That Summer Read Along

TSRA

The Facebook page for the That Summer Read Along is live today!  Head on over to https://www.facebook.com/events/1470021306587444/ to get yourself signed up.

Lauren announced on her website this morning that one lucky reader who signs up for this event by August 4th will win a signed copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla.  If that isn’t enough to convince you, there will be prizes and insider info throughout the month.  The first week will be led by Christina, a blogger over at Austenprose.  Tomorrow, Lauren will be kicking the event off with a welcome, so make sure you get signed up today.

Top Five Friday: Summer Reads

Wrapping up my week of excitement for Lauren Willig’s new release, That Summer, I thought I would devote today’s list to summer books! Some of these books are set in the summertime, and some of them just seem like great choices to take to the beach.

lost lake 1. Lost Lake, by Sarah Addison Allen. This is a great read about a young widow named Kate who takes her daughter Devin for a spontaneous and much-needed vacation to Lost Lake, GA. They meet a charming and eccentric cast of characters, most of whom have been spending their summers at Lost Lake for years. The cottages on the lake are owned by Kate’s aunt Eby, and when Kate realizes that Eby is planning to sell the place at the end of the season, she and the other vacationers know they’ve got a limited amount of time to change Eby’s mind.
 grown-up 2. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, by Joshilyn Jackson. It may be best to let Joshilyn describe this book for you herself: “Every fifteen years, trouble comes after the Slocumb women. Now, as their youngest turns fifteen, a whole new kind of commotion is chasing all three generations. Mosey’s desperate to know who used their yard as a make-shift cemetery, and why. The oldest, forty-five year old Ginny, fights to protect Mosey from the truth, a fight that could cost Ginny the love of her life. Between them is Liza, silenced by a stroke, with the answers trapped inside her. To survive Liza’s secrets and Mosey’s insistent adventures, Ginny must learn to trust the love that braids the strands of their past—and stop at nothing to defend their future.” It’s a mystery and a coming-of-age story all wrapped into one. Also, the chapters written from Liza’s perspective were fascinating. This book feels summery because, thanks to the southern setting, there are lots of descriptions of hot days and sunshine.
 south of broad  3. South of Broad, by Pat Conroy. This was my first Pat Conroy novel, and I read it with my book club a few years ago. I keep meaning to go back to it. This is the story of Leopold Bloom King, the eclectic group of friends that he gathers in high school, and the ways that they continue to impact each other’s lives (for better or worse) twenty years after they graduate. Conroy’s publisher calls this book “a love letter to Charleston.” With all the references to the beach and Charleston life, this is a great summer book (although, perhaps not for you, Laney).
 forgotten garden  4. The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. This is (another) one of my favorite time-slip books. In modern England, Cassandra’s beloved grandmother Nell has passed away. Cassandra feels like she’s lost everything that matters to her, but then she finds that Nell has left her a book of strange and dark fairytales by Eliza Makepeace, a Victorian authoress who wrote this one book and then vanished. Cassandra decides that her best hope of getting her life back on track is to take her book of fairytales and revisit Nell’s past to answer the questions she’s always had about her family. A great read for any time of the year, but any book that has a garden as such a central feature feels distinctly summery.
 hundred summers 5. A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams. Lily Dane decides to spend the summer of 1938 with her family in the oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island. What Lily wants is rest and relaxation, but what she gets is a blast from the past: Nick and Budgie Greenwald. Budgie and Lily were best friends when they were girls, and Nick and Lily were a serious couple for a long time – until Budgie decided that she wanted him, too. Lily, Nick and Budgie stumble through a summer of awkward interactions, with Budgie trying to act like the past doesn’t exist and Nick doing his best to avoid both of them. Lily tries to understand Budgie’s betrayal and the many secrets that she’s hiding, unaware that a powerful hurricane is about to make a sudden and devastating landfall right in the heart of their town. No explanation necessary for why this one makes the list!

 

Happy Friday!

