‘The Newcomer’ by Mary Kay Andrews brings Florida, small beachfront motels, and a mystery to brighten our summer reading

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews is the queen of writing mysteries that take us to the South and often to the beach. In “The Newcomer,” we travel from New York to Treasure Island, Florida, a small beachside town near St. Petersburg. When Letty grabs her niece and flees the city, she heads south. In the bottom of her sister’s go-bag is an article, “Florida’s Hidden Gems: Four Family Motels You’ll Want to Discover,” and one in particular is circled, The Murmuring Surf Motel. That’s where Letty and Maya go because Letty is determined to fulfill the promise she made her sister. Her sister had worried that her ex-boyfriend would kill her. She made Letty promise that if anything happened to her, Letty would take the go-bag and Maya and flee.

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‘Even and Odd’ by Sarah Beth Durst is a middle grade fantasy about family, love, and sacrifice

Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst

The middle grade fantasy “Even and Odd” adds to Sarah Beth Durst’s shelves of fantasy books—from middle grade to young adult to adult. And in this magical story, sisters Emma and Olivia become the title characters, Even and Odd, because they share their magic. Each gets to have magic on alternating days, so while their nicknames are Even and Odd, it doesn’t always quite work out that way. (Some months have 31 days, as is pointed out in the story.) Even loves magic and works tirelessly to gain control of it while Odd doesn’t really want it at all. She just wants to help at the local animal shelter.

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‘The Seat Filler’ by Sariah Wilson is a charming modern romance

seat filler

“The Seat Filler” by Sariah Wilson hit the spot after giving up on an overly wordy, tediously description-filled narrative that had been sent to me. I picked up this romance and within a few pages, I cared more about Juliet Nolan, the main character, than I had after reading more than 100 pages of the other book. While this is a light read, it’s cute and engaging. And there are dogs — plenty of dogs.

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‘Black Coral’ by Andrew Mayne is a detective series with an underwater twist

Black Coral by
Andrew Mayne

“Black Coral” by Andrew Mayne is the second book in a new detective series, “The Underwater Investigation Unit Series.” While that’s not exactly a snappy name for a series, it certainly describes what makes this new group of law enforcement officers — the small group that works in law enforcement to solve crimes in and around Florida waterways — different from other law enforcers whose work limits them to more terrestrial endeavors. Sloan McPherson is the main character, and while she’s a bit of an outlaw, she’s an extremely likable one. While this is the second book in the series, not having read the first book didn’t leave me feeling left out. Mayne carefully catches us up on the backstory, and while the events of the first book are referenced occasionally, it doesn’t feel as if there are important details missing in this one.

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‘Band of Sisters’ by Lauren Willig is a stunning story, based on real history, of a group of intrepid women during WWI

Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

One of the hallmarks of good literature is a story in which things — and people — are not as they appear. In “Band of Sisters,” author Lauren Willig effectively accomplishes this and more: she writes about women who are not as they appear, but she additionally writes about the horrors of war using real history about a group of women alumni from Smith College. In other words, the devastation we see in the pages of the book is exactly as it appears, and her gripping historical novel is filled with incredible real tales of heroism and valor alongside examples of the worst behavior of which humans are capable — all carefully researched. The totality of her work is a story that is fascinating and inspiring as it makes us consider not only a global war, with its allies and enemies, but smaller bonds as well, such as friendship and family.

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Three feel-good picture books

One of the reasons to read picture books is to teach children about emotions and feelings. These three picture books are wonderful stories that will help start conversations about feelings and children’s feelings of self-worth. One of the books is about how pleasant it is to read with another person — or cat, as the case many be — so it’s not a solitary activity. The illustrations are very different in each book, but each interesting and well-suited for the stories.

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‘Connect the Dots’ by Keith Calabrese is a wonderful middle grade novel

Connect the Dots by Keith Calabrese

Want to get your child a fabulous novel to read over the summer that’s filled with relatable characters, a genius who has disappeared, and a mystery that is solved by three intrepid children? “Connect the Dots” is Keith Calabrese’s second novel, and it’s filled with the same wonderful messages that his first book, “A Drop of Hope,” was. This one—dare I say it—is even better.

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‘Charlie Thorne and the Lost City’ by Stuart Gibbs is a worthy sequel to the first middle grade adventure about a young genius

Charlie Thorne and the Lost City by
Stuart Gibbs

The first book in this series, “Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation” pitted young genius Charlie against none other than Albert Einstein. In its sequel, “Charlie Thorne and the Lost City,” author Stuart Gibbs pits Charlie against Charles Darwin, and it’s not surprising that Charlie comes out as the more compassionate genius.

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‘Poppy in the Wild’ by Teresa J. Rhyne a story of love and determination

Poppy in the Wild by Theresa Rhyne

The title of the story, “Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home” by Teresa J. Rhyne is a bit misleading. It’s not really just the story of a beagle from China who escapes from her foster family and gets lost in a California wilderness area. It’s also the story of Teresa (I feel as if we are on a first name basis) and her love for animals. 

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‘Sweetshop of Dreams: A Novel in Recipes’ by Jenny Colgan is as sweet as candy

Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

Most of Jenny Colgan’s novels have a few things in common: feisty, determined women who need a change of scenery, a business in need of help, fabulous out-of-the way locations in UK or Scotland or the islands north of UK, and men who aren’t typical romance heroes. “Sweetshop of Dreams: A Novel in Recipes” doesn’t disappoint.

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‘I Thought You Said this Would Work’ by Ann Garvin is a heartwarming journey of friendship and love

I Thought You Said This Would Work by Ann Garvin

In spite of the rather unwieldy title, “I Thought You Said this Would Work,” by Ann Garvin, is a story that drives home the idea that love is what connects us whether it’s our love for our partners, our friends, our family, our children, or our animal companions. Love is a universal truth, and love can make us move mountains—or at least attempt to—if someone we love needs that done.

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Three Mothers: Unappreciated, Unnoticed, Unknown

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Their names were Berdis Baldwin, Louise Little, and Alberta King. The percentage of Americans who might recognize those three names is approximately zero. But their lives, struggles, and accomplishments are every bit as important as those of the people we generally acknowledge as American heroes. And that is why Anna Malaika Tubbs’ detailed account of their lives is so significant and timely. Her study, “The Three Mothers,” shines a brilliant light on the influence these three women exerted in the lives of their sons — James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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