Shelf Control #323: One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

A scheduling note for Shelf Control: I have a short trip planned for next week, and rather than schedule a Shelf Control post in advance, I’m planning to go easy on myself and skip a week! So, for June 22nd, I will not have a Shelf Control post up on Bookshelf Fantasies, but if you’re participating in the meme, please add your link to this week’s post so I don’t miss it!

Title: One Perfect Summer
Author: Brenda Novak
Published: 2020
Length: 464 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

From New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak comes a novel about finding family in unexpected places and the lifelong bonds that don’t need a lifetime to forge

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

Serenity has always found solace at her family’s Lake Tahoe cabin, so what better place for the three women to dig into the mystery that has shaken the foundation each of them was raised on? With Reagan navigating romantic politics at her New York City advertising firm, and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the paths they walked to get there and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie.

But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

How and when I got it:

I bought the Kindle edition about a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

I mean… summer!!

Check out that cover! Doesn’t that just make you want to curl your toes in the sand and kick back with a fruity, slushy drink and a good book?

I did a Top 5 Tuesday post this week about books that make me think of summer, and when this one popped up as I was browsing through my Kindle library, I had to stop and ask myself why I haven’t read it yet.

There’s no particular reason why not — just time and moods, I guess. I’ve never read anything by this author, but I know she’s incredibly popular. I don’t necessarily go for books that get tagged (dismissively, in my humble opinion) as “chick lit” — but something about this synopsis really calls to me. In fact, I think it may have originally caught my eye after I did a home DNA test. (Mine came back with unsurprisingly not-surprising results. Still, it was fun to think about “what if” — what if some deep dark family secret suddenly comes to light?)

The book’s description of finding sisters suddenly and getting to know them sounds intriguing — plus, gotta love that Lake Tahoe setting!

This doesn’t sound like a heavy or serious read… and with summer just around the corner, I’m thinking one of my upcoming trips to visit family might be the perfect time to finally dig into it.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with summery titles that aren’t really summer books at all

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is  Books that Give Off Summer Vibes.

Since I just did a Top 5 Tuesday post about summer books a few weeks ago, I thought I’d switch it up a bit and instead talk about books whose titles sounds full of summer themes… even though the books themselves aren’t exactly light, beachy reads.

  1. On the Beach by Nevil Shute: On the beach? Excellent! Except not, because it’s the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust and radiation is coming to wipe out the last remaining survivors.
  2. Dune by Frank Herbert: Glorious rolling sand dunes along a beautiful beach? Sorry, nope. It’s sci-fi on a desolate world. With killer sand worms.
  3. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian: Little girls playing in the sand with their parents on a sunny day? No. This one is set during and after the Armenian genocide.
  4. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green: An epic summer romance about star-crossed lovers? Not at all. It’s about a lonely American girl and a German POW.
  5. The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff: Yes, there’s a beach! But it’s really a wartime love story with lots of sadness and loss.
  6. Sunshine by Robin McKinley: A bright sunshiny day? Ha ha. No. This is one of my very favorite vampire stories, very dark and creepy.
  7. Firefly: Big Damn Heroes by Nancy Holder: Chasing lightning bugs on a summer lawn as evening falls? Nope. A super fun sci-fi space western, but nothing to do with actual fireflies. (Or summer.)
  8. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher: A chivalric tale about knights and ladies and a summer joust, perhaps? No, it’s all about Chicago wizard Harry Dresden and the dangerous, deceptive faerie courts.
  9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: A little beach town, with a country lane leading to the shore? Sorry again. This is a terrific fantasy… but it’s not about a beach vacation.
  10. In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien: Ooh, a country get-away by a romantic lake? Well, there’s a lake, but it’s not peaceful or romantic. This is really disturbing suspense, without a hint of summer fun and relaxation.

Can you think of more books with summer-themed titles that just aren’t summery at all?

If you wrote a TTT post, please share your link with me! Tell me about your favorite books with summer vibes!





Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Summer Reads

Once again, I’m joining in with the Top 5 Tuesday meme this week! Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by Bionic Bookworm, who posts the month’s topics at the start of each month. Today’s topic is Top 5 Summer Reads. This topic could go a few different ways… book set in the summer? books to read in the summer? books I’ve read in the summer? books about beaches? I guess I’ll do a little of everything — here’s my list of five books that are great to read in the summer or that have a summer theme! 

1. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han: 
The story of a teen girl and the two boys she spends every summer with at their families’ shared beach house is just so perfect for reading on a beach or by a pool. It’s surprisingly deeper than you might expect, getting into family loyalties and loss and grief. (It’s the first in a trilogy, and all three are good!)

2. Beach Read by Emily Henry
I just finished this terrific love story, set in a beach cottage over the course of an eventful summer. A perfect summer read!

3. Robots vs. Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe
This awesome collection of robot and fairy stories includes several by favorite authors of mine (Including Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi), and maybe it’s because I took this on vacation with me a couple of years ago and read it on the beach, but I feel like it’s just so fun and entertaining and low commitment that it’s perfect for summer.

4. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
This book is sweetness and light, and so full of happiness that I can see it as a perfect summer reading option.

5. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
There’s no obvious connection to summer, but the four books of the Finishing School series are light, funny, and exciting, and feel to me like a perfect choice for reading poolside with a frosty drink in hand.


What do you consider summer reads? Let me know, and please share your Top 5 link if you have one!

Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks LikeTalk about the perfect summer book! I dare you to read This Is What Happy Looks Like without dreaming about beaches, fireworks, ice cream cones, and a salty sea breeze or two.

In this sweet, romantic young adult novel, Ellie and Graham meet by accident (or rather, by e-accident). When Ellie gets a random email from a stranger asking her to walk Wilbur, the dog-lover in her just has to respond and let the sender know there’s been a mistake. (Otherwise, poor Wilbur!). What follows next is a charming email exchange that starts light and flirty and ends up as a soul-baring correspondence, in which these two share everything except their full identities.

