• Book Reviews,  Writing

    One For The Blackbird One For The Crow

    Welcome to my stop on the One For The Blackbird One For The Crow blog tour!

    Four graves behind her. Four graves at four different farms, faded marks on the map of her life, tracing the route of her forced march out into this bleak wilderness. From Wisconsin to Minnesota to Nebraska, then to the eastern plains of Wyoming and finally here, under the merciless eye of the Bighorns. One Webber grave lay here already – the fifth monument to Nettie Mae’s losses. She never deigned to visit Substance’s final resting place, but she could feel its nearness.

    Wyoming, 1876. The Bemis and Webber families have relied on each other for as long as they have lived in this unforgiving wilderness. But when Cora is found with Substance – Nettie Mae’s husband – Ernest kills him, leaving two families without the men who ran their homesteads.

    This is a story of love, loss, betrayal, survival, and ultimately friendship. Told from multiple points of view, this thick book flies by. I appreciated the glimpse into each characters motives and thoughts – this is what drove the book forward and allowed the reader to connect with the characters.

    Beulah and Clyde are the teens left to help their mothers care for their farms. For a moment, I rolled my eyes over what was inevitably coming. But by the time it happened, I was so enmeshed with the characters, especially Beulah, that I was pleased to read about their budding relationship.

    The writing had a prose-like quality to it and the multiple POV story worked very well for this plot. The characters were richly developed and flawed as they were, I loved something about each one of them. Hawker does a fantastic job of balancing the utter desperation of the story with the story itself. She left plenty of room for connecting with the character while still understanding just how dire the needs of these two families were.

    If you enjoyed Where The Crawdads Sing, The Dovekeepers, or Inland (not my favorite), you will most likely love One For The Blackbird One For The Crow

    Available for purchase at your local bookstore or:

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Evvie Drake Starts Over: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    The tag on her chamomile teabag said, There is no trouble that a good cup of tea can’t solve. It sounded like what a gentleman on Downton Abbey would say right before his wife got an impacted tooth and elegantly perished in bed.

    Evvie Drake Starts Over – a book by Linda Holmes in which a large quantity of tea is consumed and is paired well with witty and sharp writing.

    Evvie’s husband and high school sweetheart, Tim, is a successfull and well-liked doctor in their Maine community. The book opens with Evvie packing up her car to leave him for a fresh start when she gets the call.

    Her husband has been killed and while it isn’t the fresh start she planned, Evvie is forced to start over in the town she grew up, surrounded by memories of her husband who unbeknownst to most others, wasn’t so nice to her.

    Evvie’s best friend Andy and Saturday morning standing bruch date is a single father after his wife left him and his two young girls.

    Andy has arguably done a better job of moving on while Evvie is gripped with guilt over her secret almost-decision. She spends many nights on the floor of her guest apartment room overwhelmed by anxiety and confused grief.

    So when Andy’s friend Dean, a professional baseball player needs a fresh start after forgetting how to pitch, Andy suggests that Dean rent Evvie’s spare room.

    On the surface this book sounded fairly predictable and quite honestly, outside my typical read. But referring back to the quote at the beginning of this review, you will get a sense of the author’s quick wit and fresh approach to writing about starting over and the grief and anxiety that accompanies life changes.

    I saw myself in the characters. I know a lot about loss, failure, starting over, anxiety, grief, guilt, and shame that almost keeps you from second chances. And like Evvie, I was even married to someone named Tim who wasn’t nice to me and nearly destroyed me – a side effect of what goes on behind closed doors.

    This book made me laugh, tear up, and root hard for the characters find their ways. The writing was poingant and never overly saccharine – the biggest reason I usually avoid these books. And the added sports element, written accurately, rounded this book out and made it a 5 ✂️ book for me.

    The characters were well developed and the other element the author did particularly well was in capturing the Maine coast with more than just words. You could taste, smell, and hear the coastal town in her writing.

    If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Things You Save in a Fire, or How Not to Die Alone you should enjoy Evvie Drake Starts Over.

  • Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

     

    Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday – I have been patiently waiting for today’s topic!

    Literary tropes are one of my favorite things to ponder when reading and writing. I could probably list off twenty favorites pretty quick and another twenty that annoy me to the point of closing a book for good.

