Monday, October 9, 2023

ON MOONBERRY LAKE by Holly Varni, Reviewed by Winnie, Kim, and Rebecca

Holly Varni is an author to watch. Her debut novel, On Moonberry Lake, is a delight to read. I love small-town stories, and Moonberry Lake is a place I’d definitely like to visit. Full of quirky, colorful, one-of-a-kind characters and loads of humorous situations, I was amused and entertained throughout the book.

When Cora Matthews inherits a dilapidated lodge on the condition she stay there a year, she decides to try to fix it up. She remembers visiting her grandparents there when she was young and has happy memories of it. Although she feels as if she’s alone in the world, she finds out she can make her own family from the unusual people in the town. I loved how they rallied around each other when trouble came. Words of wisdom and advice from the eccentric characters abound in this tale, and Cora learns much about life and how to live it well.

“None of us came here to stay. There’s a time to be born and a time to die. Our purpose is to leave an imprint of love behind.”

“The voice of God doesn’t come in a scream but a whisper.”

Beautifully written with a lovely message of friendship and family, this book is touching and charming with a generous helping of humor. I recommend it to those who enjoy contemporary small-town fiction.

*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Revell through Interviews and Reviews. All opinions are my own.

When I saw the cover of On Moonberry Lake by debut author Holly Varni, in addition to hearing some really good things about this story, I jumped at the chance when it came up for review. On Moonberry Lake starts out in a way that immediately grabbed my attention, so I thought I was really going to enjoy it. The writing style is good and some of the characters are quirky and funny, but sadly, the things I did not like about this story far outweighed the things I did.

I enjoy reading a quirky character every now and then, but in this story there are just so many of them that, in my opinion, it became too unrealistic and bordered on silly. While I could’ve overlooked that, some of these characters seemed to have some beliefs that sounded more like New Age to me. This totally surprised me since this story is published by Revell, a Christian publisher. As I kept reading, I didn’t like the tone of the book and I was not connecting with any of the characters, including our main character, Cora.

After doing a little research and talking to a few trusted reviewers, I found out there were even more significant things coming in this story that are in direct conflict with my beliefs, so I decided to DNF this one. Sadly, this was a missed opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own. DNF.


"Happiness is yours for the taking. Sometimes you just have to do things scared and see how they work out. "

. . . says the woman who carves art on tombstones as a hobby. (But there's more, much more, to Kitty than meets the eye. Like everyone else in this quirky, tight-knit community) Happiness. Is that what Cora Matthews thought she would find by coming back to Moonberry Lake? Truthfully, Cora sort of had to come back in order to bury her mother, but would she stay for the course of a year, as stipulated in the will, in order to fully inherit the beautiful, old, decrepit, paint-peeling, busted plumbing . . . you get the picture . . . lakefront lodge . . . where she had spent the happiest years of her young life?

Cora was practically a runaway bride. In between jobs. And now, no family. Where else was she going to go?

"The voice of God doesn't come in a scream but a whisper."

It was pretty evident, pretty quickly, that this story was going to be an entertaining mix of comedy and contemplation. What a delightful character-driven journey with its steady-as-a-heartbeat plot line, featuring folks who bounced outside of any box you dared to put them in. Quite an impressive debut, without a doubt readers will be clamoring for more . . . which thankfully there will be.
*I received a copy of the book from Baker Publishing through Interviews and Reviews. I have also purchased a copy. The opinions stated above are entirely my own. 4.5 stars
BackCover Blurb:

Cora Matthews's life is a mess. A broken engagement and the unexpected death of her mother have left her wondering if things will ever return to normal. Whatever "normal" is.

It certainly isn't what she finds at Moonberry Lake. After she receives her family's dilapidated lakefront lodge as an inheritance--with a surprising condition attached--Cora finds her life overrun by a parade of eccentric neighbors who all have something to say and something to teach her.

As Cora works to put her life back together, she must decide if she is willing to let go of the past, open her heart to love, and embrace the craziest version of family and home she could ever have imagined. 

 Revell Publishing, September, 2023
Available in digital ebook, paperback, and hardcover
Buy ON MOONBERRY LAKE at Amazon, Christianbook .com, or Baker Book House


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