It happens every year. Someone, somewhere asks the question. “Where’s your favorite place to read?”
The question holds heavy implications, though. It just doesn’t mean “at home” or “on the couch” or “at the beach.” Wrapped up in one six-word question are dozens of interrelated ones. Questions like:
- Sunshine or rain?
- Paperback or Kindle?
- Hot tea or chocolate or… maybe a fruity iced drink with a little umbrella?
Yeah, the “favorite place to read” question comes well wrapped and tied with nuances that make it interesting.
I never know how to answer it, either.
I’ve lived in so many places—rolling countryside, orange groves, the base of the Superstition mountains, the beach, the desert, the Ozarks. In all of those places, I read books—deep books, fluffy ones, and everything in between.
I’ve also read books in places I didn’t live—the mountains, by a stream, in the sky whizzing through clouds at speeds that you just feel like you should feel. But you don’t.
So if you ask me that book one day, I may say in a house by the fire, on a couch, snuggled up in a blanket with rain beating against the windows.
On another day, I may dream of The Barn in North Carolina—that wonderful retreat place with its golden pine walls, trickling stream outside, and sneaky raccoons on the roof.
Today, after reading Summer by the Tides, I’d say the beach. Ocean breezes, sand between my toes, massive amounts of sunscreen that will do nothing to protect me from getting red and miserable, an icy Coke, and a book. A good one.
This is happening on Saturday. Our family is going down to Irvine for #5daughter’s graduation from UCI and #7daughter’s request was a beach—not Newport. We’ve done that one too much, apparently.
I’ll be reading a book by an author who, coincidentally, I’ll be seeing on Wednesday—all the way from Wisconsin. Go Pack Go?
I kind of wish, however, I could have been reading the book I just finished.
Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter. The minute I saw the title and the author, I knew I had to request a review copy. It’s been a few years—probably a decade since I read anything by Denise Hunter, and I remembered liking her.
There was, however, this tiny niggle of trepidation. Why? Well, because I’ve discovered that if you take time off from reading an author’s works, or they take a sabbatical from writing, sometimes you go back, reread, and just aren’t impressed anymore.
It’s happened to me a few times, and I’m sure it’s happened to my readers, too. I didn’t want it to happen again.
Note: Links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, I requested a review copy of this book and chose to review it.
Why This is The Book to Read This Summer
After about a decade of not reading anything by Denise Hunter, I’m glad I chose Summer by the Tides to break my unintended hiatus. Maybe I should clarify. I did not purposefully choose not to read Ms. Hunter’s work. It was just one of those life things.
But seriously, this book was exactly what I needed this week. See, I’ve just read two really good books—both put out by Ms. Hunter’s publisher. While I really enjoyed them, I had gotten nervous about Thomas Nelson and the direction it seemed the company might be going.
Well, I didn’t see it in this book.
Seriously, Summer by the Tides has everything a good summer read should as well as some solid, spiritual encouragement. I really can’t find anything to object to. The author even dipped her toe into spiritual waters that I don’t theologically agree with—and left it there. She brought up a possibility without stating, “This is how things are. Thus saith the Lord” in any way, shape, or form.
I looked for problems—trust me. Full confession here. I was on high alert for them. When two characters show some hint of attraction, I was ready to scream, “INSTA-LOVE! Unrealistic!”
Then it hit me.
I was being ridiculous. At that point, I went back a few chapters and started over. So glad I did.
From page one rich, multi-layered writing captures your attention and your heart. Everything is layered like a good phyllo pastry. And, like said pastry, it crumbles as you bite into it.
In the best way.
Because when characters crumble on the pages of our books, we see who they are underneath all those layers. Sometimes authors do that, you know. The pile on layers to characters until those poor fictional people look ready to brave a Minnesota blizzard. Except the book takes place in July. In Cancun.
Hunter was brilliant. She wrapped her characters in that phyllo dough and allowed them to be laid bare for us to see, to understand, to empathize and sympathize with.
Even the bits that might have seemed implausible just… weren’t. Every time I wanted to snap at one character for being so unforgiving—for not even listening to apologies—I’d realize those apologies hadn’t been made.
And looking at pain I see play out in my life, I see that this is exactly how it works.
Maybe that’s what’s so great about this book. Perhaps it’s just that it feels like I’ve seen it play out before—and yet I haven’t. Not this exact story. Not this exact way.
Sure, it’s a family drama/romance. It’s romantic women’s fiction, actually. Twenty years ago, I might have even said it was unrealistic and soap-operatic. But I’ve learned in the last couple of decades that there are more deep, ugly, unbelievable things in more “normal” families than I’d ever imagined.
It doesn’t just touch the unsaved. Christian husbands wake up to discover wives they don’t recognize anymore. Christian kids discover a lifetime of secrets their parents hid from them. And, sometimes, Christians even “put God on a shelf” while they try to live their lives without Him. Books like this one show what happens when we do those things.
Even better, this book has something for everyone.
For the romance buff—it’s there. In spades. And for people like Pepper Basham, there’s even one totally “stick-your-head-in-the-freezer-kiss.” I actually read it.
Okay, that’s a lie. But I did read part of it. Made it through a bit before I just turned that page. But for me, that’s equivalent to saying I read it three times or something. It’s kind of the beach read equivalent to the “train kiss” at the end of North and South.
That’s high praise—the only kiss I’ve ever NOT turned my head from. Just sayin’.
Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that most of the time I do. I’ve seen it over and over. But I recall making myself watch the whole thing when I realized I wasn’t squirming and miserable inside the first time.
For people who love family drama? Got it. Want a good misunderstanding? It has that, too. How about unexpected romance? Yep! Learning what the Lord means when He calls us to trust? One character learns that one.
It even has an adorable dog, okay?
Once upon a decade ago, Denise Hunter had a row of books on my shelf. Time passed, people asked to borrow something good to read, and I passed them on. Now her “spot” sits empty.
Well, it did. Summer by the Tides just took up residence there. As for me, I’m off to find another Denise Hunter book to join it. After all, it should have a sibling close, don’t you think