What I Read This Summer

I had to wait until I returned from vacation, but here is my list of the 16 books I managed to read since mid-June.

This story about a journey through the South involves Boop and her granddaughter, Eve. The middle part of this family is Eve’s mother, Justine, who is Boop’s daughter. Filled with Southern charm, author Mary Helen Sheriff writes with true emotion and tells a funny but poignant tale about relationships, misunderstandings, and, ultimately, redemption. The best kind of story!

This wonderful novel by the fabulous Jennifer Weiner is about girlfriends, past and present, all wrapped up in the complexities of living in these trying times. It’s witty and moving. Weiner has the Midas touch when it comes to beach reads!

I am grateful to Lisa at Ink Fish Books for gifting me with a copy of this book. I spent many mornings at Colt State Park reading, and losing myself in the rich, gorgeous writing of author Maggie O’Farrell. If you don’t know, Hamnet is a novel inspired by the real-life son of William Shakespeare, who died in 1596. It’s absolutely brilliant and, in my opinion, a must-read for anyone who loves literature.

I was on a Jennifer Weiner roll this summer, as Good in Bed was the second of three Weiner novels I devoured. This was her debut novel, and it tells the story of an overweight Jewish female journalist, her love and work life, and her emotional abuse issues with her father. Apparently much of the novel reflects Weiner’s own life, and I know she has struggled with weight issues for much of her life. It became a NYT bestseller, and I can see why. Five big stars.

I can’t imagine a summer full of reading without at least one of Roisin Meaney’s books on my table. In this one, three couples are set to spend a weekend at a house by the sea. Lily and Charlie, who had been married for over twenty-five years, but are now nearly divorced, show up, each with their own partner – Lily brings Joe, her new fiancé. Charlie brings his way-too-young girlfriend Chloe. And Lily and Charlie’s grown children, daughter Poll and son Thomas. With her trademark charm and genius for telling a story, Roisin Meaney weaves a seamless tale about family, love, loss, and forgiveness. If you’re a fan of Maeve Binchy books, you’ll love everything Roisin Meaney writes.

I only recently become a Daniel Silva fan. This one did not disappoint! Fast-paced, well written, Silva takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through Venice, Vatican City, even my beloved Switzerland! Silva’s intrepid character Gabriel Allon always is central to his stories, and this one brings up an important question about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Marisa de los Santos! Definitely one of my favorite authors. She writes with beautiful prose and explores the emotions that we sometimes hide deep within our hearts. There are characters here that are in her earlier novels, but not to worry, you don’t have to read her books in any order. This one shifts between the present day and the 1950s, and the author handles the changes effortlessly.

I love this cover, too. Yes, I went on a little Marisa de los Santos binge, reading three of her books in a row. Well worth your time. The way she uses words is genius, and she really does paint a picture with words. In I’d Give Anything, de los Santos brings the reader the most genuine of flawed human beings, and I hated to see this one end.

Then I read this one. So, I think this was Book 2 of her series, Blue Sky was Book 3, and I’d Give Anything was Book 4. I still have to read Book1! But it really doesn’t matter. The characters in this book were so real, so well-drawn – Piper and Cornelia and Dev – Dev! – and Teo. You’ll love them, too.

This was a really good book. The main character, Daisy, receives emails that are meant for someone else (email address off by a letter – that can happen!). Daisy is somewhat unsatisfied with her life and is intrigued by this other woman, based on the emails, thinking her life is more glamorous and exciting. When Daisy finally lets the other woman know about the mix-up, they meet and become friends. But perhaps the mix-up wasn’t entirely accidental.

Here’s an anthology for every James Taylor fan – and yes, that includes me! In fact, I was asked to contribute to this compendium, and my little story about one of JT’s songs in included. Taylor’s fans have recounted their lifelong long of his music and lyrics, and every one of the stories is impactful. Compiled by Rebecca Gold, a mega-fan, this one is a true pleasure to read.

Sometimes I ask myself why I’d ever want to revisit the awful trump years – I mean, they were horrible. This book focuses on the final year of his failed presidency, during the Coronavirus pandemic that engulfed the country. From his refusal to take the pandemic seriously to his denial of the election loss and his lies about election fraud, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker offer stunning detail about the final year of this dysfunctional presidency.

Elin Hilderbrand’s novels are made for summer reading, and I’ve checked a few of them out of the library, to catch up. Vicki, Brenda, and Melanie head to Nantucket (of course!) to escape their own travails and forget about aspects of their troubled lives. A young man named Josh enters their worlds and everything is turned upside down. A great read!

