Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie Drake has packed her suitcase and stashed all of her cash in the glove compartment of her car and is about to pull out of the driveway to leave her emotionally abusive husband when her cell phone rings. Her husband has just died in a car accident and Evvie is now a widow. A widow who hated her husband.

Dean Tenney had a golden arm that brought him to the pinnacle of Major League Baseball fame and success until one day he can’t pitch anymore. No amount of therapy (mental or physical) helps and, embarrassed and shamed, Dean walks away from the game.

Dean escapes from the chaos of New York City and moves to a small town in coastal Maine where an old buddy lives, seeking peace and quiet and time to heal. Evvie, weighted down by her guilt and lack of sadness over the death of her husband, rents a small apartment to Dean and slowly, cautiously, these two worn, damaged people find strength in each other.

This is a fun, quick read that also manages to be thoughtful. There is a lot of humor, but there is also real pain that needs to be dealt with. There’s romance and healing, but it isn’t quick and it doesn’t come without vulnerability and hard work and compromise. It’s great to read something where the characters grow and develop, take some missteps but find their way in the end. Recommended.

 

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott  transports the reader back to the politics of the Cold War in the 1950s and the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the years immediately following World War II.   At the heart of the story is the secret plan by the United States government to get its hands on Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece Doctor Zhivago in order to publish it for the world to read.

The Secrets We Kept is told in alternating chapters with scenes taking place between the United States and The Soviet Union.  Much of the story revolves around the pressure and repercussions on Pasternak of writing a book that is in direct contrast with the government of the USSR and their eventual censorship of his novel.  Pasternak’s struggle is not only with the government, it is also with his long time mistress, Olga Ivinskya, who became his most passionate advocate and sometime publicist.  Olga also has the distinction of being the inspiration for the main character in Pasternak’s novel, Lara.  The Soviet government went as far as imprisoning Olga for numerous years due to her association with Pasternak as an additional form of pressure on him.  Upon her release, she returned and they picked up where they left off with the goal of publishing Pasternak’s book.

Simultaneously, in Washington, D. C., new college graduate Irina is plucked from her secretarial position within the US government and given orders to go undercover to help smuggle a copy of the book out of the USSR.  Along with a few select others, she learns the ropes of becoming an international spy by transferring the manuscript of the book to its final destination.  Inspired by the United States belief that literature can change the world, the hand selected group of US spies assume identities all over the world to ensure the book has a worldwide audience.

When I discovered that this book was centered on the writing of Doctor Zhivago, I was immediately intrigued.  I knew just a little about the writing of the book and its aftermath, but this work of historical fiction is not only an intriguing read, but has me wanting to find out more about this time period and the men and women whose passion for literature brought the novel to a worldwide audience.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

Romance novels usually contain elements of real life that readers can relate to. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez discusses the difficulties of infertility, how to navigate new relationships, and how to handle varying degrees of loss.

The Friend Zone  by Abby Jimenez is a heartwarming romantic comedy that at times delves into deep and sensitive topics. Kristen Petersen hates drama. She is blunt, to the point, and knows what she wants. While she doesn’t have many close family members or friends, Kristen will do anything for the ones that she does have. Her straightforwardness means that Kristen is very quick to dismiss guys who don’t understand her or those that she just doesn’t like. While she is quite frank, there is a major secret that she is keeping from everyone: Kristen has been experiencing major medical issues for years and in order to find some relief, she has chosen to go through a medical procedure that will result in her not being able to have children.

This secret is tearing her up on the inside. Kristen’s best friend is going to be married soon. Helping her to plan the wedding has left Kristen feeling unsure and angry because of how her life is turning out. Her sadness deepens when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. Josh is everything that she ever wanted. He’s funny, sexy, her dog loves him, and he seems to be able to read her mind. Josh ends up working for Kristen which allows the two to learn more about each other. Several circumstances converge to keep the two apart however. The biggest one: Kristen has a boyfriend. Another one: Josh wants a big family someday. He mentions it to her several different times.

Kristen decides that she needs to keep Josh away from her. She knows that she won’t be able to give him what he wants and that he would be much better off with someone else. The more she pushes him away, the closer they get though.  Kristen isn’t sure what else to do, while Josh isn’t sure why she’s pushing him away.

