Author: Holly Varni
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: September 26, 2023
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.
Reviewer: Winnie Thomas
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 for 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.
Reviewer: Kristina Hall
A humorous, small-town read!
Cora was a sympathetic character who experienced a lot of character growth over the course of this story. The many eccentric side characters were the most memorable part of this book for me. I found Widgy and her blunt ways especially funny.
On Moonberry Lake was definitely driven more by the characters than the plot. I'm a reader who enjoys more of a plot, so I found that parts of the story dragged. The many encounters with the eccentric side characters, although I enjoyed the humor those encounters brought, were a bit repetitive to me. I also thought the faith content could've been more clear, but I appreciated that Holly Varni kept both the language and romance clean. Her writing style worked well for this book.
Overall, I'd recommend On Moonberry Lake to those who enjoy Christian fiction and contemporary novels with a touch of romance.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Revell through Interviews & Reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Reviewer: Tammy Lunsford
This book will make your heart sing. This is an authentic, thought-provoking story that will inspire you as you read it. My emotions were all over the place as I read it. I would feel happy, then sad. Then, in the next chapter, I would be laughing. The cast of characters were all over the place. Different characters were quirky, sassy, witty, serious, and extraordinary. I fell in love with every single one of them.
When Cora Matthews arrives at Moonberry Lake, she is not in a good place in her life. Her mother has passed, and she has a broken engagement. To put it simply, her life is a mess (at least in her mind), and she has no joy left in her life.
When she finds out she has inherited her family's lakefront lodge, she is shocked to her core. This lodge meant a lot to her at one time in her life. The lodge is in horrible disrepair, but it is hers with one condition attached to it. She is not certain she can meet this condition, but she decides to give it a shot. Cora does not realize that this lodge and this community are exactly what she needs in her life.
This was a unique, inspiring story that will pull on your heartstrings as Cora finds purpose in her life as her community gathers around her to give her something she has never truly experienced in her life.
If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be a tie between Widgy and Kitty. Widgy is the local handywoman. She is definitely handy, but her bullheaded personality makes her seem like she is unapproachable, when in fact she is a softy at heart. Kitty was the next-door neighbor who cared for an old cemetery. She cared for the headstones and the graves as if they were her own personal family. Kitty could tell you a story, and her heart was golden. These characters affected me so much that I could write a paragraph about each one. I was completely engrossed in this story from the first few chapters. I have lived in Moonberry Lake for the past few hours, living vicariously through Cora, as I saw a broken woman who needed someone who cared.
This book shows that, though our past will define where we are in the future, the future is open to possibilities. However, we have to be open to possibilities. I believe this is the first novel by Holly Varni. I see a bright future for this author. I would give this book ten stars if I could. My soul is refreshed and happy after finishing this book.
Thank you to Revell for a copy of this book through Interviews and Reviews. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"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 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 Revell through Interviews & Reviews. I have also purchased a copy. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.
Reviewer: Conny Withay
“People change when they come to Moonberry Lake. They shed their old skin and emerge into something new,” Cora is told in Holly Varni’s debut novel, Moonberry Lake.
This three-hundred-and-thirty-six-page paperback targets those interested in contemporary romance based in a small Minnesota town. With slang words such as darn and heck, topics of illness and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes an excerpt of the next book in the series, three food recipes, acknowledgments, the author’s biography, and advertisements.
After Cora’s mother dies, the twenty-six-year-old woman inherits a dilapidated lakefront lodge in a small midwestern town. Committed to a year of restoring it, she hires a funky repairwoman, befriends a cemetery headstone carver and a look-alike Jesus, helps an agoraphobic scientist, and constantly embarrasses herself in front of a dentist. As she acclimates to small-town living, she learns what it feels like to belong.
This is a carefree, comical, and cute story about a young lady who learns what contentment and happiness is with the help of her overly solicitous neighbors. I grew to like dependable Sam, Widgy and the Beast, attentive Kitty, and how grief and sustenance were dealt with.
Those who do not like reads about a town where everyone knows everyone else’s business may want to pass on this one. Others who do not care for the Catholic undertones and Bible verses might not be interested in it, but there is little depth to true spiritual beliefs. The eclectic neighbors were more the focus than the romance.
Since this is the start of a series, it would help to have a map of the town and list of characters at the beginning of the book.
If you like a quirky story of a woman adjusting to small town living while renovating an old lodge and finding her family, this is a nice beginning.
I received a complimentary copy from Revell through Interviews & Reviews. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.