Okay, maybe it’s not correct to include this one, but I did read it! I had to, I was the editor! Actually, for the third year, I chaired the committee that solicited and accepted submissions of prose and poetry from members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for its annual anthology. In this volume, with its theme of GREEN, the writers interpreted that theme in their own way and have provided a varied take on the theme, with compelling poems and short stories.

Oh, this book! My husband read it last year and kept telling me I needed to read it. Meanwhile, I had all these other books to read first, but finally, we had vacation and I made sure to bring The Great Alone with me. And I devoured it. Set in remote Alaska in the mid-1970s. it tells the story of teenager Leni and her dysfunctional parents, stuck in the wilds of Alaska when it was still remote and mostly off the grid. Leni’s father, a Vietnam veteran plagued by PTSD and violent outbursts, dreads the onset of winter and darkness. And her mother has every reason to be concerned, as those violent outbursts are generally directed at her. You should read this one.

This one finished off the summer for me. Seemed like a good end-of-summer read, and The Beach Club was Hilderbrand’s debut novel. Here we have Mack Petersen, who manages a hotel on Nantucket – he’s been there for 12 years, since he was 18 and left the family farm in Iowa after the tragic death of his parents. Mack’s girlfriend Maribel wants to get married, after being with Mack for six years, and she’s growing impatient. Meanwhile, a mistimed encounter with one of the hotel guests leads the hotel’s bellman, Vance (who’s hated Mack for the past 12 years), to threaten him with violence. Mack’s feeling the pressure! There are plenty of other characters in this story, and what I love about Hilderbrand is that even the most minor character can be memorable. A great summer read.

Okay, that’s it! Summer’s just about over, time to get back to work. What did you read this summer? What’s in your To-Be-Read pile?

A Playlist for The Summer of Princess Diana

As my novel wends its way through the publication process, I’ve come up with a sweet little playlist to go along with the book. Have a listen!

Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes. Reached #1 in Switzerland, 1981.
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, 1980.
Kiss on my List by Hall & Oates. Appeared as the 207th video on MTV’s first day of broadcast, August 1, 1981.
A Woman Needs Love by Ray Parker, Jr. and Raydio. Released in April 1981.
Slow Hand by The Pointer Sisters. Released May 1981.
(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me by Ronnie Milsap. Released June 1981.
A Little in Love by Cliff Richard. Released December 1980.
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. The 25th video played on MTV’s Launch Day (8/1/81).
While You See a Chance by Steve Winwood. Released February 1981.

Yes, the novel is set in 1981 – 40 years ago! Great music from that time, at least I think so. And MTV launched on August 1 of 1981, so you can witness the infancy of some of these music videos.

I will provide teasers about the book and its characters throughout the coming months, leading up to the release of what will be my 10th novel (and 11th book), and the final (really ) book set in my beloved Switzerland.

That’s Why We’re Here

If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE James Taylor fan and I can’t wait to share this exciting news…. A story I wrote about James Taylor has been included in a book that is being launched this week!!! The book is titled “That’s Why We’re Here: Stories from Passionate James Taylor Fans” by Rebecca Lyn Gold. The book is a beautiful collection of stories from JT fans around the world and I’m so excited and proud to be a part of it. I know you will love it as much as I do! It is hitting Amazon THIS WEEK! You can buy your copy and read my story by clicking this link: https://amzn.to/3C4CARd

Fast and Loose

Photograph by Mathilde Langevin. Used with permission.

For mumble-mumble years, I’ve been addicted to sugar. All my life. From the first taste of my mother’s brownies/cookies/pies/cake, I was hooked. I cleaned a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and even the dreaded peas because I wouldn’t get dessert unless I ate all my dinner.

An early memory: somehow eating everything in my Easter basket during a visit to my grandparents’ house, and throwing up in the back seat on the way home. Halloween candy gone in days. Sneaking Hershey’s Kisses from the candy dish. Sneaking candy all the time.

Then older: eating M&Ms for dinner, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, always washed down with Diet Coke. Sugar sugar. Oh, honey honey. And maple syrup. It felt so good – well, of course. Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. And the sugar rush (yes, it’s a thing), pushing glucose into my blood. Too much.

As I learned more and more about the dangers of elevated blood sugar levels and Type II diabetes, I understood how damaging sugar is. And believe me, I’ve tried quitting many times. Those cravings are real.