This book had me cringing at moments wondering why the two just didn’t take time to talk to each other, but also had me recognizing that since I have never gone through any fertility issues, I was unable to fully understand what was happening. All in all, I enjoyed the twists and turns of this book. Check it out and let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem

The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem is a perfect light and get-your-mind-distracted read to help you get ready for summer and for wedding season(or to just take a break from life). Even though summer is over, I still found this book to be a delightfully fresh debut from a new author.

The Marriage Clock is Raheem’s discussion of traditional vs. modern marriage customs in Indian families told as one woman’s struggle to keep everyone in her life happy. 26-year-old Leila Abid has always imagined getting married. Her parents want her to get married too and the fact that Leila isn’t married yet is something that they find very concerning. You see, as an East Indian/East Euro-Asian woman, Leila’s parents believe that marriage is half of their religious duty. Arranged marriages happen all the time, but growing up in America, Leila has slightly more give in terms of how early she was married.

At her 26th birthday party, Leila’s parents sit her down and tell her that she has three months to find a husband before they will arrange a marriage for her. Shocked and not happy with this news, Leila agrees as long as her mother backs off from the set-ups. Leila goes on blind dates, online dates, speed dates, ambush dates, and other dates in those three months, but sadly no great love comes to sweep her off her feet.

Leila has great expectations for love. She has always imagined a Bollywood romance with seven pages of what she’s expecting from her future husband. One of her biggest requests: she wants real love before she’s married. This deviates from the norm as with most traditional Indian arranged marriages, love does not happen until after marriage. Leila knows she doesn’t want that.

As her three month deadline looms closer, Leila finds herself wondering what her parents have in store for her. The longer she searches for a husband, the more Leila realizes that an arranged marriage is not for her. But if she doesn’t go through with one, how will her parents ever forgive her? Leila must find a solution that will keep her parents happy and will let her find a man to fall in love with.

Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan

Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan

Have you ever had that coworker or fellow student that always talked like they knew everything and contributed the most to a project or assignment but in reality, they did the least amount of work? Protagonist, plagiarist and thief, Henry Henry is that guy.

Once a generation, The Muse, a being from an alternate dimension known as the Fearscape, comes to our dimension and finds the greatest storyteller of our time. Henry Henry was in the process of “borrowing” a great work of fiction when The Muse comes to earth in search of a great storyteller. The Muse mistakes Henry for a great writer and whisks him away to the Fearscape to fight an evil that threatens both the Fearscape and all of humanity. The Fearscape is a plane where fiction becomes reality, writers use their imagination to fight off evil beings.

O’Sullivan’s writing in this Graphic Novel is fantastic and witty. We get all of Henry’s internal dialog and justifications for every slimy and dishonest move that he makes and it makes the story all the more entertaining because of it. Fearscape is a satire on the current state of fiction in pulp culture but it also serves as a love letter to the art of writing fiction as a whole. Everyone knows someone like Henry in their lives and seeing him go through all the trials and tribulations that he does is cathartic and entertaining in a lot of ways. I loved to hate Henry as the story progressed and he got more and more enthralled in his web of lies and deceit, all the while proclaiming that he was indeed a great storyteller to the point where you know that on some level, Henry actually believes it about himself despite never writing an actual work of fiction himself.

Andrea Mutti does a fantastic job as Illustrator of this work, his faces are incredibly emotive and the worlds in which Mutti is tasked with illustrating are fantastical but grounded at the same time. There are fantastical and incredible creatures and characters in the fearscape but even in some of the more ridiculous scenes, I could always tell what was going on and what I was supposed to be focusing on in the panel.

I recommend Fearscape to anyone that loves the dark fantasy genre and enjoys a bit of satire. Fearscape pokes a lot of fun at the state of fiction and pop culture in this modern age. It is no coincidence that the “Greatest Storyteller” of our modern age is a plagiarist with no original ideas in this story. This story never takes itself too seriously and is a fun ride along the way.