The Ashford Affair

Continuing the theme this week of my joy over Lauren Willig’s newest release, That Summer, I decided to post a review that I wrote for her first standalone novel, The Ashford Affair.  This book was released in April of last year, and it’s now available in paperback.  Lauren calls this book “a little Downton Abbey and a little Out of Africa.”  If you’ve read it and felt like the ending was just a bit abrupt or left too many questions unanswered (I’m looking at you, Mom!), you may enjoy this entry on Lauren’s blog.  She posted an entire final chapter of the book that was, to use her own words, “left on the cutting room floor.”  I enjoyed the extra peak into what was going on with these characters.  Below is my review of The Ashford Affair, written after my first reading in January 2013.

ashford

I won an advanced copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway listed by St. Martin’s Press. I could not have been more excited. I am a big fan of Lauren Willig’s “Pink Carnation” series, and I have been looking forward to seeing how Lauren would write on a topic that wasn’t Napoleonic spies.

I was hugely impressed. Lauren’s story spans about a hundred years of one family’s history, with settings in post-WWI England, 1920s Kenya, and modern day NYC. The modern-day heroine, Clementine Evans, is an associate in a law firm and trying desperately to become a partner. She has put the majority of her life on hold for her job, and all she has to show for it is a broken engagement and the realization that her beloved Granny Addie is 99 years old and looking it. When Granny Addie mistakenly refers to Clemmie as “Bea,” Clemmie realizes there are a lot of things she doesn’t know about her own family’s history, and she decides to do some digging.

Lauren’s flashbacks to England and Kenya are great. I loved the way she described the feel of England entering the jazz age – one generation trying hard to pretend nothing has changed while a younger generation pushes fearlessly into new music, fashions and entertainments. I enjoyed reading about the challenges of trying to start a coffee farm in Kenya. Lauren describes this book as more of a “Kate Morton” style of story than her previous books, and I agree with that. Along the way, as we slip back and forth between time periods, there are hints dropped and discoveries made that add to up a surprising, very satisfying conclusion.

I thought this book was great for several reasons. First, my grandmother passed away six months ago, so I identified strongly with Clemmie’s realization that time has slipped away, and there are countless things she wants to know about Granny Addie that she never thought to ask. Also, I have always liked the style of story where a family secret stretches over generations and enough clues remain for one person to piece the truth together. Lauren did a great job with this. Fans of Lauren’s earlier work will enjoy a hat-tip to her “Pink” readers – one of characters we meet in Kenya is a descendant of Lord Vaughn and Mary Alsworthy from the “Pink” series.

I have really enjoyed all of Lauren’s books, and it’s nice to know she won’t be riding off into the sunset when she brings the “Pink” series to a close. I look forward to seeing what she will do next!

Happy Release Day, Lauren Willig!

that summer

Ok y’all, get ready, because I have been looking forward to this day for months. MONTHS, I tell you. Today, June 3rd, is release day for Lauren Willig’s latest standalone novel That Summer.

For those of you who do not know, I love and adore Lauren Willig in a way that rivals Leslie Knope’s enthusiasm for Ann Perkins.

Leslie Ann

I started reading her books about four years ago, and I own every one. She writes the Pink Carnation series, which are historical fiction and mysteries set in the early 1800s. The eleventh book in that series is coming out later this year.

Lauren announced recently that her Pink series would be coming to an end with the publication of book twelve in 2015. Although I’m sure there will be plenty of weeping and existential crisis when I’ve read the last one, I’m so glad to know that Lauren won’t be done with writing when she is done with Pink. Last year, Lauren published her first standalone novel, The Ashford Affair, which wove together the stories of a modern Manhattan girl with her grandmother who lived in Edwardian England and Kenya. It was excellent, and now I cannot wait to read her latest release.

Here is what St. Martin’s Press has to say about That Summer:

A page-turning new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig, about a woman who inherits a house in England… and the mysterious past that comes with it.

2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six (and gave her nightmares that have lasted into adulthood). But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, Lauren has posted the first chapter on her website so you can take a peek at it.

While you are doing that, I’ll be at the book store.