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The Fervor by Alma Katsu

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
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The Fervor by Alma Katsu is the perfect balance of suspense, supernatural, and historical fiction. Meiko and Aiko Briggs are interned in Minidoka during WWII, while Meiko’s husband, Jamie, fights overseas as a pilot. The story shifts from 1944 to 1927 where we learn a little bit about Meiko’s family history and her father’s atmospheric research. What her father uncovered while working on a remote Japanese island Shikotan will come into play later.

Readers also will meet Archie and Elsie, the preacher and his wife, who were family friends of the Briggs. Something comes between the foursome when the war breaks out. When white motes appear and explosions happen in remote places across the United States, a fervor starts to take hold.

“She looked at the smoldering heap, which still billowed and heaved in the night air, like a breathing creature, tentacled and ashen.” (pg. 35-6)

Working in the background is an intrepid reporter who uncovers a secret balloon in the woods with strange writing. She starts to piece together the fervor taking hold in small, remote towns across America. No one is immune, not even the preacher. Katsu’s interned characters are strong, but they shouldn’t have to be. They are Americans and love their country, and Mr. Briggs is sacrificing himself for freedom.

The Fervor by Alma Katsu is a work of fiction, but she captures the atmosphere of WWII in America and the fervor that caught up so many and led to the interment (read imprisonment) of American citizens. I’ve read a number of books about this period and these camps, but there should be more about this time period taught to students across the country. We need more brave souls to examine our not-so-great history, so that a new/old fervor doesn’t take over and lead to more dark U.S. history.

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Kill It With Fire by Marianne Bellotti (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 7+ hrs.
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Kill It With Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti, narrated by Katie Koster, is an audiobook I read to prepare for an interview with the author for work. So this review will be a bit unusual. Bellotti’s book is about modernizing technology, but not for the sake of getting the latest and greatest. Her book is about enterprises taking a careful look at their current operational systems, which are the backbones of many businesses today, and determining how best to maintain, upgrade, or modernize them for current business needs and the future of the business.

I found this audio to be at times engaging and circular. There are arguments made early on that are reiterated later in the book, which makes sense when you consider this is a business focused book making an argument for interdisciplinary teamwork in the world of technology that focuses on ensuring technology is not only maintained but evolved over time to meet future business needs.

Bellotti offers a lot of wonderful advice on how to work to modernize systems without burning down the entire place and starting over from scratch. Like she says, technology that is doing the job most effectively is the best option for the business, but for that technology to be at its best, it also needs to be updated and maintained.

Kill It With Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti, narrated by Katie Koster, is a good resource for businesses trying to get a handle on the latest systems and options out there while still ensuring their business hums along as effectively as it can.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Marianne Bellotti is a software engineer and relapsed anthropologist. Her work focuses on how culture influences the implementation and development of software. She runs engineering teams and teaches other people how to tackle complex systems. Most of her work has focused on restoring old systems to operational excellence, but she also works on the safety of cutting edge systems and artificial intelligence. 

With Love From London by Sarah Jio

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 400 pgs.
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With Love from London by Sarah Jio, which was my first buddy read on StoryGraph app, is a tale of a newly divorcing woman, Valentina, and the surprise inheritance she receives from her mother, Eloise, who abandoned her at age 12, never to be heard from again. In this narrative that shifts between the two women’s point of views, we see that the separation of mother and daughter was a heavy burden for both of them, but why would Eloise abandon her child? That’s the mystery.

“‘There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” says the stranger sitting next to me on the airplane…” (pg. 3)

There were never truer words. Despite Val’s misgivings about her inheritance – a house on Primrose Hill — she boards a plane, leaving her soon-to-be ex-husband behind. Eloise’s story begins when she’s a young woman living with her best friend, Millie, in the East End and working at Harrod’s while dreaming of a better life and a bookstore all her own. Her young life is full of spontaneity and dating, but it’s one man who captures her attention fully. The parallels between the two women’s lives are uncanny from being with the wrong man to finally figuring out that happiness doesn’t have hinge on another person’s approval.

