Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











Strawberry WineFrom Goodreads: Ten years have passed since Tanya Smith’s last summer at Laurel Lake – the summer of Marie. Today Tanya is a confident, successful music promoter – a far cry from the naïve seventeen-year-old who showed up at the lake full of rosy notions of first love, lifelong friendships, and evenings spent sipping strawberry wine on the shore. That September changed everything, and as far as Tanya is concerned, there’s no going back. That is, until a mysterious phone call from Marie’s lawyer brings Tanya face to face with the past. Suddenly she finds herself returning to Laurel Lake and to everything she left behind there. Will the dark secret that haunts the lake break her heart all over again? Or will Marie’s legacy be the key that unlocks the future Tanya gave up on ten long years ago?

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Strawberry Wine is a NA/Adult novel with a splash of YA intermixed as the story focuses on both present day and the not-so-distant past. Revolving around Tanya, a 27ish, put together, self-made music promoter, readers are instantly drawn into her life as the novel opens with the death of her estranged friend Marie, a girl Tanya only knew for one summer during her high school years, a summer that for her is impossible to forget; a summer that changed everything. Almost instantly, the novel jumps from present to past, allowing readers to live through the events of that summer as Tanya begins to fall for Michael, explore the deeper recesses of love, and become friends with Marie, the quiet girl with abusive step-relatives. What starts off cute and carefree, turns jarring and sinister as the summer progresses, and everything abruptly comes to a halt when a few drunken decisions change everything for Tanya and Marie.

Here, the novel once again jumps back to the present, and it is also here that Adams sends readers a curveball, one I never saw coming, but in retrospect, should have. With the death of Marie, Tanya’s entire world is upended, altering the course of her world, should she so accept it, and in doing so, allowing her to go back to those carefree summer days and claim what she lost. It’s a beautiful tale, and I thoroughly enjoyed that present to past to present narration—it’s not back and forth, but steady, almost like a circular novel, but continuing on once it comes full circle to give readers deeper insight into current events.

From carefree to brokenhearted, from on top of the world to uncertain, from safe to vulnerable, this novel spans the gamut of emotions, and they’re a very tangible aspect of the novel. Although the story itself sometimes flows a bit clipped in terms of transitions, it’s well done just the same, and as surprise and fear edge their way into the story, so does the reliance on God—though not preachy. I wouldn’t say this is a religious novel by any means, but when faced with a bad situation, as Tanya finds herself in after the death of Marie, one does tend to rely more on God. For me, this was all a bit sudden, but understandable as the plot thickens, lives are threatened, and a sinister danger lurks on the horizon.

It is said that we write what we know, and Adams definitely does this in that Tanya is a music promoter, as is Lee, and a deadly kidney complication comes in to play—something Adams has also dealt with as a donor. Although fiction, Adams’ own personal experiences come through in the novel, adding validity and giving the novel extreme realism, which is an aspect I highly enjoy in my stories. Overall, this is a very well-done novel—and if you’re looking for an alluring summer read, I highly suggest adding Strawberry Wine to your reading pile. Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novel from the author at Martinsburg Chocolate Festival and Book Fair.

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riskFrom Goodreads: When 22-year-old Summer Stafford’s parents split halfway through her senior year at college, Summer’s world is rocked. Everything she thought she knew—heck, everything she thought she wanted for her own life—feels like a lie. The truth is love is a risk. And the true kind, the kind that lasts, might even be a fairy tale.

Reeling from the divorce, Summer derails her own future by breaking up with her parent-approved boyfriend and giving up her lifelong plans for a big-city career. She moves back home, business degree in hand. Dad needs her to fill the gaps her mother left behind; Summer needs to find who she is outside of the cookie-cutter life that failed so miserably for her parents.

Ford O’Neal’s future involves one person: himself. He doesn’t have a permanent address and he definitely doesn’t commit. To a place or a person. Raised by hippies, he plans just far enough ahead to secure his next stop, this one landing him at a work-study program at Heritage Plantation where he can grow his own herbal and medicinal creations.

Summer is gorgeous and smart and fun to be with, the perfect way to pass five months. It won’t be love—Ford’s got too many things to accomplish, too many places to go, before he settles down. Yet Summer pulls him in, challenging him to rethink his own philosophy.

When Ford’s five months are up, each of them must decide if love is really worth the risk.

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Meet Summer, a young woman who has sworn off love after witnessing her parents beautiful marriage end in divorce—her mother moving out and leaving her father to tend to the farm.  And, what Summer can’t understand is why her father doesn’t seem to hold any animosity for the woman who left him, and Summer, behind.

Ford isn’t so different.  Though his parents are still happily married, he’s learned that there can be regret in love and settling down too soon, before he’s seen and done everything he wants to do without a family of his own to hold him back.  So, he’s sworn off love as well.

This makes for the perfect relationship, two people looking for companionship without love, but what neither of them realize is that you can’t control your feelings, and just because you don’t want to fall in love doesn’t mean you won’t.

This is a wonderful feel good read that will leave readers swooning over Ford and feeling like best friends with Summer, especially with its back and forth nature of narration.  Perhaps my favorite style of storytelling, Hildenbrand allows readers to feel alongside her true-to-life characters as they attempt to make sense of their lives and, ultimately, love, through their first person point of view. And, though the going isn’t always easy, this cute and enchanting story is the perfect read for the holidays; it’s gripping and delightful, one that I highly recommend, especially if you’ve read any of Hildenbrand’s young adult novels as you already know she’s a very talented and engaging writer.  Now that I’ve met Summer and Ford, I cannot get wait for more. Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.



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