    Here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

    1. Non-linear timelines – fine, this one actually is my favorite. The Handmaid’s Tale, Infinite Jest, Bangkok Wakes to Rain, and most recently Recursion are all excellent examples of this trope.
    2. Loneliness/seclusion – I identify with this trope personally so I am drawn to books that illustrate this well. A Woman is No Man, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Stranger in The Woods all capture utter isolation, even in the midst of human contact.
    3. Allegory – What does the author really mean to say in this story? Or is it left up to the reader? The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis was my first and still my favorite exposure to the use of an allegory to tell a story.
    4. Coming of age – This trope borders on overdone but when done well, it can open a reader’s eyes to a new culture, religion or struggle. There There by Tommy Orange and A Place for Us are both excellent examples that take the reader beyond an angsty teen experiencing the usual unfairness of life.
    5. Books about writing books – I love a good tortured author. This trope can take you so many different directions. The Nix is one of my favorite examples of an unraveling author.
    6. The orphan – Another trope almost overdone but because it’s timeless, it will always be one of my favorites. A Little Life, The Goldfinch, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies are all fantastic examples.
    7. Second chances – Character transformation is important to me because it typically equals well-developed characters. Good examples include: City of Girls, The Friends We Keep, and Evvie Drake Starts Over.
    8. The female villian – Done well, it’s a twist that is hard to forget. Behind Her Eyes is a great example.
    9. Irony – When written around current events, this one can be subjective and tricky. But if done well, it can present the other side in way that the reader may not be able arrive at on their own. Afternoon of a Faun by James Lasdun was a recent read for me and confirmed my theory – good irony will make you cringe.
    10. The marginialized – When done respectfully, this story will become equal parts education and a slap in the face. I am currently reading Speaking of Summer and highly recommend it for both the writing and a discussion we should all be having.

    What is your favorite trope?

  • Lists,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: The Cover Edition

    Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! It’s the day where I write about ten book-ish things that make me happy.

    Today’s prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is all about book covers, specifically redesigns. I’ll admit, I don’t follow that part of a book’s life so my spin on this is my top ten books that I have judged and bought based on their covers.

    Because really, we’re all guilty of that. Right??

    Here goes, in no particular order…

    1. Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
    2. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
    3. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
    4. Blindness by Jose Saramago
    5. The Nix by Nathan Hill
    6. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
    7. Lot by Bryan Washington
    8. All The Lives We Ever Lived by Katharine Smyth
    9. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
    10. Recursion by Blake Crouch

    So while we are taught never to judge a book by its cover, I’m relatively successful doing so. Cover art is a huge part of the publishing process and for good reason.

    Because I can’t be the only creative-type falling in love with a book cover and then buying the book. 

    The funny thing – most of the time I really enjoy the book. And that makes me wonder about the science behind cover designs.

    What was the last book you judged and bought based on the cover? Did you enjoy the book?

    Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

     

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Devotion: a book review

     ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Devotion by Madeline Stevens

    Ella is young, broke, and trying to make it in New York City. Originally from a small town in Oregon, she finds herself out of her element when she is hired by a wealthy family as a nanny for their baby, William.

    Lonnie, William’s mother, is a writer and is 26 – the same age as Ella. James is her successful and handsome husband and on the surface they appear to have the perfect life.

    Lonnie crosses all the boundaries of the employer/employee relationship and the two become friends. Ella is captivated by Lonnie, her talent, old family wealth, and the social circles she moves in. What starts as a fascination, slowly moves into an obsession as Ella meticulously documents Lonnie’s possessions, writings, and relationships – ultimately becoming so enmeshed that it may be impossible to remove herself without serious consequences.

    I’ve seen this book billed as a thriller and for me, it was a slow burn. Told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, I could not tell where the book was headed. I wasn’t trying to anticipate the twist in the traditional way that thrillers like to hook the reader.

    I wanted to know what happened next and that is what made this a page turner for me.

    An unreliable narrator written well is difficult to do and Madeline Stevens did this brilliantly. All the characters were well developed and while each had questionable motives, they were all likable at some point in the book. For me, that is usually the downfall of a book like this – I end up hating everyone and rooting for no one. But by the end of Devotion, I was still pulling for one character which is a sign of a good plot in my opinion.

    So while I wouldn’t call this a heart pounding summer thriller, it’s a smoldering story that will keep you guessing to the end. I read this debut novel in less than 24 hours and I am looking forward to the author’s next book!

    If you enjoy books like The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Ladder to The Sky, or The End of The Affair, you will enjoy Devotion. Look for it in your bookstore on August 13th.

     

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