The story is at times funny with characters like Liza livening things up, but it is also so frustrating when men like Frank (who will infuriate you) appear on the scene. The struggles facing Eloise are very significant and the conclusion of her story is bittersweet, but Val learns to forgive the past and embrace the future. What didn’t work for me were some of the cliche plot devices like letters purposefully kept from one of the characters and a few interactions between characters that felt less than realistic to me given the situations. However, I did become invested wholeheartedly in this story of healing and redemption.

With Love from London by Sarah Jio is a dramatic story in which a daughter must learn to forgive the past and move on with her future as a stronger, independent woman.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of WITH LOVE FROM LONDON, coming from Random House (Ballantine) 2/22, as well as seven other novels from Random House and Penguin Books, including, ALWAYS, ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER, THE LAST CAMELLIA, MORNING GLORY, GOODNIGHT JUNE, and THE LOOK OF LOVE. Sarah is a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, and many others. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Her novels are translated into more than 25 languages. Sarah lives in Seattle with her husband, three boys, three step-children and two puppies.

Inventory of Doubts by Landon Godfrey

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 84 pgs.
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Doubts follow us in our daily lives, much like the little devils on the shoulders of cartoon characters. Listing our doubts in a journal or simply writing a list when we tackle something new or challenge ourselves can help reduce our anxiety and fear. Landon Godfrey explores these ideas in the collection, Inventory of Doubts, but rather than rely on a human voice, Godfrey has anthropomorphized objects like a feather boa, a dishrag, a box, and many others.

In her prose-like stories, these objects come alive, they become more than the discarded thing. An antique inkwell is not as sophisticated or as academic as it is perceived, and the attic stuffed with discarded items that we no longer care for wishes to be eaten away by termites so it could see the sky and be in awe. Godfrey has collected the uncollectable — silence. We know these objects and their purposes because we have assigned them, but in the silence, is that all that they are? Only what we’ve determined them to be? “Unable to fit in anyone’s pocket, a jealous boulder considers cures for loneliness while it pauses on a cliff.” (“Boulder,” pg. 7)

These objects are stand-ins. They are placeholders for greater questions about our own purposes and our own determinations of what is good and useful and what is to be praised and what is to be frowned upon. Like the dishrag that “experiments with justice, releasing some moisture back into the freedom of air, while retaining a few drops of water indefinitely in a grease-guarded cell.” (pg. 17) Our own experiments, like that of the dishrag, often do not have the best results, but there is always time for change, for reparations. Just like the rag, we too can be reshaped and given new purpose.

Godfrey’s Inventory of Doubts are as fantastical as they are rooted in our own realities. Our conversations with ourselves and our constant “little voices” often have us running in circles or falling into circular patterns of logic, leaving us little room to expand. This collection is an exploration of the human condition: “The seep and clot of it. The furtive fingers of it. The blob and spread of it. The orgy of it. The impossible to remove of it.” (“Stain,” pg. 64) Gloriously imaginative, surprising, and haunting.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Landon Godfrey is the recipient of a 2013 Regional Artist Project Grant and a 2011-2012 North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship. In selecting her first book, “Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown,” for the Cider Press Review Book Award, David St. John writes, “Never has the sumptuous materiality of language felt more seductive than in Landon Godfrey’s remarkable debut collection, ‘Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown.’ These exquisite poems are both sensually compelling and intellectually rigorous—a rare feat indeed. The iridescence of this marvelous volume continues to glow long after one has turned out the lights.” Printed at Asheville BookWorks, a limited edition letterpress chapbook, “In the Stone: Three Prose Poems,” will be published in Spring 2013. Landon’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies—including The Southeast Review, Lyric, Chelsea, POOL, Studium in Polish translation, and Best New Poets 2008—featured at Verse Daily and Broadsided, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her prose on poetry has been published by Q Avenue Press and Gulf Coast, and is forthcoming from Voltage Poetry. Born and raised in Washington, DC, she now lives in Black Mountain, NC, with her husband, poet Gary Hawkins.

