A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 12+ hrs.
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A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss, narrated by Ell Potter, is my 7th book for the 12 books recommended by 12 friends reading challenge. Yes, I am ahead of schedule – at least on this one thing.

Despite all the success she has had, Annie Sharpe’s 26-year marriage comes to a spectacular halt when her husband’s antics lead her to say, “enough is enough.” Feeling adrift from her city life and what it represents, Annie anchors herself in Willow Bay as the caretaker of a house by the sea as the owner takes a holiday with a friend away from the harsh conditions of winter. The six-month stint is exactly what she needs to set her life back on track and find out what she’d like to do next.

Annie finds the seaside town delightful, and she embarks on a new business venture — the Saltwater Nook Cafe. She finds that her temporary venture may run afoul of the proprietor’s nephew’s plan to sell the place. John Granger, the nephew, is a bit stiff and stand-offish. He has plans, but many see him as a money-grubbing relative of the actual building’s owner.

A Season for Second Chances by Jenny Bayliss is a delightful story about second chances. I loved all of the characters in Willow Bay. Loved the book club, loved the cafe employees, the two pubs/restaurants, and so many of the interactions with the local residents. They were all so delightful. Max, Annie’s ex-husband, drove me insane! I don’t know how Annie could have put up with him in 26 years of marriage. An absolutely lovely seaside trip.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A former professional cake baker, Jenny Bayliss lives in a small seaside town in the United Kingdom with her husband, their children having left home for big adventures. She is also the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas, A Season for Second Chances, and Meet Me Under the Mistletoe.

Flare Corona by Jeannine Hall Gailey

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Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Flare Corona by Jeannine Hall Gailey explores the emotional and physical turbulence of unexpected diagnoses through a hopeful and apocalyptic lens. Gailey returns to some previous subjects, including her coming of age near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its nuclear energy work, as well as its impact on her health. In this more personal collection, the poems explore shifting emotions and coping strategies.

“I was still innocent. Irradiated./To blast with radiation — to sterilize/food, medical equipment, a person./I was waiting for a message from the sky.//” (“Irradiate” pg. 11) What messages do we all hope for? Messages of hope amid darkness.

Gailey juxtaposes the glow of radiation with the dulled reputation of America and the significant changes to her own abilities to walk, think, write. “In my bones, organs, skin, I’ve been storing/all of America’s dark secrets//” (“Self-Portrait as Radioactive Girl,” pg. 19) She also reminds us of mortality in “Lights Out” where “Time keeps getting away from us.” (pg. 22). She asks us “can you sympathize” as the world struggles with virus-related lockdowns, hatred, and so many more darknesses, and it is a fair question. So much is unraveling outside of the diagnosis and the end of the world seems to be coming faster and faster — hurricanes, wildfires, deadly viruses — everything seems personal. However, Gailey reminds us, “Chaos theory makes beauty of a mess./When I was little I looked more like you.” (pg. 51)

Tumultuous, emotional journey through ups and downs of medical mysteries, diagnoses and misdiagnoses, but Flare Corona by Jeannine Hall Gailey is about our own apocalypses and how we deal with the fallout. “Don’t remember me like this, grim-faced, after all the bad decisions./Don’t remember the war. Just remember the sweetness,//how it was once. Leave me covered in cliches and lilacs.//” (“When I Said Goodbye,” pg. 85).

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey is a writer with MS who served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington and is the author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize, Field Guide to the End of the World, and the upcoming Flare, Corona from BOA Editions. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry, and Ploughshares.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (audio)

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Audiobook, 16+ hours
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Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield, narrated by Juliet Stevenson, is my 6th book from the 12 friends 12 books reading challenge. It is a collection of intertwined stories set along the River Thames, in which a baby miraculously comes back to life after drowning. These are river stories in which family secrets continue to float to the surface. From a midwife who has given up on love and having a husband or children who a small town relies on more than physicians to a family whose daughter was taken and ransomed and an educated Black farm owner who is looking for his son’s wife, Setterfield has created quite a cast of characters, but the star is that river.

Like her novel, The Thirteenth Tale, this one is deeply atmospheric. The river is as much a character as Mrs. White, the Vaughns, the Armstrongs, nurse Rita, and so many others. There are so many families and secrets to be unraveled, but they are done with the slow flow of the river. The miraculously recovered girl is a mystery to be solved — who are her parents, who threw her into the river, and who took her?