Reviewer: Adriann Harris
Cora, suddenly torn from her Moonberry Lake family at age seven, is taught to run when things get tough by her mother until she runs back to Moonberry Lake as an adult. Here we find family again, maybe not all blood-related, but nonetheless, maybe even better.
The debut author of On Moonberry Lake, Holly Varni, did an exceptional job of world-building. I was truly transported to the dilapidated lodge on Moonberry Lake, seeing everything through her amazing prose. Now let me mention her outstanding, quaint, and quirky side characters that stole the show! My number one overall pick is none other than the one and only Marry-em and Bury-em Widgy, who learned her handywoman skills from her five husbands. Hands down one of the best side characters I have read in a very long time! Number two without question is Kitty, the caretaker of the graveyard, who is keeping its residents alive by telling their stories. My heart went out to her, and I wanted to sit with her among the headstones and just be.
Definitely a debut worth reading, but for me, I felt cheated at the very end. After reading the entire book, I was left hanging. Ahh! Do not worry, folks, as after the ending, Holly Varni gives you a sneak peek into her next book, returning us to Moonberry Lake. Hopefully, we will not have to wait too long to read what happens with Cora and Ben, plus all of the other great characters we are just getting to know.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion. I was not obligated to write a positive review.
Reviewer: Paula Shreckhise
"People change when they come to Moonberry Lake. They shed their old skin and emerge into something new."
This debut book was such fun to read. It had so many quirky yet believable inhabitants of this small town and an underlying faith thread that caused me to think about the need for friends and family.
Cora inherits the lodge that her grandparents once owned, and it has so many fond memories. She is now alone in the world after her mother’s death. She is required to live in the lodge for a year, and she starts to restore the old building. She befriends the elderly Kitty, a caretaker of the cemetery across the road. Kitty is a wealth of sage advice: "God gives everyone a special talent, and sometimes it is simply to make life sweeter for the rest of us." She meets her neighbors, including the local dentist, Ben, in an unusual way.
A standout character is Marry-em and Bury-em, Widgy, who learned her handywoman skills from her five husbands. She is hilarious. It took Cora some time to break through her crusty shell. Another quaint person is the deli clerk, who keeps a Reader’s Digest handy so she can practice the vocabulary she is gleaning from its pages.
This reminded me of The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kipp by Sara Brunsvold, but with many more unusual characters to love in this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Library Thing. I was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Lori Parrish
What a wonderful story! I absolutely adored it! This book was such a delight to read and the best so far this summer!
This book really made me smile, laugh, and cry too. I love Moonberry's residents, and I loved that each one had a gift waiting for Cora to discover. I really smiled when Cora began to find this. I think this town was just what she needed in order to find herself again.
Sometimes friends can be family too, and I, too, felt they were the family I've always wanted. I didn't want it to end. I was sad when it did.
I have to admit that Widgy was my favorite character. I loved her no-nonsense way, and she's a little harder to know than most in this book. But I do give her credit for being honest.
Five stars for a wonderful story. One that moved my heart in more ways than one! A wonderful debut novel! I will be looking for more by Ms. Varni.
My thanks to Netgalley and Revell for a copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
On Moonberry Lake by Revell debut author, Holly Varni is sure to sweep you up and away with characters that will reach into your soul and make you long to have friends just like them. Varni is an author I will be putting on my "favourites" list.
When Cora Matthew's mother dies, she discovers she has left her a dilapidated lodge on Moonberry Lake. She has many fond memories there with her grandparents and her mother. But one day, when she was seven years old, her mother left with Cora in tow and never talked to her parents again. Cora has a lot of anger issues toward her mother because she uprooted her from a happy family environment. Especially since her grandparents died and she never got to see them again. Moonberry Lake holds bittersweet memories for her.
As she works on renovating the lodge, she comes to know her very quirky neighbours. At first, she is a little put off by them, but little by little, Cora discovers words of wisdom from each of them, and she begins to discover the family she was always missing.
I loved this book! I knew it was going to be a good one when I was laughing before I finished the first page. The cast of characters is charming, and funny, and has so many words of wisdom for Cora that, as a reader, you will be hard-pressed not to take them to heart. Kitty was so sweet and dedicated to keeping the dead alive with her stories. Widgy reminded me of Oiser in the movie Steel Magnolias, played by Shirley MacLaine. I could easily see this book being made into a movie.
If you like heartwarming fiction and romance too, you will delight in On Moonberry Lake! I highly recommend it!
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Revell through NetGalley for my honest review.
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