• 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,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Writing

    Happy Tuesday! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie so I’m going list my top ten books about writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

    In fictional books, I find that they make the plot and characters strong because the author is writing about a subject they know well. Many writers love to write about writing, and I enjoy those storylines.

    With nonfiction books, my favorites feel like I’m talking with a friend – or even better, being let in on someone’s best secrets.

    In no particular order here’s my top ten:

    1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I have written here before about this book. Anne is a writer that reads like a friend – both in style and honesty about writing.
    2. A Ladder to The Sky by John Boyne – I finished reading this book earlier this month, and it quickly became one of my favorites of 2019. Thank goodness it’s fiction because it is a writer’s worse nightmare.
    3. The World According to Garp by John Irving – This novel is an old college favorite of mine that also happens to be one of the few books by John Irving that I liked – an unpopular opinion, probably so.
    4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Yes, this book is depressing that was written by and tragic author in a semi-autobiographical manner. It’s also worth reading at least once; when you are not yourself depressed.
    5. Misery by Stephen King – The book was better than the movie. If you haven’t read this book or much by Stephen King, this is one I would put towards the top of the list of his books to read.
    6. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron – Based on brain science, this book brings out the science geek in me. It’s fascinating and worth a look if you want to approach your writing from a scientific point of view.
    7. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose – This is another book written by a phenomenal writer that reads like a conversation with a friend. I recently reread this book and will return to it over and over.
    8. Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers by Joyce Carol Oates – This book is massive. It is a collection of short stories from a multitude of genres. It is well worth owning if short stories are your focus.
    9. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – This book is newer to me and another one that is brutally honest about the craft of writing.
    10. To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate – Literary nonfiction was a tough genre for me to get a pulse on. I’m still not quite there, but this book was a fantastic starting point for me.

    Do you have any favorite books about writing? Thanks for stopping by!

  • Book Reviews,  Bookish,  mental health,  parenting,  Recommendations

    Book Review: This is How It Always Is

    IMG_9670

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    – Martin Luther King Jr.

    Rating: ✂️✂️✂️✂️.5/5

    If you want to read a book that will make you laugh, cry, think, and easily find your way into someone else’s shoes, This is How is Always Is is a great pick.

    I was raised conservative Methodist, went to private parochial school, and was indoctrinated with conservative southern views and politics just by living in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Today I classify myself as a moderate liberal but more than that, I classify myself as pro-kindness and believe it’s important to extend respect and grace even when we have different views.

    This book does a beautiful job of illustrating just that: grace.

    When Claude, the youngest of five boys bounds down the stairs in a dress and insists on wearing it outside the house and eventually to school, everything this family knows as normal is turned upside down as Poppy emerges as their youngest family member.

    Remember the part about being in someone else’s shoes? That happens a few minutes into the book and the author doesn’t let you change your shoes until the end. And at that point I don’t really think you will want to anyways.

    From each family member’s perspective, the reader gets to question, grieve, get angry, keep secrets, and learn to accept their youngest sibling/child as Poppy.

    There were the expected struggles in school, with friends, and most often with other adults but you also got the unique voice of Poppy, an intelligent, insightful, and brave girl. The author did a fantastic job giving us a glimpse of the inner dialogue of a child trying to figure out who they are; just like all kids.

    It gives the reader plenty of time to consider what they would do and for me it was obvious: I would love my child and support them as they figured out the world.

    We all have our differences, be it mental illness, a physical disability, personality quirks, or even something that happened in our past that permanently changes who we are. Despite that, we all want to be who we are and to be accepted. Same with Poppy.

    The characters were all well-developed and I especially enjoyed the relationship between the husband and wife, Penn and Rosie, who also had non-traditional roles. Penn is an author and stays at home. Rosie is a physician. The dialogue between the two of them was real, honest, and accurate for parents navigating raising five children.

    My one problem with the book as a whole was when Penn and Rosie referred, multiple times, to having four and a half boys. It’s their story but it felt like a minimization of their youngest child. A kid is never half a kid.

    I enjoyed this book immensely and while I found the writing a tad sloppy at times, it never distracted from the story or the very timely message. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories about real families dealing with real issues. Don’t be afraid of an “agenda” because it’s just not there.

    The only agenda here is that parenting is messy and all we can do is love our kids for who they are, not who we want them to be.

  • Audiobooks,  Bookish,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: the creepy edition

    black wooden door frame
    Photo by ramy Kabalan on Pexels.com

    Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

    Don’t hate me, I don’t love Halloween.  This week’s list prompt is a freebie list of Halloween/creepy books so I’m going with creepy. Here’s my top 10 in no particular order:

    1.Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – Abraham Lincoln’s young son dies and is laid to rest in a crypt that Lincoln returned to several times (true story). Young Willie Lincoln spends a night in a purgatory of sorts with a cast of characters in various states of flux. Highly creative with lots of historical insights; this book was creepy and extremely entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend the audiobook!

    2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – Think dark fairytales, a reclusive grandmother, and a granddaughter hunting for her mother who went missing; presumably in The Hazel Wood. This book was full of imagination and just dark enough to be creepy at times. The cover art is also a work of art in it’s own right.

    3. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – What’s not creepy about an adorable first grader plotting to kill her mom so she can have her dad’s attention all to herself. Her schemes are pure psychopathy and gave me the chills more than once.

    4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Screams from the attic, a mysterious fire set in the house, and Jane left to figure out the mystery on her own while being pursued by Mr. Rochester a.k.a. Mr. Nothing to See Here.

    5. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – Be careful what you wish for. A homely, plain girl inserts herself into the Parrish life she believed she wanted. Except that Mr. Parrish was a monster.

    6. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – What’s not creepy about the daughter of a female serial killer who turned her own mother into the police? The descriptions alone of living in that house are what nightmares are made of. The audiobook was fantastic!

    7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – A young girl is murdered and the book is told from her perspective. Creepy. And terribly sad.

    8. Pet Cemetery by Stephen King – This was my first Stephen King book and I used to read it under my covers with a flashlight. It would scare me so bad that I would go hide it under the couch in the other room so I could sleep.

    9. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll – Two girls harmlessly flirt with two guys on a train. A year later and one of them is still missing. The plot twists were intriguing and kept you guessing until the end.

    10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – This was by far Flynn’s creepiest novels. Libby is the sole survivor of a family massacre in her own home. Her brother is convicted but questions still surround the night of the killings. Well written but one I will never read again.

    What are some of your favorite creepy books?

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