Book Review: Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Title: Killers of a Certain Age
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: September 6, 2022
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that’s their secret weapon.

They’ve spent their lives as the deadliest assassins in a clandestine international organization, but now that they’re sixty years old, four women friends can’t just retire – it’s kill or be killed in this action-packed thriller.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they’ve been marked for death.

Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They’re about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman–and a killer–of a certain age.

Just because a woman hits 60, it doesn’t mean she’s weak or powerless. And the women of Killers of a Certain Age are here to make sure we don’t forget it!

In this action-rich thriller by the talented Deanna Raybourn, the four women at the heart of the story should be enjoying the celebratory luxury cruise marking their retirement — but when they spot a fellow assassin from the shadowy organization they work for hidden among the ship’s crew, they realize they’ve been targeted, and soon enter a fight for their lives.

As the foursome evade death through all sorts of clever, daring, inventive means, they know that the kill order must have come from the top, and in their world, as the blurb says, it’s kill or be killed. Banding together, they plot, scheme, and fight to take out the Museum’s Directors. With their own lives on the line, one mistake could mean the end for all of them.

Killers of a Certain Age is a fast-paced adventure, with the four main character at its heart using their mad skills, cunning, and whatever tools they have at hand to turn their own assassinations back on their adversaries and, they hope, finally leave the business behind them for good.

Each woman is given a backstory, although some are more fleshed out than others. The Museum, we’re told, was originally founded in the aftermath of the second World War, with the purpose of finding and eliminating the many Nazis who managed to slink away and evade justice. Over the years, the Museum’s mission expanded to include drug lords and criminal masterminds. Unaffiliated and uncontrolled by any one government, the Museum is a well-funded, top secret, highly powerful organization that moves through the world via stealth and surveillance, and takes out those deemed the highest threats.

Now, to enjoy Killers of a Certain Age, we readers have to put aside any qualms about the morality of an extra-legal assassination organization. We’re clearly meant to root for Billie, Mary Ann, Helen, and Natalie, and to understand that they see themselves as forces of good. Yes, they clean up the rot that pervades the world and evades more traditional types of justice. But at the end of the day, they’re women who’ve spent 40 years traveling the world and murdering people. I can’t bring myself to feel sorry about them dispensing justice to Nazis and cartel bosses… but I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with this either.

Still, accepting that these are our heroines, it’s certainly fun to cheer for their success, especially when they take advantage of other people’s views of older women to be able to slip into places unseen and unchallenged.

There are some funny moments (such as the women using a menopause-tracking app with animated kitten avatars as a way to communicate without being tracked), but overall, it’s not a particularly funny book (which readers coming from the world of the author’s Veronica Speedwell mystery series may be expecting). The characters are memorable, and I loved reading a story where women “of a certain age” not only matter, but truly kick ass, take names, and make a difference.

The underlying concept — four assassins as the heroes of a story — still doesn’t sit entirely well with me, but overall, this is a fun, fast, exciting read. Kind of like a female James Bond squad, but with murder. If you don’t take it too seriously and just go with the concept, it works!

Book Review: The Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland

Title: The Most Likely Club
Author: Elyssa Friedland
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: September 6, 2022
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

At their milestone high school reunion, a group of friends make a pact to finally achieve their high school superlatives one way or another, in the lively new novel from the acclaimed author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel.

In 1997, grunge is king, Titanic is a blockbuster (and Blockbuster still exists), and Thursday nights are for Friends. In Bellport, Connecticut, four best friends and high school seniors are ready to light the world on fire. Melissa Levin, Priya Chowdury, Tara Taylor, and Suki Hammer are going places. Their yearbook superlatives confirm it: Most Likely to Win the White House, Cure Cancer, Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, and Join the Forbes 400.

Fast forward twenty-five years and nothing has gone according to plan as the women regroup at their dreaded high school reunion. When a forgotten classmate emerges at the reunion with a surprising announcement, the friends dig out the yearbook and rethink their younger selves. Is it too late to make their dreams come true? Fueled by nostalgia and one too many drinks, they form a pact to push through their middle-aged angst to bring their teenage aspirations to fruition, dubbing themselves the “Most Likely Girls.”

Through the ensuing highs and lows, they are reminded of the enduring bonds of friendship, the ways our childhood dreams both sustain and surprise us — and why it’s deeply uncool to peak in high school.

In The Most Likely Club, four high school friends confront their old dreams as their 25th high school reunion looms, and decide together that it’s never too late to be, well, superlative.

If you’re voted “most likely to…” and then you don’t, are you a failure? What does it say about your life if you were voted most likely to become president, yet at age 42, the only office you’ve held is PTA president? Or if your classmates thought you were destined for world-famous celebrity chef status, yet your reality consists of running an afterschool cooking program for over-privileged kids?

The four women at the heart of this story had “smart-but-social” status in their late-90s high school class — not the truly popular top of the heap, but friendly enough to be be “honor roll students who still get invited to parties”. Melissa, Tara, Suki, and Priya are ambitious and eager, and they’re delighted with the superlatives they receive in their yearbook.

But 25 years later, they’re all experiencing a variety of middle-age disappointments and challenges. From divorce to career stagnation to trying to have it all, three of the four are hard-working but disillusioned, always regretting not getting what they thought they wanted. The fourth of the group, Suki, is a mega-successful entrepreneur, friends with “Elon” and “Oprah”, on the cover of Vogue, and with a book on the way to inspire others to her level of success.

The reunion stirs up their collective dissatisfaction, the sense that their potential has slipped away over the years and that they’re not actually living their best lives. Fired up simply by being together again, they commit to being the Most Likely Girls — they’re going to do something major to shake up their static lives and reach for their long-dormant dreams.

The characters in The Most Likely Club are very likable — all very different, yet each with a set of struggles that feel relatable. (Well, Suki getting trashed and on the verge of being “cancellled” isn’t all that relatable, but some of her personal details, when we finally get them, make her feel slightly more like someone real.)

Melissa’s presidential ambitions were derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. Tara’s chef career tanked after she reported her high-profile mentor for being a predator. Priya has a thriving career as a doctor and has been offered a promotion, but how can she possibly take on more when her husband, also a doctor, leaves every single aspect of caring for their home and children on her shoulders?

It’s heartening to see these women come together, shake off the sense of leaving their best years long behind, and give each the support they need to zap themselves back into action. Their friendship is lovely, and is truly at the heart of the story.

At the same time, the book certainly shows the endemic sexism that limits women’s options. From the celebrity culture that allows badly-behaving men to escape the consequences of their actions to the double-standard that applies to women bosses and more, The Most Likely Club illustrates the type of undercutting and derailment that can happen in the lives of women, no matter how smart or ambitious or dedicated to their goals.

I was afraid in the beginning chapters that I wouldn’t be able to relate, given the emphasis in the earlier parts of the book on PTA politics and school events and daily “mommy drama” — all representing a time in my life that’s definitely in the past! I needn’t have worried. The story encompasses so many aspects of women’s lives and friendships that I could see pieces of my own experiences, and those of my own friend circle, in the characters’ various story arcs.

The writing is fun and engaging, sometimes very funny, and even when addressing the more serious aspects of the characters’ lives, it never stays in dire territory for long.

The chapters are told from the different characters’ perspectives, and it’s interesting to get to see into each one’s inner lives and often, to see how their individual realities differ from what their friends believe their lives to be like. The narration can get overly judge-y at times, such as at the reunion itself:

The women were a mixed bag. Some trended down into saggier versions of their teenage selves.

Granted, this is one character’s view of things, but in a book that’s so much about women power and lifting one another up, it seems harsh to have this sort of commentary on appearance and bodies.

I was also concerned by Melissa’s over-the-top dieting in the months leading up to the reunion, which her friends eventually peg as an eating disorder — but then it just kind of goes away once she gets new focus and purpose in her life. It felt a little brushed aside, and resolved too easily.

My last little quibble is that the yearbook superlatives seem to have been hugely important for this school, but for the life of me, I don’t remember anything about superlatives from my high school days other than that we had them. I mean, I could pull out my old yearbook if I really wanted to, but who cares? Perhaps the difference is that these characters attended a small private school, whereas I was in a public school graduating class of about 650 people — so yeah, I know our yearbook had “Most Likely” listings, but I don’t remember anyone actually getting excited about them. Maybe my experience is the outlier, but in any case, this was so central to the plot yet felt very strange and foreign to me.

As a whole, though, I had a lot of fun reading The Most Likely Club. I loved the women’s friendship, the realistic depictions of their daily lives, and how empowered they all became by the end of the story. This is a feel-good book about the importance of enduring, supportive friendships, and even though some of the outcomes were way more rosy than might be realistic in the real world, it was very satisfying to see how all of their stories worked out.

I do have two other books by this author on my Kindle already, and given how much I enjoyed her writing style here, I’m looking forward to checking them out too!

Shelf Control #332: Mr. Flood’s Last Resort by Jess Kidd

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Mr. Flood’s Last Resort
Author: Jess Kidd
Published: 2018
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The spellbinding tale of a lonely caregiver and a cranky hoarder with a house full of secrets.

Maud Drennan is a dedicated caregiver whose sunny disposition masks a deep sadness. A tragic childhood event left her haunted, in the company of a cast of prattling saints who pop in and out of her life like tourists. Other than visiting her agoraphobic neighbor, Maud keeps to herself, finding solace in her work and in her humble existence–until she meets Mr. Flood.

Cathal Flood is a menace by all accounts. The lone occupant of a Gothic mansion crawling with feral cats, he has been waging war against his son’s attempts to put him into an old-age home and sent his last caretaker running for the madhouse. But Maud is this impossible man’s last chance: if she can help him get the house in order, he just might be able to stay. So the unlikely pair begins to cooperate, bonding over their shared love of Irish folktales and mutual dislike of Mr. Flood’s overbearing son.

Still, shadows are growing in the cluttered corners of the mansion, hinting at buried family secrets, and reminding Maud that she doesn’t really know this man at all. When the forgotten case of a missing schoolgirl comes to light, she starts poking around, and a full-steam search for answers begins.

Packed with eccentric charms, twisted comedy, and a whole lot of heart, Mr. Flood’s Last Resort is a mesmerizing tale that examines the space between sin and sainthood, reminding us that often the most meaningful forgiveness that we can offer is to ourselves.

How and when I got it:

I picked up the e-book edition of this book at some point in the last couple of years.

Why I want to read it:

I already had my eye on this author’s books (I have at least one other on my shelves that I want to read), and so I grabbed this one when I stumbled across a Kindle price break for it.

I can’t quite figure out what to make of the plot description! Based on the cute cover and some parts of the synopsis — “eccentric charms”, “twisted comedy” — it looks light and whimsical. But it also refers to darker secrets and a missing girl, and then there’s the bit about Maud being haunted by saints. Literally haunted? Like there are ghosts? I’m so confused.

When I look on Goodreads, I see other editions of the book that have a completely different (and utterly nonwhimsical) look to them:

I believe The Hoarder was the version published in the UK. Neither of these editions gives off warm or quirky vibes at all. Hmmm, what to make of it all?

The adorable look of the Kindle edition is definitely what initially caught my eye, so seeing that this book might not be what it seems give me very mixed feelings. At the same time, I really don’t want to start reading Goodreads reviews to investigate further, because I’m afraid I’ll out more than I want to know at this point!

Because of my confusion about the overall tone of the book, I’m a little hesitant — although I do think the general description of the storyline sounds intriguing!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #331: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: My Oxford Year
Author: Julia Whelan
Published: 2018
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

How and when I got it:

I added My Oxford Year to my Kindle library in 2019.

Why I want to read it:

I’m pretty sure that what drew me to this book in the first place was realizing that it was a novel written by a favorite audiobook narrator. And now that I’ve listened to Julia Whelan’s newest book (Thank You For Listening — absolutely loved it!), I’m eager to go back and read her first novel.

To be honest, I find the synopsis above a little confusing, but I’m sure the political piece and the time in Oxford will all make more sense once I read the book. I’m not sure that the synopsis on its own would have particularly drawn me in or made me take notice, but the title and cover are both charming, and I really do want to read more by this talented author.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Audiobook Review: Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Title: Thank You for Listening
Author: Julia Whelan
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager
Publication date: August 2, 2022
Print length: 432 pages
Audio length: 11 hours 16 minutes
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley (ebook); purchased audiobook via Audible
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator–who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident–and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book–with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling–not after her own dreams were tragically cut short–and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

I think I’ve found my favorite audiobook of the year!

Julie Whelan is a gifted narrator — according to her Goodreads bio, she’s narrated over 500 audiobooks! I’ve had the pleasure of listening to several of the books she’s narrated, and she is very, very good. But did you know she’s also an author? Her previous novel, My Oxford Year, was published in 2018 (and is one that I haven’t read yet, although I certainly intend to!). And now, in 2022, along comes her 2nd novel, and what could be more perfect than a story of an audiobook narrator?

In Thank You for Listening, main character Sewanee Chester did not intend to become a highly successful, award-winning audiobook narrator — but her Juilliard-trained acting career was cut short in her 20s, just on the cusp of break-through success, by a freak accident. It’s taken Sewanee years to recover — and emotionally, it’s questionable whether she’s actually recovered at all.

Sewanee is now the voice behind the scenes, incredibly gifted at bringing characters to life — so much so that clueless fans can’t believe what she can do, even when she states it plainly:

Roy peered at Sewanee, seeing her anew. “You crushed it! Wait, so did you meet the guy who played Butch and Sundance? Do you, like, record together?”

Adaku and Sewanee looked at each other, then back at Roy. Adaku said, “What guy?”

“The guy! The guy who voiced the guys.”

Adaku and Sewanee looked at each other again. Adaku said, “That wan’t a guy.”

“No, the Butch-and-Sundance-guy guy.”

“Ohhhh, that guy. Yeah, he wasn’t a guy.” Adaku was enjoying this a bit too much.

“Who wasn’t a guy?”

“The guy reading.”

“Wasn’t a guy?”

“Nope.”

When Sewanee and her best friend Adaku, a rising Hollywood star, share a celebration in Las Vegas that gets interrupted when Adaku has to leave early, Sewanee is left on her own… and meets a dashing stranger in a bar. After an intense connection and a one-night stand, Sewanee and Nick part without exchanging contact information, and Sewanee is left with amazing memories of a night that was very out of character for her.

Back in her real life, she receives an unexpected job offer: Although she’d long ago stopped recording romance audiobooks, which she’d done under the pseudonym Sarah Westholme, she’s asked to do it one more time. Bestselling romance writer June French, who recently passed away, left a final script, and she specifically wanted it read, in alternating voices, by Sarah Westholme and romance audiobook superstar Brock McKnight. While Sewanee is initially reluctant, the insane money on the table means she’d be able to maintain her beloved grandmother in comfort at her pricey but wonderful memory care facility, so she takes the job.

As she and Brock (a pseudonym, naturally) start recording their chapters and communicating via email and text about delivery, intonation, accents, and other details, a friendship develops. Their exchanges are funny, smart, and full of hilarious double-entendres and innuendos, and while not knowing each others’ true identities, they click in a way that’s unexpected and potentially more than just collegial.

This is a story that unfolds in lovely, unexpected ways, so I won’t go further into plot details (although I’m sure you can guess where certain elements are headed). What’s wonderful about this book is the character development, the chemistry, and the way the author, via her characters, deliberately plays with and acknowledges romance genre tropes, even while making these tropes fit and support such a thoughtful, funny, and emotionally rich story.

Sewanee’s past and present are shaded by sorrow and disappointment, from her parents’ failed marriage to worries over her grandmother’s dementia to her own tragedy and the self-doubts that have plagued her since. Sewanee’s pain and insecurities feel real and relatable. Would any of us be able to bounce back as far as she has? She doesn’t immediately, magically get better thanks to the power of love, either — instead, we see her process her past over time, and learn how to see a possible future that could include happiness. It’s not easy, but it does feel well-earned and fought for.

I loved not only Sewanee, but the supporting cast as well, including Adaku, the hilarious Blah-Blah (Sewanee’s outrageous grandmother, a former Hollywood starlet whose favorite name for her granddaughter is “Dollface”), Brock (of course), and even Sewanee’s mother’s new beau, who’s very funny in his own right, in a way that just needs to be experienced.

I also loved how each section of the book is introduced by both a “literary” quote (such as thoughts by Hemingway on pain and writing) and a quote from a (fictitious) June French interview with Cosmopolitan, where she’s brash, blunt, and incredibly funny:

It’s always the men, isn’t it, talking about writing from a place of pain. Maybe try writing from joy. We get it, the world is hard. Which is precisely why I write: to escape it. Calm down with this tortured artist shit already, my God.

I originally received an ebook ARC via NetGalley, and as wonderful as this book is in print, I simply had to take the audio path — so I treated myself to the Audible version as well. I’m so glad I did! The opportunity to hear Julia Whelan not only narrate her own book, but narrate a book about a narrator, seemed too good to miss! She’s just as amazing here as you’d expect: As a listener, I was never, not for a moment, confused about who was speaking, whether the lines were intended as spoken dialogue or a character’s inner thoughts, or what the mood or intent was. Dialogue snaps and crackles, chemistry blooms, and even when the characters are putting on their own fake voices, it absolutely works.

Beyond the central plotline, I also loved the behind-the-scenes view into the world of audiobook narration — how it works, how some narrators become stars in their own right, and what challenges the industry faces. Also wonderful is the power of non-romantic love — Sewanee could never have come as far as she does in this book without her beautiful friendship with Adaku, the care she and her mentor Mark share, or the family heartstrings connecting her to Blah-Blah and to her mother.

Thank You for Listening is a treat, start to finish, and I highly recommend it!



Book Review: Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

Title: Love in the Time of Serial Killers
Author: Alicia Thompson
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: August 16, 2022
Print length: 336 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Turns out that reading nothing but true crime isn’t exactly conducive to modern dating—and one woman is going to have to learn how to give love a chance when she’s used to suspecting the worst.

PhD candidate Phoebe Walsh has always been obsessed with true crime. She’s even analyzing the genre in her dissertation—if she can manage to finish writing it. It’s hard to find the time while she spends the summer in Florida, cleaning out her childhood home, dealing with her obnoxiously good-natured younger brother, and grappling with the complicated feelings of mourning a father she hadn’t had a relationship with for years.

It doesn’t help that she’s low-key convinced that her new neighbor, Sam Dennings, is a serial killer (he may dress business casual by day, but at night he’s clearly up to something). It’s not long before Phoebe realizes that Sam might be something much scarier—a genuinely nice guy who can pierce her armor to reach her vulnerable heart.

You wouldn’t normally expect an obsession with serial killers to show up in a romance… but Love in the Time of Serial Killers is here to change all that!

Note: As the author makes clear in her forward, there is no actual murder or violence in the book; the story is about someone studying written records of serial killing, and does not include details of killings or anything graphic or gory.

In this new novel, Phoebe is forced to temporarily relocate to Florida to clear out her late father’s house and get it ready for sale, while at the same time trying to finish the remaining chapters of her dissertation. To say she has mixed feelings is to put it mildly — she’s been estranged from her father since her early teens, when her parents divorced and she chose to go with her mother (while her much younger brother Conner remained with their father.) Phoebe has no interest in a stroll down memory lane — but that’s hard to avoid while sleeping in her own childhood bedroom and sorting through the hoarder-level amount of stuff piled all over the house.

Phoebe’s doctoral dissertation is on true crime as a literary genre, and her singular focus on true crime affects her worldview to a huge degree. Yes, it’s good to be cautious, but her immediate assumption that every stranger is a potential serial killer definitely gets in the way of her ability to connect to other people, sustain friendships, or even accept help when she needs it.

Of course, that cute guy next door is not actually a serial killer (although it takes Phoebe some time to believe it), and he’s understanding and helpful in an almost too-good-to-be-true sort of way. As the weeks go by and Phoebe reconnects with her brother as well as her former best friend, she starts to understand the reasons why she’s so drawn to true crime (for one thing, it usually has answers and cause and effect, elements she finds lacking in her own messy life), and realizes that maybe it’s time to let other people in… including her neighbor Sam.

I enjoyed Phoebe as a main character very much — she’s super intelligent, goes her own way, and is very body positive (she describes herself as fat and is comfortable with her body… which makes me question the cover art and why the woman shown does not appear to be fat herself). She can be frustrating too, clearly and willfully pushing away people who are well-intentioned and hiding behind her knowledge of serial killer habits as a way of protecting herself from real connection.

The romance aspects felt a little too easy in some ways — there’s instant chemistry, and Sam is hard to know other than as he presents — a sexy school teacher who’s good-hearted and supportive and always ready to help and understand. I mean, he’s pretty much flawless! Then again, since this is a romance novel, there has to be a falling out prior to the HEA ending, and the break-up here seems unnecessary — a bit more honest communication would have helped a lot.

I thought Phoebe’s dissertation sounded fascinating! I’m not a true crime fan — I don’t read books or listen to podcasts or watch Netflix documentaries on the subject — but I have to admit that after reading this book, I’m certainly more interested… enough so that maybe I’ll finally get to the copies of In Cold Blood or I’ll Be Gone in the Dark currently sitting on my shelves. Phoebe’s approach to the genre focuses on looking at who’s telling the story and what their roles in the narrative are, and honestly, I wanted to hear more! (And this book also reminded me that I’ve always meant to read Helter Skelter too, if I can psych myself up for it.)

