What Alice Forgot

“Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together, even when they were foolishly thinking they could lead separate lives.” —What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Author: Liane Moriarty

(4.08 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Adult

Format: Trade Paperback

Publication Date: May 2012, by Berkley Books

488 Pages (Paperback)

Triggers: infertility, sudden death, divorce, infidelity, memory loss

#WhatAliceForgot #LianeMoriarty

Young Alice was a fool. A sweet, innocent fool. Young Alice hadn’t experienced ten years of living.

In this clever, sad, and funny book, Alice Love loses ten years of her memory. As I closed the book after its epilogue, I thought about all the things I wouldn’t remember if the same thing happened to me. Well, let’s be clear, the same thing wouldn’t happen to me because you’d never catch me in a torturous spin class, which is what led to all of Alice’s troubles in the first place! So, let’s say instead, what if a similar thing happened to me? Like, what if I hit my head while trying to retrieve that pesky hanger from behind the washing machine? Or while trying to execute one of those insane TikTok dances with my daughter? What? Stop laughing! It could happen.

But really, there’s a lot of stuff that I’d miss. I’d still think my daughter was two years old and I wouldn’t remember how clever and capable she has grown up to be (or that she is now completely potty trained!). I’d still think that I was in that horribly uncomfortable place in my marriage where we were just separating and I didn’t know that I was really already divorced and everything has turned out rather well. I wouldn’t remember that my mother had passed away, or that I’ve been working a new job for the past 3 years, or that I even started this blog. All the little nuances of my current life would have just disappeared. How would I handle that? How would you? Let’s see how Alice did it.

Here’s the blurb…

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.

What Alice Forgot is a book that I meant to read several years ago. I added it to some month’s TBR a while ago, got behind (probably reading some NetGalley title) and then… well, forgot about it. Fitting, right? But now that I’ve finished it, I have that familiar reader’s guilt, “I really should have read this long ago.” Because it is a perfectly fine book that didn’t deserve to be left on the shelf neglected and forgotten all this time.

Alice turned out to be a lovely reading companion as she shuffles us through her broken memories, broken marriage, broken friendships, and her generally broken life. She is like a lamb learning to walk again, and we are partners with her in learning to put everything back together again.

I mentioned a lot of brokenness, but Alice’s story (and those of her extended family as well) is not all doom and gloom. There are genuinely touching moments, a whole buttload of self-discovery, and plenty of hilarious points along the way. May we all have the moments of clarity that Alice discovered to make us better people – just not without the head knock, thank you very much.

Relationships don’t stay the same. There isn’t time.

Are you the type of reader who already knows how the book is going to rate before it’s over, or do you wait until the last page and evaluate everything? I can be both. I know if I’m literally hating a book that it won’t fare very well at the end, even if something fabulous happens in the last few chapters. But if I’m liking what I’m reading, often I will mull it over in my head at the end, flipping back through its pages and thinking about how it made me feel. What Alice Forgot made me do a lot of self reflection. And although that’s not always comfortable for me, in this case it made me want to remember all the great things about my life and the people that I spend it with. And it made me hopeful that the next 10 years will hold a lot of happy memories.

About five years ago, there were talks about adapting this title for the big screen with Jennifer Aniston as the titular Alice. According to IMDb, it’s “In Development”; however, no updates have been made to the page in quite a while. Even though I love Ms. Aniston, after reading this book, I’d love to see a newbie in this role. A fresh-faced actor who can handle family drama and subtle comedy would be exciting to see as Alice. As long as she doesn’t forget her lines…

Liane Moriarty

LIANE MORIARTY can’t remember the first story she ever wrote, but she does remember her first publishing deal. Her father ‘commissioned’ her to write a novel for him and offered an advance of $1. She had no agent, so accepted his first offer and wrote a three volume epic called ‘The Mystery of Dead Man’s Island.’ Only volume 2 remains in print. Liane is now a full-time author. She has sold over 20 million copies of her books worldwide and her novels have been translated into forty languages. Discover more at her website – bio from Goodreads


The Nightingale / March Movie Madness

“… in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.” -The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Author: Kristin Hannah

(4.57 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: February 3, 2015, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 440 (Hardcover)

#TheNightingale #WWII #KristinHannah #MarchMovieMadness

Men tell stories. Women get on with it.

