Book Review

Book Review: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Author: Marjorie Herrera Lewis
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

It’s a man’s game, until now…
Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.

Now, the war has changed everything.  Most of the Brownwood men over 18 and under 45 are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.

Faced with extreme opposition—by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees and even the players themselves—Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team—and the town—to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.           

Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.

FOOTBALL FOREVER.

I feel like this got an extra star purely for the fact that I love football. And I loved that there was a female coach who refused to let her team down when everyone else in town wanted nothing to do with her.

It’s a very quick read. Which was a pro and a con. I was hoping for a bit more depth in characters and general story. What I did get was fine, but rushed. There were thrown in tidbits of Tylene’s past and why she’s fighting so hard to have her football season. It did help me grasp the fierce nature of wanting these boys to not have to go to war just yet. Letting them be young just a little longer. Those sentiments really hit home in the midst of World War 2.

I wish there was more back story at the end. I wanted to know how the rest of the season went as this book only covers the 2 weeks leading up to their first game of Tylene’s season. Tylene was a strong woman who clearly understood the game. I love how she made jaws drop and men shut their mouths as she proved over and over that she would be the best person for this job.

If you’re a football fan + historical fiction lover, I would try this one out! It was a good combination. And I really felt the rush and remembrance of the fall football atmosphere.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: bullying, misogyny, mentions of losing men in WW2, loss of a baby, PTSD (a side character)

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 320 pages
Author: Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 14th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own!

HEART-WARMING.

Wow. This book was a lot different than I was expecting. I know Center tends to write some heavy subject matter into her contemporaries and this was the case here as well. I’ll mention it now (and again in my content warnings) that this book is heavily influence by school shootings.

While still discussing such heavy subject matter, Center was able to also infuse light, love and bravery too. The main character, Samantha, was such a joy and I loved her ridiculous antics and fashion choices. Sam’s deep love for her school and the kids she watches over (she’s a librarian!) was evident and was the much needed positive light. Her contrast to Duncan, the ever-brooding, tough-nut-to-crack, new principal was great.

I was impressed with their push and pull, but also thought the slow burn, took way too long to catch any fire. It was over halfway through the book before anything really started to maybe happen. I think if there was a bit more romance I would have adored it even more. I looove that they knew each other prior (at a previous school) and how that played into both of their emotions. It was cute and relatable. And I really appreciated reading the quiet, strong moments between them as discussions of their past came about.

This was an overall enjoyable and touching read. I felt connected to the story and the trauma’s that were discussed. These characters kept me wanting to read to see the full scope of what this novel had to tell. There’s a couple nods to Happiness for Beginners characters (that’s where we first meet Duncan!). I definitely recommend reading that book too, and potentially even first if you want because that book is also a gem.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: little
  • Romance: kisses, heavy make-outs
  • Trigger/Content warnings: loss of a loved one (start of the book), epilepsy (that causes a car crash), PTSD from a school shooting, heavy grief

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Book Review

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary fiction + romance
Length: 320 pages
Author: Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds. 

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

WELL. THE SECOND HALF WAS MUCH BETTER.

I truly almost DNF this. I only kept reading because everyone else seemed to enjoy it and I was trying to figure out what I was missing. I did NOT like the MC, Cassie. She was quite full of herself, and I personally didn’t like how much she hated love. It came off as short-sighted and unwilling to be open-minded.

I also struggled with the writing style. Most of the time things were being TOLD to me and not SHOWN. I wanted more dialogue and interactions with characters, especially with Owen. Speaking of Owen, one large, annoying fact: I didn’t know his name until 49% way through the book. WHAT. I was so sick of him being called rookie. And I was so grateful when that bit was *mostly* over. I really couldn’t stand her co-workers at the fire department either. I feel like everything was laid on thick. Their crude jokes, misogynistic remarks and hazing really rubbed me the wrong way. Hallelujah that drifted off as the book went on.

Enter the second half of the book.

What a difference. I thought the writing picked up speed and that there was more showing vs. telling. While the relationship between Cassie and Owen was a touch insta-love, it was done well. It still wasn’t immediate which let me warm-up to them. I thought Owen was sweet, cute, and full of feelings. I liked their interactions and how Cassie had to learn to trust and rely on someone again.

There was additional drama thrown in from her Mom being present in the book. It was pretty obvious what that side plot line was and it didn’t make me feel one way or another. I did like that Cassie and her Mom got to connect again and to learn forgiveness. That was a big part of this book, forgiveness is more than saying sorry…(please someone name that movie)! I like how it wove into the story.

Cassie did win me over by the end of the book. I thought the growth she went through actually played a part in her actions and decisions. She didn’t say she was going to be different and then wasn’t, Cassie actually put into action the type of woman she wanted to be. The ending was super cutesy and all the heart eyes. Made me smile at least.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, one love scene (little detailed, mostly fade to black)
  • Violence: massive fires, physical, see Trigger section for more
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted touching – Chapter 2), inappropriate workplace jokes, sexism, misogynism, harassment, hazing, suicide attempt (by drug overdose – Chapter 28), addiction to painkillers, a description of past rape (mostly vague, chapter 28)

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction
Length: 512 pages
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.

QUEEN OF HISTORICAL FICTION.

I had a friend gracious enough to let me borrow this book and Y’ALL. It was amazing and I loved it.

I absolutely love the way that Sepetys puts together her stories. I own all of her books, but have only read two and clearly I need to up the rest on my TBR. The chapters are written in a fast, short, rotating POV way that keeps you flipping faster and faster. It’s so easy to read this book and keep you interested at the same time.

THE ROMANCE WAS PRECIOUS. Incredibly cute. It was slow and sweet and was exactly what this book needed. I loved watching Daniel and Ana interact and grow to be each other’s confidante. I think they both helped one another see the world from another perspective. I literally SHOUTED at my book when we had a date change in the book because I needed a happy ending for Ana. NEEDED IT. (And Daniel, but really, Ana).

I didn’t love Rafa and Puri’s point of views as much as the others. That is why I took off half a star. By the end, their contributions really made sense though and I do appreciate that. It absolutely broke my heart reading about the deception of the nuns and doctors in Spain during the 1950s-80s. I can’t put into words how that must have felt to be a mother in that time.

The work that went into this novel is clearly seen and I loved having all of the tidbits from speeches and publications that were layered throughout the book. It really brought the history to life and reminded me that things like this really did happen.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, a not detailed love scene where you do know they spent the night together
  • Violence: guns, torture, imprisonment, murder, physical
  • Trigger warnings: mentions of miscarriage, kidnapping of babies and children

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