I really enjoyed the tone and the writing throughout Love in the Time of Serial Killers. There’s plenty of humor in the dialogues and in Phoebe’s inner thoughts:

To encourage your cat to play, it said to stay on the floor, idly flicking a string or other toy while talking in a friendly manner. It didn’t specifically say to talk about your favorite true crime programming, but it didn’t say not to, either.

Phoebe’s younger brother is all boyish enthusiasm and silliness, and his lovestruck attempts to figure out the perfect way to propose to his girlfriend — to achieve that perfect balance of expressing the depth of his feelings while also going viral — are adorable. (Let’s just mention that one scenario involves a roller rink, and leave it at that.)

Silliness and laughter aside, the book also explores the lingering effects of Phoebe’s difficult family situation and her emotionally withholding father. Here’s where I wish the book had gone a little deeper, in fact. While we know that Phoebe carries inner wounds from her earlier experiences which have shaped who she is today and why she has such difficulty with intimacy, I would have liked more of an exploration of these experiences and what she went through as a teen, in order to better understand her as an adult.

Overall, though, Love in the Time of Serial Killers is a fast, engaging, entertaining read, with hints of greater depth to keep it from being too fluffy. And how amazing is that title??? This is a good choice for a quick summer read, and I ended up really enjoying it.

Book Review: Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

Title: Lucy Checks In
Author: Dee Ernst
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: August 16, 2022
Print length: 288 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dee Ernst’s Lucy Checks In is a delightful work of romantic comedy about a disgraced hotel manager who travels to Rennes to rebuild a hotel and her own life in the process…

Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy’s life as she knows it falls apart.

Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?

Witty and heartfelt, Lucy Checks In is an inspiring and feel-good novel about reclaiming your life, finding love, and creating a home in places you never thought possible.

In Lucy Checks In, the title character is an almost 50-year-old woman who hit rock-bottom two year previously, when the man she loved embezzled money, left his hotel chain in ruins, destroyed her professional reputation, and left her the subject of an FBI investigation. Even after being cleared of any involvement in his schemes, Lucy’s life was still shattered, and she found herself with no prospects, and not even a roof over her head other than her parents’ — definitely not where she envisioned she’d be at this age.

So when an offer come through to spruce up and manage a charming family-owned, historic hotel in the French town of Rennes, there’s no way Lucy can pass up the opportunity for a fresh start. When she arrives, however, she discovers that the “hotel” hasn’t actually operated as one since before World War II, the building itself is in terrible shape, and it’s currently inhabited by a motley crew of assorted oddballs who, improbably, are all investors (one way or another) in the project to rehab and reopen the hotel.

Lucy wants to turn and run, but where could she go? She has a contract for six months of employment, and decides to make the best of it — although even this decision is quickly called into question when she discovers that rather than hiring people to do things like painting and building a website, she’ll have to do it herself.

Eventually, though, Lucy warms to the task, and as she digs in to the work and at the same time gets to know the hotel’s owner and the other residents, she begins to feel hopeful and even cautiously optimistic that (a) they can really pull this off and (b) she may have found a place for herself, where she might even have a future.

Lucy Checks In is charming in many ways, from the description of Rennes and the hotel itself, with its vivid history, to its quirky cast of characters and the different talents and obstacles they each bring with them.

I really appreciated having a more mature woman as the lead, particularly once Lucy gets a chance to explore romance as well as professional redemption. Her love interest, a sexy American painter and children’s book author, is supportive, kind, and encouraging, and seeing them together really reinforces that love stories, romance, and a healthy sex life are not just for people in their 20s and 30s.

I did feel as though the book could have used a bit more meat on its bones (not sure why I’m going with a meat metaphor, but that’s what keeps coming up in my mind). I’m not usually one to complain when a book is on the shorter side, but here, I wished the characters and plots had been given more room to expand.

A great deal of the plot has to do with hotel renovations, and while I’m happy for Lucy and the rest of the hotel folks that their grand project worked so well, I’m not sure we readers need quite that much space devoted to plastering, painting, decorating the lobby, and selecting colors and fabrics.

On the other hand, I would have welcomed fuller development of the supporting cast. The various residents of the hotel are introduced, often with thumbnail backstories, but we don’t get to know most of them very well beyond the basics. That’s a shame, because many are funny or eccentric, and I would have liked to know more about how they ended up at the Hotel Paradis and how they live their lives.

Overall, Lucy Checks In is a sweet, non-demanding read, with a bit of an armchair travel element to it (yes, I do want to go hang out at the hotel, explore Rennes, and eat all that amazing food). I was moved by Lucy’s story arc, including some unexpected twists concerning her family back home in the US, and was very happy to see her finding her way toward happiness and new beginnings.

Last year, I read and really enjoyed Maggie Finds Her Muse by the same author. Lucy Checks In, while engaging and sweet, feels a bit slighter than the previous novel, but I’m still glad to have read it. And as I mentioned, I truly appreciate seeing an older woman in the lead romantic role! Here’s hoping the author brings us many more delicious European adventures with women of a certain age front and center!