The Swan Inn and the town is a place where stories are woven and rewoven. Setterfield wants her readers to dive deep into this story, making it unlikely you will come up for air until the end. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is engaging, but like The Thirteenth Tale, it felt too long to me and I cared more about some of the characters than others. There was a wrapping up of loose ends, which I appreciated, but those also seemed too long to reach.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her second novel is Bellman & Black (2013), an unusual genre-defying meditation on workaholism, Victorian mourning ritual and rooks, and her third, Once Upon a River, was published in 2019.

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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hrs.
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The Other Americans by Laila Lalami, narrated by Mozhan Marnò, P.J. Ochlan, Adenrele Ojo, Ozzie Rodriguez, Susan Nezami, Ali Nasser, Mark Bramhall, Max Adler, and Meera Simhan, is less the story of the murder of Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant, and more about the other Americans in their circle. Driss was a Muslim immigrant who embraced the American Dream and opened his own restaurant in a small town of Mojave, California, and sought to live his dream.

However, his wife, Maryam, doesn’t want to assimilate, and she often praises her dutiful daughter and dentist Salma, but her relationship with her husband and youngest daughter and musician Nora are on shaky ground. These are the main characters as best as I can discern them, excluding Jeremy, a policeman/love interest.

Lalami tackles not only racism and fear, but also the tension between those who are religiously devote and those who are not. There is the young woman who wants to follow her dream but is pulled back home by the death of her father and the obligation she feels toward her family and the Pantry, the restaurant. At the crux is honesty and distrust – the lack of one and the abundance of the other.

Some of these narrators were far better than others – some sounded wooden and others sounded computer generated. Nora’s voice is the most real and engaging. But I also wonder if it is the narrative that made it harder to narrate — some of the dialogue is stilted.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami was a good read for the topics it covers that book clubs can discuss, but there were far too many characters (who were chapters unto themselves) and their connections were tenuous at best. There are dropped threads in the family narration, like the relationship between the mother and father and impending breakup and the struggles of the dutiful daughter, Salma. The relationships are broken in more ways than one, and they don’t seem to be repaired (at least not satisfactorily) or even talked about again.  Lalami seems to have taken on too much in this ambitious book. For threaded narratives of seemingly unconnected characters, you should try Colum McCann.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of five books, including The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. It was on the longlist for the Booker Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, Harper’s, the Guardian, and the New York Times. She has been awarded fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California at Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles.

Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

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Paperback, 240 pgs.
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Road of Bones by Christopher Golden is set in the coldest part of Russia on Siberia’s Kolyma Highway, which was built by hundreds of thousands of forced laborers from the gulag who were interred in the pavement after dying during its construction during the Stalinist era. Felix “Teig” Teigland has rented a truck and convinced his cameraman friend Prentiss to join him on the Road of Bones as he sniffs out the next television series idea he needs to pay back Prentiss and numerous others.

“Don’t fall asleep,”Prentiss said.

Teig forced a smile. “Don’t bore me to death and I’ll stay awake.”

In the frozen tundra, keeping any vehicle on the road is difficult. From the moment they are on the road, it is clear that the cold of the tundra will play a significant role in this story, almost as if it were another character. Teig’s uneasy, “The worm of nausea squiggled anew in his gut,” especially when he meets the guide, Kaskil, he hired. Life and death on the road of bones is something that Teig sees will save his career, but perhaps he should be more concerned about his actual life and death situation in a place where the weather can kill you.

When he and Prentiss meet Kaskil and make it to his home town of Akhust, it is more than legends and ghost stories that they find. The town has been abandoned, with some of its people leaving their homes while barefoot. Lurking in the woods, wolves are stalking them, but these are not traditional wolves.

My one quibble was the character of Ludmilla, who is introduced and we get to know her and her mission to free the souls on the Road of Bones, but her connection to the main story line seems so rushed. It seemed as if she were a ghost in the first place or part of the legend of the woman on the Road of Bones freeing souls, but then she isn’t. It was a bit disappointing, but didn’t detract too much from the main story. Perhaps there’s another book in the works with her?

Despite the plot holes, Golden has created an otherworldly feeling with the killer cold, mysterious disappearance of a whole town, the appearance of a beautiful woman, and the eyes in the forests at the edge of town. Road of Bones by Christopher Golden is definitely all you would expect it to be — creepy, suspenseful, and chock full of gruesome murder.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of such novels as Road of Bones, Ararat, Snowblind, and Red Hands. With Mike Mignola, he is the co-creator of the Outerverse comic book universe, including such series as Baltimore, Joe Golem: Occult Detective, and Lady Baltimore. As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies Seize the Night, Dark Cities, and The New Dead, among others, and he has also written and co-written comic books, video games, screenplays, and a network television pilot. In 2015 he founded the popular Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival. He was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His work has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award, the Eisner Award, and multiple Shirley Jackson Awards. For the Bram Stoker Awards, Golden has been nominated ten times in eight different categories, and won twice. His original novels have been published in more than fifteen languages in countries around the world. 