OK, before I begin today’s book review, I have to address the elephant in the room – I am all too aware that it is no longer March and that March Madness is also over. That contest ended in an unexpected victory, and my March ended unexpectedly quickly. So here I am, well into another month and I am still reviewing books from my March Movie Madness picks. Well, as the French say, c’est la vie. Speaking of the French, this particular book is all about them and their battle with wretched Nazi Germany during their occupation of the country during WWII. Let’s check out the blurb:

FRANCE, 1939. In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.

If you’ve read any of my related reviews before, you’ll know that I am not a fan of books about WWII. It was a depressing, tragic, and dangerous time. It has made me always side-eye German people (If you’re reading this and you’re German, I’m sure you’re entirely lovely. I’m jaded, and I’m working on it. Forgive me). This books made it on my radar for two simple reasons: 1. It was on discount at my local bookstore and 2. It was on the list to become a movie in 2021. There you go. Those are the only reasons I read it. But both of those reasons added up to a great experience that I wouldn’t take back for all the baguettes in Paris. Well…

So, one thing I learned about reading a Kristin Hannah book was this – you don’t have to worry about her writing well. That’s a given. The only thing then, is the story. Will it speak to you? Will you be able to follow it? Will it affect you? For me, the answer to all three is a resounding yes. Here I am, a critic of all war stories, and yet I zealously launched through this story about these two courageous sisters and a war they had no choice but to get involved in.

I come from a quieter generation. We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.

While Isabelle was the hot-headed put-me-in-coach type, Vianne was more of the if I must, I must type. But both end up being heroines in their own ways (and that’s not a spoiler, it literally says it right on the book jacket). This story is tense, and heartbreaking, and anger-inducing, and frightening, and, and, and… well, it’s a whole heckuva lot! You may read many reviews where readers admit to bawling by the last page. I won’t own that much, but I can say that the room certainly did get a bit misty a the exact time that I was flipping toward the acknowledgements. <sniff>

Originally, the big screen adaptation of The Nightingale was to be released in December of 2020 and – you know why – it was pushed to December of 2021. HOWEVER… I recently learned that Sony has once again pushed the release a whole entire year again. So, technically I shouldn’t have even included it in my 2021 March Movie Madness list. Doh! <sigh> But, again, as the French say, c’est la vie!

I couldn’t locate an official trailer yet, but here’s a little tidbit of what to expect (courtesy YouTube):

Kristin Hannah

KRISTIN HANNAH is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. –bio and pic from Goodreads


Always and Forever Lara Jean / March Movie Madness

“I’m a person who saves things. I’ll hold on forever.” -Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Author: Jenny Han

(4.10 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / YA / Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: May 2, 2017, by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages: 325 (Hardcover)

#ToAllTheBoysIveLovedBefore #AlwaysAndForeverLaraJean #JennyHan #MarchMovieMadness

I guess that’s part of growing up, too–saying goodbye to the things you used to love.

This month just keeps marching on (get it?) which makes me wish that I was a faster reader! My next March Movie Madness book-to-screen review is for the final book in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, Always and Forever Lara Jean. The screen adaptation, To All the Boys: Always and Forever, released this past February to much fanfare on Netflix. Although it’s a bittersweet ending, it was great to see some of our favorite characters come to life again. Let’s check out the book blurb…

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends. Life couldn’t be more perfect! At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news. Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

She always picked love; she always picked adventure. To her they were one and the same.

