THE RULES OF LOVE AND GRAMMAR by Mary Simses: A Review

If there is such a thing as a cozy romance novel, this is one.

In her 2016 publication, Simses has created a Grammar Nazi in her protagonist. Grace Hammond corrects poor grammar usage wherever she encounters it. As the story opens, Grace has lost her job, her boyfriend, her apartment, and is forced to return to her parents’ home in Connecticut. Tragedy took her older sister years ago, and her parents have never gotten over or spoke of it since. It is a romance, one I would christen a “cozy romance,” and three different love interests are present: Peter, a high school boyfriend, now a renowned filmmaker who has returned to town to shoot a movie; Sean, an actor who recently was proclaimed The Sexiest Man Alive, also in town; and Mitch, the bike guy. Cluny, her best friend and sidekick since elementary school rounds out the cast of supporting characters.

Each chapter features a rule of grammar, followed by an example sentence which often foreshadows what will happen in the chapter. Here is an example from the beginning of Chapter 19: “Collective nouns are singular and are typically paired with singular verbs. A film crewe often works very long hours.” In this pleasurable novel, Grace, the main character ” finds love and closure, and rediscovers herself. ” The book is a darned good read.

Cats and books–add people, and you have my three favorite things!

READING IN BED by Sue Gee: A Review

If a book is about books or reading, it hits my TBR pile or folder. Reading in Bed’s cover grabbed me immediately, as did its title–something I do frequently.

I started this book during Dewey’s Readathon in April and finished it a few days afterwards. I never reviewed the book, however, and it deserves at least that for being a “darned good read.”

Georgia, recently widowed, and Dido have been best friends for years. The novel opens with the two women returning from a book convention/fair/retreat. As they separate and return to their homes in different towns, each re-evaluates their everyday, “normal” life apart from the literary world they have just left. Georgia is lonely, odd-friend-out at all gatherings, struggling with her relationship with her daughter; and Dido finds “evidence” that her husband of so many years may be having an affair. Through all the details of their lives, their connection with each other remains sturdy and strong.

Georgia has a side-plot, an eccentric, elderly cousin of her late husband”goes completely off the rails,” and it is up to Georgia to step in and “do something.”Dido also has a side-plot, the marriage and family life of her children and grandchildren, and shockingly, the true story behind the “assumed” affair of her husband. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to titillate the most demanding reader. Both women find themselves “…turning to a well-loved book or a true friend” to get through the situation.

As one critic cited, Reading is “an insightful, witty book about life, friendship, and love.” I loved the book and everything about it, making it a darned good read!

THE PRINTED LETTER BOOKSHOP by Katherine Reay: A Review

This 2019 publication was one I listened to on Hoopla, provided by my local Brazoria County Library system. I finally got the skill of listening down as I listened while I chopped vegetables, just rested with the lights low,. or opened and cut up junk mail. Reay, now one of my favorite writers, opens with the funeral of Aunt Maddie, the owner of The Printed Letter Bookshop. When Madeline Cullen, her niece attends the funeral, she finds the church packed. Her parents have flown in to pay respects to her father’s older sister, and they leave immediately after the funeral.

A good read by one of my favorite authors

Shortly thereafter, Madeline receives a call saying Aunt Maddie has left her house, the bookshop, and even her car to her niece. At first, Madeline, a high-powered lawyer, with a business-driven fiancee want to sell the shop asap. Until she meets the employees of The Printed Letter on her assessment trip to the bookshop. Janet, a recent divorcee, and Claire, a quiet wife and mother are praying Madeline will try to pull the bookshop “out of the red” and continue their livelihoods.

Described as “powerful” and “spirited” and called an “enchanted story” by the cover and the critics, The Painted Letter Bookstore involves a family mystery, relationships between women, and romance. It is “a story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.” I loved this contemporary read, which points out the existence of second chances and the redemption and forgiveness of things not understood in the past. It is a “darned good read.”

