Welcome to our community book reviews post! This month features 5 beach reads that you can find at Bookmarks. Get to know our local reviewers, all of whom shared with us one of their favorite characters in a book and why!
Books were donated by Bookmarks; we will be posting new reviews monthly.
A Ballad of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande
Reviewed by Emily Poe-Crawford (pictured above!)
Historical fiction with a healthy dash of romance, A Ballad of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande takes place in the mid-1840s during the Mexican-American War. It follows Ximena Salomé, a Mexican healer and soldadera, and John Riley, an Irish soldier in the American army. Both have spouses when the fighting begins, but circumstances bring them together, and soon their love for each other becomes a driving force in the decisions they make as the story unfolds.
The Mexican-American conflict is not usually represented very widely in educational materials or mainstream fiction, but Grande fleshes it out in detail, battle by battle; many readers will find some gaps in their childhood schooling filled. And while Ximena and John’s relationship is the lens through which the story is told, there are only a few spicy scenes, of moderate heat at most, and they are brief. The classically sweeping love story adds some interest and personal perspective to the novel, but it does not dominate.
This book would be a great choice for the historical fiction fan who enjoys reading about war. If battles and political machinations are your thing, but you’re burned out on Civil War and World War II tales, give this one a try.
A recently re-discovered favorite character of mine is Jane Eyre—she goes through a lot of hardship, but she’s smart and unafraid to speak her mind, and she remains determined to pursue her own happiness, whatever that may require.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh
Reviewed by Kelly Cornuet (pictured above!)
The Love of My Life is a modern family drama centered around a woman who we think we know everything about. Emma and Leo appear to have their lives together with a growing family, great careers, and even fame, only for readers to find out that what is displayed is far from the truth. Emma has a past that Leo knows nothing about, and by chance, he becomes aware that there are some secrets he needs to uncover to fully understand his partner. This book is a powerful story on the lengths parents go to for their children and the lies they may keep in order to protect those they love. It also examines the lengths partners will go to in discovering truths about their spouses. It answers the bigger question, “Is withholding truths actually a lie if it is done to protect those you love?” The Love of My Life has everything I could ask for in a book: twists and turns, crime, deception, strong friendships, and ultimately, the power of love. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading family dramas, the psyche around parenthood and relationships, or investigative thrillers.
Addie Larue from The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is a favorite character of mine because she embodies what most women want across various time periods: to be remembered.
The Suite Spot by Trish Doller
Reviewed by Julia Goldman (pictured above!)
All hotel connoisseurs and beer lovers welcome! The Suite Spot by Trish Doller is a short and “suite” sequel to its companion novel, Float Plan. This author shows great compassion by including a warning at the beginning of the book advising readers of thematic content containing sexual assault and mentions of child death and suicide. In the story, Rachel Beck, a single mom barely making ends meet by managing a luxury hotel in Miami, is fired unfairly. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another door opens! Rachel is impulsively offered a management position at a new boutique hotel and brewery. The catch – she has to move from the serene beaches of Florida to the endless evergreens of Ohio.
Once she arrives, she quickly realizes the grumpy owner of the hotel, Mason Brown, has run a classic bait and switch. The hotel is nothing more than a foundation and a dream. Her cranky, yet handsome, boss doesn’t seem to have a clue what he’s doing! This slow build love story grows as they make their dream a reality. This quick beach read is perfect when the heat of the blistering coastal sun is beating down on you with no shade in sight and you’re regretting not choosing the more refreshing cabin vacation in the woods.
As an elementary school science teacher, my favorite book character is Mrs. Frizzle because she encourages a love of reading while incorporating STEM in her memorable adventures!
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
Reviewed by Tory Gentry (pictured above!)
The Paris Library tells the story of Odile Souchet, a young woman working at the American Library in Paris during WWII. The novel, based on a true story, tells of her living – and working – as the Nazis occupy Paris and how it affects her family, relationships, and work. However, the end of the war brings a shocking betrayal to Odile, changing the course of her life forever.
Read this book if you…
Like novels told from multiple perspectives. Charles does a great job seamlessly changing the narrator and time – alternating between the 1940s and 1980s – throughout the novel.
Love libraries. The detailed, ornate writing makes it easy to picture the American Library in Paris, not to mention that as an avid library user, it is interesting to learn more about library operations!
Would like to gain a different perspective on World War II history. I have read many WWII-based books and felt this was a unique perspective and gave me more insight into life in Paris during WWII.
Enjoy slow burn novels. Personally, I would have liked a little more action in the first half of the book but felt the pace picked up nicely in the second half.
I always struggle with deciding on my favorite character! I will go with Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. She is intelligent, witty, an avid learner, and a great friend.
One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
Reviewed by Josie Greenwald (pictured above!)
Josie Silver is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors because of her ability to write flawed characters who are looking for love like everyone else. In this story, we follow Cleo and Mack, two strangers with very different backgrounds. They find themselves sharing a cabin on a remote island because of a booking mistake but quickly learn that they have more in common than they think. This book is perfect for anyone who loves slow burn romances and forced proximity tropes. Throughout the book, Silver focuses on family relationships and how everyone’s view on romance is shaped by their life experiences. Each character battles with their own demons and past but learns to put themselves first to be better for the people they love. This is one of the most atmospheric books I have ever read and is the perfect book to cozy up to this summer if you want a getaway to the Irish countryside.
My favorite character from a book is Holden Caulfield from the Catcher in the Rye. He is one of my favorite characters because I’ve related to him in different ways throughout different seasons of my life. Throughout the book, he feels lost and isolated but over time, he learns to live with his thoughts and mature as he learns more about the world and his place in it.