I love this series. Lara Jean’s character resonates so much with my younger self – it makes me nostalgic for high school days when the most serious thing I had to worry about was that week’s Algebra II test. It’s always such a pleasure to be able to read a book that can take you back into a happy past like that. Reading the last book in the series makes you feel a tiny loss, and watching the last movie in that same series seems to put a pin in it that feels a little more final. My Goodreads review for Always and Forever… represents my desperation and remorse at its ending. Here it is:

Why oh why is Jenny Han so adamant about this being her last Lara Jean book?! “Always…” is a great bookend for the trilogy, but doesn’t she know that there’s still so much I want to know about what happens with LJ and Peter Kavinsky?
What about college? What about Margot and Ravi? What about Dan and Trina? What about Kitty? WHAT HAPPENS WITH THIS FAMILY? If she doesn’t write about them anymore, how will we ever know what happens?!
Ugh, I think I’m devastated.

Being vulnerable, letting people in, getting hurt… it’s all part of being in love.

The week of the movie release, Bookstagram exploded with all the anticipation. And even now, the show is still featured in the Most Popular/Trending category. Although I prefer the first movie, this third release held its own, represented the book well, and was the most watched title in its debut week (Wikipedia). If you enjoy young adult romances with touches of drama and comedy, then the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series may be just the thing for you. I would definitely suggest reading the books and then watching the movies afterwards. This is how I did it, and I loved seeing my interpretation of these memorable characters come to life.

Here is the official Netflix trailer (courtesy YouTube):

Jenny Han

JENNY HAN is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. She is an executive producer on all three Netflix films– To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, and To All the Boys: Always and Forever. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling Summer I Turned Pretty series. Her books have been published in more than thirty languages. A former librarian, Jenny earned her MFA in creative writing at the New School. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. –bio and pic from https://www.jennyhan.com/


New or Old – That Smell is Incredible

Welcome to my book review blog. Thanks for dropping in!

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Whenever I get a new book, or mooch an old book, or borrow a book from the library, for that matter, I bring it close to my nose… and inhale.

Sometimes the smell is crisp and warm, almost woodsy. Other times it’s ancient and musky, like well-worn furniture. Either way, it’s a great smell. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is showing Anna (future Yale student) around the library and she picks up a book and smells it? Yes, just like that: #bibliosmia.

So now you know I read old books and new – and I love them both equally. So if you’re here to just see reviews on all the hot new releases that everyone else is reading and blogging about, then you’re not in the right place. Sorry.

I do read selective New Releases, but I also have a lot of “Dusty Bookshelf” reads that I am committed to getting through in this upcoming year (I said that last year too), and a lot of books that people have recommended to me that I will finally get around to. The books I read/review won’t always be current, but they’ll always be interesting.

I prefer reading hardcovers or trade-sized paperbacks (there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands), but I also read several e-books and listen to a few audiobooks each month, so you’ll likely see reviews for publications in those formats as well.

Occasionally, when she lets me, my daughter and I will read her books together. She’s in 5th grade and has a bookcase full of chapter books that we work our way through whenever she’s not bogged down with school-assigned stories. When our read-along books are especially good, I’ll review those too.

I’ll also occasionally be featuring my favorite authors, book events in Georgia, upcoming new releases, links to free e-book deals, and throwback looks at my favorite childhood reads.

I’m a Goodreads member and belong to several groups there. The book cover pics I post will most often come from Goodreads along with mentions of their overall rating of each book. However, I do not – I repeat, NOT – allow the rating from “the masses” influence my personal opinion of any book I read. Reviews are my own individual thoughts and I am absolutely not receiving any compensation for anything I post here.

As you may have guessed, this is my first foray into blogging so I’m sure I have some kinks to work out. If something isn’t working or posting correctly, just bear with me and I’ll get it worked out. Eventually. ♥



The Wheel of Time / March Movie Madness

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.” -The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Author: Robert Jordan

(4.17 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: January 15, 1990, by Tor Books

Pages: 814 (Paperback)

#TheWheelofTime #TheEyeoftheWorld #RobertJordan #MarchMovieMadness

Death is lighter than a feather. Duty, heavier than a mountain.

My first book-to-screen review this month is for the first book of The Wheel of Time series: The Eye of the World. Robert Jordan penned this detailed adventure over three decades ago, so, needless to say, a huge community of fans will eagerly be expecting the screen adaptation of this high-fantasy story. Let’s check out the book blurb…

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs-a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts- five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

The Wheel of Time weaves the Pattern of the Ages, and lives are the threads it weaves.

