Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Mini Reviews: Beach Reads with Heart


Sometimes you like a good beach read that makes you feel all the feels, right? I'm sharing two beach reads today that were pretty emotional and definitely tugged on my heartstrings. They both had a Ben as a love interest, and both take place in beautiful coastal communities.

Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay
Pages: 435 
Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance
Pub. Date: May 16, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "When a woman who'd rather do anything than read meets a swoon-worthy bookworm, sparks fly, making for one hot-summer fling in New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay's new rom-com. For Samantha Gale, a summer on Martha's Vineyard at her family's tiny cottage was supposed to be about resurrecting her career as a chef, until she's tasked with chaperoning her half-brother, Tyler. The teenage brainiac is spending his summer at the local library in a robotics competition, and there's no place Sam, who's dyslexic, likes less than the library. And because the universe hates her, the library's interim director turns out to be the hot-reader guy whose book she accidentally destroyed on the ferry ride to the island. Bennett Reynolds is on a quest to find his father, whose identity he's never known. He's taken the temporary job on the island to research the summer his mother spent there when she got pregnant with him. Ben tells himself he isn't interested in a relationship right now. Yet as soon as Sam knocks his book into the ocean, he can't stop thinking about her. An irresistible attraction blossoms when Ben inspires Sam to create the cookbook she's always dreamed about and she jumps all in on helping him find his father, and soon they realize their summer fling may heat up into a happily ever after."
Samantha Gale, a chef, was passed over for a promotion and she feels it's due to two things: one being that she is a woman and the other is that she is dyslexic. She is angry, so she quits her job and decides to spend time at her parents' beach house on Martha's Vineyard while they are away. This works out perfectly because they need a chaperone for their son who is Sam's step-brother. Sam thinks this is a great opportunity to reconnect with her stepbrother and take time to relax for once. While en route she has an adorable meet cute with Ben Reynolds, the library director. Sparks fly! But how could a dyslexic foodie who loathes books fall in love with a book lover? There's no way, right? Well, as their romance blossoms, Ben pushes Sam to do more and be more and in turn, Sam helps Ben with a problem of his own. Jenn McKinlay's Summer Reading is just that - the perfect summer read for vacation or a lazy day at the pool.
I love that McKinlay switched the usual roles and made the female the book hater and the male the book aficionado. It was nice to turn the tables a bit and see something a little more unusual. McKinlay handled dyslexia so well and really gave it some thought; in fact, the book is published in dyslexia friendly font, etc. While there were some over-the-top cheesy romance moments in
Summer Reading , I was here for it, because who doesn't love a big romantic gesture in their beach reads? No doubt that Summer Reading is a cute beach read that is an entirely feel-good romance; plus, it is one of my favorite book covers of the summer.  

On Fire Island by Jane L. Rosen
Pages: 320 
Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance
Pub. Date: May 23, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A book editor spends one last summer on Fire Island in this sparkling and surprising new novel from the author of A Shoe Story . As a book editor, Julia Morse lived and breathed stories. Whether with her pen to a manuscript or curled up with a book while at her beloved Fire Island cottage, her imagination alight with a good tale, she could anticipate practically any ending. The ending she’d never imagined was her own. To be fair, no one expects to die at thirty-seven. So when the unthinkable happens to Julia, rather than following the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, she chooses to spend one last summer near those she loves most.   As she follows her adoring, novelist husband Ben to their—unexpectedly full—home on Fire Island, she discovers the ripple affect her life has had on the trajectory of so  her baseball loving, young-at-heart neighbor who believes it’s best not to go it alone, two bright-eyed teenagers eager to become adults, and her best friend who must shake off heartbreak for a new chance at love. With poignant comedy and insight, On Fire Island is an ode to the stories all around us and to the brightest types of loves…for the people closest to you and the places that shape you."

Julia, an accomplished editor, died of cancer at 37. It's heartbreaking and it's painful. She leaves behind her husband, Ben, a successful writer, and her gorgeous home on Fire Island. Before she crosses over, she has one more summer to watch her husband, her family, and her friends at her favorite place in the world, Fire Island. She watches her husband slowly put his life back together and try to enjoy some of the things they loved on Fire Island including taking care of their dog. Ben befriends a fellow widow, Shep, who actually lived in his house. There's also Julia's parents that she keeps an eye on as well as her best friend, Renee. Renee is going through a nasty divorce and trying to raise her teenage son. She watches Renee go through the ups and downs of dating including meeting someone much younger than her. There are also friends Pam and Andie who have a baby, which is difficult at times to face head-on as Julia was supposed to have a child about that age. It isn't all sad though as Julia watches over; there are many funny moments and community members of the island that will have you cackling; however, readers know Julia's time here is limited, so that always hangs over your head as you are reading On Fire Island by Jane Rosen.

Rosen does such a great job bringing the beauty of Fire Island to life and illustrating how special a place can be to a person. I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel as well as all the quirky community members of Fire Island. The flashbacks to Ben and Julia's romance were also my favorite parts. How they met, and their relationship was swoonworthy which makes it even more difficult that she is now gone. Julia's Jewish family had me laughing out loud and her grandmother's antics were priceless. While there were so many funny moments in
On Fire Island, more often than not, I found myself sad, because of the many triggers in this novel and not just an untimely dealth. There's divorce, heartbreak, miscarriage, and of course terminal cancer, which makes this novel a tough one to read if you have any experience with the awful disease. In fact, it reminded me a bit of Golden Girl, but it felt a great deal heavier. So, if you are looking for an emotional beach read, this is it, but be forewarned.

So, have you read Summer Reading or On Fire Island? Will you be picking up either book before summer ends? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.



  1. Sam and Ben sound like my husband and me (just reversed!). Summer Reading might be one I need to add to my list.

    1. Right? Opposites attract! It was definitely a cute romance! Thanks for dropping by, Angela!


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