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong is a tumultuous collection of poetry in which the poetry is narrated by someone searching for love, acceptance, and a home. The collection opens with a surreal image of “The Bull,” in which the narrator calls himself a murderer of his own childhood. There is this sense that the narrator does not wish to grow up but has no choice but to become more mature. This signals to the reader that something has shifted in his world.

When the reader gets to “Snow Theory,” we see that a mother has vanished from the narrator’s life and he pleads: “What we’ll always have is something we lost/In the snow, the dry outline of my mother/Promise me you won’t vanish again, I said/She lay there awhile, thinking it over/One by one the houses turned off their lights/I lay down over her outline, to keep her true/Together we made an angel/” This is the moment where the journey begins and the poetic narrator is no longer anchored.

Throughout the collection, Vuong explores what it means to be loved and where love cannot be found. How a sense of belonging is integral to mental health and how the journey can nearly destroy you.

The image of snow appears throughout the collection, and it gives readers a sense of stillness, perhaps paralysis. It may be that the narrator is unable to fully move forward until they deal with the deep emotional loss of their mother, but it seems like the narrator is more adrift because they are unable to navigate the hatred he faces because of whom he loves.

There are a number of intriguing images throughout the collection, including the morgue as a community center, but some of these ideas are not fully fleshed out and leave the reader wandering in a surreal world without any breadcrumbs to follow. Perhaps this was intentional because like the narrator, the reader will feel adrift. Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong is a journey into the unknown.

Enter the GoodReads giveaway by Jun. 15, 2022.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Ocean Vuong is the author of the debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019). He is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.

Finding Me by Viola Davis (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hrs.
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***trigger warnings for those who have suffered sexual abuse or child abuse***

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis, narrated by the author, is what I want in a memoir every time – not simply name dropping or a recounting of events, but an in-depth look at one’s life and all its dark corners and bright lights. I want it to be reflective, and I want it to ring true. I want to hear everything that a person believes makes them who they are today. Davis brings that and much more.

I have loved Davis as an actor for so many years. When I see her name on the list, I’m watching that movie. She is that powerful and phenomenal, and now I can see why. She’s one of those actors who has the innate ability to channel the past and mold it into her roles and provide her characters with motivation, but she’s also a keen observer of people around her and their emotional and physical struggles.

I did not know that Davis grew up in Rhode Island! I lived in Massachusetts, but like 20 min. from the border of Rhode Island as a girl. When she talked about places, I knew where she was. That made this a not-so-great treat because I was completely unaware of the horrors there, but I was a kid…most of us don’t notice those things.

What I loved is that she stays true to the woman I believe her to be, pulling no punches about discrimination or racism or even sexism in the Hollywood business. Her story is a story for all Black women who struggle with perceptions of others and who they are. I want all women to feel loved for who they are, not who we perceive them to be.

She is very candid about the abuse, molestation, and more that occurred in her childhood and the effects that it had on her as an adult. Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis is one of the best memoirs I’ve listened to in a while, and I highly recommend this one. I cannot tell you how riveting this was, you need to experience this for yourself.

About the Author:

Viola Davis is an American actress. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards.

Memory and Desire by Gregory Luce

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 38 pgs.
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Memory and Desire by Gregory Luce is an undulating collection of poems filled with the roller coaster ride of desire and love, but also the tricky thing we call memory. The opening poem, “Desire,” speaks of an empty vessel that is filled and emptied, flowing in and out with the tidal waves of want. But like the vessel, an “indifferent” moon is pushing and pulling the waves – desire is everywhere. In the second poem, “Poem Beginning With a Found Line,” there’s the inkling of a chance meeting that doesn’t happen. But the lives of these two people run in parallel throughout. It’s one of those “what if” poems and it’s aching with longing.