Bargaining with the Fall by Alison Palmer

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Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Bargaining with the Fall by Alison Palmer is a deeply personal collection about loss, grief, and the impact it has on those left behind. The opening poem, “The Sky Only Teaches Me Uncertainty,” sets the tone for the collection, a struggle with debilitating grief and uncertainty, a deep enveloping emptiness left by a departed father. The poet says, “I’m a done-in-soul without you.” Grief is like that. All consuming and seems never-ending, which it is, though the grief does change over time.

Imagine grief before a loss, watching a loved one struggle to survive. “I start to breathe like you; water moves/over your gills in my mind. I implore myself, stop//pacing, but I already saw you die/once.” (“Your Memory Moves in Me Like a Shark Must”, pg.8) Grief in memory, grief in the moment, grief as it happens. Emotions are unexpected and invasive.

Salvation (pg. 31)

What more could you have done to obey; the sum
of your parts down to zero: I'm reduced to photographs—

              from the corner of your eye, reverence,
      for what? Rusted nails, your weight, wooden staircase—

I don't bend my knees in prayer, next to you, I don't
believe you'll be protected: such guttural sounds—Oh,

             Lord or Anyone listening? Deliverance gets lost
      along the way, the ambulance arrives an hour later—

Faith in the body owes us nothing; we can't all be
spared: the night you fall, the night falls with you—

             your blue eyes, the only beacons that speak
      to me. I'm startled by how little they say—

As the poet moves through the collection, we’re taken on a journey to make sense of tragic, unexpected loss. It’s a hard road of what-ifs and surprise, even as the poet seeks to use an equation to understand it in “Behind the Conglomerate, a Backbone?” There is no understanding this kind of tragedy; it is unknowable, like grief, until you live it. Bargaining with the Fall by Alison Palmer is as heart-wrenching as it is beautiful in its questioning of loss and grief and what hollows it leaves behind. This collection has come at a very appropriate time in my life. Do not miss this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:


About the Poet:

Alison Palmer is the author of the forthcoming full-length poetry collection, Bargaining with the Fall (Broadstone Books, March 2023), the recently published poetry chapbook, Everything Is Normal Here (Broadstone Books, 2022), and the poetry chapbook, The Need for Hiding (Dancing Girl Press, 2018). To read an interview with Alison visit: www.thepoetsbillow.org. She was named a semi-finalist for 92Y’s Discovery Poetry Contest 2021 and was chosen for a 2022 Independent Artist Award (IAA) grant by the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC).

Alison received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and she was awarded the Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Prize from Oberlin College where she graduated with a BA in Creative Writing. Currently, Alison writes outside Washington, DC.

The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras by Fran Abrams

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Paperback, 23 pgs.
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The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras by Fran Abrams is a delight. If you love math or don’t, it won’t matter as Abrams’ wry wit and precise storytelling will tickle your humor bone. She espouses her love of Pythagoras and his math in the opening poem, but she also has a few things to say about his philosophies. We all can’t be perfect, right?

What I love about Abrams’ work is that she can take the every day things we see and feel and make them new. Imagine the poem “Triangle” and see how Abrams transforms it into a poem about trysts and how people must have confused them with the word truss, one of the strongest architectural elements used. She juxtaposes the strength of the triangle with the instability of the tryst in just 7 stanzas.

Triangle (pg. 2)

the strongest shape
used in bridges and in trusses
to support floors and roofs

compression on legs
balanced by tension
across the base

difficult to break unless
one of the sides cracks—
then why is a love triangle

the same shape as a truss
how strong can it be
when it's made of two men

who love one woman or two women
who love one man or some other arrangement
of three not supposed to be in love

how long before one side
of the triangle will crack
causing the structure to fail

the answer becomes evident only
when someone realizes
they have confused tryst with truss

Her chapbook uses the base of math to explore our lives, making astute observations on love, family, and so much more. The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras by Fran Abrams is not to be missed.

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Poet:

Fran Abrams lives in Rockville, MD. She holds an undergraduate degree in art and architecture and a master’s degree in urban planning. For 41 years, she worked in government and nonprofit agencies in Montgomery County, MD, where her work involved writing legislation, regulations, memos, and reports.

In 2000, before she retired, she began working as a visual artist. Then, after retiring in 2010, she devoted the majority of her time to her art. After attending a poetry reading in 2017, she realized she missed expressing herself in words and began taking creative writing classes at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, where she concentrated on writing poetry. In September 2017, she traveled to Italy on a poetry retreat that strengthened her commitment to writing poems. She now devotes the most of her time to writing poetry.

