot, is upended when she stumbles upon an envelope containing her husband’s wedding ring—the one he claimed he lost one summer when their daughter, Ruby, was five.
Flora and Julian struggled for years, scraping together just enough acting work to raise Ruby in Manhattan and keep Julian’s small theater company—Good Company—afloat. A move to Los Angeles brought their first real career successes, a chance to breathe easier, and a reunion with Margot, now a bona fide television star. But has their new life been built on lies? What happened that summer all those years ago? And what happens now?
Themes forgiveness, resentment, second chances and the ups and downs of marriage and friendship make this novel a compelling read. I felt there was a lot lost in backstories and times when scenes felt rather dragged out. I appreciated the theater and Hollywood elements but wasn't all that crazy about this book or the characters.
When the Stars Go Dark Paula McLain ****
Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna's childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever.
As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.
Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives--and our faith in one another.
Anna Hart was such a compelling character in this book. I found her so real - through her past and present and how they came together to help a current victim. Fans of true crime will appreciate the psychological aspects of this book as the author delves into various criminals and victims.
House Lessons Erica Bauermeister ****
In this mesmerizing memoir-in-essays, Erica Bauermeister renovates a trash-filled house in eccentric Port Townsend, Washington, and in the process takes readers on a journey to discover the ways our spaces subliminally affect us. A personal, accessible, and literary exploration of the psychology of architecture, as well as a loving tribute to the connections we forge with the homes we care for and live in, this book is designed for anyone who’s ever fallen head over heels for a house. It is also a story of a marriage, of family, and of the kind of roots that settle deep into your heart. Discover what happens when a house has its own lessons to teach in this moving and insightful memoir that ultimately shows us how to make our own homes (and lives) better.
I rarely read non-fiction or memoirs but this book was such a fun easy read. The author wrote Scent Keeper - another great book and her writing is just as wonderful in this. I love any books or shows that have to do with old houses or renovation and found this so interesting. I loved the way Bauermeister almost makes the house a character. She helps the house learn to breath again and learns more about herself and her family throughout the many years spent restoring this small home. While I have always romanticized the notion of restoring a home, Bauermeister tells the hard truths but also the glorifying results.
The Wife Upstairs
Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?
This book is a modern day Jane Eyre. You know that at any minute it’s all going to come crashing down for someone - but the fun of this book is that you can’t quite figure out who will crash or what will be the ignition to start the fire. The small town, rich ladies gossip is what tips Jane off and confirms her hunch that something about Eddie screamed liar! The end of this book will get you for sure!
Malibu rising *****
Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.
Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.
Loved this one! Taylor Jenkins Reid is a favorite of mine and this one was much anticipated. I always love books that are told through dual timelines, and while the majority of this book takes place on one summer day, we also get glimpses into what life was like as the Riva kids were growing up. Mick Riva - the dysfunctional absent father of the four main characters is a character that TJR shared with us in her two previous novels, Daisy Jones and the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I felt for each of these characters and the way this family connected and struggled.
Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark.
When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.
A historical novel that was inspired by the first female black doctor in the US, it is clear this book was meticulously researched. At its heart this is a coming of age story about Libertie a freeborn black given plenty of opportunity but also saddled with expectations. I am a big fan of historical fiction and the time period this novel focuses on. I felt I learned quite a bit about the Haiti and the exodus many took towards a land of freedom. The elements of religion, education, those passing for white, mental health issues, and sexuality were all topics explored within the pages of this book. While I enjoyed the book, by midway through I was fatigued - it felt like there were too many avenues being pursued by the author- each one could’ve been the sole focus. Rather than delve into one area I felt Greenidge tried to cover so much that it became muddled. The chapters within Haiti became overshadowed by Emmanuel’s family. At this point I switched to the audio book just to finish. The audio book was very well done.
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.
Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
When friends become lovers...a theme we’ve all seen before, but still done well here! I feel like we’ve all had that friend who is a boy, and we realize that one of us has feelings for the other and that fear of ruining the friendship to pursue more - that’s what happens with opposites Polly and Alex, over many years. I enjoyed this book, but also found Poppy to be a bit irritating as she played games with sweet Alex. I also found that their inability to communicate and discuss their feelings to be a bit immature - especially after they acted on their impulses!
Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.
An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .
Loved the mysterious setting of this book. The concept of turning a sanatorium into a luxury hotel is so appealing. I loved the history behind the building. The added tension of a impassable snow storm making all the guests captive created the eerie mood. The continuous deaths and red herrings, kept me guessing, but I was honestly a bit disappointed in the final reveal. I also felt that Elin’s partner was the worst character in this book and every scene he was in left me cringing. There was no compassion for Elin and her ptsd. This is the first book in a series and I will give the second one a chance, but I’m not sure - this one left me feeling 50/50.
Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar... in Washington.
Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.
Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.
I was in the mood for a light hearted romance book and this one was pretty good. I loved Tessa Bailey’s hot and hammered series that combined romance with renovation so I figured I’d give this one a try. Fair warning, the steamy scenes are a bit much, but Tessa Bailey is all about the smut. The unlikely pairing of socialite Piper and burley fisherman Brendan is kind of far-fetched, but really this book shouldn’t be one you think too deeply about. If you’re looking for a sexy quick read this one is a solid pick.
Ever have one of those days where life just plain sucks? Welcome to my last three months—ever since I caught my can’t-be-soon-enough ex-husband cheating with his paralegal. I’m thirty-five years old, and I’ve lost my NYC apartment, my job, my money, and frankly, my dignity.
But the final heartache in the suck sandwich of my life? My great-aunt Maggie died. The only family member who’s ever gotten me.
Even after death, though, she’s helping me get back up. She’s willed me the keys to a house in the burbs, of all places, and dared me to grab life by the family jewels. Well, I’ve got the vise grips already in hand (my ex should take note) and I’m ready to fight for my life again.
Too bad that bravado only lasts as long as it takes to drive into Huckleberry Hills. And see the house.
There are forty-seven separate HOA violations, and I feel them all in my bones. Honestly, I’m surprised no one’s “accidentally” torched the house yet. I want to, and I’ve only been standing in front of it for five minutes. But then my hot, grumpy neighbor tells me to mow the lawn first and I’m just...done. Done with men too sexy for their own good and done with anyone telling me what to do ever again.
First rule of surviving the burbs? There is nothing that YouTube and a glass of wine can’t conquer.
Home renovation books are my absolute weakness, so this one drew me in!However, we get much more than a hammer and nails story here. From spousal abuse, adultery, hoarding, widowhood, estrangement so many things to unpack with the characters. But don’t expect anything too serious. This is a pretty straight forward Hallmark movie - all the bad things happen to Mallory, then all the good things land in her lap, the end.
What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand