Finished Books: Us Against You

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

  • Published: June 2018
  • Publisher: Atria
  • Pages: 435
  • Series: “Beartown”

In this sequel to Beartown, Backman returns readers to the tiny Swedish hockey town. Their star player has left town. Many of their best players have followed their coach to go play for their rivals in Hed. The Beartown team has lost its sponsorship and does not have funding to continue. All seems lost until a local politician works magic by bringing in new sponsors, a new coach, a new captain, a new goalie. When a teenage girl witnesses something she shouldn’t and posts it online, it changes how the team, and the town, sees one of its own players. Beartown is still healing from the events of the spring, but it can’t seem to move forward while people still live in the past. Backman weaves vignettes of characters together, highlighting life’s complications and nuances. He evokes strong emotions in his readers by using simple words to illustrate complex matters. Despite all the tensions and biases, this novel has a hopeful tone. An excellent addition to this author’s repertoire.

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.*


Finished Books: Young Jane Young



Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 320

Aviva Grossman made some mistakes as a young intern that became very public and made her infamous.  What can she do with her life now?  Zevin explores her life choices through the eyes of several women who are integral to the story at various times in her life.  Each woman has a distinct voice and gets their own section of the novel.

This novel is certainly deeper than “chick lit,” but it doesn’t require the reader to invest so far emotionally as some other books.  It’s a fairly light read that I happily flew through.  Fans of some Jennifer Weiner titles might enjoy this for the flawed and complicated women characters who deal with more than just finding the love of their lives.

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.*


Finished Books: Quick Recap


Recap 081317

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 400
  • Series: The Waking Land #1

In The Waking Land, Bates creates a richly-detailed and action-packed story that focuses on Elanna, a young girl who grows into herself as she learns more about the magical world she lives in.  Politics abound as she tries to figure out what/who is right and she discovers an ingrained magical ability that she has suppressed her entire life.  Elanna’s earth-related magic may lead readers to try out Uprooted by Naomi Novik, if they haven’t already.

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.*

The Battle for Amphibopolis by Doug TenNapel

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 224
  • Series: Nnewts #3

In a battle of good and evil, Herk must fight to save Sissy and Zerk from corruption and save Amphibopolis from annihilation.  Bright colors, cartoony characters, and a great storyline make for a nice conclusion to this series.

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 387
  • Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #3

This romance features a strong female character who knows what she wants in life, which is not just to be a wife to some Duke.  There is wit and banter, as in many of MacLean’s books, but not as much as there sometimes is.  Unlike many formulaic romances, this book jumps back and forth in time, giving flashbacks of the couple’s past while driving the story forward in the present.  Still a great read for fans of this author, or authors like Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan.

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 304

When I first started this book, I found the writing refreshing, with a mix of beautiful and unfamiliar words, as well as contemporary speech patterns. Unfortunately, this book was not for me.  Since it was an ARC, I really wanted to finish it to be able to give an accurate review.  However, I also have a “rule” such that I don’t finish books that I am not enjoying (unless it is for book club). There are too many books out there that I want to read.  There is no reason to spend time reading something that does not bring me joy.  The mystery was introduced in the beginning, but it took too long to get to the point where the character was investigating for my taste. A podcaster whose opinion I trust really loved this book, though, so I am willing to give Lucy Ives another chance for her next book.  

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.*


Finished Books: The Improbability of Love

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

  • Published: 2015
  • Pages: 408

Link to Goodreads summaryThe Improbability of Love

Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2016, this novel is full of rich descriptions without feeling pretentious.  Rothschild paints a portrait of a wide range of characters, giving many of them depth and meaning, despite how big or small their role in the novel is.  The painting, The Improbability of Love, has her own voice every few chapters, slowly revealing her history while also commenting on her current existence with a new owner.  It is a book that encourages the reader to research other paintings or artists.  

One of the main points of interest that emerges in this novel is the lost and stolen artwork during World War II.  For readers who want to know more about that time period and the men who tried to save the world’s great art, try The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter.

Rating: 3 stars

Finished Books: Spellman Takeover

Book Covers-Spellman Takeover

The Spellman Files | Curse of the Spellmans | Revenge of the Spellmans | The Spellmans Strike Again | The Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

  • Published: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2012
  • Audio Length: 5:41:20 | 6:01:17 | 9:44:30 | 10:01:25 | 10:13:26
  • Narrators: Ari Graynor (#1-2) | Christina Moore (#3-5)
  • Series: Izzy Spellman Mysteries #1-5

Link to Goodreads summaries:

I tore through these humorous novels about a family of private investigators who investigate each other almost more than their clients.  The amusing tone and quirky characters (and bad decisions) were a fun diversion during a stressful time.  Because of the family’s line of work, the author is able to put a slightly different twist on a dysfunctional family.

For those who want a sarcastic female character who doesn’t put much stock in authority figures or doing a little breaking and entering, readers might also like the Veronica Mars franchise (TV show, movie, & books).

For a less adept sleuth with quirky characters and a humorous tone, the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich would be a good suggestion.

Rating: 3 stars across the board

Finished Books: Another Quick Recap

Book Covers-Another Quick Recap

Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton

  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 476 (digital)
  • Series: Cocktail series #3

Link to Goodreads summary

Although the third in a series, knowledge of the previous two books does not seem necessary to enjoy this light-hearted, steamy romance. Viv, who is a romantic at heart, inherits a large, dilapidated home in California. As she tries to figure out what to do with the house, and her life, she must also make decisions of the heart between the two men who are constantly at her house: the man who takes care of the horses and the librarian who thwarts her every attempt to update the historical home.

Rating: 3 stars

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

  • Published: 2015
  • Pages: (336)
  • Audio length: 10 hours, 8 minutes
  • Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
  • Series: Veronica Mars #2

Link to Goodreads summary

Veronica Mars continues to use her sassy cunning to discover whodunnit in the second in the series. In the audio, the narrator (Rebecca Lowman, not Kristen Bell), is noticeable primarily because any fan of the show is used to hearing Kristen Bell telling the story. Lowman does a fine job distinguishing characters and creating a sense of foreboding as the story intensified.

Rating: 3 stars

Die Easy by Zoë Sharp

  • Published: 2013
  • Pages: (400)
  • Audio length: 10 hours, 46 minutes
  • Narrator: Justine Eyre
  • Series: Charlie Fox series #11

Link to Goodreads summary

Charlie Fox, a professional bodyguard for wealthy clients, must work with her ex-boyfriend, whose recent memory loss makes her question his abilities on the job. An action-packed story full of adventure and peril, the author draws you into the story and does not give up until the conclusion. A good choice for fans of adventure movies.

Rating: 3 stars

Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick

  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 336

Link to Goodreads summary

Summer Benson’s life shifts dramatically when her plane crashes, she is hospitalized, and her boyfriend (the pilot of the plane) breaks up with her instead of proposes to her.  To work out her unexpected grief, Summer goes to Black Dog Bay, a town built upon the tourism of recovering from a breakup.  The larger-than-life characters of the town, the witty writing style, and the chemistry between Summer and the town’s mayor, Dutch, make for a lively, upbeat novel.

Rating: 3 stars

Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry

  • Published: 2009
  • Pages: (289)
  • Audio length: 10 hours, 4 minutes
  • Narrator: Joyce Bean
  • Series: Jane Whitefield #1

Link to Goodreads summary

Jane Whitefield makes her living by making people disappear.  She doesn’t kill them; she helps them start over somewhere else under a different name and existence.  Her most recent client, John Felker, knows of Jane from a mutual acquaintance, Harry Kemple, who ends up dead shortly after John relocates.  Thomas Perry weaves Native American lore into his story, giving the reader a history/culture lesson along the way.  These breaks from the narrative only mildly detract from the otherwise nonstop action as Jane tries to find out who killed Harry and fight her feelings for John.

Rating: 2 stars

Finished Books: The Light We Lost

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

  • Published: 2017
  • Pages: 336 e-ARC

Link to Goodreads summary

32956365When considering to whom you should recommend this book, one important aspect to know about this story is that it is told from the point of view of the main female character (Lucy) telling the story to the main male character (Gabe) (“You and I…”  “You were…” etc.).  Some readers do not want a story told in this manner, and so you should probably make sure they know about it.  HOWEVER, if your reader has an open mind, after a small adjustment of mind-frame when reading, it is easy to get used to the storytelling style.  

This book is definitely character-driven.  At its heart, this is a book about relationships, but it is also a love story.  It shows the reader many aspects of love: the beginning where everything is new and exciting; the loss when it all falls apart; the grieving period where you can’t cope with any new affection; the mundanity of everyday love; the frustration of differing opinions and desires within a relationship.  Some novels only cover one or two aspects: the break-up and/or the new love.  It’s nice to see it all covered.  Their story starts at the beginning and Lucy highlights events in their lives, sharing slivers of time and what was going on during that time.

For someone who likes the aspects of telling a story of a relationship in snippets over the course of many years, you might suggest One Day by David Nicholls.

Rating: 3 stars (“liked it”)

*I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.*