Audiobook Review: The Comeback by Lily Chu

Title: The Comeback
Author: Lily Chu
Narrator: Phillipa Soo
Publisher: Audible Originals
Publication date: July 14, 2022
Print length: n/a
Audio length: 12 hours 14 minutes
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Audible download
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who is Ariadne Hui?

• Laser-focused lawyer diligently climbing the corporate ladder
• The “perfect” daughter living out her father’s dream
• Shocking love interest of South Korea’s hottest star

Ariadne Hui thrives on routine. So what if everything in her life is planned down to the minute: That’s the way she likes it. If she’s going to make partner in Toronto’s most prestigious law firm, she needs to stay focused at all times.

But when she comes home after yet another soul-sucking day to find an unfamiliar, gorgeous man camped out in her living room, focus is the last thing on her mind. Especially when her roommate explains this is Choi Jihoon, her cousin freshly arrived from Seoul to mend a broken heart. He just needs a few weeks to rest and heal; Ari will barely even know he’s there. (Yeah, right.)

Jihoon is kindness and chaos personified, and it isn’t long before she’s falling, hard. But when one wrong step leads to a world-shaking truth, Ari finds herself thrust onto the world stage: not as the competent, steely lawyer she’s fought so hard to become, but as the mystery woman on the arm of a man the entire world claims to know. Now with her heart, her future, and her sense of self on the line, Ari will have to cut through all the pretty lies to find the truth of her relationship…and discover the Ariadne Hui she’s finally ready to be.

I enjoyed last year’s The Stand-In, Lily Chu’s debut, released an Audible Original (and later, as a paperback) — so when I saw that a new Audible novel was being released this year by the same author, and once again with the amazing Phillipa Soo as narrator, naturally I had to grab it! \

The new book, The Comeback, brings some of The Stand-In‘s elements to a fresh story. Once again, we have an ordinary Canadian woman who ends up in the ultimate wish-fulfillment scenario of finding love with one of the world’s biggest stars — in this case, a K-pop idol.

Ariadne is a work-obsessed lawyer whose sole focus is making partner with her conservative, almost-all-white law firm. (She’s dismayed to overhear a coworker describe her as the firm’s “diversity hire”). Ariadne is Canadian born and of Chinese descent, but she constantly finds herself having to explain where she’s from and that no, she doesn’t speak Chinese and was actually born in Toronto. Her father, also a lawyer, is overly invested in Ari’s career and sends her link to business articles on how to impress the boss and how to get ahead.

Ari tells herself that she’s fine and happy. So what if she never actually takes any of the amazing vacations she fantasizes about? Making partner is all that matters!

Or so she thinks… until her orderly life is disrupted when she comes home to find a strange man in her apartment. After a comical misunderstanding (kitchen knives are involvled), she learns that this is Jihoon, her roommate Hannah’s cousin from Korea, who just needs a place to get away and be quiet for a while after a bad break-up. He seems nice enough, and Hannah is her best friend, so Ari agrees, so long as she can keep working around the clock.

But Jihoon is hard not to notice, from the expensive skincare products spread out all over her bathroom counters to the ramen in her kitchen, and their brief daily encounters turn into texting GIFs, sharing food, and eventually, exploring Toronto together. And the more time Ari spends with him, the more they seem to connect. Okay, yes, he’s super hot, but he’s also kind, intelligent, supportive, and interested in Ari in a way no one else has ever been.

Their time together is cut short, first by the early return of Hannah, and then by the arrival of two of Jihoon’s friends, come to bring him home. They’re not just any friends, though — they’re two of the five members of the enormously huge K-pop group Star Loon (Star Lune? Starloon? Can’t tell from listening to an audiobook!). And guess what? It turns out Jihoon is actually their lead singer, stage name Min, whose video Ari had just watched a few days earlier.

Ari is devastated by Jihoon’s lies (lies of omission still count, especially when the truth he hid is “oh, by the way, I’m an idol with millions of obsessed fans”). Although on the verge of falling in love (who is she kidding? she’s already fallen!), Ari is terrified by Jihoon’s fame and lack of privacy, and breaks off their growing relationship as he departs for Korea.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there, and we get to see what happens when Ari travels to Seoul for a work trip, reunites with Jihoon, attends a VIP Starlune concert, and eventually, gets spotted in an intimate moment with Jihoon. Can their love survive her “outing”, especially when “Starries” brand her a “sasaeng” (stalker/obsessed fan)?

This may all sound rather silly, but it’s actually got quite a bit of emotion and thoughtfulness, and is a very engaging, absorbing listen. Ariadne is a wonderful main character, talented and smart, obviously, but with plenty of blind spots. Her single focus on work keeps her from examining just why she wants so badly to please her father, why she’s never reconciled with her free-spirited older sister, and why she wants a career in law in the first place. Once she opens herself up to love and all the messy emotions that go with it, she starts to see how many limits she’s imposed on her own life through her strict devotion to meeting other people’s expectations, and it actually starts to free her enough to consider what she really wants out of life and how she wants to live.

Jihoon is, perhaps, too good to be true. Because yes, he’s a pop idol with his face on everything from cereal boxes to bottled water, and a video of him taking a nap for five minutes has millions of views, but he’s really just a nice, sensitive guy who wants to experience true connection with someone real. He loves his bandmates and his fans and appreciates all of the advantages he’s gotten from becoming an idol, and yet he also yearns to write the music that matters to him, and to spend time with a woman who loves him for himself, not for his manufactured image.