Luce’s love poems in this collection will have readers sighing with longing and joy, especially with beautiful lines like “She could turn/and slide sideways/like a trick of the light./” in “Love Story.” (pg. 5) Or in “The Mechanism of Joy,” where “she floats in/all legs and tresses/clothes billowing as/light pours in/from every direction/and dust motes pulse/like electric particles/moving up the back/of my neck…/” (pg. 17-18)

But there’s also a sense of being adrift, too. In “Torn from a Notebook,” a narrator rushes through a subway station alone, “On the train you are/jostled, shaken, a dry/stick fallen away/from the bundle.//” (pg. 10) One of my favorite poems, “The wish to be an insect,” is so reminiscent of Kafka, I couldn’t help but imagine it — a man as an insect scurrying around. Something I’ve often wondered about traveling in the city full of people rushing here and there. There’s a loneliness in that scurrying, but also a sense of community and belonging – at least the desire for it.

Memory and Desire by Gregory Luce was a delightful read and full of surprising images and desires. Definitely includes some poems you’d want to read to someone you love, but it also includes some reflective pieces about belonging and community.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Gregory Luce is the author of the chapbooks Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications) and Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), and the collection Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications). His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Innisfree Poetry Review, If, Northern Virginia Review, Foundling Review, MiPOesias, Praxilla, Little Patuxent Review, The Rusty Nail, Rising Tide Review, Cactus Heart, Faircloth Review, and in the anthologies Living in Storms (Eastern Washington University Press) and Bigger Than They Appear (Accents Publishing). He lives in Washington, D.C., where he works as Production Specialist for the National Geographic Society. When not working or writing poems, he enjoys reading, birdwatching, hiking, bicycling, and spending time with his sons, Alex and Theo.

The Drowning House by John Sibley Williams

Source: the poet
Paperback, 102 pgs.
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The Drowning House by John Sibley Williams digs deep into masculinity’s myths and confronts its history of violence and of atrocities committed against people of different backgrounds. It is a look at America’s past that is coming into the light and begs us to reckon with it, acknowledge it, and move forward with forgiveness and compassion. For those in the current time who have not committed heinous acts, we still must face what we’ve inherited by the privilege of whiteness and maleness and seek the best path forward for the future or there may be little of it left for anyone.

In the “My American Ghost” section’s opening poem, “Pantomime,” the music of the wind is reviving the sheets into bodies as “We wait/for the well out back to//illuminate its drowned coins,/all the gods overrun by prayers//” (pg. 5) In this section, there are poems that try to tackle the issue of racism in this country with poems about Emmett Till//Edward Hopper, Prometheus//Trayvon Martin, Rosa Parks//Banksy, internment, and more. This section is a hard read as I think about whether we need another “white” man telling us about tragedy or civil rights, but these poems want us to question that and turn that questioning gaze unto ourselves as the privileged class of Americans who benefit the most from the systems of oppression. Hopper’s oil paintings of lone characters in dim settings mirror the shadows of Till’s murder and how “Skin can be its own//broken republic.” (pg. 7)

The Dead Just Need to Be Seen. Not Forgiven. (pg. 8)

That old man in the photo our family never talks about,
known best for tracking runaway slaves; tonight

we drag him from the basement up these loose
wood stairs & set out a plate of salted cabbage & rabbit--

so long since I've asked why the empty chair at our table.
With all the warmth a body has to give, we give up on

measuring the darkness between men. Dust & dusk enter
& are wiped from the room. The names we call each other

linger luminous & savage. Still. That tree I used to hang
tires from holds tight its dead centuries. The light

swinging from its branches we call rope-like,
which implies there's no longer rope. Tonight, we'll wash

the burnt out stars from his hair, all the crumbs from his beard.
The misfired bullet of his voice we let burn as it must.