Photo by M. Reynolds

Finally, it was enough. We all reach a breaking point. I’ve quit you, sugar, hopefully forever. And I am quickly becoming a fan of intermittent fasting. I’ve started slow and easy – 8 hour window to eat (for me, that’s 8:00 am to 4:00 pm) and a 16-hour fast, during which much of that time I’m asleep, anyway. I’m hoping to add in a 24-hour or up to a 36-hour fast once or twice a month.

Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It will help you lose weight, and it will lower blood sugar levels. There’s plenty of research available online, if you’re interested. Check out Dr. Jason Fung.

A few weeks ago, I had my blood work done. My doctor was very pleased – blood sugar normal (A1c at 5.7). I’m determined to keep it that way. Meanwhile, my clothes are loose. My rings were loose – had them all resized. Unfortunately, my skin is loose, too! But I’m working on that, and would still take the looser skin over any of the other health issues.

This Swiss Chocolate trilogy author no longer wants Toblerone or Cailler bars. Give me Gruyère and Emmanthaler cheese instead!

My Birthday Gift to You

Cover design by Lottie Nevin

I actually started this blog, MarthaReynoldsWrites, on my birthday in 2012. Now, here I am, nine years later and nine years older. Yikes – how the years pass so quickly. Is it that way for you, too? If you’re young, pay attention! Next time you think about it, you’ll be my age, wondering what the heck happened.

Ah, well. Nothing to do about that except enjoy the days, and for me, the writing. I do still enjoy it, even if editing sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out. But my new novel is now with my publisher, so I will relax…and read. And work a little bit on the next book. And think about the one after that. And next year’s A to Z theme. Yeah, it never ends. And that’s a good thing. As long as I can keep writing, I will.

Meanwhile, I wanted to make this book free for five days (Saturday, July 10 through Wednesday, July 14). If you haven’t yet read Villa del Sol, here’s a chance to download a digital copy for free! It’s a good book (if I do say so myself), and it won the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England. That was a big honor, and I’m proud and humbled that the judges liked it enough to award it the prize. And how about that cover? I think it’s the favorite cover of all of my books, and it was hand-drawn by my dear friend Lottie Nevin, who lives in Galicia, Spain with her equally-talented husband Pete. Jim and I dream about visiting them one day.

So, I hope you’re enjoying summer. Some of us have had to endure miserable heat (in the US) and much-lower-than-normal temperatures – that’s because climate change is real, y’all. The world can be a scary place these days – don’t I know it – but that’s why books are necessary. The right book can take you away from your worries and anxieties and transport you to another place. That’s what I try to do. If you like this book (or any of my others), please consider leaving a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads. I don’t like to ask, but it does help me gain some visibility. You know, it’s all about algorithms, apparently. Either way, I’ll have a new novel for you by the end of this year! It’s called The Summer of Princess Diana and I hope you’ll like it.

And if you celebrate a birthday this month, Happy Birthday!

What I’ve Read

I’m deep in edits for my next novel, and working on another (trying to make up for the deficit from last year, I suppose), but I do find time to read. Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2021:

Hope: an ARIA anthology

I’ve worked as editor as the annual anthology of short stories, essays, and poems by members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for three years now, and as editor, I also get to choose the theme! For our 2020 anthology, ‘hope’ seemed most appropriate. Besides, it’s our state’s motto! This collection showcases the varied talent within our 300+-member organization.

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

Yes, I read it. I borrowed it from the library, and I was curious. While it doesn’t really offer any new revelations, the former president’s niece offers insights into the man. The greed and dysfunction within the family (headed by Trump’s father) is mind-boggling at times.

Eventually Evie by Cat Lavoie

In my opinion, you just can’t go wrong with a Cat Lavoie book. This is chick lit at its very best – a modern woman who travels through life with plenty of bumps along the way. Evie is lovable and well-drawn. Really just a very fun read.

Home Waters by Elizabeth Devlin

If you’re a Rhode Islander, or even if you’re not, you’ll enjoy this book set in The Ocean State. Here’s a romance with an important message about ocean conservation, all set in and around Narragansett Bay. Local author Elizabeth Devlin has done a great job with this first in a series.

Halfway to Nowhere by Steena Marie and Elena Aitken

This novel is short and sweet, and a very enjoyable read. I believe it’s an introduction to future novels, and I’ll be looking for what comes next. A lovely mother-and-child connection.

