Jenny Hale

The Summer House [Jenny Hale]

Some summers will stay with you forever…

Callie Weaver and best friend Olivia Dixon have finally done it: put their life savings into the beach house they admired through childhood summers, on the dazzling white sand of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They’re going to buff the salt from its windows, paint its sun-bleached sidings, and open it as a bed and breakfast.

Callie’s too busy to think about her love life, but when she catches the attention of local heartthrob Luke Sullivan, his blue eyes and easy smile make it hard to say no. He’s heir to his father’s property empire, and the papers say he’s just another playboy, but as they laugh in the ocean waves, Callie realizes there’s more to this man than money and good looks.

Just when true happiness seems within reach, Callie and Olivia find a diary full of secrets… secrets that stretch across the island, and have the power to turn lives upside down. As Callie reads, she unravels a mystery that makes her heart drop through the floor.

Will Callie and Luke be pulled apart by the storm it unleashes, or can true love save them?

My thoughts on the book: This is the first “summer” book I’ve read from Jenny Hale. I had already reviewed one of her Christmas novels a few months ago and I had really enjoyed the author’s writing style. So I knew that I was likely to enjoy this new publication.

And the promise of a feel-good, romantic story has been delivered. I really had a lovely time delving into this heartwarming tale. The whole cast was endearing and easy to like. Although at first, I was having some reservations about the “millionaire” side of Luke.

I couldn’t not say anything about this element of the book, especially given that I sort of criticized this recurring theme/cliché in chick lit in my last review of the French translation of “A Night With Grace Kelly” by Lucy Holliday. But, last weekend Pippa Middleton did marry that kind of rare man, so it is not as unrealistic as one would think, right? Let’s accept this feature as part of the wild romantic fantasy we might all nurture to some extent at some point! 😊

Overall, I enjoyed seeing the main protagonists slowly get to know each other. The author really managed to write warm scenes with vivid, dynamic descriptions. I really was under the impression that the film was unfolding before my eyes.

The Summer House is a feel-good love story for the hopeless romantics we all secretly are. Luke is the dream boyfriend we’d all wish to meet one day — kind, supportive and reliable. I recommend this book if you need a sweet, easy read to escape.

My score:  ♥ ♥ ♥ (= I liked it a lot)

*****

Special question for the author: I’m having some doubts about a short sentence that I found a bit odd in the context of the hurricane taking place near the end. Since Luke is a wealthy man, how come his sister is worried about where he would stay if his house is destroyed? One would think that accommodation wouldn’t be a problem for a millionaire? Or did I miss something?

EDIT (May 24) : Jenny Hale kindly answered my question on Twitter. If you need some background info like me, here it goes:

In a year, 38 million people visit overnight on a strip of land a mere 200 mikes long. During a big storm, People need to be in town for repairs but it’s a busy little place and very few hotels. Thanks for the review! Glad you enjoyed it. And all those visitors have rented cottages so they’re all booked or destroyed during a hurricane. Hope all that makes sense! 🙂

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Bridget Geraghty

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well [Bridget Geraghty]

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her cherished mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path.

Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again.

But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more that a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

My thoughts on the book: When I read the summary of this children’s book on NetGalley, I was very keen on delving into it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Although the book is very short (about 100 pages), it is filled with emotions and conveys a beautiful, profound message.

Through young Molly’s perspective, the author deals with the following themes — losing a parent at a young age, struggling with grief and anger, finding it hard to accept new family members (especially a new mother and a new young sibling).

The writing style is easily accessible for a young audience. I thought it was fast-paced and well written. It is both very descriptive and dynamic. You can easily follow Molly’s stream of thought, her frustration and her pain. I thought her difficult relationship with fidgety Henry was very interesting and evolving in a credible way.

The wishing well is a relevant symbol about hope. Can Molly finally find some closure and come to terms with her pain? Will she let people find their way to her grieving heart? I was afraid that given how short the book is, it would leave me wanting for more. But, the author managed to include all the necessary ingredients. It never feels rushed and there are no overlong passages. So, sometimes, shorter is better!

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well is a touching, moving tale about loss, family love and support, as well as new beginnings.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (= A must-read)

Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos [Jack Cheng]

An astonishingly moving middle-grade debut about a space-obsessed boy’s quest for family and home.

