Review: Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson (Blog Tour)


Savannah, GA is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. And after reading Melody Carlson’s newest installment in her Follow Your Heart series, I both feel like I’ve made a trip there and want to go even more. Carlson has a gift of taking her readers along with her characters to explore the areas in her books.

High school art teacher Nicole Anderson is a likable character. Maybe a little too much so. In her attempts to be personable and nice, she lets others run her over. But in her naivety and her desire to do the right thing, to make a difference in the lives around her means that others take notice.

She is a good role model for the thirteen-year-old girl she takes under her wing (and even for the parents of said teenager). But is she also the perfect match for one of the brothers who have taken an interest in her.

As with all of Carlson’s books in this series, it took me a couple of chapters to get used to the third person POV of only the heroine but I was in Nicole’s head within the first two chapters in Under a Summer Sky and enjoyed taking this journey with her.

I will say I had my opinion of who I wanted Nicole to end up with from the get-go. While there’s some twists and turns in her journey, I was more than pleased with the outcome. I would have liked to spend the rest of the summer with Nicole, though!

My Rating:

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including Netgalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Continue reading

The Joy of Christmas

I realize it’s still warm outside for many parts of the country. Even here in Tennessee, we were in the 90s over Labor Day weekend. But regardless of the weather outside, I love certain things about Christmas and, if people wouldn’t throw such a big fuss, I’d listen to Christmas music all year round. And a close second to Christmas music? Christmas stories. Already this year I’ve read a book on becoming more organized and Denise Hunter’s Falling like Snowflakes, which is set around the holidays. But now, I’ve really gone and done it. This one is a straight up Christmas story, even has the word in the title.

christmas joy ride

Miranda’s life seems to be falling apart. After her husband cheated on her and then left her with a bunch of debt, she’s about to lose her house. And not only her house, but her friend. Perhaps befriending her elderly neighbor was a cry for help, but Joy is the one bright spot in Miranda’s otherwise gloomy existence. But Joy is leaving her too, moving closer to her sons in Phoenix.

When Joy suggests Miranda take a road trip with her in the older woman’s RV, the younger woman hesitantly agrees. But Joy has a plan. Her Christmas Joy blog has gained a modest following, and she ran a contest that revealed a few deserving winners. People she planned to visit and bless on her trip across the country.

This heart-warming story is one of friendship. As these two women take the time to give Christmas to the six people on Joy’s list, they learn that they are the once who are receiving the true gift. Each winner of the contest has very different circumstances which has left them unable to celebrate Christmas. Sometimes through humor, other times through pain, Melody Carlson takes readers on a joy ride of their own as her characters share themselves with each other and with the people they encounter along the way.

If you’re looking for a Christmas read, consider this one.

The Christmas Joy Ride is available now.

***Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson

once upon a summertime

New York City is on my shortlist of places I’d like to visit some day. When a book is set in the city, I get to experience it just a tiny bit. What I loved about Once Upon a Summertime was the main character was new to NYC and through her experiences, I got a tourist’s view of the city.

Anna Gordon thought her life would be more than managing The Value Lodge in her small hometown in Indiana. In college she’d had dreams of making a difference while managing a hot hotel. Instead she’s stuck in a rut. The owner’s of the Value Lodge don’t want to spend the money to make their establishment more inviting to guests, the employees don’t do their jobs, and Anna is sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. When she runs into a friend from the past, an opportunity to land a position at a boutique hotel in New York City feels like providence. While it wasn’t the job she’d hoped for, Anna accepts a management position at the new establishment. During her tour with one of the owners, she runs into another face from the past. Sean O’Neil was three years older than her and hadn’t paid her or his friend’s little sister, Marley any attention when they were teenagers. Now, Sean is paying lots of attention. So much attention, Anna fears losing her job. Will Anna have to choose between the job she desperately needs and the man who just might be the love of her life?

I’ll admit, after reading a little bit of a dud from Melody Carlson earlier this year, I was a tad bit hesitant to pick up another offering from her. Sometimes a risk offers a reward. Overall, I enjoyed this story. The NYC setting was a huge plus. Anna’s journey was interesting. The reader gets to know Anna very well before Sean enters the story about a quarter of the way through the book. Anna’s friend Marley is hard to get a good read on. One moment she seems friendly and excited for Anna, and another she’s angry and upset with her. The ending was a little too hastily wrapped up, and the solution to the huge problem was not the one I was expecting. This one still has a few issues that were not hammered out well in the book. That said, this is a great beach read for summertime. Take with you on vacation or read it by the pool. It offers what we’re all hoping for during the warm summer months: an escape.

***Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Love Gently Falling by Melody Carlson

love gently falling melody carlson

After several years working at an upscale salon in Hollywood, Rita Jansen returns home to Chicago when her mother has a stroke. She learns her mother is in for a long recovery and decides to visit the hair salon she grew up loving—Hair and Now. Business is down with the lower portion of the mall under construction and another, more updated salon on the upper level of the mall. Rita decides to take on the job of remodeling the hair salon in the short time she has at home—all to be completed in a few weeks time before Valentine’s Day. As Rita reconnects with her best friend from high school—a friend she has lost touch with—and another friend, Johnny, from high school, Rita learns friendship can be rekindled (and maybe something more). Johnny always seems to be there when she needs him, willing to lend a hand. But since she’s going back to California, she doesn’t want to get attached to Johnny romantically.

It’s been years since I’ve read anything by Melody Carlson. I know she focused on YA books for a while and I lost touch with her so when the opportunity came up to read Love Gently Falling, I was happy to read it. While the book was an entertaining read, it wasn’t my favorite. Perhaps it’s a personal preference but I enjoy romances from both the hero and heroine’s perspectives as it gives the reader a more round picture. And while there is tension in most romance books because the main characters don’t share their feelings with each other, there comes a point in time when it’s gone too far. There was little meat to this story. It would have been enhanced with more focus on Rita’s relationships with her family members or more in-depth conversations with her best friend. If you need a break from more heavy or in-depth books and are looking for a light, cute romance, this one is a good choice.

Available for preorder from Amazon or Family Christian Stores. Available everywhere January 6, 2015

****FaithWords/Center Street provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.