It is clear that America’s past is part of who we are. In “Internment,” the narrator says, “This country goes/weak at the knees at the thought of you, how you nourish/the earth//” Further in this section, an abusive father appears in a story told to the narrator’s own children where the ending is changed to make it more palatable for kids’ ears. But we need to hear the full story, not just a rosy colored version, as the narrator reminds us in “My American Ghost,” “light strikes a coin/differently after a train/flattens its face:” … “our mouths, nestfuls of promises,/we shall open them almost/fully: swallow & speak for what/we’ve swallowed: a whole/new language of witness./” (pg. 30)

The Drowning House by John Sibley Williams is an America that fails to look its past in the eye, accept what has come before, and right that ship. “Is it true this ruin has been ours//the whole time?” (“Incendiary Device,” pg. 35) or can we be the narrator: “It turns out I was born with a matchbook/in my hands.” and “There’s a reason we refuse/to leave, even now.” (“Incendiary Device,” pg. 35). While exploring American darkness, Williams is reaching for the light with a hopeful hand for the next generation.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

John Sibley Williams is the author of seven poetry collections, including Scale Model of a Country at Dawn (Cider Press Review Poetry Award), THE DROWNING WORKS (Elixir Press Poetry Award), As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press), and Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize). A twenty-six-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, and Laux/Millar Prize. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and founder of the Caesura Poetry Workshop series. Previous publishing credits include Best American Poetry, Yale Review, Verse Daily, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly.

The No-Show by Beth O’Leary (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hours
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The cover of The No-Show by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Evanna Lynch, Heather Long, Kathryn Drysdale, and Luke Thompson, is misleading. O’Leary’s latest is not a ron-com; it is far more serious. Each of these women — Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane — is stood up on Valentine’s Day by Joseph Carter. The narration shifts between the three women, which makes it very hard for listeners and readers to like Carter very much. Jane is a pushover, and Siobhan is a strong woman on the outside, but Miranda is too busy trying to be one of the guys.

***I would warn those who have been harassed at work or by a professional in a partnership-type situation that this book could have triggers for them.***

This book was a long and winding trail through Joseph Carter’s love life. These three woman all play a role in his life, with two of them helping him to heal. What I didn’t enjoy was the manipulative nature of this plot and the cover image. This was not comedic at all, and the relationships here are very off-kilter. It’s almost like the author wanted us to hate Joseph from the start, only to try and redeem him through the voices of these women. I felt icky about the whole book. I preferred the side characters more than the protagonists.

The No-Show by Beth O’Leary is not at all what I wanted or expected in this book. I feel manipulated by the plot and the timelines and that doesn’t leave me with much to like about the book. The peripheral characters are great, but they are not in it enough to make this much better. I did like when Miranda gets her happy ending, but I could have cared less about the others.

RATING: Couplet

About the Author:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hrs
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Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, narrated by Madeline Gould, begins in school with Georgina, who is voted most likely to succeed, struggling to stay just popular enough and not as popular as other kids in her class. When her teacher realizes she is not trying as hard as she should, she pairs her with Lucas McCarthy, who sits in the front of class and is incredibly quiet. They soon fall in love over literature and Wuthering Heights. While they are clearly smitten and spend every moment together, neither makes an effort to be public with their love or share their relationship with their parents.

Fast forward to when they are adults, they meet again at a newly renovated pub where Georgina is the barmaid and Lucas is the owner. For 12 years, she’s moved from job to job and man to man since school; is it because she lost her father to an unexpected death or is there something more? Top it all off, Lucas doesn’t seem to remember her at all, which signals to her that their relationship was not that memorable.

Everything begins to unravel when her new employer offers space for writing competition about moments of shame. Georgina has been harboring a big secret from everyone and trying to blame all that is wrong in her life on the wrong thing. Unless she strives to deal with her past, her life will plummet even further.

