Reviews:  HELLO STRANGER & THE SUMMER OF SONGBIRDSHello Stranger Goodreads

Author: Katherine Center

Publication Date: July 11, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


Katherine Center has done it again!  Her new novel Hello Stranger was one of my most anticipated reads of 2023 and I’m thrilled to share that it not only met my very high expectations, but it actually exceeded them.

Hello Stranger follows the protagonist Sadie Montgomery. Sadie is a gifted portrait artist and when we meet her, she has just placed as a finalist in a prestigious portrait painting competition. She is beyond ecstatic until she is quite literally blindsided by a life changing event and finds herself in the hospital diagnosed with “face blindness.” The doctors hope her condition is temporary, but there’s no way of knowing how long it will last.  If Sadie’s career involves painting faces for a living, how is she supposed to do her job and how is she supposed to paint her competition entries.  Needless to say, Sadie is distraught.

What always draws me to Center’s books is how strong her heroines are in the face of adversity.  No matter how big of an obstacle they face, there’s always a sense of perseverance and hopefulness and we see this with Sadie as she sets out to cope with her situation and try everything in her power to get those portraits painted.  I’m not very familiar with face blindness, but I thought Center did a wonderful job of handling the condition with respect and sensitivity, while at the same time, infusing Sadie’s journey with her signature warmth and humor.

Another area where I really appreciated Center’s humor revolved around Sadie’s complicated relationship with her father, her stepmother and her evil stepsister, Parker. There’s a nice balance between dramatic moments and humorous ones as Sadie interacts with them, especially Parker, who loves to torment Sadie on a regular basis anyway, but being able to prank her without being recognized is just too irresistible for her.

While much of the story focuses on Sadie’s journey as she copes with face blindness, there is also a romantic element.  Even though Sadie cannot see their faces, she finds herself attracted to two very different men she encounters while looking for distractions from her situation.  One is her new neighbor, an obnoxious yet endearing guy named Joe, and the other is the veterinarian who saved her beloved dog, Peanut’s, life.  The timing is of course terrible because she has more important things to worry about than her love life, but she cannot deny that she’s attracted to both men.  I loved watching Sadie navigate her way through this love triangle she didn’t expect to find herself in and was more than satisfied with how this aspect of the story plays out.

Filled with relatable and realistic characters, witty dialogue and a storyline that is both heartwarming and humorous, Katherine Center has another winner on her hands with Hello Stranger.  It’s easily one of my favorite reads of the year so far.  5 STARS

Note:  I read an advancer’s reader’s copy and listened to an advanced listening copy.  The audio was an absolute delight, and Patti Murin’s narration is *chef’s kiss*.


Reviews:  HELLO STRANGER & THE SUMMER OF SONGBIRDSThe Summer of Songbirds Goodreads

Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey

Publication Date: July 11, 2023

Publisher:  Gallery Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


I probably say this every time Kristy Woodson Harvey has a new book published, but I think her latest, The Summer of Songbirds, is my new favorite from her.

The story follows four women who come together to try to save the summer camp that made them into the women they are today.  June Moore owns Camp Holly Springs and has been welcoming girls there for over 30 years.  While it was a fun summer haven for the girls, over the years it has also become a haven for June to hide away from the world and her troubles.  June’s niece Daphne and her two best friends, Lanier and Mary Stuart, met at Camp Holly Springs.  The bond that formed between these three during their summers at the camp has only strengthened over the years and they are now like sisters to one another.  When they learn that the camp is in trouble, it’s all hands on deck and what starts as a mission to save their childhood happy place ends up becoming an adventure that will change their lives forever.

The bond of friendship between Lanier, Daphne and Mary Stuart was the major highlight of this book for me. From the time they were children, these women have been there for each other through thick and thin, and they truly take care of one another.  Each of them is going through something throughout the course of the book and while the friendships are mostly beautiful and supportive, there’s also real talk when it’s needed, particularly when it comes to telling someone something they’d rather not hear.  I really appreciated how authentically KWH portrays these friendships. It felt like I was reading about my own best friends and I just loved that!

The theme of second chances and forgiveness is also very prominent in The Summer of Songbirds.  Daphne, Lanier and Mary Stuart value their friendship enough that they will always try to do what it takes to repair their friendship if things go wrong between them.  Then there’s also the matter of second chances in love.  Lanier met her first love through Camp Holly Springs, while Daphne met her first love through Lanier.  Being back at the camp and seeing their first loves again makes both women realize that those feelings are still there and wonder if second chances are in the cards for them.  I was fully invested in both of these romances as well and really enjoyed watching them reconnect while at the same time, revisiting the memories from their summers together at camp.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really have to experience it yourself, but it really is a beautiful story all around.  Filled with nostalgic summer camp vibes, amazing female friendships, and more than one second chance romance, The Summer of Songbirds is the perfect beach read! 5 STARS

21 replies
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Right? I had high hopes for these since they’re both from favorite authors and was thrilled that both exceeded my expectations. 🙂

  1. Sam@WLABB
    Sam@WLABB says:

    I regret not downloading the Harvey book, but you have me running to the library to see which books they have there. I loved Center’s books too (of course!). I agree with you about her heroines. They may be down, but they are never out. I always find their journeys very uplifting.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I think you would enjoy Songbirds. I love KWH’s books anyway but I think this one is really special, especially because of those lifelong female friendships.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I’ve read almost all of Center’s books and they’ve all been 4.5-5 star reads for me so I highly recommend them. 🙂

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      If you end up reading it, I hope you enjoy it. I really loved those friendships and the whole nostalgic summer camp vibe.

  2. verushka
    verushka says:

    Hello Stranger and Sadie sounds intriguing — or rather the face blindness aspect does. I haven’t read anything like tha before, and you’d think it’d be a great aspect to add to a mystery or thriller.

  3. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    Two 5-star reads… wow!! Sadie certainly had a lot to deal with/overcome in Hello Stranger. It sounds like she had a truly satisfying journey.

    I love coming across a novel that puts a positive focus on female friendship without the cattiness or competitive nature seen so often in some books.

  4. Rachel @Waves of Fiction
    Rachel @Waves of Fiction says:

    Yes, Hello Stranger was so lovely! I agree, Patti Murin’s narrations was perfection!

    I’ve never read Kristy Woodson Harvey, but she sounds like a Robyn Carr or Kristan Higgins sort of author and I love their womens fiction/romance stories. I will see if my library has an audio.

  5. Carla
    Carla says:

    Wonderful reviews, Suzanne. I also loved Hello Stranger. I agree, the narration was wonderful and Paige was a great character to narrate, she is the one we love to hate. I have to read The Summer of Songbirds soon, I have read a lot of great reviews for it.

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