Since 2017, her poems have been published online and in print in Cathexis-Northwest Press, The American Journal of Poetry, MacQueen’s Quinterly Literary Magazine, The Raven’s Perch, Gargoyle 74, and others. In 2019, she was a juried poet at Houston (TX) Poetry Fest and a featured reader at DiVerse Gaithersburg (MD) Poetry Reading. Her poems appear in more than a dozen anthologies, including the 2021 collection titled This is What America Looks Like from Washington Writers Publishing House (WWPH). In December 2021, she won the WWPH Winter Poetry Prize for her poem titled “Waiting for Snow.” Her first chapbook, titled “The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras,” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her first full-length manuscript, titled “I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir,” is out now from Atmosphere Press.

Our Wolves by Luanne Castle

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Paperback, 37 pgs.
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Our Wolves by Luanne Castle is a chapbook that hinges on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, in which Castle explores themes of identity, feminism, and gender. Red is no longer merely a victim in these tales, she’s feisty and strong-willed, and in some ways she’s manipulative. Granny even plays a more integral role and explores what it means to be the excuse in a story. Castle also brings to the fore the role of the hunter and/or wood cutter found in folklore.

From “A Snowy Night in Manistee River Valley” (pg. 10), “I need to get outside,/let the chill wind wake me to myself./If it gets me, I’ll be clearheaded enough/to see what has substance, sharp enough/” There are often wolves that lurk in the dark of our minds, and here we see that isolation can breed some of that darkness and fear.

From "School for Girls Who Shouldn't Trust" (pg. 13)

Just kneel them down to check their hems,
keep their thighs covered, their minds intent.
Let them learn karate and debate to live with
men and beasts without damage or regret.
Nobody warns them about the animal calls
or signs that susurrate through the drainpipes.

There is so much to love in this collection and Castle’s imagination. Her poems provide us an alternate story, but they are by no means a retelling of Red’s tale. It is more a psychological exploration of characters in a tale where a young girl becomes/is a victim. How tired are we of this trope as women? We need to be saved? We are only victims and incomplete without the man in our lives to save us. How many times have we been in charge of our own destinies for better or worse? Castle explores all of these questions and scenarios while illuminating the wolves we face within and outside of ourselves.

Our Wolves by Luanne Castle may be few pages but they pack a powerful punch. Castle never ceases to surprise me as a reader.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Luanne Castle lives in Arizona, next to a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare. She has published two full-length poetry collections, Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line Press 2022) and Doll God (Aldrich/Kelsay 2015), which won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Kin Types (Finishing Line Press 2017), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Our Wolves (Alien Buddha Press 2023) is her second chapbook. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals.

Spare by Prince Harry (audio)

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Audible, 15+ hrs.
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Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who narrates his own memoir, is one man’s struggle with his role in life (one he was born into), the death of his mother (which he avoided grieving for far too many years), and who loves his wife and his family (all of his family). How do you deal with the death of a mother, particularly in such a sensational and horrific way that Princess Diana died? How do you navigate a privileged life as a spare who isn’t exactly expected to carry the royal name into the future? How do you protect your family from a press that is allowed to run free and do as it pleases and is often fueled by petty family jealousies and informants?

No matter what you think about the royal family or how the press works, etc., it is clear that the horrific death of Princess Diana profoundly shaped Prince Harry and how he viewed the British press from the start. He was a young boy when he lost his mother, and reading about how the family reacted and did little to help him adjust and mourn is heartbreaking. The love his mother had for him and his brother also nurtured his love of family and the belief in family loyalty and protection, much to his detriment. He assumed many things about his own family and its priorities. There are many instances where he gives them the benefit of the doubt in how they treated him and his wife, but that benefit of the doubt was clearly misplaced time and time again.

The drawbacks for me were the unexamined privilege he has and didn’t acknowledge, and what seemed to me a glossing over of how the British press and its close relationship with the Royals helped him. Overall, Prince Harry was clearly adrift and in need of direction, which he found in the military despite the obstacles (including the Royal family and his brother). Does he have more self-examination to do? Yes, but don’t we all.

Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, is a page-turner, and definitely an emotional read. It’s a sad look at a young man without enough support from his family. Family here is focused on preserving the monarchy and little else. The relationship between the brothers was not that solid to start with and it is clear that becoming the heir further fractured the relationship between Harry and his brother. If anything, right or wrong, this is a memoir of a broken family and a man who will protect his wife and children first.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex is a husband, father, humanitarian, military veteran, mental wellness advocate, environmentalist, and bestselling author. He resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his family and three dogs. His memoir, Spare, was published on January 10, 2023.

