My July 2023 reads

In July, I had another great month in books.

First I traveled back to New York’s Hudson Valley during the 1920s as an ambitious young woman tries to carve out a niche for herself in a society changing rapidly around her. Afterwards, I traveled to a remote location on the moors of northern England, on a couples weekend that hsd gone terribly awry. Next I was in Ireland in the 1980s, when “The Troubles” force a young teenager to leave rural Ireland to find safety with family in New York – and sets him on his path as an elite runner.

Afterwards, I was back in the US, trying to discover what really happened to a young wife and mother whose accident might have been a murder. And finally, I lounged on the shores of Newburyport, Massachusetts as a cliquey group of mothers see their dominance threatened by an outsider.

July 2023 reads

Three of the five novels were NetGalley reads, and all three of those authors were new-to-me. This was the third novel I’ve read by Gilly McMillan and the second from Meg Mitchell Moore – and I’ll definitely be reading more.

Happy to continue Summer reading in August!


The Life She WantedThe Life She Wanted cover

Anita Abriel

I truly loved this story, set in the 1920s, an era I love. Pandora is the daughter of a talented tennis player whose injuries forced him to leave the professional tennis circuit. Pandora’s mother deserted her husband and baby and, to support Pandora, he became a tennis instructor to privileged families. Thanks to her father’s role, Pandora grew up adjacent to wealth and privilege in New York’s Hudson Valley.

As an adult, Pandora is beautiful and inquisitive. She desires a wealthy husband who will help her achieve her dreams of opening a fashion atelier where she can sell her designs. She may even be willing to settle to obtain the life she wants, but as she grows and matures, she reflects on these choices.

This was a well-developed novel with an interesting and ambitious protagonist whose life unspools in “interesting times”. I enjoyed her ability to change and adapt to the shifting times, and the reflections on the changing role of women and rapidly evolving social structures. A highly recommended novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


The Long Weekend coverThe Long Weekend

Gilly MacMillan

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Jayne, Ruth and Emily are headed off for a long weekend at a remote farmhouse in the moors of northern England. Their husbands, all best friends from their long-ago boarding school days, will join them by lunchtime the following day, and they will all enjoy the rugged nature together.

But when the women arrive at their destination, a package is waiting for them. The accompanying card wishes them a wonderful holiday, and warns them that one of their husbands will be dead by weekend’s end. The disturbing note, coupled with a vicious storm that cuts them off from the rest of society, throws the women together in a claustrophobic environment, one in which long-held secrets begin to slowly unravel.

This was a well-written page-turner, told through multiple points of view. I enjoyed this slow-burn story that steadily ratchets up the tension as it draws to its surprising conclusion. Highly recommend this page-turning read.


On The Run coverOn The Run

William Shaw

I picked this up because I’ve been reading novels related to running, and I’m pleased that led me to this novel.

Tim Connolly is a quiet seventeen-year-old, living on a farm in rural Ireland in the early 1980s. But The Troubles means no one is safe, and when Tim’s father is arrested, Tim’s mother ships Tim off to her relatives in New York for safety. While back in Ireland, the situation deteriorates, across the pond, Tim puts all his anger and frustration into running – and emerges as a high school 800 meter runner.

The story is told through multiple POVs, including Tim, his coach, his mother, father and his NY relatives. There are also numerous contributions from minor characters that round out the story. Together, these perspectives help capture a complicated period in Irish history and move the story along quickly. The sports angle was another engaging storyline.

This novel should have a broad appeal and casts light on a complicated time in Ireland, while illustrating how those directly affected find their inner strength and rise to meet seemingly impossible challenges, not unlike the world of sports.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


The Wife in The PhotoThe Wife in The Photo cover

Emily Shiner

Lola, wife to police chief Evan and mother to teenager Jessica, has recently died in a freak accident. Evan and Jessica are having trouble coping, and bring in Ariel, a housekeeper and cook, hoping she can bring order to their lives. But Ariel is convinced there was nothing accidental about Lola’s death, and she vows to get to the bottom of the mystery.

This novel started out well, with short, fast-moving chapters told through various points of view: Evan, Jessica, Ariel, and diary entries from Lola leading up to her death. I felt the character development was more developed in the first half of the novel, but it felt a bit flat to me by the middle, and by the end, I felt a lot of the story was sacrificed to plot twists.

Even though the character development fell a bit flat for me, fans of twisty suspense should enjoy this.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy – all thoughts are my own.


Two Truths and A LieTwo ruths and A Lie cover

Meg Mitchell Moore

“We’re all in high school for the rest of our lives.”

At least, the Mom Squad of coastal Newburyport, Massachusetts certainly seem to think so. This tight-knit group of moms keep the high school atmosphere going strong with a set round of parties, dinners, daily group chats and girls’ weekends away. They also carefully nurture their children’s friendship groups to ensure they stay within the correct middle school clique.

Following the death of her husband, Rebecca is questioning lots of things – including her relationship to the Mom Squad. She clashes with them when she befriends outsider Sherri Griffin, a new arrival in town, fresh off a nasty divorce and with a young daughter in tow. This new dynamic opens rifts within the group, and unravels a layer of secrets and lies.

This is my second Mitchell Moore novel, and I enjoy her take on suburbia. This story was told through the alternating perspectives of Rebecca, Rebecca’s teenage daughter, Alexa, Sherri, and the Greek Chorus of the Mom Squad. The story moved along quickly as we delved into the lives – and lies – of the women of Newburyport as they navigate love, loss, family, friendship, starting over, fitting in, and forging new paths for themselves. Highly recommended.

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