 

Online Reading Challenge – October

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

It’s time for a new topic in our Online Reading Challenge! This month our focus is on: Nature! There are lots of great choices and a couple of different ways you can approach this topic – here are a few ideas.

Books from an animal’s point-of-view. These would include classics like Watership Down by Richard Adams or the more recently published The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (a book I recommend very highly).

Books about animals. From wild creatures (such as H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and Life of Pi by Yann Martel) to domestic (like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski or Marley and Me by John Grogan) there are a lot of titles to choose from. I love the country vet stories by James Herriot, set in the Yorkshire Dales of 1930s England.

Books about the environment. Another classic, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1962. One of the best books I’ve ever read is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (although we still have a waiting list – I recommend that you read it whenever you can get a copy), which evokes the wilderness of the low country of North Carolina beautifully. For more evocative landscapes, reach for Tony Hillerman’s southwestern mysteries or Dana Stabenow’s Alaska mysteries.

Books about Man and Nature. Lots to choose from here, when man (or woman) venture out into the wilderness. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild takes you along the Pacific Crest Trail, while Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder travels to the Amazon. If you’ve never read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, do yourself a favor and do so immediately (It’s very funny but will also put the fear of bears into you for good!) Jon Krakauer has two great titles that fit into this category – Into the Wild about a young man attempting to live off the land in Alaska and Into Thin Air about a doomed excursion to Mt Everest. Both are gripping and thought provoking.

I’m planning on reading Open Season by C.J. Box, the first of his Joe Pickett mysteries. They are set in the Bighorn Mountain area of Wyoming where Joe is a Game Warden. Box’s mysteries get consistently good reviews so I’m looking forward to reading this!

Now it’s your turn? What will you be reading in October?

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challengers!

How was your month of Science reading? Did you find something interesting to read?

I hope you have better luck than I did – this month was a no-go for me. Everything I picked up was too “science-y” for me and yes, I know that was the whole point of this month’s challenge! I don’t think it was necessarily the fault of the books or that they had too much science in them, I think it’s a case of just not finding anything appealing. I think most readers go through reading slumps, when you can’t find the right book. Sometimes other things in your life take priority and you don’t have much time to read. Or, you just finished something fantastic and you’re spoiled.

Fortunately, I didn’t give up on reading altogether. I kept reading books, they just weren’t “science-y”! I will, however, admit to having watched a lot of Big Bang Theory re-runs – does that count?

As I always say, there are no Library Police. I may have missed this month, but I’m going to pick up again starting tomorrow with the next challenge!

OK, now it’s your turn – what did you read for September?

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

Romance novels can sometimes fall right into stereotypes or tropes about the main characters. In order to avoid the status quo, authors must describe intriguing worlds, interesting backstories, and well-developed main characters to keep readers invested in their novels. My latest romance read battled these tropes and, in my opinion, ultimately succeeded in writing a well-crafted novel worthy of your attention.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young did not immediately grab my attention. The beginning was rough for me as the introductions of the characters seemed to rely heavily on their outward appearance. Doing so makes sense when you look at the development of the characters in the long run, but it was something that had the ability to put me on edge throughout the duration of the book. Also major trigger and content warnings for some readers: This book deals with topics of assault, violence, sexual assault, abortion-shaming, etc. While the blurb makes this out to be a light romance read, it does get down to some gritty topics. Now let’s move on to discussing the actual book!

Ava Breevort is having a rough time. Flying back to Boston after a harrowing trip back to her hometown, Ava just wants to make it home smoothly. The universe is plotting against her though. A volcano has erupted overseas leaving a cloud of ash that has cancelled flights across the country and delayed others. Ava is desperate to try anything to get home, but in addition to the volcano ash issue, another flyer continuously gets in her way. An angry arrogant Scotsman named Caleb Scott takes a first class seat right out from under her and is increasingly antagonistic throughout the whole flight. Once they land, Caleb and Ava bump into each other again and eventually end up in bed together.

After landing in Boston, they both move on with their lives. Chance brings Caleb and Ava back together again though. They renew their steamy relationship while Caleb is stranded in Boston with the understanding that this is purely a relationship revolving around casual sex. Ava agrees since they both clearly don’t like each other. They separate and Caleb goes back to Scotland.

