Author Spotlight, Cozy Mysteries, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

June & July 2022 Reads

I even added stars next to my July favorites!

I guess you could say that I’ve read a lot of books in the last two months! People ask how I do it and this is my answer:

  • I live in a small town where there isn’t much to do.
  • I’m still living the pandemic lifestyle, staying home even more than usual.
  • My husband has had to work lots of overtime lately.
  • We don’t have kids.
  • I sleep terribly.
  • I read fast.
  • My online book group has tons of motivational activities.
  • I upgraded my Kindle from a Basic to a Paperwhite Signature. (I was getting eye strain from the Basic. My poor eyes are so happy now!)

Some books I skim, some I give a great deal of attention to, and there are even some that I start and don’t finish (I don’t list these.) You may recognize some titles from previous posts. There are still a few I plan to acknowledge here, but the ones who had the greatest impact on me have already been reviewed. It’s difficult to get to everything.

I also get asked about authors. Which authors do I recommend? This is a TOUGH question! Everyone’s tastes are different. Please keep in mind that just because I love a book doesn’t mean everyone else will love it. This is why it’s important to read several reviews (unless you’re really brave)–and not just mine–before buying a book. Join Goodreads, read reviews on Amazon, join NetGalley, find a Facebook group for your age and genre preference. Being proactive is the only way to find what YOU enjoy reading.

But to answer the author question, here are some favorites–all fiction. You can find all of them in the “author” section of this site.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into authors to research and whose works to pursue. For the devoted reader there is truly something for everyone. ❤️

Email subscribers: Visit readwithkristie.com to see the site in its entirety.

HAPPY READING!

Author Spotlight, Fiction, Romance

Author Spotlight: Emily Henry

One cannot read an Emily Henry book without laughing out loud. Her biting wit and highly intelligent characters have created quite a following these past few years. Her female characters are educated, funny, flawed, and often make life decisions that…could be better. The men are often sharp and closed off, but with great potential when the right woman comes along. The banter between the sexes usually evolves from scathing and competitive to civil to friendly to more. The steamy level is medium to low, but there is some steam in every book.

BEACH READ, published in 2020, is my favorite of Emily Henry’s three contemporary novels. It’s promoted as a rom-com, but there is actually a lot of depth to this story. January Andrews, a romance writer in a slump, learns about her father’s infidelity after his death. She inherits a beach house he used for his affair, planning to sell it. While cleaning it out she discovers that her neighbor is literary giant, Augustus Everett. He was also her rival in college. They strike a deal to stir up their creativity. January will write a dark, brooding book in Gus’s style and he will write a romance. The first one who sells their book is the winner. There is some wonderful dialogue with unexpected depth. 9/10 Stars

PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION, published in 2021, follows the “friends to more” formula. Poppy and Alex are best friends. She is a travel writer who now lives in New York. He is a high school teacher who stayed behind in their Midwest hometown. They have little in common except a shared history that’s lasted decades and their annual vacations together. This year the destination is less exotic Palm Springs, California. Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. But those challenges bring out some hidden feelings too. Again, great characters. 8.5/10 Stars

BOOK LOVERS, Henry’s 2022 novel, introduces us to literary agent Nora Stephens. While coddling one of her writers into meeting a deadline, she has to deal with a new publisher, Charlie Lastra, known for his no-nonsense approach. Nora agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the setting for her client’s books, hoping to cultivate some ideas. She takes her pregnant sister, Libby, and they discover that it is Charlie’s hometown. In addition, he’s there helping his family through some hard times. Seeing him in his natural setting, with old friends and family, changes things. Very cute. 8/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Author Spotlight, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is known for her tales of bucolic village life in World War II England. She grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories of the time period, longing to write while working as an editor for different publishing houses. After receiving an MA in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University, she wrote her debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. I enjoyed that book very much in 2019– a personally dramatic year–and it never received a mention on this site. It’s time to fix that, along with introducing you to her upcoming book, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle.

The Chilbury Women’s Choir: Told through a series of letters, we learn about the lives of several different women in the village of Chilbury in 1940. The war is raging and the vicar has decided to close the choir until the men return. The ladies take it upon themselves to establish a ladies’ choir (shock and horror) in their absence.

The characters who write the letters have very different personalities, a true testament that perception is everything. There is service, there is gossip, and there are lessons learned. I read and listened to this book. The audio book was especially enjoyable because of the multiple narrators. 9/10 Stars

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Available May 31, 2022: This book is a treat from start to finish. I loved it. Cressida Westcott is a renowned London fashion designer whose home and studio are destroyed in the Blitz. She finds refuge in her family’s manor where her niece, Violet, and nephew, Hugh, now live. Violet is thrilled to meet her famous aunt and invites her to the local village sewing circle. The newest project is to mend and update Grace Carlisle’s mother’s wedding dress. Rationing has made it impossible to get materials for a new dress and Grace, the vicar’s daughter, is engaged to be married. We cycle through the lives of Cressida, Violet, and Grace, whose stories become more entwined as time goes on.

