I love it when a friend or family member gifts me a book. With so many choices in bookshops and online stores, it’s a fun way to discover new authors or subject matter that might not otherwise appear on my radar. Here are a few favorites I’ve read recently, recommend, and plan to wrap up for a recipient or two on my holiday list. I hope you spot one you wish to give – or keep for yourself!
Debut novelist Hope Gibbs garnered a mound of awards for this charming Southern romance novel. With its references to Nashville, Atlanta, and northwest coastal Florida, readers may recognize friends, family, or themselves among the pages.
Penny has had a year… Her husband cheated on her with a much younger woman. After their quick marriage, her ex and his new wife take an extended vacation with Penny’s three young sons in tow. And then her beloved grandmother dies.
When Penny returns to Kentucky to settle the estate, all sorts of memories – and people – come flooding back to her. A breezy read about the beauty of going home.
Grab a copy and settle in with a glass of sweet tea!
Maggie is 60, a retired spy, and raising chickens on Blackberry Farm in Purity, Maine. Sixteen years ago, a mission went horribly wrong, forcing Maggie to walk away from a career she loved and disappear into the Maine countryside. She adores her new, ordinary life – “quiet and unobtrusive and safe.” Until she discovers a dead woman sprawled on her driveway.
She knows the body is a message from someone connected to her past. Maggie and a handful of former colleagues, who are now neighbors, band together to hunt down the past’s demons and salvage the new life Maggie’s created for herself.
I raced through this fun page-turner and my first book by the author, who boasts quite a loyal following. I was a fan of the Rizzoli and Isles TV series, which is based on books by Gerritsen.
One con of the novel? The story presents the likable and talented CIA operatives in their 60s and 70s as invisible (author’s word, not mine) washed-up senior citizens who crave naps and relief from aching joints. Since I am older than Maggie (!), I grew tired of those reminders scattered throughout the book.
In 1965, three dads in Bainbridge Island, Washington, devised a game to entertain their kids for an afternoon. Thus began the craze now sweeping the world – pickleball.
The game picked up serious steam in the early 2000s, mainly from folks seeking fun and exercise whose knees could no longer handle tennis and downhill skiing. Youngsters don’t pooh-pooh the game anymore and have joined the fray. Today’s median player is 30-something.
For those considering pickleball, McHugh’s introduction to the fast-paced game is a good place to begin. After speaking with her on Episode 24 of my podcast, I cannot imagine anyone more well-versed in the sport. With a dose of humor, Erin presents everything you need to know before you step on a pickleball court – the quirky rules, what sort of paddle to buy, and her trick for keeping score.
All in a quick-paced, accessible format.
Ladies and gentlemen, “The house is on fire.”
Be prepared for short chapters, quick pacing – and a delayed bedtime! In December 1811 – during a packed performance – a three-story Richmond, Virginia theater caught fire and burned to the ground. At the time, it was the most significant loss of life in U.S. history. Today, a church memorializes the tragic event.
Chapters alternated between four characters, Cecily, Gilbert, Jack, and Sally. Although all survived the fire, their lives were forever changed. The novel carefully explores the difficult history of the time and examines human nature’s good – and bad – sides. Well-written and researched, I enjoyed the entertaining, thought-provoking glimpse into an event I knew nothing about.
How well do we know our partners? Or anyone in our lives, for that matter?
I planned to read this novel until my plane reached cruising altitude. Then I would tuck the book away and move on to other – more productive – reading and writing. But I couldn’t stop reading.
In their honeymoon hotel, Ariel wakes up to no husband. He didn’t slip out for coffee, he wasn’t reading the newspaper in the cafe downstairs, he hadn’t stepped out for a walk. He was gone, and Ariel suspects something is very wrong. When Portuguese detectives and police officers don’t offer as much help as she’d like to solve the case – and uncover secrets about the couple’s past – Ariel takes matters into her own hands.
Many of our kids have a hard time imagining that we – their parents, of all people – led full and exciting lives before they came along.
In her quiet, absorbing way, international bestselling novelist and bookshop owner Ann Patchett weaves a tale of three grown daughters and the mom they never knew. The mom who existed before the girls were born.
During the pandemic, while picking cherries on their idyllic Michigan farm, Lara tells her daughters about the summer she dated Peter Duke. The girls beg to hear all the juicy details about her acting days, dating a Hollywood superstar, and meeting their dad.
Note: Patchett references Our Town by Thornton Wilder in this novel. Although I am unfamiliar with the play and still enjoyed Tom Lake, my reading experience would have been richer had I known the story by Wilder.
Do you like to receive books as gifts? Do you like to give books? Do you have a favorite book you’ve gifted over and over?