The Grantchester Mysteries

By: James Runcie

The Grantchester Mysteries is the series of books by James Runcie that the Masterpiece tv series “Grantchester” is based on. You may or may not have watched Grantchester. If you haven’t, you definitely need to check it out. For one thing, James Norton is the best looking vicar you will ever see. They are all wonderful actors and the mysteries are fun to watch the guys solve. The series, however, doesn’t follow the books very closely, it is basically just the same settings, types of stories and characters. The show is much more romanticized.

In each novel, Sidney, who can’t help but assist his best friend, detective Geordie Keating, with any mysteries that pop in their small English college town. There are several mysteries in each book, but they all follow alongside Sidney’s personal life, most notably his love life. And here is the one difference between the books and the show that I don’t like. In the book Sidney ends up with someone that you never really believe he loves.

The characters in the Grantchester series are so wonderfully written and that is what makes it such a great tv series. There is Sidney and Geordie and their wonderful friendship. Sidney’s long time love who he can’t have because marrying a vicar would be beneath her, Amanda. One of the best is Mrs. Maguire, who keeps house for Sidney and is famous for saying “What the Dickens?” All of these, plus other family, friends and parishioners, just make these books a place you wish you could move into, even with all of the crime that seems to take place there.

Throw all five Granchester Series in your bag for your summer vacation. and then sit down and binge on the show!

Two Years in St. Andrews: At Home on the 18th Hole

By: George Peper

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This book was recommended to me after I announced that I want to retire to St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Essentially, that is what George and his wife, decided to do. A longtime golf writer, George already owned a small apartment that faced the 18th fairway on the famed Old Course. He rented it out to college students when they weren’t visiting.

They planned to live in the apartment for two years, renovate it and then make a tidy profit before returning to the United States. They packed up a few belongings and their dog and headed across the pond. The best bit of information that I got from the book was that you no longer have to have pets quarantined when moving to Great Britain! It takes a while to get them through customs though.

If you have been to St. Andrews, you will know most of the time it is a seaside college town, home to the oldest university in Scotland. Then, every few years, it becomes the center of the golf universe. Naturally for a book about St. Andrews, there is a lot of golf in this book. I even skipped over some of the more detailed descriptions of rounds played by the author. But this book is not just for the golfers. It’s also for anyone who has dreamed about leaving it all behind for a nice, peaceful village on the coast.

I am a little bit biased, having been to St. Andrews twice, it is one of my favorite places in the world and has a lot of special meaning for me. So, this may not be the book for everyone, but I enjoyed the real life characters we meet in the book and a look inside the real life place that is almost mystical to American golf fans.

Same Beach, Next Year

By: Dorothea Benton Frank

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I always love it when Dottie Frank’s latest book comes out. They are usually perfect for the summer time, always great for reading on the beach or the porch with a nice fruity cocktail. Same Beach, Next Year has that same summertime, beach read feel to it. The settings were great as always, and I liked that one of the main characters was actually a northerner transplanted to the south.

Two couples, Eve and Carl and Adam and Eliza chance upon each other at neighboring beach houses one summer and decide to make it a tradition. Adam and Eve, we find out, were high school sweethearts and still seem to hold a flame for each other. This complicates the relationships of all four of them. Eliza escapes to her ancestral home in Greece when the attraction between Adam and Eve seems to be too much.

The story is about as deep as you would expect from a beach read for the summer, but I found these characters a little less likable than usual in a Frank novel. They were just all kind of dense, you kind of wanted to shake them. But there were also, in some instances real enough to relate to.

Not my favorite Frank summer read, but still worthy of your beach bag.

Ten Beach Road

By: Wendy Wax

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Ten Beach Road, in the line of Mary Kay Andrews or Jane Green, is true Beach Trash. And I mean that in a good way. Nothing is better for the heat and laziness of the south in the summer than some good Beach Trash.

Madeline, Avery and Nikki are complete strangers who all just found out that all they have left of their savings is a third ownership of a mansion on the Florida coast. Having all been duped in a Ponzi scheme, they decide they have no choice but to renovate the house in order to be able to sell it.

The three main characters (later joined by Maddie’s pregnant daughter) are so well written and so different that you will certainly feel a connection to at least one of them. The way they each have their own contribution to the renovation is really neat.

Ten Beach Road should come with a warning, though. It will make you think that you could just go out an renovate a lovely old house! So slip it in your beach bag, but don’t stop on the way back and buy a run down beach house!

The Hideaway

By: Lauren K. Denton

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Why is it that the main characters in all of our favorite Southern Chick Lit books always own a fabulous shop? That is certainly the case with Sara in The Hideaway. She is an orphan who grew up in a small town, Sweet Bay, on the coast of Alabama, but now has a thriving shop in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Her busy, bohemian life in New Orleans comes to a quick halt when her grandmother passes and leaves her the house she lived in and ran as a B&B that had come to house some long term residents. In the will, her grandmother has asked her to renovate the house and then do what she thinks is best with it. Sara returns to Sweet Bay, the Hideaway and its occupants and the handsome contractor (who, of course, becomes the love interest) and finds that she likes the slower life.

The characters are really what I like about this book. They are so well written and they seem to contrast to each other so well. Sweet Bay seems like the kind of small town we all wish we could live in.

Still Here

By: Lara Vapnyar

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Still Here is the story of a group of Russian immigrants all living in New York city. Vica and Sergey have come up with the idea for an app that will let you virtual voice continue after you die. After pitching the idea to their friend, Regina’s husband, the app breaks up their marriage. While their friends are also in search of what they should do with their new lives in America. Regina takes a trip to Russia to visit her mother’s grave and Vadik is contemplating a job and location change.

And that is pretty much it, that is the whole story. I kind of enjoyed parts of the narrative of this book, but I got to the end and I was just like, ok, that was a waste of time. There was nothing remotely interesting about these people’s lives. It was almost as if the author kind of gave up after a while and just ended the stories and stopped writing.

This one belongs back on the shelf.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.

The Night the Lights Went Out

By: Karen White

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After attending the Karen White weekend in Charleston (see more here), and rereading the Tradd Street Series, I was really excited for this new Karen White book that was a departure from Melanie and her Charleston home. In The Night the Lights Went Out, we are in a suburb of Atlanta with Merilee, her kids and her landlord Sugar.

Maybe it is just because I also live in a suburb of Atlanta, but I recognized everyone in this book. As with her other novels, Karen write characters that are so real, you could swear they live next door to you. Sugar could be your grandmother and Heather (super class mom) is exactly like the mom who brought each kid a first day present! And someone is spilling everyone’s secrets in an anonymous blog!

Merilee has found herself divorced with her two kids living in a small cottage she is renting from the 90-something Sugar. The two become reluctant friends as they both sense they share a past filled with sadness. Throughout the book, we get glimpses into Sugar’s past but Merilee’s remains hidden until her desire to fit in with the moms at school gets her in hot water.

While the mystery of who is trying to ruin Merilee’s life is not that mysterious, it was a great summer read and if it’s not in your beach bag, it ought to be!

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