Tag: small town life

Book Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club, by Louise Miller

lbc
Image belongs to Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books.

Title:   The Late Bloomers’ Club
Author:   Louise Miller
Genre:   Fictions
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Nora owns the Miss Guthrie Diner and is happy with serving up tasty food and knowing her regulars’ orders. But when she and her rebellious sister Kit, an aspiring filmmaker, inherit Peggy the Cake Lady’s home and land unexpectedly, the diner isn’t the only thing on her plate.

Kit is happy when she finds out Peggy was in talks to sell to a big developer, but Nora’s not so sure, and the small town is divided over the issues, voicing their opinions to Nora everywhere she goes. The developer’s representative, Elliot, isn’t what she expected either, and soon Nora is torn between the good of the town, Peggy’s hidden secrets, and her own wishes. Finding Freckles, Peggy’s missing dog, is the one thing she can solve.

I enjoyed The Late Bloomers’ Club quite a bit. It’s not a face-paced novel, but the gradually unfolding storyline is so fitting for this small-town drama. The setting is very well-done and felt like small towns I’ve known. Nora and Kit are great characters, and the contrast between them is vibrant and vivid. This is a lovely read. Oh, and maybe don’t read it while you’re hungry or cake-less.

Louise Miller loves baking and writing and is an art school dropout. The Late Bloomers’ Club is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti

as you wish
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Madison is a small town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, a.k.a. nowhere. It’s the kind of place that no one ever leaves. Where everyone knows everyone else and all their business, but the town itself is keeping one very big secret:  on their 18th birthday, every person in town is granted one wish, that always comes true.

Most people have their wishes picked out months or years in advance. Not Eldon. His birthday is only weeks away, and he’s got nothing. Except every single person in town pressuring him to make up his mind and pick a wish. But where to start? His family could use money. His sister isn’t really there anymore. His ex-girlfriend, now dating his ex-friend, is still the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, but she hates him now. He could fix any one of those things with his wish.

But Eldon sees the dark side of wishing:  he can’t find a single person who is happy with the results of their wish, especially not his parents. And Eldon is tired of all the pressure, tired of the looming decision, tired of the darkness hanging over his sleepy little town. Eldon thinks maybe it’s better to just not wish—than to risk the unhappiness he’s sure will result.

I have to be honest, with a title like As You Wish, I expected at least one The Princess Bride reference. Sadly, that was not to be. Despite that lack, this was a wonderful read that explores everything that terrifies me about small towns—and I’ve lived in them for most of my life—with the added element of magical realism. Everyone knowing what everyone else is up to is exactly what small towns are like, and Madison is like that personified, with the addition of keeping the wishes a secret from the outside world. But everyone in town knows what everyone else wished for. And Eldon wants no part of the heartache he sees as the result of the wishes, but he can’t quite see his way out of the whole mess, either. This book explores what happens when people get what they wish for, and the consequences it can have.

Chelsea Sedoti loves adventures and writing. She is the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, and her newest novel, As You Wish.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Holding, by Graham Norton

holding
Image belongs to Atria Books.

In the small Irish village of Duneen, nothing ever happens. At least, nothing new ever happens. So, when human remains are discovered during a building project, the entire town is in an uproar, wondering who the bones belong to—and who put them there.

The smart money is on the remains being Tommy Burke, who disappeared years ago, leaving two women to suffer his loss. Sergeant PJ Collins, overwhelmingly shy and conscious of his weight, just wants to solve the first real case of his life, but finds himself drawn into the secrets of Duneen’s past as he attempts to unravel the mystery of what happened all those years ago, and what’s going on now.

I’ve never seen The Graham Norton Show—a horrible lack, I’m sure, but I don’t watch much TV—so the author wasn’t a draw for me with this one. The rural Ireland setting, however, was a draw, and the novel did not disappoint. The characters in Holding aren’t that interesting on the surface—an overweight small-town Garda, a middle-aged woman who lives with her sisters and stays at home, the wife and mother who likes to drink—but they end up being compelling and real. PJ has struggled his whole life with his weight and his lack of accomplishments, and his struggles are so relatable they make the reader sympathize with him. The small-town setting of Duneen mixed with the cozy mystery aspect make Holding an engrossing and very readable story.

Graham Norton is the start of the award-winning The Graham Norton Show. Holding is his first novel.

(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Beartown, by Fredrik Backman

beartown
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. Image belongs to Atria Books.

Fredrik Backman is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in Sweden. Beartown is his newest novel.

Once upon a time, Beartown was a bustling town where things happened. Now it’s dying as the forest slowly creeps in closer. But the old ice rink is the center of hope for the town, as the boys’ junior hockey team makes it to the national finals. If the boys win, it will breathe new life back into the town.

Tensions run high, and a lot of pressure rests on the shoulders of boys. After the semi-final game, the unthinkable happens, and a teenage girl is traumatized from the violent act. When accusations surface, and the entire town takes sides, it becomes a question of truth:  is she telling the truth, or is he?

Beartown is about hockey, but it is about so much more:  small town life, expectations, family, and gender. The culture of the town is vibrant in its smallness, but secrets will tear it apart, as well as divide families and friendships as the truth comes to life. This was not a happy book to read, but it is well-worth reading, with gripping characters that the reader truly cares about. I don’t even like hockey, and I was rooting for the Bears! (I don’t dislike hockey, either, though.)

Caveat:  This isn’t an easy book to read, either, especially if physical violence towards women is a trigger for you. This book is not “just” about hockey, but about rape and rape culture (Seen in action in the backlash the girl experiences in this book.). One brief review I saw online said, “This story is a charmer. It’s about a hockey-loving town in which residents all root for the junior team competing in the national semifinals.” NO. This story is NOT “charming.” It’s tough to read, especially the last half. And it is not just about a town rooting for its hockey team. But Beartown is a very, very good book, and I highly recommend it.

(Galley provided by Atria Books.)