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

If you’re familiar with The Lost Child of Philomena Lee or its subsequent movie, Philomena, then the plot behind this book won’t be a surprise. It’s set in Dublin in 1962 and is fiction, but based on the very real Magdalene Laundries, a Catholic institution that operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. It’s heartbreaking but a very good book.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I loved this novel – and I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. Arthur Less is a gay man in San Francisco, dreading his upcoming 50th birthday. To avoid attending the wedding of his ex-lover, he goes on a trip around the world. It’s poignant and funny and sad and wonderful.

The Mill Town by Sam Kafrissen

Another local author, and I was intrigued. Set in the dying town of West Warwick in 1958, this novel reminds one of the Sam Spade detective series. In fact, the character of Hugh Doherty figures in multiple Kafrissen novels. This story has a good plot, and while it would benefit greatly from a good edit, the author knows how to craft a tale.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

This book was published in 2019, so the headlines may have faded, but it shouldn’t matter. Journalist Ronan Farrow writes about the obstacles that were put in his way when he tried to investigate allegations of abuse by legendary filmmaker Harvey Weinstein. It’s about a lot of powerful men trying to keep quiet the stories of sexual abuse and assault against not-powerful women.

Our Wicked Lies by Glede Brown Kabongo

Here’s the tagline: “Her marriage is to die for…” Right?? Don’t you want to read this? (Answer: yes, you do). Kabongo is a great storyteller and knows how to weave tension into every scene. I’m looking to read more from her.

I Thought You Said This Would Work by Ann Garvin

Okay, so I wasn’t sure I would love this book as much as I did. A shaky start (for me), but oh boy – once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Three girlfriends with misunderstandings that have broken friendships apart, a road trip, and forgiveness. It’s really, really good.

COVID Chronicles by Dr. Therese Zink

Dr. Zink is a local author, who presents a book of essays, detailing the thoughts and memories of essential workers who helped to get the country through this crisis. If you want to read about the human spirit and its remarkable resiliency, this is for you.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I’ll admit, I wasn’t familiar with this book (even though it spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list). My sister told me about it a year or so ago. I finally read it this past spring and OMG. Talk about the best opening lines: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting in a Dumpster.” If you haven’t yet read this book, please go find it now.

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Maybe it was because I had just read The Glass Castle, but I sought out this book to read. The book is 20 years old now, so some of it might seem dated, but the story remains true, maybe truer now. She went undercover to work in low-paying jobs and tried to see if she could ‘match income to expenses.’

The Woman Who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes

Delightful, quirky, witty – everything you’d expect from Irish author Marian Keyes. A woman with a rare disease (Guillain-Barre syndrome) is hospitalized for months, only able to communicate by blinking. As she struggles with her identity (before and after the illness), relationships get complicated.

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip by Mary Helen Sheriff

Just so you know, Eve is the granddaughter and Boop is her grandmother. The road trip is essential, not only for their relationship, but for their respective healths (both physical and mental). It’s full of Southern charm and sayings, but is poignant and sweet at the same time.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

This is actually last summer’s big read, but I just got around to it (and now I can read Weiner’s next book, That Summer). The character of Daphne Berg is lovable, and this story – about female friendships and fallen-apart relationships, is classic Weiner.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Did I save the best for last? Oh, this book. Given to me by my pal Lisa at Ink Fish Books, it took me weeks to finish. But that’s not a bad thing. With possibly the most exquisite prose I’ve ever read, this novel – and it is a novel, it’s fiction – imagines the aftermath of the loss of William Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, from the bubonic plague at age 11. Now, it’s true that Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died in 1596 at age 11, but little was known about the boy. O’Farrell took what she did know and constructed a gorgeous novel about parents and children, grief, loss, and love.

So, there you are. I need to return to writing so I can have (at least) one book for my readers this year! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments. And be well, everyone – better days are here.

A Free Book to Start June

Image from flickr.com – free to use

Welcome to Pride Month! Annually in June, and to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – and those who love them – recognize the ongoing work to achieve social justice and equity for all humans.

If you don’t know about the Stonewall riots (also known as the Stonewall uprising), they happened at the end of June in 1969 in response to police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village (Manhattan), a traditionally gay bar. Lesbian and gay patrons, their supporters, and folks sympathetic to the movement pushed back against the violence, harassment, and persecution perpetrated by members of the police against gay and lesbian patrons. The uprising was seen as the beginning of a movement to outlaw discrimination against people based on their sexual preference. It’s been 52 years. Have things changed? Yes, in some ways, and for the better. However, discrimination and hatred are still with us, in many forms.

