A SUMMER TO REMEMBER by Erika Montgomery

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ½


A SUMMER TO REMEMBER blends elements of family drama, mystery, and romance into a bittersweet story. Frankie is grieving the loss of her mother while trying to keep their Hollywood memorabilia store afloat. She comes across a couple of sealed letters, and a photograph of her mother with a pair of married movie stars taken a year before Frankie’s birth. Always curious about who her father was, Frankie heads across the country to Cape Cod where the photo was taken in hopes of finding clues to his identity.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the sense of place and the Hollywood nostalgia, and I was very curious about the family secrets surrounding Frankie’s father. The romance was lovely — two lost souls coming together. However, the pacing was slow, and I found the big reveal rather frustrating. It was unnecessary to keep this particular thing a secret for 30 years. If you can get past that hurdle, A SUMMER TO REMEMBER makes a great beach read that will leave you craving margaritas and fried clams, and wanting to dust off those old VHS movies.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

142 OSTRICHES by April Davila

Set against the unexpected splendor of an ostrich ranch in the California desert, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut conjures an absorbing and compelling heroine in a story of courage, family and forgiveness.

When Tallulah Jones was thirteen, her grandmother plucked her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brought her to the family ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything—just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.

Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property, and deeply rooted dysfunction, threaten Tallulah’s ambitions and eventually her life. With no options left, Tallulah must pull her head out of the sand and face the fifty-year legacy of a family in turmoil: the reality of her grandmother’s death, her mother’s alcoholism, her uncle’s covetous anger, and the 142 ostriches whose lives are in her hands.

Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★½

An ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert is the unique setting in this beautifully written novel of self-discovery. The location drew me into the story, and the author did a wonderful job creating a sense of place. Did you know ostriches can grow up to nine feet tall and weigh over 300 pounds? I would be pretty nervous about taking eggs from their nests!

In 142 OSTRICHES, young 20-something Tallulah Jones begrudgingly inherits the family ranch from her grandmother who died under suspicious circumstances. Having lived and worked there since her early teens, she’s ready to make a quick sale and leave as soon as possible. But when the birds suddenly stop laying eggs, she’s forced to pause a moment and finally face decades of family dysfunction.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up greatly enjoying it. The characters were realistic and flawed, and in the end I could sympathize with all of them, even the not-so-likable ones. I’d highly recommend this family drama set in the stunning California desert to readers looking for something a bit different.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

IN ANOTHER LIGHT by A. J. Banner

The death of a look-alike stranger leads a grieving woman down a troubling path in this riveting novel by A. J. Banner, bestselling author of The Poison Garden.

Three years ago mortuary cosmetologist Phoebe Glassman lost her husband in a tragic accident. No longer the hopeful wife and mother she once was, Phoebe is disappearing into her grief and into the quietude of her job — restoring to the dead the illusion of life. Then the body of a woman named Pauline Steele arrives in the mortuary, and for Phoebe, everything changes.

Pauline is unmistakably Phoebe’s mirror image and bears an alarmingly familiar tattoo. Even more startling is that among Pauline’s effects is a faded photograph of Phoebe. Aided by an eccentric colleague, her curiosity sparked, Phoebe investigates her doppelgänger’s life and death — and uncovers surprising clues to a shared past.

Phoebe’s emotional journey soon leads to shocking revelations about those closest to her…and even herself. When she’s driven to the brink, how much of what she discovers can she trust?

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★★

What first drew me to this book was protagonist Phoebe Glassman’s job as a mortuary cosmetologist, someone who makes the decedent (new word for me!) look how they did in life. That’s something I could NOT do, but I find it fascinating. The funeral home where Phoebe works specializes in “green burials,” the eco-friendly alternative to traditional cemeteries, which is something else I’d recently discovered. Again, fascinating!

When the body of a woman looking exactly like Phoebe arrives at the mortuary, she ends up down a rabbit hole investigating this identical stranger’s past. This book is also about the heavy burden of her grief from losing her husband and daughter a few years earlier. IN ANOTHER LIGHT is a suspenseful mystery and journey of coming to terms with the past. It’s a very quick, engrossing, and emotional read.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

EVERY SUMMER AFTER by Carley Fortune

Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek — the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books — medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her — Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic story of love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★¾

This is a sweet & summery story about friendship, love, mistakes, and forgiveness. It’s told in alternating time periods — during Percy and Sam’s teenage years when they met and fell in love, and then 12 years after the end of high school, when a huge mistake drove them apart.

I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop over the course of six summers, with endearing childhood moments and angsty teen drama. I do feel like the resolution was rushed in the end, and I wish there had been more focus on them as adults working through their conflict.

The setting was amazing. A cottage by the water and lazy summer days made me nostalgic for my childhood family holidays. Lovely! Would recommend to fans of second chance romances.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WOULD I LIE TO YOU? by Aliya Ali-Afzal

In this “total page-turner,” wife and mother Faiza is about to find what happens when you have your dream life and are about to lose it… but only if you’re caught (Sarah Pearse, New York Times bestselling author of The Sanatorium).

At the school gates, Faiza fits in. It took a few years, but now the snobbish white mothers who mistook her for the nanny treat her as one of their own. She’s learned to crack their subtle codes, speak their language of fashion and vacations and haircuts. You’d never guess, seeing her at the trendy kids’ parties and the leisurely coffee mornings, that her childhood was spent being bullied and being embarrassed of her poor Pakistani immigrant parents.
When her husband Tom loses his job in finance, he stays calm. Something will come along, and in the meantime, they can live off their savings. But Faiza starts to unravel. Creating the perfect life and raising the perfect family comes at a cost – and the money Tom put aside has gone. Faiza will have to tell him she spent it all.

Unless she doesn’t…

It only takes a second to lie to Tom. Now Faiza has mere weeks to find $100,000. If anyone can do it, Faiza can. She’s had to fight for what she has, and she’ll fight to keep it. But as the clock ticks down and Faiza desperately tries to put things right, she has to ask herself: how much more should she sacrifice to live someone else’s idea of the dream life?

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Published: February 22, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★★½

Would I lie to you? Umm, yes, she did. Faiza’s plight in this book was so nerve-racking!

After her husband Tom is laid off from his job in banking, Faiza finds herself in a terrible predicament. Their £75,000 savings account is empty, all of it secretly spent by Faiza to keep up with their affluent friends and neighbors. Instead of confessing her financial infidelity, she tries to find ways to cover up what she’s done, but the hole she’s in just gets deeper.

As a British Pakistani woman married to a white man, Faiza feels immense pressure to fit in with the white moms in their social circle. She wants to protect her children from the racism she faced as the child of poor immigrant parents as much as possible. Does that excuse her lying and secret spending? I was rooting for her as she attempted to make things right.

Though this book is billed as women’s contemporary fiction, it had the page-turning suspense of a thriller — fast-paced and great tension throughout. I could NOT put it down!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.