I read the first book in this series back in 2017. It didn’t make a dynamic impression on me back then; however, I really do appreciate Jordan’s writing skill, world-building, and attention to details. Let’s check out my review from way back then…

For fantasy lovers, this book stands up with Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, etc. It has elements of A Game of Thrones in it, but it is not similar in most ways to GOT. At times, The Eye of the World was a little too analogous with those other works. I know there are certain things that naturally come along with a fantasy tome: Goblins, giants, witches, warlocks, animated plant life, kings, queens, dragons, etc., and this book lacks none of that. I felt, though, at times that a few of the characters and situations felt a bit too derivative. Comparisons aside, this is the first book in the epic tale of the evil of the world being conquered by the “little people”. Joined by powerful men and women (and forces), these five small-town folk battle seemingly insurmountable challenges to defeat The One Who Shall Not Be Named (oh, wait – that’s Harry Potter) – I meant The Dark One. OK, ok, you get it. I mock, but Robert Jordan really has developed a creative and elaborate world in his own right; right down to new languages and elaborate background stories. And this series has plenty of dedicated fans that will enthusiastically vouch for its merit. I can’t say with any certainty that I will ever pick up the second book in the series, The Great Hunt; however, I can say that once I finished The Eye of the World, I appreciated the journey.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.

As with many other movie and TV releases planned in the past year and upcoming, we are all at the mercy of the schedule-according-to-Covid. Production began in the third quarter of 2019 and was delayed in March of 2020.

The Wheel of Time will be an episodic release on Amazon Prime. According to IMDb, eight episodes of season one are planned and writers have confidently forged ahead into the scripts for season two. Optimistically, we could still be looking at a 2021 release, which would be a fantastic injection into the arm of sci-fi/fantasy entertainment.

With the names of the cast released, see here, this show is definitely going to be a massive production. Die-hard fans (hi, Dad!) will be looking for perfection with how this story is adapted, and with 31 years to get it right, let’s hope that this team can manage it!

Currently, no official trailer has been released; however, snippets and other tidbits have been released on The Wheel of Time profiles on Twitter and Instagram.

Robert Jordan

ROBERT JORDAN was the pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under which he was best known as the author of the bestselling The Wheel of Time fantasy series.
Jordan was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He served two tours in Vietnam (from 1968 to 1970) with the United States Army as a helicopter gunner. He began writing in 1977. He was a history buff and enjoyed hunting, fishing, sailing, poker, chess, pool, and pipe collecting.
He described himself as a “High Church” Episcopalian and received communion more than once a week. He lived with his wife Harriet McDougal, who works as a book editor. –bio adapted from Goodreads.com

March Movie Madness – 2021

This month I’ll take a look at some page-to-screen adaptations that will be released in 2021. There are many more than I could cover in one month, but I’ll be looking at five movies that come from books on my own shelves.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the middle of reading a book and thought, “This would really make a great movie”! Although translating a book to the big screen is a really tricky thing, when producers get it right, it is magical!

This month I’m going to focus on book-to-screen adaptations based on five books that I have on my shelves right now. Some of them I’ve already read, some are on my TBR. Either way, it will be great to see how they come to life on the big (or little) screen.

My list includes movies that are projected to be released in 2021. With the current pandemic, release dates may be pushed back, just like we saw happen last year.

  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Buckle your seatbelts, sci-fi fans! Three decades after Robert Jordan released his first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, this sweeping adventure story with a massive cast is finally is getting its big screen debut.
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. Speaking of three decades, this book covers that and more in the story of two women and their unlikely friendship. The story of Tully and Kate gets star treatment in the Netflix series that is currently on the Popular list.
  • Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han. This one is bittersweet. I’m not ready for this series to be over! Lara Jean is looking to the future, and since we entered her story, we’ve seen her make some tough decisions, but nothing like the ones she’s making this school year.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert. Another sci-fi hit that’s been highly anticipated for a very long time. Let me just say that they better get it right!
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Yes, another Kristin Hannah adaptation may hit the screen this year. In this WWII drama, two sisters both face the impending danger in their own unique ways. This one was originally scheduled for a 2021 release, but recent reports say that it may have gotten pushed back a year. I’ll still include it in this list however, just in case.

