It’s that time of year again. Here are my summer reads recommendation. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Mystery – Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry by Mary Higgins Clark
Investigative journalist, Gina Kane, receives an email from a “CRyan” describing her “terrible experience” while working at cable news network, REL. Gina pursues the story but is shocked to discover that Ryan, an experienced jet skier, has died in a Jet Ski accident while on vacation.
As Gina digs into the allegations, more women begin to emerge with similar accusations. REL attorney, Michael Carter, attempts to keep the story from making headlines by settling with the victims, but Gina Kane’s determination to uncover the truth is hitting too close to its target, endangering everyone involved.
My Thoughts: Who doesn’t love a good mystery? I love mysteries, especially Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. I was eager to read this, as I always am when I hear that MHC has a new book, and I was more than eager when the Queen of Suspense died just a few weeks after the book’s release. I’m recommending this book for that reason alone. The plot line was very good–true MHC caliber. The writing, however, was not. I often found myself wondering if the Queen had actually written the book. Perhaps the real mystery here isn’t the storyline but who wrote, or at the very least finished, the manuscript. I’d love to hear what you think.
Historical Espionage – All the Ways We Say Goodbye by Beatriz Williams
A French heiress, a female resistance fighter, and a widow – their fates entwined by what goes on inside the Paris Ritz Hotel…
As war breaks out in 1914 France, Aurelie finds herself trapped on the wrong side of the front and the wrong side of love. Her pre-war friendship with German Officer, Maximilian Von Sternburg, deepens as he tries to protect Aurelie and her father from the German forces who have commandeered their ancestral home. With Max’s help, Aurelie escapes to the Ritz where she seeks the help of her estranged American heiress mother.
Raised by her grandmother, Marguerite Villon, vows to remain in her home at the Paris Ritz as the Germans begin their WWII invasion in 1942. Acting as a courier for British forger, Legrand, Marguerite becomes an active resistance fighter in Paris’s underground network. A devastating secret forces her to commit an act of betrayal against herself, her family, and the man she loves.
In 1964, Babs Langford travels to Paris to discover the identity of the mysterious woman, “La Fleur,” her dead husband’s true love. She teams up with American lawyer, Drew Bowdoin, also seeking the identity of “La Fleur.” A cast of memorable characters at the Paris Ritz Hotel aid them in their quest with unexpected results.
My thoughts: What I loved about this book were the characters, so real and so desperate for different reasons. Though a bit confusing at times with the alternating generations, I found myself pulled into WWI, WWII, and Post-War France with no desire to come back to the present. Three authors writing three stories about three very different women add to the intrigue. Get ready for a wild ride through the 20th Century!
Historical Fiction – Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
Reader’s first learned about Cilka in the acclaimed book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Cilka was, according to tattooist, Lale Sokolov, “the bravest person I ever met.”
WWII is over, and the liberation of Auschwitz has begun. Cilka believes her time in a prison camp is over until the Russian officers decide she is a war criminal, and she is condemned for sleeping with the enemy, her only means of survival during the war. Now, Cilka faces an even longer imprisonment in a camp in Siberia. Faced with challenges both new and horrifyingly familiar, Cilka meets a kind female doctor who takes her under her wing and trains Cilka to be a nurse. Cilka discovers qualities she never knew she had–strength, resilience, and even love.
My Thoughts: I loved this book as much as, if not more than, The Tattooist. Cilka is a character who immediately captures one’s heart and won’t let go. Her story, based on the real life story of Cilka Klein, is one of heartbreak, triumph, despair, resilience, and redemption.
Legal Thriller – The Guardians by John Grisham
A young, small town, Florida lawyer, Keith Russo, was shot dead at his desk as he worked late at night. The killer left no clues. Despite having no witnesses and no motive, police arrested Quincy Miller, a young black man, once a client of Russo’s. Quincy was sentenced to life in prison. For twenty-two years he maintained his innocence, but nobody listened; nobody cared. Desperate to be heard, Quincy writes a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small nonprofit run by attorney and Episcopal minister, Cullen Post.