The Troop by Nick Cutter (audio)

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Audiobook, 11+ hrs.
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The Troop by Nick Cutter, narrated by Corey Brill, is equally creepy and suspenseful as a cross between Lord of the Flies and bio-engineering and infection tale. Corey Brill is a stunning narrator and at times reminds me of the best crazy Jack Nicholson (think The Shining).

Scoutmaster Dr. Tim Riggs takes a group of teen boys into the Canadian wilderness (an island near Prince Edward Island) for a three-day camping trip when a sick man wanders into their area. Dr. Riggs offers to help the man, since the troop will be picked up by boat in a few days. What begins as a moment of altruism soon becomes a survival tale in which only the uninfected will survive, but only if they keep the infected away and can prevent their own sickness from taking hold.

Cutter has some pretty typical boys in this troop and each has a strength and weakness, and, of course, there are those who are not exactly friendly with one another. Kent and Ephraim are clearly the tough guys and in a silent battle to be top dog, while there are others who are harboring secrets and some who are trying not to be so weak (or what society perceives as weak).

This book will definitely have you squirming. It’s uncomfortable as all hell. The Troop by Nick Cutter is a horrifying read. Definitely one you’ll want to devour if you like terror, horror, or suspense.

Rating: Cinquain

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (audio)

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Audible, 11+ hrs.
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Book Lovers by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan, is intense and hilarious. I am so glad I wasn’t listening or reading this on my subway commute, people would have been staring at me during my laughing outbursts. It’s bad enough the dogs thought I was losing it.

Nora Stephens is a literary agent and her life is buttoned up and precise. Charlie Lastra, a book editor, is her nemesis after he turns down her client, Dusty’s latest work. Both get off on the wrong foot, but there’s always time to make a second impression.

Nora’s sister Libby, who is five months pregnant, pitches taking a 3-week vacation in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the setting of Dusty’s latest best seller. She’s got a notion that Nora needs to break free and needs to finish a checklist many Hallmark movies create — dating small town man, saving a local business, and more. While the idea is ridiculous, Nora agrees because it’s obvious that Libby needs some R&R away from the kids and all that comes with being super mom.

Whelan is a fantastic narrator. She infuses each character with their own personality and quirks, which is a great enhancement for Henry’s characters. I loved everything about this book – from the characters to the hilarious encounters and the deep relationship rifts and healing.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan, is a book that will have you laughing out loud, wishing you could get Nora to stop doubting herself and pushing her feelings aside, and urging the sisters to have more frank discussions about their past and future. This is definitely my favorite of Henry’s books.

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Author:

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (audio)

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Audible, 15+ hrs.
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If It Bleeds by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton, Danny Burstein, and Steven Weber, is a collection of novellas, with Holly Gibney reappearing in the title novella.

The opening novella, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, is reminiscent of a young boy coming-of-age story in which Craig befriends Mr. Harrigan right as cell phones start providing information at our fingertips, including newspapers and stock information. This friendship, of course, takes a darker turn. I enjoyed this piece, but wanted more development and a longer story.

The Life of Chuck, set in Boston, opens with the end of the Internet, but there’s billboards everywhere with Chuck on them. Who was this man that no one seems to know, but who is loved enough to be on a billboard? The ghosts of his past provide us with a glimpse of this finance man and how he did indeed “contain multitudes.” The best part of this story is when Chuck begins dancing on Boylston Street in Boston to the beat of busking drummers. But it is also about that age-old question of whether we would want to know when we’re to die? Would we use the time wisely? Would we while it away. This story was not as engaging as the others, at least not on audio.

Holly Gibney returns in If It Bleeds to find herself in a similar situation as to when she was in The Outsider (my review). It helps if you have read the previous novel where she appears because it is referenced, but I don’t think it is necessary, as King provides enough background for readers to follow along. Gibney is a spitfire who is overcoming her own self-esteem issues, and I absolutely love revisiting this character. This was my favorite novella.

Rat is the final novella in the collection and reminded me of King’s earlier works involving writers – Secret Window, Secret Garden (which became a movie with Johnny Depp), The Dark Half, and The Shining. But don’t expect that rat to appear until midway and do expect a Faustian bargain to occur. This one was a traditional horror yarn. It was definitely a solid story, though I didn’t like Drew Larson much.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King was a bit hit-and-miss for me, but there’s definitely something for everyone in these pages. The best of these for me was If It Bleeds, though Mr. Harrigan’s Phone was a close second for me. Each of these deal with our sense of mortality and how knowing the end is near or even possible can impact how we act or don’t.

Funnily enough, the bookworm also posted her review of this collection, so check it out!

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.