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?

What I Read this Summer


For the past eight years, my summers have been spent mostly editing and rewriting a novel. Not so much this year – the pandemic and everything else has me stymied, and the new novel I’d started in January has languished. Oh, it’ll get done, eventually. So I read more than I usually do, which is also a good thing. Here’s what I read this summer:

The Last Week of May by Roisin Meaney (2007). One of my favorite writers, Roisin Meaney will remind you of the late Maeve Binchy. Great character-driven stories set mostly in Ireland, The Last Week of May centers around May O’Callaghan and her neighbors in the village of Kilpatrick.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz (2020). Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Connie Schultz wrote a novel, although it seems to be based in large part on her own family and life. Like another journalist-turned-novelist, Anna Quindlen, Schultz’s writing style is crisp and uncluttered. Loved it.

Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths by Connie Schultz (2006). This book is a compilation of Schultz’s commentaries and columns. Fourteen years after its initial publication, many of the topics are even more timely today – single motherhood, race relations, voting (or not voting).

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig (2019). My husband gave me this book for Christmas, but I didn’t get around to it until the summer (see first paragraph above). It’s an epic tale about generations on the island of Barbados in the 1800s. Lots of characters, and it’s a good idea to make notes about the relationships as you read (the author couldn’t include a family tree because it would spoil the story). The writing is exquisite.

One Summer by Roisin Meaney (2012). I’m making my way through Meaney’s books, a couple at a time. This one is about a young woman named Nell, who moves from Dublin to the island of Roone, off the west coast of Ireland (loosely based on the island of Valentia, off the Kerry coast). Again, a delightful and quirky mix of characters make for a most enjoyable read.

After the Wedding by Roisin Meaney (2014). This is a sequel to One Summer, so as soon as I’d finished reading One Summer, I downloaded this one. The reader is taken again to the island of Roone, to continue the stories set up in the first book. Meaney’s books are best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a soft blanket (or pet) in your lap.

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore (2015). Wow. This book hooked me right from the start, and the tension didn’t let up! This is a great story about modern-day parents and kids under pressure to achieve. The Hawthornes may look like the perfect family, but underneath the veneer there’s all kinds of angst and desperation, and secrets!

The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan (2020). I read this one all the way through (because it takes a lot for me to give up on a book), and I liked it enough, but it did feel like there was way too much telling and not enough showing (Writing 101). At time it felt as though I was reading a screenplay.

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch (2020). I’m glad I stayed with this book, because it was worth it. Cleo McDougal will annoy you – because she’s flawed! But you’ll find yourself totally invested, and rooting for her redemption. I loved it.

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2019). Another of my favorite authors, it feels as though she writes just for me. What a gift she has for telling a story. This one is set in the summer of 1969 and features a 14-year-old boy, Lucas Painter, at the center. Can I just say that Hyde captures the spirit of this teenaged boy perfectly?

The New Girl by Daniel Silva (2019). Both my husband and my cousin Becky are big fans of Daniel Silva. I had never read any of his books, but after my husband finished it, I decided it would be my next read. Okay, so now I’m a fan, too. I wasn’t sure I’d take to this thriller, but Silva kept my attention through every twist and turn on the page. I will definitely be reading more.

Something in Common by Roisin Meaney (2013). Another by Meaney, this one between aspiring writer Sarah and hard-edged journalist Helen. Meaney doesn’t feel obligated to give us the cliched happy-ever-after. That’s the easy way. Instead, she tells a more realistic story that will challenge you at every turn. She’s brilliant. Full stop.

The Heartbreak Café by Melissa Hill (2011). I can’t remember who recommended Melissa Hill to me. Maybe just as well. I tried, but I couldn’t finish it. There were way too many grammatical errors and the plot was going nowhere. It’s hard to quit a book, but I needed to move on from this.

28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand (2020). Inspired by the movie “Same Time, Next Year,” Hilderbrand creates her own story based on , of course, her beloved Nantucket island. Hilderbrand is called the ‘Queen of the Beach Read,’ with good reason.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor 2017).  I did enjoy reading this book. It felt like it was meticulously researched, and told a compelling story – something a bit different about the Resistance. But…..here’s my pet peeve. When an author uses a phrase or word too often, it settles in my mind and takes away from the enjoyment of reading. In this case, it was ‘a little.’ There are 148 instances of ‘a little’ in this book – too much! Her editor should have picked up on it. Smiled a little, shivered a little, laughed a little. Ugh.