This is the first book I’ve read written by McFarlane, and I wasn’t disappointed by the character development, pacing, or story. Georgina’s boyfriend at the start of the novel, Robin, will make you so angry and fed up with her, but clues throughout the book will have you cheering her on as she strives to put him off and keep him away. Her friends are quirky and definitely British, but they are loyal. Her roommate is a bit gruff, but her advice redeems her. Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, narrated by Madeline Gould, is not as fluffy a read as I expected, but it was certainly worth it.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Mhairi was born in Scotland in 1976 and her unnecessarily confusing name is pronounced Vah-Ree. After some efforts at journalism, she started writing novels. It’s Not Me, It’s You is her third book. She lives in Nottingham, with a man and a cat.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hrs.
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The Switch by Beth O’Leary, narrated by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones, finds Leena Cotton agreeing to swap lives, computers, and phones with her grandmother, Eileen Cotton, in Yorkshire. The swap has Leena stepping back from her cutting edge technology and fast-paced life, while Eileen is stepping into her first London adventure. The title and the swapping of lives seems like it would be comical and funny, but like other O’Leary books, there’s much more to the story. Leena and Eileen are just two of the people affected by the death of Leena’s sister. Both have been living their lives by rote, while Leena’s mother has fallen apart a number of times, struggling with the loss of her daughter and the absence of another. Eileen has been there for it all, trying to hold her daughter together, without interfering too much.

I loved Eileen’s story of navigating online dating long after her divorce from her cheating husband, and Leena’s time in her grandmother’s shoes reignites her passion for event planning and connecting with other people in the community. Leena has to learn that she can rely on others and feel the emotions she’s been bottling up, while Eileen needs to find her own life and passions. These two are more alike than they think. The narrators did a fantastic job of differentiating between the characters, bringing life to the emotions the two women feel, and navigating the interactions of O’Leary’s characters, making them feel real.

I love that O’Leary tackles heavy topics in her books, while still making them fun reads with some comic moments. The Switch by Beth O’Leary will not disappoint. I loved the older people in Yorkshire and their interactions from the busybody to the woman who is at her husband’s beck and call. The city people that Eileen meets run the gamut, including a cat fisher. There’s a lot to juggle, but O’Leary does well to keep every story line on track.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 368 pgs.
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Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner is set in post-war England when women are looking to hold onto the freedoms they’ve gained as the men became soldiers. Evie Stone, from her previous book The Jane Austen Society (check out my review), is one of the women working at the rare book store, Bloomsbury Books. She’s working in the background on her own project after a disappointment at Cambridge. Vivien Lowry, who works at the cash, has a list of grievances about the men who run the shop, particularly the Head of Fiction Alec McDonough, the golden boy of the manager Mr. Dutton, who has more than 50 rules that need to be followed without question by his employees. Meanwhile, Grace Perkins helps keep the ledgers for the bookstore and is a calming force. Her time at the bookstore is a source of solace from a turbulent home life where her husband has lost his job and she becomes the sole breadwinner and caregiver for her two sons and husband. These women appear to have little in common other than their jobs.

Jenner is fast becoming an automatic pre-order buy for me. Bloomsbury Girls is another historical fiction novel that takes real-life people like Samuel Beckett and others and breathes life back into them as they interact with Jenner’s own characters. Vivien has such a chip on her shoulder given how she was treated by her fiance’s family after his death in WWII, but she also sees the world of men in the shop as stifling. She wants everyone to see the world through her eyes, but Grace has her own ghosts to deal with and her approach is more conciliatory. Meanwhile, Evie prefers to fly under the radar as much as she can, although her work at Cambridge did gain recognition, though not the kind she wanted.

This little bookshop is a microcosm for the post-war world around them. Evie, Grace, and Vivien may be working women, but there is a little bit of distrust or hesitancy in trusting others on the part of all three women, until they realize that they need to come together to create the world they wish to see. I don’t want to giveaway anything in Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner. I absolutely loved the characters and their foibles, and I loved how these women came together with the help of some famous women who paved their way behind the scenes of other men. Don’t miss this gem of a novel.

RATING: Cinquain

Bloomsbury Girls is on sale on 5/17, check out this excerpt from the audiobook.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

A Message from Author Natalie Jenner:

Dear readers,

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved.

But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team).

Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Warmest regards,

Natalie

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