What makes a good book and what makes a good movie are totally different things.

Seth Grahame-Smith

What Else is Coming in 2021?

Here’s what else is coming…

  • Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough Released by Netflix on February 17, I’ve already had several friends recommend this to me. This six-part miniseries is a juicy psychological thriller starring Simona Brown, Eve Hewson, and Tom Bateman.
  • The Dig by John Preston also features on Netflix and is a sentimental, heartwarming story of buried treasure and self-discovery. Released on January 15th, it’s the perfect Saturday afternoon movie.
  • Without Remorse by Tom Clancy Amazon releases the story of John Clark, a Navy SEAL whose focus is avenging his wife’s murder at the hands of a drug lord. Featuring Michael B. Jordan, expect this one to be a big deal.
  • Infinite / The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz has a release date of May 18, 2021, and will star Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O’Brien, and Chiwetal Ejiofer. Two words to pull you in: secret societies.
  • Cruella / 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith is getting a 2021 reboot in May. Starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, and Mark Strong, I look forward to seeing this Disney villain take the spotlight!

There are so many more upcoming releases that I could mention, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll leave it here. And I’ll let you get on with the business of reading and watching!

Sometimes I Lie

“We are all made of flesh and stars, but we all become dust in the end. best to shine while you can.” —Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Author: Alice Feeney

(3.82 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: March 13, 2018, by Flatiron Books

262 Pages (Hardcover)

Triggers: sexual assault, violence, infidelity, house fires, stalking

#SometimeILie #AliceFeeney

I’ve been returned to my factory settings as a human being, rather than a human doing.

Years ago, my youngest sister and I joked that if either of us ever ended up in the hospital in a coma, the other sister would make sure that the hospital staff would never let us grow a mustache! It was so funny at the time, even in light of a coma being a horrible situation. I’m sure that wouldn’t be my sister’s main concern, but I hope that she would keep her promise. However, growing a mustache while debilitated in a hospital bed isn’t the scariest thing that could happen to you, as Amber Reynolds proves to us in this debut thriller by Alice Feeney.

Here’s the blurb…

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

We are all just ghosts of the people we hoped that we were and counterfeit replicas of the people we wanted to be.

This book definitely had its moment on social media. I saw it everywhere- Goodreads, Bookstagram, in my Women Who Read Facebook group- everywhere. I happened to pick it up at my favorite little bookstore for a great price on a random day and then, of course, it sat on my bookshelf for a while, waiting for its turn on my TBR list.

And now I’m disappointed in myself for delaying this one for so long. If you’ve read some of my 5-star reviews before, often I will say that the rating is so high because that particular book embodies what I specifically read books for; and this one had that in spades. It is a thriller, but more than that, it is a truly suspenseful thriller. Feeney knows how to expertly draw the drama out so that you pretty much stop trying to guess what the heck happened and just hold onto to your butt as everything careens out of control.

I would never spoil the development of the story by telling you too much about it. I’ve seen some reviews of it that, in my opinion, give it all away. But, trust me, you are the better for not knowing too much about the storyline before going into it. From the blurb, you pretty much know all you need to know to kick off a twisty journey that I utterly enjoyed!

There are always ripples in the water before a big wave.

Here’s what stuck out to me the most- Feeney is adept at keeping you on your toes. Mystery/thriller readers sometimes complain that we see the end coming from the beginning. Being predictable is not a great selling point for a mystery novel. Fortunately, Sometimes I Lie has no problems there. I was halfway into the book and had no idea which way was up, and I liked it! The ending was a whirlwind of truths spilling out and taking my breath away at every turn. It was entirely satisfying.

It was one of those books that, at the end, I turned it over in my hands and regretted that it was over. That’s worth all of 5 stars to me. If suspenseful thrillers are a genre you appreciate, I hope you’ll give Alice Feeney’s debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, a try. It will be one of your best reads of the year. And that’s no lie.