This book is very special. I loved all the characters, their individual journeys, and–yes–the positive effects the war has on their lives. Each of them experienced their share of losses before the story begins and a few bumps after, but the majority of the novel is about their separate epiphanies and realizations about what is really important. People are humbled, they learn more about themselves, the British class system is called into question, and the American soldiers even make an appearance. Highly, highly recommended. 9.5/10 Stars

Author Spotlight, Fiction

Author Spotlight: Katherine Center

I am going to do something on this blog that I have never done before, and that is focus on a certain author. Let’s talk about Katherine Center.

Katherine Center graduated from Vassar College and received a Master’s in fiction from the University of Houston. She calls her style “bittersweet comic novels.” An ideal description.

Until recently, the two books I’d read that she’d written were The Lost Husband and How to Walk Away, (click to visit my reviews) both in 2018. I loved them both but went on to other things, as we often do.

Now, four years later, I’ve read three more of her books and I can honestly say that, if I were a storyteller, this is the kind of storyteller I wish I could be. Her books are infused with sadness, humor, wit, and characters beaten up by circumstance who need to start over. Like real life, none of these characters end up on the path they expected. Do any of us? And is that such a bad thing? We grow, we get wiser, we gain perspective, we appreciate things more–all because of the challenges hurled at us.

Things You Save in a Fire: Cassie is a hard-bitten female firefighter who moves from Austin, TX to Rockport, MA to care for her ailing mother. She jeopardized her career when it was at its peak, so this move is a chance for redemption. Aside from being the only woman in the firehouse, Cassie must also endure the pranks and fraternal atmosphere. These guys work hard and play hard. They’ve seen a lot and getting past their hardened exteriors will not be easy. Cassie’s only ally is “the rookie,” a new recruit. Now she just has to prove herself to the others.

In addition to dealing with a new job and a new town, Cassie must also reestablish a relationship with her estranged mother and heal from a violent incident. Her past has made it difficult to trust others. But the saving aspect is that, with one exception, everyone is good at heart, even those who caused hurt. It’s just a matter of allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to let others into their lives and hearts. 9/10 Stars

What You Wish For: Samantha is single, a bit eccentric, and dealing with epilepsy. It’s embarrassing and isolating. She’s ready for a change of scenery after being a school librarian in California for several years. She’s chosen Galveston, Texas as her new home, working in a school headed by her landlord and surrogate father, Max.

Then Max dies and militant new principal, Duncan Carpenter, is hired. He’s a cross between the fairy tale Beast and Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. The problem? Duncan was Sam’s previous principal in California and he used to be completely different. He was creative, fun, and inspiring. What happened? And why doesn’t he even remember her? Like the classic Katherine Center character, Duncan has issues that are reshaping him–but not for the better. He needs compassion, patience, and understanding. Sam does too. 9/10 Stars

Happiness for Beginners: I’ve saved the BEST for last. Remember Duncan from What You Wish For? Now we’re going to learn about his older sister, Helen, and his best friend, Jake. Helen is a first grade teacher, newly divorced, and about to embark on a three-week hiking trek. Jake has recently graduated college and is rethinking his future. He decides to clear his head on the same trek as Helen, bumming a ride to Wyoming in her cramped Subaru. Helen is annoyed at this optimistic, persistent, but highly intelligent kid. She’s known him for six years as her younger brother’s goofy friend, but never really paid attention to him. Now they’re thrown together on the road and, soon, in the wilderness, along with a motley crew of other young twenty-somethings, Helen being the oldest. When you’re at Nature’s mercy, it really changes people.

I LOVED this book. So much so that I bought the audiobook and listened to it again in one day. The banter between Helen and Jake, is humorous and sad, entertaining and profound. The supporting characters–Duncan, Grandma GiGi, and the hiking group are smart and fun. Did I mention that I LOVE this book? 9.5/10 Stars

*****

If you’ve said to yourself, “Well, these books sound formulaic,” I assure you, they are not. Yes, the author starts with a basic template for her characters, but once you get to know them and witness their interactions with each other, you’re sold. (I speak as someone famous for abandoning books that bore me–these never do.) There are lots of deep conversations about life and its struggles. There are people helping each other. There are decisions to be made about how invested one should become in the life of another at the risk of being hurt. They get you thinking about your own relationships and challenges.

Katherine Center has definitely become one of my favorite authors. Happily, there are still a few books left to explore. Her newest, The Bodyguard, will be published in July. She is also very generous to her readers, visiting book clubs in her home state of Texas and interacting with followers and friends on the Goodreads site, including myself.

Be aware that the language sometimes varies between PG and PG-13. But for a reader in their late thirties and beyond, the plots are very appealing. By this time you’ve already been knocked around a little, either by your own choices or the choices of others. Finding intelligent characters with similar experiences and reactions to life’s hardships is reassuring. They become your friends, you root for their happiness, and feel motivated to pursue your own.

Katherine Center’s Website: https://katherinecenter.com/