THE QUICKENING by Michelle Hoover: A Review

A former student sent me this book before Christmas, and it wasn’t until recently that I got to it. I finished it earlier this week and mailed it back because she confessed she hadn’t read it either. I think she will enjoy this debut novel as much as I did.

The word “quickening” means a coming to life, specifically the sensation a woman has when she holds life inside her womb, and it stirs. Two women, Enidina and Mary, neighbors on the prairies of the midwest during the summer of 1915-the winter of 1950, are the main characters. Their stories and their strange relationship unfold throughout the hardships of farm life during the droughts, dustbowl and Depression of the U.S. Frank and Jack , their husbands are as different from one another as are their wives. The story is “gripping at its very core,” and deals in spousal and child abuse, infidelity, repeated miscarriages, and dark secrets that accompany the characters hardscrabble lives. The characters are all complex and authentic, perhaps because Hoover is “the granddaughter of four longtime farming families.” She captures the women’s voices in their dialog and their sense of self-preservation in their thoughts. The novel is a page turner, written in “elegant prose.” I recommend it as a darned good read.

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE by Hazel Gaynor: A Review

I love historical novels set in WWII.

As the cover on the large print copy of this book advertised, it is “a story of courage and strength.” If anyone is courageous and strong, it is a Girl Scout, or Girl Guide as they were called in England. Their motto was “Be prepared,” which the teachers and students at the China Inland Mission School were not. Unprepared as they were for Japanese occupation after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both teachers and students made the best of a bad situation.

Alternating chapters from the point of view of Nancy, an eight year old student, and her teacher, Miss Elspeth, Gaynor describes the take-over of the school housing and teaching children of missionaries, ambassadors, and other workers in China, then their march to and confinement in an internment camp for six years. It is a story of the hardships the children and teachers faced and their relationships with their captors, some kindly like “Home Run,” and others vengeful and sadistic like” Trouble.” It is the story of the friendship between Nancy (“Plum”) and Joan (“Mouse”), as they become young women while under the watchful eyes of the Japanese soldiers. One of the girls’ many chores was to deliver and pick up books to readers who borrowed them from the “lending library” set up by Ms. Trevellyan, a woman of questionable reputation in the camp. The following highlights the girls’ love of books:

“We sometimes found corners of the pages turned down, and passages marked and underlined. Mrs. Trevellyan didn’t seem to mind, although I thought it spoiled the books.

‘I’d never write in a book,’ I said. ‘It makes the pages look messy.’

‘It does if you look at it one way,’ she clucked as she put some books on the shelves we couldn’t reach. ‘But it also makes them look loved. It means that someone stopped and thought about that sentence, or that paragraph. Books aren’t museum pieces to be admired from a distance. They’re meant to be lived in; messed up a little.’ “

This is a very well-written page-turner that should make us appreciate what we have today and the struggles our relatives went through during WWII. It’s a darned good read!

BUDDHALAND BROOKLYN by Richard C. Morais: A Review

One of my favorite reads of 2021

Over the past two years, I have read several that involved Buddhism. Three were told from the point of view of a cat, three involved road trips with a Buddhist monk, and this one gave me a new view of the life of a Buddhist priest/monk.

Seido Oda lived in rural Japan, given to the priesthood as a young boy, who dedicated his life to painting, poetry, and prayer. (Did you notice the order of the words?) Living in a monastery at the foot of majestic mountains, his priestly duties were such that he was an introvert, much more a poet than a “people person.” Unbeknownst to him, he was also judgmental, lacked empathy, and was very private and reserved. Imagine his shock when his supervisor sent him to open a temple in Brooklyn, New York.

Unsuited to his assignment, Seido underwent culture shock as well as depression over the state of his congregation’s spiritual condition. His assistant and housekeeper, Miss Jennifer, with her spiked hair and mini-skirts becomes his unlikely love interest (Yes, Buddhist monks can fall in love.) Mourning a dead fiancee, Miss Jennifer has problems of her own, but at the same time is perhaps the most promising acolyte/believer. All of the secondary characters are well-drawn and appealing for the most part. At times humorous, tragic and covering”a little bit of everything,” Morais teaches us that, “Home is where you find it.”