Alice Feeney

ALICE FEENEY is an author and former BBC journalist. Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was a New York Times and international bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Discover more at https://www.alicefeeney.com/ – bio from Goodreads

Emptying the Overflow Room

There is no such thing as too many books, there are only not enough shelves.

#bookoverflow #myreadlist

I have a giant stack of books in my office that stands almost as tall as my bookshelf – and it has nothing to do with my looming TBR. It’s the tower of books that I’ve read and don’t want to keep on my shelves any longer. I’m sure, if you’re a reader of physical books like I am, that you may have a similar collection somewhere at your house too.

So even though I have put a major pin in my book-buying in the past year, that still hasn’t erased all the titles that I own and that are slowly stealing all the space in every nook and cranny in my house. Some of them I love and will never part with. Some of them are just OK, but I put a lot of work into collecting the entire series, so those I’ll keep as well. Since my space is so limited, I’m finding that I have to be really selective about the physical books that I hold on to. So, that leads to some tough decisions about <gasp> purging.

It’s hard enough to decide which books to keep and which to separate from, but it’s also a tough thing to figure out exactly what to do with those books. I asked some friends (and strangers) what they do with their read books, and I got some promising suggestions:

Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries and other similar free book efforts are a very good option for lightening your book load. I have always been enamored by these sweet little boxes of books and I wish more of them were closer to my home.

I love that these little libraries seem to be frequented by people who genuinely enjoy reading and sharing that pleasure with others as well. So, leaving books in little free libraries is probably one of the best options for clearing my tower of books as long as I can resist taking any more books when I leave mine!

Lending / Gifting

Of course, lending or gifting gifts to friends is a common sense solution to a book overflow. And there really is no downside to this option – unless, of course, your friends don’t enjoy the same kinds of books that you do. And to that, I say, find friends with better taste!

Sell or Trade

Selling or trading books online or at bookstores can be a little more work, but when it works, it works! There are so many book-selling options online that I won’t even pretend to provide any kind of comprehensive list here. I can say that if selling is the option you choose, don’t expect a high rate of return. Maybe trading would work out better, but then you’re getting a book back too, and that’s not really helping the situation, is it?

Donate to Public Libraries

Pre-pandemic, one of my favorite annual activities was to go to our huge public library’s book sale. It would be the highlight of my month to arrive early, scope out all the promising titles and then spend next to nothing on a stack of some amazing books!

So, donating my leaning tower of titles to my library is actually a great option. In fact, I’ll be giving back to them some of the same books I spent $2-$4 on over the past few years. It makes me happy to think that other readers (at some future, post-world-burning book sale) will be able to have the same level of excitement that I felt when I found them on my own trip to the library book sale.

What do you do with your read books?

Orphan Monster Spy

“My last act will be to destroy all that is within my power to destroy, kill all those it is within my power to kill, and, finding myself in hell, deliver you to the devil myself.” —Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Author: Matt Killeen

(3.85 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: March 20, 2018, by Viking / Penguin Random House

423 Pages (Hardcover)

Triggers: antisemitism, assault, attempted sexual assault, vomit, alcoholism, violent death

#OrphanMonsterSpy #MattKilleen

…if your kingdom is being threated by another … you need to … find out who threatens them.”

Spies. Is there any other job more intriguing than that? OK, maybe superheroes – but while Marvel and DC monopolize the rights to blue tights and super-speed, spies live will in the realm of reality. If I’m honest, I can’t say I was running to the shelves to find a dark YA historical fiction novel. It sort of found me… on the shelf at my local Goodwill store (pre-Covid) with a blue sticker, which just happened to be the sales color of the day. Sold!

Here’s the blurb…

Germany, 1939. After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see her, along with every other Jew, dead. Then she meets a mysterious man who needs Sarah to pull off a spy mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of Nazi top brass, befriend the girl whose father is a high-ranking scientist, and find the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she’s ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she’s embroiled in a battle for survival unlike any she’d ever imagined – and fighting to hold onto her true self.

Don’t creep on to the stage. Let everyone see you, no matter how small your part.