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

My thoughts on the novel: What a lovely surprise! See You in the Cosmos is an entertaining, touching tale about a young boy passionate about space and alien lifeforms and who embarks on a riveting journey through America.

I thought the author really managed to capture and recreate this very particular stream of thought youngsters have. You get a narration made up of long sentences reflecting the incredible amount of ideas that go through the mind of Alex.

I was not only moved by his perspective of the world, but also very amused by his candor and funny interpretations of things he hears and sees, especially when faced with young adult problems. He tries to make sense of everything and everyone surrounding him.

He’s a very smart, mature eleven-year-old who has to deal with a broken family — a strong character who helps make this story a beautiful tale with a strong message about love, family, friendship and chasing after your dreams.

I highly recommend this novel to the young public who can easily identify with Alex, but also to teenagers and adults who will definitely get something out it too.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

Darcie Boleyn

A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas [Darcie Boleyn]

Lucie Quigley hates Christmas. It’s the time of year when everything goes wrong in her life. So this year, when she’s asked to be a bridesmaid at her friend Petra’s Manhattan wedding, she jumps at the invitation to escape the festivities.

Dale Treharne has been best friends with Lucie for as long as he can remember. He’s used to looking out for his oldest friend and when she asks him to be her plus one, he can’t seem to find a reason to refuse. Instead, he sees it as a way to help Lucie get through what is, for her, the most miserable time of the year.

In New York, as the snow starts to fall, Lucie and Dale start to realise that their feelings run deeper than just friendship. But can they overcome their pasts, and make it a very merry Manhattan Christmas?


My thoughts on the novel: A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas is a true gem. This feel-good novel is both moving and enchanting. From Tonbridge, England to Manhattan, New York, the reader gradually learns more about the deep, complicated relationship between Lucie and Dale, two best friends who’ve known each other since childhood.

Lucie has a difficult, heartbreaking past. I thought the author wrote beautifully about Lucie’s struggle with the memory of her mother dying on Christmas Eve all these years ago. Dale is a sensitive, affectionate character that you’ll grow very fond of. You know they’re made for each other and yet, it’s lovely to see the whole process they have to go through to reach the same conclusion.

Manhattan around Christmas time offers the perfect backdrop for the most romantic scenes. The whole drama around Petra’s big fancy wedding is very entertaining, especially because of the clash between these two opposite worlds — Lucie and Dale vs Petra and her clique.

It’s a festive, poignant read you won’t be able to put down until the end.

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

Jenny Hale

All I Want for Christmas [Jenny Hale]

Snowflakes are falling, there’s carol singing on every corner, and Leah Evans is preparing for a family Christmas at her grandmother’s majestic plantation house in Virginia. It won’t be the same now that her beloved Nan is gone, but when Leah discovers she has inherited the mansion, she knows she can give her daughter Sadie the childhood of her dreams.

But there’s a catch. Leah must split the house with a man called David Forester. Leah hasn’t heard that name in a long time. Not since they were kids, when Davey was always there to catch her.

Now David is all grown up. He’s gorgeous, successful, and certain of one thing: Leah should sell him her half of the house.

They can’t agree, but as they share memories over wine by the log fire, Leah notices a fluttering in her stomach. And by the look in his eyes, he’s starting to feel it too.

Will it be Leah or David who must give up their dreams? Or, with a little bit of Christmas magic, will they finally understand Nan’s advice to them both about living life without regrets … and take a chance on true love?


My thoughts on the novel: A special thank you to Bookouture, NetGalley and Jenny Hale for letting me read this heartwarming Christmas tale. All I Want for Christmas is a must-read feel-good novel for this holiday season.

Single mother Leah Evans is an interesting character. She’s strong-willed, sensitive and loving. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship with daughter Sadie and her close friends a.k.a The Girls! After learning about all her struggles, you cannot help but feel resentment when the news break that Nan, Leah’s beloved grandmother, actually didn’t leave the family property solely to Leah as originally planned. A certain David also inherited half of it. This intriguing turn of events makes you really wonder what could have happened for lovely Granny to throw such a wrench in Leah and Sadie’s dream!

As the plot unfolds, the reader eventually grows to appreciate Nan whose secret is unveiled with poignancy. Leah and David share childhood memories that resurface as they spend quality time together. Step by step, you realise that all Nan did was with a specific purpose in mind.

All I Want for Christmas is a festive, touching novel about family, friendship and love.

Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