The movement continues, as does the fight for equality for all people. Perhaps it’s even more important now. The brave men and women who fought for freedom over 50 years ago didn’t risk (or in some cases, give up) their lives so that a select few groups could wield power and exert dominance over others.

My 2013 novel

To that end, I’m making one of my books free for the next five days. Bits of Broken Glass is about a small group of high school classmates who reunite 25 years after their high school graduation. It features diverse characters, all of whom carry baggage from their younger days, and all of whom fear some of the ghosts of the past. Bits of Broken Glass was an Amazon #1 bestseller a few years ago, but if you haven’t yet read it, now’s your chance. Download a copy for free, or pick up a paperback copy for about $10.00, either through Amazon or from your favorite bookstore. If your bookstore doesn’t have a copy in stock, just ask them to order it for you! And that title? Yes, it’s a fragment of a lyric from one of my favorite James Taylor songs.

Coming Soon – A Green Anthology

After the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge, which ended on April 30, I generally take a break from blogging. Can you blame me? Although most of the work is done during the months of February and March (so that I don’t have to blog each weekday – believe me, I learned the hard way!), still, I keep up with the April posts, catching little errors here and there. Also, I like to visit as many blogs as I can during the month of April, so little else gets done.

However, again this year I was chair of an annual project involving my fellow Rhode Island authors. For the sixth consecutive year, the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) will publish an anthology of stories, essays, and poetry by Rhode Island authors. This is my third year chairing and editing the project. It’s always exciting!

For 2021, I chose the theme of GREEN. I do believe an anthology should have a theme, something to tie together the submissions, and GREEN can be interpreted in many ways. There were stories and poems about GREEN in its many forms – envy, money, grassy areas, green eyes, ecology. The was memory and fantasy and baseball! We have a multitude of talent within our group.

So, look for our anthology, coming soon. It’s presently with the publishing company we use (https://www.stillwaterpress.com/). Copies will be available both online and through Stillwater.

And if you’re looking for past anthologies, check them out here:


#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “N” is for NINIGRET

It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Ninigret, who was also known as Juanemo according to Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, was a sachem, or chief, of the eastern Niantic tribe in New England. In 1637, Ninigret allied with the colonists and the Narragansett tribe (“N” is for Narragansett!) against the Pequots. The photo above is of the entrance to the wonderful Ninigret Park in Charlestown, Rhode Island.

According to history posted at Ninigret Park, after the glacier receded, indigenous peoples lived here in the warmer months, moving inland in the winter to villages surrounded by forest. A mound of oyster shells, called a midden, dating from thousands of years ago, is located in the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, which is adjacent to Ninigret Park.

The area was farmland from the mid-1600s until the beginning of World War II.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

During World War II, the federal government acquired the land for a naval airfield. Former President George H.W. Bush trained in 1943, and ultimately 1,500 personnel were stationed at the base. In 1944, Navy pilots trained in night fighter operations. Training was dangerous, resulting in 62 deaths from airplane crashes off the coast and in the nearby woods and swamps. The airfield was decommissioned in the early 1970s. In 1979, the property became the Salt Pond Unit of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

According to archaeologists, Native people were the first to live off Ninigret Pond and its surrounding lands, taking advantage of the abundant supply of fish, shellfish, and other animals that the pond had to offer.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

You know what day it is. But how much do you know about St. Patrick? Maybe you know that this is the day he died, in the fifth century. Maybe you know that this is a religious holiday in Ireland – it’s celebrated differently than here in America. Because March 17 usually falls within the forty days of Lent, no-meat restrictions are waived for Catholics so that the Irish can eat bacon and cabbage.

But did you know that Patrick was born in Britain, when it was ruled by the Romans? Did you know that he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was just 16? He is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people.

Remember, too, that up until the mid-1800s, most of the Irish immigrants in America were Protestant. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to 1 million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation. These new immigrants were despised – for being Catholic, for speaking strangely (we love the brogue now, don’t we?), and most of them couldn’t even land the lowest level menial job. They’ve been portrayed as drunk and uncouth.

Today is a day to celebrate, whether you have Irish ancestry or not. Be mindful of social restrictions and please, don’t drink and drive. I’ve got corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot – it’s not my favorite meal, but I’ll follow tradition once year. After all, I’m a Reynolds. And here’s a long concert from The Dubliners to round out the day. Sláinte!