Book Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, by Kelly Harms

Dear Vi,

Summer reading season is upon us and I am all about the lighthearted, happy books right now.

Why? Because lately I’m finding all the unkindness in the world is wearing me down. Angst and anger shouts at me every time I look at social media, and sometimes it’s hard to get it out of my head. Seriously, sometimes it wakes me up in the night.

So all that disturbing soul-stealing stuff we’re surrounded with?  I don’t want any of it in the novels I read right now. No thank you, I want to be transported away from all of that this summer.

I want to live in Amy Byler’s world for a couple of weeks.

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City. Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps.

This book fits the bill if you’re looking for a light summer read. It’s women’s fiction sharing the front porch swing with chick-lit… without all that annoying pattering talk that chick-lit usually comes with. It’s intelligent chick-lit. (Is this a category? It should be.)

Kelly Harms has written a character with depth. Amy Byler is an intelligent woman; a school librarian (yay!) who is besieged with doubts over being away from her kids for an entire summer. She’s given the unexpected gift of a “momspringa” – a summer of discovering another side of herself. What does she do with it? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out – I’m not gonna spoil it for you.

Sure the book has the expected tropes – fairy-tale romance, complete wardrobe makeover, insights into what’s really important in life. Of course it does! It’s supposed to! But it’s also got great conversations about things like library science and getting kids to read. And wine! That’s what makes it a great summer read.

I didn’t want War & Peace, folks… I wanted a well-written, intelligent woman rediscovering herself, and that’s what I got.

I received this book as an Advance Reading Copy. My opinions are strictly my own.

What’s on your summer reading list? Are you feeling the need to de-stress with a lighthearted novel, too? Let me know and we’ll compare notes.

Good Grief: when the story is over

Dear Vi,

I just finished reading the Best Book. Really good. You should read it, too.

Except…I was nearing the end when I read the last two words on the left hand side: “It’s okay.” And then I shifted the book a bit in my hand as my eyes slid to the next page on the right and what I assumed was the next chapter.

But instead of the next chapter, I read the word “Acknowledgments,” and “First, thanks to Frank…“.

There was no blank page to signal the book was over. Not even a good old fashioned The End in fancy flowing script.

Here’s the thing: when I finish a book – especially a good book, I like to savour the ending.

I like to set the book down on my lap and gaze at the ceiling for a few minutes, absorbing what I just read, reflecting on it a bit. Maybe I have a little introspective smile on my face. Maybe I think about turning the book over and reading it again.

So, in the absence of a blank page following those final words, I was robbed of all that delicious savouring.

I tried to go back and read the ending again, capture the aborted moment, but it was gone. Forever.

In a funny little way that I’m embarrassed to admit, the entire book was diminished for me. Instead of that final minute of reflection, of easing back into the ordinary world, the transition was abrupt and jarring.

I need to take a minute to savour what I’ve read…then turn the page when I’m ready to ease myself back into the world, and read the author’s thank you’s to everyone who helped along the way.

However…the book really was excellent and I’m glad I found it in the library. Give it a read and see what you think.

How do you like to finish a good book?

Goodreads and a Book Review: Pines by Blake Crouch

Dear Vi,

I joined Goodreads. I mean to use it as a way of keeping track of the books I’ve read. I’m so terrible at remembering titles and authors … maybe this will help.

Or maybe it will just be another social media chore that I’ll neglect. Like Instagram, which I joined but never remember to check. Ditto Twitter. And FaceBook.

Anyway, I just finished reading Pines by Blake Crouch. This is a ZERO SPOILER review. You’re welcome.

Here’s the back-of-the-book blurb:

Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

What did I think?

I loved the premise and the mystery kept me turning the pages, so in that sense the book was a success. However, in the end, when I read the last line and closed the book, I felt vaguely disappointed. I had been unable to suspend my disbelief enough to truly get lost in the pages.

In my opinion, this could have been an outstanding work of science fiction – truly epic. Perhaps the sequels will fill in some of the blanks and go into the depth the topic begs for.

I gave it three stars on Goodreads (I liked it). Have you read it? What did you think?

Do you use Goodreads?