A client of Ava’s brings the two together again. Ava and Caleb begin again. This works for a while until, of course, Ava discovers she has feelings for Caleb. She realizes that she’s starting to like Caleb and that he’s actually not that bad to hang around. When Caleb announces that he is going to be staying in Boston permanently, Ava has to decide whether or not her feelings with him are genuine and worth fighting for. Even if Ava is willing to fight for her feelings, she is still left to wonder whether Caleb, who is as stubborn, icy, and closed-off as ever, can work through his issues and would want to love her too.

I’m curious what other people think of this book. While it took me a bit to get into this novel, in the end I enjoyed the development of the characters and their chemistry. Read it and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman

When Malin Ahlberg starts her freshman year at Hawthorne College in rural Maine, she is immediately befriended by a group of freshman who are brought together by chance during their first few days as new students.  Malin, along with Gemma, Ruby, Max, John and Khaled remain a tight-knit group throughout their four years at Hawthorne, but their years together are marked by drama, suspicion, betrayal and, ultimately, murder.  Tell Me Everything  by Cambria Brockman is a psychological thriller with a unsettling and, frankly, disturbing series of events with an ending that is literally jaw-dropping!

Malin tells her story in alternating chapters with gradual glimpses of problems at home with her family,  most notably with her brother who passed away years earlier.  She always stops short of revealing too much,  so the reader is left with more questions than answers as the anticipation grows.  What is she hiding from her past?  She replicates this secrecy with her current group of friends, not letting anyone know the real Malin.  To be honest, Malin is not a very endearing or likeable character.  As I was reading Tell Me Everything, I could tell pretty quickly that something was clearly not right with Malin, but Brockman has a great way of keeping the reader on their toes!

As the years progress, it becomes apparent that Malin is choreographing many of the dramas, misinterpretations and misunderstandings between the group.  While stirring the pot, it becomes clear that she enjoys watching the drama unfold.  The crescendo of both plot lines (family drama as a child and currently at Hawthorne) comes together seamlessly with not only one but two murders that are equally disturbing.

I highly recommend Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman.  I cannot guarantee that you will be a fan of some of the characters, but this is a well-written and suspenseful debut.  I am impressed with Brockman’s first book and am excited to see what she comes up with next!

 

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Mistakes you make in high school can have the ability to destroy your life. Lisa Scottoline talks about these mistakes and their life-long consequences in her newest novel, Someone Knows.

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline is a page-turning novel about how one decision can destroy family, friendships, and hope of a positive future in a split second. This domestic thriller dives into the choices of a group of high school friends who are forced to keep a secret and how it affects each of them.

Twenty years ago, four teenagers are spending the summer hanging around the suburb that they live in in Philadelphia. Fifteen-year-old Allie Garvey has had a rough childhood. Her older sister Jill has cystic fibrosis and that diagnosis has changed her entire life as well as that of her family. Hanging around with three other teenagers, Allie is finally able to experience a normal teenage life. When a new boy moves to town, the relationships the four have developed are put to a test.

One night, they end up drinking and partying in the woods. After deciding to play a dangerous prank, the night turns deadly. Running for their lives and in shock, the teenagers decide to keep what happened a secret. Each believes that being caught or telling someone in authority what happened would make the situation even worse for them.

Allie has lived with this secret for 20 years. It’s eating her up inside, especially since she had never told anyone. Allie distances herself from her family, friends, and her husband. Heading back home to Philadelphia for a funeral of one of her childhood friends, Allie struggles with grief, panic, and shame. Clearly the others have been facing the same struggles as her and one had reached the breaking point.

Coming to terms with this unexpected death, Allie realizes that she can’t keep living life the way she has been. She must make a change, but doing so means she would utterly destroy and lose everything. Allie wants to learn the truth about how the prank turned deadly. While she’s searching for answers, Allie learns things that shock her and change the events that she thought were true.

This novel is a fascinating examination of what it really means to want justice and to receive it. Family, marriage, love, and friendship are all tested throughout. I enjoyed the twists and turns this novel took with an ending that I did not expect. Check out the book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


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