The Reunion by Roisin Meaney (2016). Listen, Meaney’s books are quick reads, that’s why I could tear through them. Plus, I hated to put them down! Returning to a Roisin Meaney novel is one of the best things I can do for myself. I lose myself in her characters, people you wish you knew personally. I indulge in the plot, not cliched or predictable. I revel in the descriptions of places and food.

The Nanny Diaries by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus (2002). I returned to this book for research purposes (my new novel is about a nanny). I remember grabbing it from the library nearly twenty years ago – what a delicious read! Still great, if a little dated.

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand (2014). Some of Hilderbrand’s most fervent fans did not like this book. I loved it. Delving into uncomfortable topics is a good thing – I felt all of it, from Agnes’s relationship with CJ, to Dabney’s relationship with Box. All of it. If you can make the reader cry at the end, to me that’s success! Well done.

An Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore (2016). It was clear the author did meticulous research for this book. Set in Amsterdam during the World War II years, it tells a story about Rachel, an 18-year-old Jewish girl who sees the atrocities happening to her Jewish friends and neighbors and gets involved in the Resistance. Excellent descriptions of the area (the author lived for a time in Amsterdam). There were a couple of graphic sexual references that just didn’t fit, but otherwise a must-read.

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2019). Unusual title, right? There’s a line in the book that really stayed with me: “People judge you by your most controversial half.” The central character, Raymond (17) is bi-racial and wondering where he belongs. His 92-year-old friend Millie was the daughter of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, which impacted her young life at the start of World War II. Together they find a way to reconcile their guilt and fear. This is a beautiful story, as always.

Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2007). Early CRH! I found the pacing a bit slow, but I really liked the characters. It’s about the bond between a five-year-old boy abandoned by his mother and the man who ends up raising him.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020). Well, this book kept me up all night recently. I could not put it down. Wasn’t even sleepy. Yes, it’s that good. Gorgeous, lyrical prose. Some say it’s reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I now need to read.

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand (2009). Back when she was writing a Nantucket “series,” this was the second book out of three. I didn’t read her books in order, but it didn’t matter. I liked this one a lot, because it brought out the characters so well.

Two Fridays in April by Roisin Meaney (2015). You can see that I read a lot of Meaney and Hilderbrand. Perhaps because they’re both so well suited to summer reading. Every one of Roisin Meaney’s books is a gem.

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (2010). I picked this one from my library. While nearly all of Hilderbrand’s novels take place on Nantucket, this one actually is set on Tuckernuck, a little spot of land just off Nantucket, owned by its summer residents and lacking paved roads and public utilities. Perfect spot for a mother to bring her two grown daughters and her widowed sister, where, without the distractions of modern-day life, the women are forced into introspection.

The Daisy Picker by Roisin Meaney (2004). This was Meaney’s first novel, and it’s a good one! Main character Lizzie, 41, is stuck in a rut, with a dead-end job and a reluctant fiancé. After seeing a magazine article about regrets, Lizzie decides to pack it in, leave her parents’ home, and drive 80 miles away to start a new adventure. Bravo, Lizzie!

Rogue’s Isles by Thomas Briody (1995). How did I not know about this book?? Thanks to Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/ I found Tom Briody’s novel, loosely (very loosely) based on the credit union crisis and subsequent disappearance of the notorious Joseph Mollicone on the early 1990s. A great read!

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (2013). I remember when this book was released, saying I wanted to read it. Well, seven years later, I got around to it. Graham is best known as Lorelei Gilmore on “The Gilmore Girls” and Sarah Braverman on “Parenthood.” It seems to be semi-autobiographical, and is definitely in the voice of Graham/Gilmore/Braverman. Funny, light (mostly), and touching, it defines the hopefulness of a newcomer in New York City, hoping to make it big.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (2016). I had this book at the cottage last week, and spent many days by the pool. I stuck with it, but I did find myself turning pages rapidly, just to get through a chapter. The plot was somewhat compelling, and the characters were okay, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about this book.

Okay, I counted 29 books – I don’t think I’ve read that much in a summer since I was eight years old. How about you? What did you read that you loved? Any recommendations?