WWII is not my go-to for reading entertainment. Although many of my books are filled with wars – tribal, fairy, hobbit, etc. – I don’t usually find irl lives entertaining. So, with that in mind, I tiptoed into this book with one eye on the Exit sign, ready to DNF it at any given point. But that point never came. Sure, I was disgusted, irate, horrified, and tense while reading it; nevertheless, Matt Killeen’s portrayal of Nazi Germany and those who sought to defy it was ultimately heartening even amidst all the monstrous undertakings.

OK, so this is a spy story, but don’t think James Bond. Think, instead, a blonde Annie, hungry and alone, but resourceful and full of street smarts and determination. The book opens with Sarah Goldstein already in a battle for survival under unforgiving circumstances. And when she meets the Captain, neither knows that both their survival will depend on the other. But they learn that quickly enough.

The story progresses along pretty reasonable lines. That is, until Sarah is enrolled in the private boarding school where we then discover that Sarah, er… Ursula, may have a bit of the superhero in her yet. I’ve seen other reviewers comment on Sarah’s ability to continually escape from threats and overcome societal shortcomings as being “convenient”. I would agree with that assessment. Her above-average physical and artistic skills and instincts seem a bit impractical for a poor Jewish girl with no present father and an alcoholic mother. But isn’t that why we love leading ladies? They’re clever and resilient even in the face of the worst of humanity, including evil Nazis and horrifically wicked classmates.

‘O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength,’ thought Sarah in English, ‘But it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.’

One thing that stuck out to me is that, throughout the book, Killeen allows Sarah to retain her true identity with us as the reader, even though she has become Ursula to everyone else. Her dialogue is always attributed to Sarah herself, not Ursula, her character. This is meaningful in the sense that this young girl has lost everything else in her life, and she has to lie constantly to live as someone else completely in order to survive, but she never loses her innate self.

I appreciate this book for that, and for reminding us all that a fighting spirit can overcome even the greatest atrocities. If you do read Orphan Monster Spy, be sure not to skip the historical note at the back of the book. It grounds all the fiction in historical fact and reminds us that there are real heroes attached to those dark days in history. The epilogue also sets the story up nicely for the sequel that was released in 2020, Devil Darling Spy. Happy reading!

Matt Killeen

MATT KILLEEN was born in Birmingham, in the UK, back when trousers were wide and everything was brown… He now writes for the world’s best loved toy company, as it wasn’t possible to be an X-wing pilot. Married to his Nuyorican soul mate, he is parent to both an unfeasibly clever teenager and a toddler who is challenging his father’s antiestablishment credentials by repeatedly writing on the walls. He accidentally moved to the countryside in 2016. Follow him @by_Matt_Killeen. -from cover

Today Will Be Different

“I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, sweet child, but life is one long headwind. To make any kind of impact requires self-will bordering on madness.” —Today Will be Different by Maria Semple

Author: Maria Semple

(3.18 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: June 27, 2017, by Bay Back Books / Little, Brown and Company

288 Pages (Paperback)

#TodayWillBeDifferent #MariaSemple

Today will be different… Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.

A common theme we are all familiar with at the start of a new year is that this year will be different. We make plans to change things up a bit: how we eat, how we take care of ourselves, how we relate to each other. We resolve to be better, to do better, to have better. Even though, in this new millennium, we have been conditioned to shun resolution-making, we still mentally acknowledge the New Year as a fresh slate. In that light, Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different is a perfect January read.

Here’s the blurb…

Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action, life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office — but not Eleanor — that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.

I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, sweet child, but life is one long headwind. To make any kind of impact requires self-will bordering on madness.

Nearing 50, Eleanor Flood decides to start living deliberately. She wants to take control of her life and be a better wife and mother. It isn’t a new year’s resolution, just a decision. Maybe to beat depression, maybe to be someone new, or maybe just to get back to a normal that she remembers. The book opens with the same feeling you would have if you were listening to someone say that they started their new diet on a Tuesday in July. You think, ok, that’s random but promising – that could actually work.