The Comeback is sweet and entertaining, and even thought-provoking. We can dream of a gorgeous celebrity falling for us, but would we really want the constant surveillance and online criticism (which is putting it mildly) that goes with it? Ari’s dilemma and heartache feel real, because yes, she’s fallen for this man, but she’s nowhere near sure she can handle the demands of his public life — not to mention the public shaming that seems headed her way once the company that controls Starlune gets involved in managing the messaging.

As with The Stand-In, the audiobook narration is a treat. Phillipa Soo is terrific voicing Ariadne, and captures the other characters really well too. I have the same complaint here that I did with the previous book, however — this is a first-person story, and in scenes with dialogue, it can be very difficult to tell whether Ari is saying something out loud or whether certain lines are asides that she’s thinking to herself. I’ve heard narrators who’ve managed to change up the delivery/intonation enough to make it clear, but here, it can be confusing, and there’s not always enough context to tell the difference.

Other than that, though, the audiobook is delightful. This is not a heavy story by any means, but it definitely kept my attention — enough that I found myself driving the longer way to my destinations just to get a few more minutes of listening time into my day!

PS – I am not a K-pop fan… but after listening to The Comeback, I think I may need to expand my horizons!

PPS – If you’re as ignorant of K-pop culture as I am (was), check out some basics:

Kpop Idol – Life and Career of Korean Music Artists
2022’s Top K-Pop Artists
50 Most Liked Kpop Videos of 2022

Enjoy!



Audiobook Review: An Island Wedding (Mure, #5) by Jenny Colgan

Title: An Island Wedding
Series: Mure
Author: Jenny Colgan
Narrator:  Eilidh Beaton
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: June 21, 2022
Print length: 400 pages
Audio length: 12 hours, 26 minutes
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan brings us a delightful summer novel that will sweep you away to the remote Scottish island of Mure, where two very different weddings are about to take place…

On the little Scottish island of Mure–halfway between Scotland and Norway–Flora MacKenzie and her fiancé Joel are planning the smallest of “sweetheart weddings,” a high summer celebration surrounded only by those very dearest to them.

Not everyone on the island is happy about being excluded, though. The temperature rises even further when beautiful Olivia MacDonald–who left Mure ten years ago for bigger and brighter things–returns with a wedding planner in tow. Her fiancé has oodles of family money, and Olivia is determined to throw the biggest, most extravagant, most Instagrammable wedding possible. And she wants to do it at Flora’s hotel, the same weekend as Flora’s carefully planned micro-wedding.

As the summer solstice approaches, can Flora handle everyone else’s Happy Every Afters–and still get her own?

The 5th installment in Jenny Colgan’s wonderful Mure series brings us back to this beautiful, remote Scottish island. It’s like a reunion with old friends, as we see what our beloved characters are up to now, and for at least some, get to witness the happy event they’ve been building toward over the four previous books.

(For the story so far, see my wrap-up post, here.)

In An Island Wedding, Flora Mackenzie is finally set to marry the man of her dreams. But there’s a problem — Flora, born and bred on Mure, wants to celebrate with everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE. The entire island expects to be at their wedding, from Mrs. Kennedy’s dance school students to the old fishermen who drink away their evenings down at the Harbor’s Rest. But Joel, a product of a lonely childhood in the foster care system, wants only those who truly love them to be with them on their big day — just immediate family, an intimate occasion, and donate all the money that would have gone to a big wedding to the local couple who take troubled youth on outdoor adventures.

What’s Flora to do? She loves Joel, and wants to do what makes him happy… but she can’t help but feeling just a wee bit sad and guilty every time an island neighbor comes up to tell her how much they’re looking forward to her wedding.

Meanwhile, Olivia MacDonald, the beautiful island native who’s now an international Instagram star, has decided to hold her own lavish wedding back home on Mure, in a most likely misguided move to impress her fabulously wealthy, fabulously snooty future in-laws with her connection to an authentic Scottish community. Olivia arrives with an upscale wedding planner in tow, and proceeds to transform The Rock (the hotel Flora manages) and the entire island into the fantasy wedding setting of her dreams.

Most of the book is devoted to the wedding plans, as well as to the ongoing tension between Flora and Joel over their divergent visions for how they’ll get married. I was never truly worried about Flora and Joel — they love each other, and they’ve been through enough so far that I was sure it would all work out — but it was sad to see them at what appeared at times to be an impasse.

The most moving and gripping parts of An Island Wedding have to do with the love story between Lorna, the island’s schoolmistress, and Saif, the Syrian refugee doctor who’s found a new home for himself and his two sons on Mure. Saif’s wife’s fate has been a question mark since the start of the series, and when new information is uncovered, it forces Saif to make an impossible choice. I won’t say too much, but it’s heartbreaking. The terrible sadness of the situation is written so beautifully, and my heart just ached for Lorna, Saif, and for the boys too.

The stakes for the Flora and Olivia storylines never feel terribly high or risky — after all, it’s really mostly to do with wedding plans! Still, it’s fun to follow along and laugh at all the mishaps, miscommunications, and over-the-top wedding arrangements, and the ending left me with a few little tears of happiness. After spending so much time with Flora and Joel over the course of this series, I was ready for them to get all the joy they deserve!

My initial understanding had been that this would be the final Mure book… but actually, I don’t see that stated anywhere, and given that there’s a MAJOR story thread left hanging, I’m hopeful for more! So please, if you happen to meet Jenny Colgan someday, tell her we want MORE MURE. I’m not ready to say good-bye to these wonderful characters and the beautiful island just yet!

Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Knopf
Publication date: July 5, 2022
Print length: 416 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the kind of immersive, powerful read that only comes along once in a great while. I found it moving and profound, and even several days after finishing the book, I’m still caught up in thoughts about its themes and images.

Pretty surprising for a book ostensibly about the world of video games, right?

Sam and Sadie first meet as young teens; Sadie stumbles across Sam in a pediatric hospital where he’s a patient and her sister is undergoing cancer treatment. Sadie doesn’t know anything about Sam other than that he’s dealing with a serious injury to his foot — but she doesn’t need to know much more. He’s playing Mario Kart, and she joins in… and instantly, they find a shared language and joy, as well as an escape from their real lives, by gaming together.

From there, they spend 609 hours together (if you read the book, you’ll find out why this matters), but a secret drives them apart, until they meet once again as college students on a cold day in Boston. Their love of gaming hasn’t changed, and they immediately rekindle their mind-meld connection and begin collaborating on a game. Along with Sam’s roommate Marx, a protective loving boy who decides it’s his mission to look after Sam, they embark on a path that will lead them to huge success and fame.

The book follows Sam and Sadie’s rise to gaming stardom while tracing the impact on their friendship. Their connection goes beyond business partnership or being friends — it’s deep and powerful, and yes, it’s love, but it’s not a romantic connection. They are so deeply entwined that any perceived betrayal or slight is felt all the way to the bone. Sam and Sadie are inextricably connected, but they go through periods of intense conflict and estrangement as well.

Over the course of the years covered by Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, we learn about their backstories, their families, their traumas, and of course, their brilliance. There’s so much to absorb here about culture, wellness and disability, reality and virtual worlds, intelligence and academia, and more. Sadie, Sam, and Marx are unforgettable characters, beautifully described and developed. We know these people and what makes them tick; we understand their joys and their pain, and when bad things happen, it hurts deeply.

The writing is beautiful, often funny, often pensive, filled with oddball characters in a world that many of us (anyone not involved in gaming and coding) may find alien. We’re given entrance into this world through these characters’ experiences, and it’s fascinating.

Maybe it was the willingness to play that hinted at a tender, eternally newborn part in all humans. Maybe it was the willingness to play that kept one from despair.

One element I loved is how the characters’ worldview is coded to the world of games, so that how they view real life is often described in gaming language (and vice versa). For example, a character involved with someone who’s married reflects:

A wife had been mentioned, as had a son. They didn’t have names, and so they weren’t characters to her, but that didn’t mean they didn’t exist.

The virtual vs real world comparisons continue throughout the book, and I found these fascinating:

How do you preserve the impossible to preserve? Or, in other words, how do you stop time and death? […] What, after all, is a video game’s subtextual preoccupation if not the erasure of mortality?

“I’m going to play until the end of this life.”

“That’s a good philosophy.”

He was tired of having to move so carefully, of having to be so careful. He wanted to be able to skip, for God’s sake. He wanted to be Ichigo. He wanted to surf, and ski, and parasail, and fly, and scale mountains and buildings. He wanted to die a million deaths like Ichigo, and no matter what damage was inflicted on his body during the day, he’d wake up tomorrow, new and whole. He wanted Ichigo’s life, a lifetime of endless, immaculate tomorrows, free of mistakes and evidence of having lived.

… [H]e could remember thinking that the best thing about games is that they could be fairer than life.

“I thought you were worried I was going to die,” Sam said.

“No. You’ll never die. And if you ever died, I’d just start the game again,” Sadie said.

As it turned out, in the late fall of 2001, Mapleworld [an online virtual world/game] was exactly what people craved. A virtual world that was better governed, kinder, and more understandable than their own

You are a gaming person, which is to say you are the kind of person who believes that “game over” is a construction. The game is only over if you stop playing. There is always one more life.

“What is a game?” Marx said. “It’s tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It’s the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you could win. No loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever.”

On a more granular level, I was delighted by how many words in this book were new to me! Sometimes, it can be annoying to have to check definitions, but somehow here, I found it eye-opening and challenging, especially in the context of this particular book’s setting and characters. The unfamiliar words tended to be gaming/coding terms that the characters use to express themselves in daily life — it made me feel like I’d entered into their world and been handed yet another insight into how their minds work. (For examples of new-to-me words and their definitions, see below**).

To make a game is to imagine the person playing it.

I wouldn’t have thought I’d love a book that’s ostensibly about video games, or that I’d consider it one of the best books of the year. In fact, I had to give myself a little push to pick up Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and get started. Thankfully, I’ve read and loved Gabrielle Zevin’s books before this one and trusted that she’d write something I’d want to read!

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is moving and gorgeous, truly a unique reading experience. The author’s creativity and sensitivity shines through on every page. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time to come.

**A quick, incomplete guide to words I found fascinating in T&T&T:

  • ligneous: made, consisting of, or resembling wood; woody
  • collogue: talk confidentially or conspiratorially
  • mesomorphic: having a compact and muscular body build
  • kenophobia: an intense fear of empty spaces or voids
  • viridescent: greenish or becoming green
  • ludic: showing spontaneous and undirected playfulness
  • deictic: of, relating to, or denoting a word or expression whose meaning is dependent on the context in which it is used, e.g. here, you, me, that one there, next Tuesday
  • jejune: naïve, simplistic, and superficial
  • anfractuous: sinuous or circuitous
  • echt: authentic and typical