Little does Ellie know that Graham is actually Graham Larkin, movie star and teen heart-throb (I picture the teen-aged Zac Efron), sighed over by millions of teen girls around the world. Graham’s a bit new to the superstar gig and is hungry for real connection, and for once, he’s found someone to talk to who isn’t wowed by the Hollywood glamor. So when Graham’s newest movie needs to find a new filming location, Graham’s quick to jump in and suggest the small coastal town of Henley, Maine… where a certain someone happens to live. Graham hasn’t told Ellie who he really is, and he’s hoping madly that their amazing virtual connection will translate into real life.

Ellie, meanwhile, lives a contented life with her mother in Henley, but dreams of going to Harvard to study poetry this summer, if only she can scrape the funds together to pay for it. She’s not particularly starstruck, and is more annoyed by the film crews taking over her hometown than eager to catch a glimpse of the stars. But when Graham finally catches up with Ellie, after a brief delay caused by a teeny case of mistaken identity, it’s clear to see that Graham and Ellie do have chemistry, and then some. The question is, can a small-town girl and a Hollywood star find romance and a relationship, despite the never-ending cameras and paparazzi just dying for some good gossip?

This Is What Happy Looks Like is light and breezy, and there isn’t much doubt that there will be some sort of happy ending. I mean, a book with the word “happy” in the title can’t exactly get too tragic, can it? Still, it’s not all fluff. Ellie and Graham both have family issues to sort out, and there’s some real heart in their thoughts about the paths their lives have taken so far, how they want to live, and what role their parents can and should play in their lives.

A plot thread concerning Ellie’s estranged father is a bit extraneous to the main storyline and seemed liked needless filler to me. While providing much of the fodder for any sort of obstacle to the romance (and every good romance needs to overcome an obstacle or two, right?), the pieces about Ellie’s father — her search for him, her assessment of his role in her life, and her mother’s backstory — didn’t feel as important to me as they’re made to be in the story. In fact, I think the story might have worked a bit better without this element entirely.

Beside that, however, I really enjoyed TIWHLL (sorry, can’t keep typing that title out any longer!) Especially coming on the heels of my previous read, which was beautiful but incredibly painful, it truly felt like a breath of fresh air to read this summery romance. Light and airy, full of characters with good hearts and good intentions, this really is a terrific summer read. I wanted only the best for Ellie and Graham — and I absolutely pined for a summer vacation on the coast of Maine, preferably with my feet in the surf and an ice cream cone in my hand. Bliss!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Beach Reads

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Beach Reads. When I hear the words “beach reads”, I picture a blanket, a sun umbrella, some palm trees, white sand, gently rolling waves… Bliss!

What makes a good beach read? Nothing too heavy or sad — no tears allowed at the beach! It should be engrossing enough to hold your attention despite all the beach-y distractions — but nothing that you couldn’t put down at a moment’s notice in order to run back into the surf or go get another piña colada. Extra points for a summery setting, maybe an island getaway or a beach town, a cottage on the dunes, or even a barbecue or two.

As usual,  the big challenge was in limiting myself to just ten… so here is my top 10 list containing slightly more than ten books:

1) Firefly Beach by Luanne Rice — or really, pretty much anything by Luanne Rice. This author specializes in stories of sisters and families, usually in beach town settings, somewhere with a coast or a harbor. You can practically feel the sea spray and hear the waves crashing when you read these books.

2) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. This story of four friends, one pair of jeans, and and an unforgettable summer strikes just the right balance of ups and downs, with plenty of self-discovery and girl power.

3) Another sisterhood book: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Southern fiction at its best! Mothers, daughters, friends, secrets — just emotional and involving enough to enjoy on the beach, maybe with a mint julep to help move things along.

4) What’s beach reading without a good family saga or two? Something that spans generations, sweeping in scope — enough to keep you from nodding off in the sun. A few “classic” family sagas perfect for the beach would be Evergreen by Belva Plain, The Immigrants by Howard Fast, or The Bastard by John Jakes.

5) An afternoon at the beach is the perfect time to sink your teeth (ha!) into the first volume of a good, juicy urban fantasy series. I’d go with Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) by Charlaine Harris, Tempest Rising (Jane True, #1) by Nicole Peeler, or Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) by Gail Carriger. Nothing says summer like vampires, werewolves, and selkies!

6) How about something utterly silly? The island setting makes this one a beach read for me: Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore. Almost all of my top 10 lists include a Christopher Moore book. Why stop now?

7) If this is a serious beach vacation — we’re talking a week in Maui, not just a couple of hours at the local strip of sand — then a big chunky book with lots of plot will keep you going for days (or weeks) at a time. I’d pick A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin or Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Not the sunniest subject matter, but you won’t lose interest and you won’t run out of reading material.

8) For that New England summer feel, there’s Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead, a story of a WASP wedding weekend in which nothing goes as planned.

9) I think I need to mention a young adult favorite of mine: Sea Change by Aimee Friedman, about a city girl forced to spend a summer on a remote island with big secrets. There’s love, there’s a mystery, and there are beautiful beaches! I have the impression that not that many people have read Sea Change, which is a shame. It’s lovely and romantic, yet with a lead female character who stands up for herself and makes some healthy choices.

10) And my final selection is one that I took on vacation a few years ago, and which worked out perfectly for me as a beach read: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales by Kate Bernheimer (editor). This collection includes stories by some truly amazing writers (Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Karen Joy Fowler, and more). Each story is captivating, but you can easily toss the book aside in between stories for a quick dip in the water or a game of beach volleyball.

Ah, summer…

What will you be reading on the beach this year?

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