29 July 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: A Good Reading Week

3 book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsThank goodness I had a much quieter week than the one before. The new washing machine is installed, and although it's a little bit louder than the old one, it's faster and better, so all is good.

The temperatures moderated enough that on Saturday I spent a couple of hours on my deck reading. I loved being able to read outside for a change. I really should have been taking a walk, but it felt so good to just relax at home that I let my lazy streak take over.

I lucked out in my reading too. All three books were enjoyable and kept my attention, and today I find myself in that rare spot of getting to chose a new audiobook and a new print/digital book. I'm already looking forward to the end of the workday.

review of Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin GoughAmelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough (Poppy, May). This is a fun teen rom com with LBGTQ+ themes set in Australia. Will and Harriet may go to the same all-girls snooty prep school, but that's where they think their similarities end. Will is artistic, a little clumsy, middle class, and leans to the liberal side. Harriet is academic, a star athlete, rich, and definitely conservative. After their male swim coach makes yet another inappropriate comment, the two girls find themselves on the same side: something has to be done; this is the age of the #metoo movement, and despite coach's credentials, enough is enough. Worried about getting kicked out of school during their final year, Harriet and Will come up with a plan. They invent student activist Amelia Westlake. As the two girls give Amelia a social media presence and more things to protest (such as unfair grading practices), the students and faculty are abuzz with questions. Meanwhile Will and Harriet discover a growing mutual attraction, but is their shared secret enough to help them overcome their differences? Amelia Westlake Was Never Here follows a classic rom com plot line and is told in alternating perspectives from Harriet's and Will's viewpoints. Gough ties in themes of friendship, feminism, and economic privilege. The lesbian aspects are handled matter-of-factly, and both the primary and secondary characters are easy to envision. Fun summer escape reading. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 5 min) is read by Candice Moll and Jaye Rosenberg, who both sounded believable as the teenagers. The performances were well matched in terms of characterizations and pacing, and I loved their Australian accents. (audio copy provided by the publisher)

Review of Chances Are . . . by Richard RussoChances Are . . . by Richard Russo (Knopf, July 30). Russo is one of my go-to authors, so it was a no-brainer that I was going to read his latest. The story revolves around three college roommates reuniting on Martha's Vineyard forty years after graduation. The three were close as brothers in college, but this is the first time they've been together since a similar weekend in 1971 when their other best friend, a girl, left the island, never to be seen again. Despite a police investigation, Jacy's fate was never discovered. The reunion weekend shows just how much the guys have changed while also staying just the same, including their undying love for the long lost Jacy. The story is told both in the present and through flashbacks, revealing the men's secrets, the strength of their friendship, and ultimately, what happened to that beautiful girl after she stepped off the ferry. Chances Are . . . is a little bit character study, a little bit mystery, and a whole lot period piece. There's a strong focus on what it was like to be in college in the late 1960s to early 1970s, thoughts on the Vietnam War, and relationships between parents and children and husbands and wives. Russo also explores the differences between the ways we present ourselves to the world and the realities of our private lives. You won't want to miss this one. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Random House; 11 hr, 17 min) for a freelance assignment. My thoughts on Fred Sanders's excellent performance will be available through AudioFile magazine. (digital copy provided by the publisher; audio copy for a freelance assignment)

Review of Bethlehem by Karen KellyBethlehem by Karen Kelly (St. Martin's Press, July 9). This is a family saga set in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when the steel mills were still running strong. The Parrish and Collier families have been intertwined since the post-World War I steel boom in eastern Pennsylvania, and the novel follows the two families, mostly in flashbacks from the 1960s, after Frank Collier and his wife, Joanna, move into the Parrish estate to live with his widowed mother and grandmother. Joanna, a South Philly native, isn't used to life on the nicer side of tracks, but tries to make the best of it. While walking her young children through the local graveyard, she meets an elderly couple and their grandson. As Joanna's friendship with this family deepens, she is confronted with choices and begins to suspect that her in-laws may have more complicated pasts than they let show. This was a fast read, ripe with family secrets and a few surprises. Bethlehem is light on period details but strong on the women's options, the consequences of their decisions, and their bonds over common issues. This is an enjoyable story that reads quickly. The twists weren't that hard to figure out and the world-building was a little scanty, but I was caught up in the women's lives. Recommended for beach or poolside reading. (finished copy provided by the publisher)


Susie | Novel Visits 7/29/19, 9:23 AM  

I haven't read Richard Russo in a long time, should try again with Chances Are. It sounds really good and my only hesitation is that I've read SO many books from the 60's/70's era this summer. It's really one of my favorite eras, so one more won't hurt I suppose!

Kathy Martin 7/29/19, 12:07 PM  

These are all new to me. I love it when it's a good reading week. I hope this one goes as well. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Tina 7/29/19, 1:07 PM  

I think I need that Russo book. Love the cover of the Australian book.

bermudaonion 7/29/19, 2:45 PM  

I'm glad it was a better week for you. I liked Chances Are . . . a lot too. There was one line about the character Vance that made me think of my Vance. :)

rhapsodyinbooks 7/29/19, 3:26 PM  

Chances Are sounds great!

Greg 7/29/19, 4:14 PM  

I love reading out on the deck. Something so relaxing about it. :)

Chances Are sounds quite good!

Vicki 7/29/19, 4:18 PM  

Glad you got some good weather so you could sit outside and read. All of these books sound good.

Yvonne 7/29/19, 8:02 PM  

The Westlake book looks good. I'm glad you are enjoying your books. Have a great week!

shelleyrae @ book'd out 7/29/19, 11:14 PM  

Chances Are sounds interesting, it’s rare to have three men as the main characters in this sort of story. I’m glad you enjoyed the Aussie book, accents and all :)

Wishing you a great reading week

Girl Who Reads 8/2/19, 6:23 PM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels something special when I get to choose all new books. I enjoyed the cooler weather too, but I did take the walk.

Donna @ Girl Who Reads

(Diane) bookchickdi 8/4/19, 3:57 PM  

I enjoy Richard Russo's novels as well and am looking forward to this one. Amelia Westlake sounds like a winner too.

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