It is a darned good read! You can probably find it at your local library.

MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE by Lori Gottlieb: A Review

This is probably one of my best non-fiction reads this year, right up there with I’m Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come (see review on this blog). Note the subtitle under the box on the cover for an accurate description of what the book is about. “This is a book that asks, ‘How do we change?’ and it answers with ‘In relation to others.’ ” Gottlieb explores the relationship between patient and therapist with real-life anecdotes from her patients and from her own sessions with her therapist that make us laugh, cry, and smile.

Gottlieb is a psychotherapist who also writes an advice column for The Atlantic magazine. Her personal, sometimes breezy writing style kept me turning pages way past bedtime.

RELEASE DAY: HIDING CRACKED GLASS by Jay Cudney

Book 2 in Perceptions of Glass series

I could hardly wait for the sequel to Jay’s book, Watching Glass Shatter. I had followed the dysfunctional Glass family wondering about a strange letter the father had left behind. The new book, Hiding Cracked Glass also revolves around a letter, a threatening, blackmail letter. Unfortunately, the adresse’s name is blurred, so we are not sure whom the threat is toward. Olivia, the matriarch of the family, both my favorite and least favorite character in this series assumes the threat is made towards her; but is it? It could be made toward any member of the family, for this is a family that keeps secrets.

The letter’s arrival happens right in the “middle of things,” where and when Cudney’s catastrophes usually occur–right at the worst possible moment. In the next eight hours, all hell breaks loose, complete with misassumptions and miscommunications galore. A few new characters are added to the mix of Olivia and her five sons. Cudney’s strongest skill is his outstanding characterization, something I use as a criteria for every novel I read, and Jay earns an A+ in this area for sure. What a page turner!

Jay is offering a giveaway with this publication. See his blog, This Is My Truth Now for details. http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/eSee1a9220/?

The hardback, paperback, and Kindle versions are available today! Get your copy now and get reading!

CHANCES ARE by Richard Russo: A Review

RussoThis 2019 addition to the wonderful collection of Richard Russo’s books could be categorized as a mystery or love story, but neither category would be “traditional.” The mystery is a cold case that three characters who were/are in love with the same woman are trying to solve. Lincoln, a commercial real estate broker from Las Vegas, meets up with Mickey, a has-been musician and a sound engineer from Cape Cod, and Teddy, a small-press publisher from Syracuse. The three men are 66 years old when the story opens, and each reflects back on their days as “hashers” (kitchen help provided by scholarship students) in a girl’s sorority house at tiny Minerva College. At the time, they had been best friends, but they had not been in contact with each other since graduation weekend.

Flashing back, It is the time of the Vietnam War, and the pivotal experience the three shared was on December 1, 1969, when they watched on an old black and white TV in the sorority house’s kitchen as birthdates were drawn, and they learned what their fates would be.

A fourth character, Jacey, who was engaged to a “straight-arrow fiancee” but was best friends with the men, is the woman who completed the “All for one, and one for all” group.  None of the men have heard from her or even of her since graduation weekend. Is she still alive? Did she come to a bad end? Was she murdered? Did one of the three do it?

The book is described on the cover as “an elegy for a generation.” I agree with the reviewer who lauds “Russo’s trademark comedy and humanity” because these four were characters I came to care about and would love to follow into a sequel.

TUESDAY TEASER

Tuesday  is not officially over here for another two hours and eight minutes, so here is my Tuesday Teaser for December 3, 2019:

“April 21, 1911   Terrell Mott rode to the Alamo in a Buick touring car, creeping along behind a procession of horse-drawn victorias, and tallyhos. Like the carriages, the gasoline car had been covered with flowers, barely leaving space on the door panels for a sign signifying the white-whiskered relic who rode inside…”

Thus opens Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo, “an imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo in 1836, an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history.”

If you would like to share, copy a few lines of a book you’re currently reading in the Reply/Comments box below. Be sure to mention title and author but no spoilers, please. This opportunity was started by The Purple Booker and has the participation of several of my blogging friends.