Getting back to a familiar “normal” is entirely relatable to most of us now. Depending on what stage of life you’re currently in, you may remember what life looked like before heavy job responsibilities, or before parenting, or marriage. You may remember the “normal” of life before an unruly neighbor moved in, or before a cherished lover moved out. You may relate to some or all of these examples, but most of us can currently relate to nostalgically remembering the normal of pre-Covid life: eating inside restaurants, gathering with family and friends, hugging people, being able to see faces, and not being deathly afraid every time someone near you coughs or sneezes. Ahh, the good old days!

Change is the goal. Insight is the booby prize.

So, Eleanor is on this quest to start a better life. And although her intentions are admirable, what more can you expect from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette than to see things start to go downhill rather quickly. I’m less a fan of slapstick comedy on the screen than I am in books. It’s still cringey, but since I can apply my own imagined visual limits to it, it’s tolerable. “Today…” isn’t laden with slapstick comedy, don’t get me wrong, but the moments of spontaneous foolery and nonlinear physical responses to seemingly normal life events & conversation definitely lean toward comic exaggeration.

That being said, if I had had the time, I would have devoured this book in one sitting. It flows easily and has a natural, inviting transition between chapters that subtly says, “Keep reading, you have to know what happens next.”

Maria Semple

MARIA SEMPLE is the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and This One Is Mine. Before writing fiction, she wrote for the television shows Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She lives in Seattle. -from cover

Coming Back Into the Fold(s)

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” — Gloria Steinem

#Januaryreading #MargaretAtwood #JanetEvanovich

One of the major draws about reading is that it is enjoyable. And another is that it is supposed to be a relaxing activity. Like anything else, if you don’t find pleasure in it, or if your hobby becomes more like an obligation or chore, it stops being both enjoyable and relaxing.

That’s where I found myself in the last quarter of 2020 – struggling with my book choices, fighting against blog deadlines, and basically lying about enjoying anything I was doing related to reading,

So I stopped.

Of course it felt traitorous at first. How could I just set aside this thing that I love? But then I understood that it is because I love it so much the decision to stop reading – for a time – was made easier. I set no goals, I marked no dates, and I didn’t obligate myself to any deadlines. I figured that my decision to return to reading would happen organically. And it did. So, as far as a review for today’s blog post is concerned, I really have two:

The Book the Started My Reading Hiatus:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

To say that struggling through this book made me put all books down for four months may sound unfair, but it’s factual. It was hard for me to get through. I would slog through the pages only to set it down at the end of each chapter and not pick it back up again for days.

Yes, I should have DNF’d it and moved on to greener pastures, but… it’s Margaret Atwood! The same author whose magic with The Handmaid’s Tale captivated me on both page an screen. How could I then not be into this equally dystopian tale of science-gone-wrong? But I wasn’t into it – hence the 2-star rating.

The cover promised everything I like about a novel: science-infused mystery, an unreliable narrator, and something not quite right about the world. In the end, though, the story that was delivered felt intentionally drawn out with no big payoff by the time I (finally) turned the last page. It’s a trilogy, but neither the plot nor the possibility of a better conclusion to this drawn-out pseudo sci-fi storyline could bring me back to this series. I forced the final few chapters in one sitting in the first few days of this new year and counted it as yet another thing I survived from 2020.

Moving on…

The Book the Ended My Reading Hiatus:

Fortune and Glory / Tantalizing Twenty-Seven (A Stephanie Plum Novel) by Janet Evanovich

Whenever I have times in my life when I’m dealing with stress or uncertainty, I return to the familiar. It’s comforting for me to surround myself with familiar people, object, activities, and characters.

A new release in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series was the perfect thing to end my reading hiatus and put a book back in my hands. And fortunately, Fortune and Glory didn’t disappoint (see what I did there? 🙂 )  These characters are familiar and cozy to me. They are funny and quirky and entirely entertaining. And with the introduction of a spicy new female adversary (friend?), future plots have just thickened!

So, while I consider myself officially back in the folds of my books and back, too, in the community of book readers and bookish things, I am also taking it all in stride and not expecting too much from myself, especially so early on.

Enjoy your 2021 reading, I certainly hope to!