Sunday, April 9, 2023

In a Nutshell Reviews

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

The Simplicity of Cider
 by Amy E. Reichert
Published by Gallery Books on May 16, 2017
Age/Genres: Enchanted Realism, Fiction

Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

When they call a book warm, funny, and charming, I know it’s a must read for me. I am happy to report that The Simplicity of Cider lived up to those adjectives, but then again, I had no doubts given this was written by Amy E. Reichert.

I have read several reviews where readers felt Sanna was too prickly. Maybe I just understood her better, but I was not put off by her. She was weighed down with feelings of abandonment and never feeling like people could love her just as she was. I think most would put up walls to protect themselves as Sanna did, but Isaac and his son were able to gain entry inside her heart. It was really wonderful watching her demeanor soften as she allowed others to see into her heart.

Sanna and Isaac falling in love brought me great pleasure too. I already told you about Sanna’s past, but Isaac has also been through some difficult times. He was still trying to come to terms with his ex-wife’s addiction and was left to raise their son on his own. He and Sanna made a great pair and they complemented each other so well.

The town, its inhabitants, and the orchard all ranked high for me as well. I have an odd fascination with farming and such, and am riveted by any story that incorporates that lifestyle. Learning about the trees, the cider, and everything in-between was a thrill for me. And, of course, there was food. Reichert never fails to make my mouth water with all her glorious and vivid food descriptions.

My heart was wam, and the happy tears were flowing as I read this book. I declare it another winner for me. It’s always a treat getting a peek into a different way of life, and I swear I would have been a farmer in another life with the way that whole lifestyle fascinates me. I enjoyed spending time in the orchard and learning about cider making, but I also adored getting to know all of these characters. As soon I as realized the direction of certain storylines, I was filled with glee. Another wonderful story from Reichert!

The Dinner List
 by Rebecca Serle
Published by Flatiron on September 11, 2018
Age/Genres: Enchanted Realism, Fiction

We’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.

When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

Delicious but never indulgent, sweet with just the right amount of bitter, The Dinner List is a romance for our times. Bon appetit.

If you could invite five people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would you invite? That was the questions posed to Sabrina back when she was in college. She had updated that list over the years as her life changed, and to her surprise, those “five” were in attendance at her thirtieth birthday celebration dinner.

Though each attendee held some significance in her life, there were three with whom Sabrina had some unfinished business. What a fascinating way to have a character work through their past and their pain. And let me tell you, I was snotty crying as I read this book (and the tears are still flowing as I write this review). I love the idea of getting an opportunity for closure. It can be a gift for some, and it was something Sabrina really needed as all her questions as to why kept her from moving forward.

There was an unexpected revelation about halfway through that gutted me. Knowing this piece of information made everything that came after have so much more weight. Serle did give me a few bittersweet morsels to temper my pain, and I was grateful that Sabrina did get the closure she needed. By the end, she seemed to be ready to move on, but it was still sad. Nonetheless, I loved it. I found the premise brilliant, was entertained, and appreciated Sabrina’s journey.

What five people, living or dead, would you invite to your dinner?
Let us know in the comments!

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