Post travels the country fighting for those who have been wrongfully convicted and forgotten by the system. He takes Quincy’s case but soon finds that the case is more than he bargained for. Those who murdered Keith Russo do not want Quincy exonerated, and they have the power to thwart justice and kill anyone who gets in their way.
My Thoughts: Grisham has written another spellbinding, captivating page-turner. For those who wish to the see the justice system work the way it should, this books speaks to the heart. Inspired by the likes of attorney and advocate Bryan Stevenson and his Equal Justice Initiative, Grisham takes on the establishment and wins. This is a timely book with important topics for this day and age with lessons that we all need to learn.￼
For Fun – Queen Bee by Dorothea Benton Frank
Beekeeper, Holly, McNee Kensen, lives in Benton’s oft-visited world of Sullivan’s Island, off the coast of South Carolina. Holly’s mother, affectionately, or not-so affectionately called The Queen Bee, is demanding, demeaning, and a dramatic hypochondriac. Holly escapes her claustrophobic life and suffocating mother by watching the boys next door, sons of the island’s young widower, Archie.
When her sister, Leslie, unexpectedly returns home, Holly’s life is turned upside down. Both sisters insist that Archie’s new girlfriend is not right for him, and both want their mother to grow up and get a life. “In her twentieth novel, Dorothea Benton Frank brings us back to her beloved island with an unforgettable story where the Lowcountry magic of the natural world collides with the beat of the human heart.”
My thoughts: Another author lost to us this spring was Dorothea Benton Frank whose novels about the Southern Lowcountry are timeless tales of family, faith, and fun. Queen Bee is no exception. With a sense of both wit and wonder, Benton weaves a tale that will have you shaking your head, gasping with surprise, and laughing out loud.
Romantic Beach Read – Island of Hope by Amy Schisler
I would be remiss if I didn’t add a book of my own.
Hope is that thing that sees through walls, breaks through barriers, and propels dreams into reality. Despite numerous struggles and tragedies, the Middleton and Kelly families live humble and faith-filled lives on the Atlantic Ocean resort town of Chincoteague Island, Virginia. The tight-knit families represent everything Nick Black hopes to have – loving parents, welcoming homes, and stable lives, but a broken heart confirms his belief that he is unworthy of everlasting happiness. Taylor Murray wants nothing more than to be one of the world-famous Chincoteague Island Saltwater Cowboys, but a long-standing tradition stands in her way and pits her against her friends and neighbors. Brought together by a sudden tragedy, Nick and Taylor must navigate the waters of death, darkness, and despair in order to discover that miracles abound, promises are fleeting, and hope is a necessity for the families on Chincoteague Island.
If you didn’t pick this up last summer, now is a great time to read the final book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy. Island of Hope has just received the 2020 Golden Quill Award for Inspirational Fiction.
Other books I read over the past year and could not put down:
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict – I loved this book but was left wanting in the end by the fast-forward to her later years and so much missing information about Hedy Lamar’s real life (her “adopted” son, her many inventions, and her Oscar-winning movie, Samson and Delilah). Still, it was worth the read to get a glimpse into the life of the Jewish refugee who became an international legend.
Criss Cross by James Patterson – For a while, the Alex Cross books lost their magic, and I believe it was because he was using too many co-writers who didn’t have his story-telling genius. Like last year’s pick, The People vs. Alex Cross, this is James Patterson only and is Patterson at his best.
The Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler – a look at the real-life Texas establishment, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls, this book is “An emotionally raw and resonant story of love, loss, and the enduring power of friendship, following the lives of two young women connected by a home for ‘fallen girls’.”
The Alice Network and The Huntress by Kate Quinn – One is a thrilling WWII espionage book about the underground resistance team of women heroines in France. The other is about a female Russian pilot during WWII with vengeance on her mind. These will keep you on your toes!
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce – A delightful WWII piece about a young female journalist with big dreams of war correspondence who secretly becomes the British Dear Abby. There are laughs, tears, and many moments of breath-holding as the floundering newspaper and its staff navigate London during the Blitz.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan – my favorite read from last summer, about the romance and marriage of C.S. Lewis, which I wrote about here.
What were some of your favorite books from the last year?
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).
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