Thursday, August 1

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, August 01, 2019 No comments
Sorry to have been gone so long, my friends. In February, we pulled my high schooler out of public school to begin cyber school--a tricky change with a steep learning curve for us all. Despite the online curriculum and teacher support, I needed to be fairly hands on during the transition. I'm thankful to report my daughter ended the year strong. My freelance editing business has been thriving and I've made significant progress on a new novel that I hope to release in time for the Christmas holiday. In this busy year, something had to give, and the blog was it.

As life settles into a new normal, I thought I'd get back in the blogging grove after this long hiatus by sharing my brief take on some recent reads I really enjoyed.

The Upside of Falling Down
Rebecca Crane
new adult fiction

If your past were erased, who would you become? What choices would you make?

While being the sole survivor of a plane crash and suffering amnesia might sound like a plot pulled from a soap opera, Crane makes the scenario an intensely personal one, pulling you into her heroine's lost sense of self and frantic desire to be whole again.

I think this is my favorite Rebekah Crane book so far. I liked that not every character had super unusual name and that while there are lyrical moments, they don't feel so forced. (Infinite Pieces of Us irked me on both counts; The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland mostly on the former.) The intrigue of a very, very unreliable narrator trying so hard not to be, and discovering her story with her, kept me turning pages. I also liked that well-placed details actually provide clues rather than merely being too-convenient author machinations.

If you're merely looking for a feel-good travel story of touristy vistas, this isn't it. The travel aspect is almost metaphorical--a reflection of the heroine's extreme sense of being lost and out of her element. At its core, the story examines the part memory plays in forming our identities. The slow build romance worked really well, as did Clementine/Jane's friendships, some of which come easily, and others that are hard-won. The mystery behind Clementine's identity makes sense of so much of what comes before that when the truth comes out, you don't feel tricked so much as impressed at the subtlety and wanting to look at it again, like with the film The Sixth Sense.

Digging In
Loretta Nyhan
women's fiction

I inhaled this book in two days, it is just that much of a great read, managing to be heartfelt and funny while dealing with some pretty tough issues, like death of a spouse and ageism in the workplace.

It has a chick-lit-ish fun side, glorying in the messiness of life while really making you think. The young, trying-too-hard-to-be-hip boss manages to be equal parts terrifying and laughable, and I really adored the gang of friends Paige manages to gather around her.

While this story certainly has some comic exaggeration in it, I could suspend disbelief because it had such a nice balance of lightness in a dark situation. Kudos to the author for offering hope and making widowhood seem a little less scary, hard as it surely is in reality.

Vinegar Girl
Anne Tyler
literary women's fiction

So many retellings (I'm thinking especially of Austen knock offs) try to slavishly recreate the plot of the original without really modernizing it, so they kind of fall flat. I love that Tyler doesn't fall into this trap. She takes elements of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and reworks them in a contemporary idiom so that the result is a delightful read, quite funny, and a lot less sexist than the original.

I especially liked the unusual careers of the characters. How often, outside of medical thrillers, do you ever encounter high-level biomedical researchers who spend all day genetically engineering specialty mice? Tyler totally gets the personalities of men drawn to this kind of work--intellectual, utilitarian, and rather emotionally stupid. Preschool teachers are pretty common in romance, but feisty Kate is terrible at it, breaking the usual stereotype in a wonderful way. The Green Card marriage twist was a pitch-perfect way to update Shakespeare's plot. I was quite wowed by Tyler's ability to really hear and recreate the romantic lead Pyotr's accent. And the wedding scene? Comic gold.

What have you been reading lately?


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