REVIEW: NEVER CHANGE, BY ELIZABETH BERG

You know people like me. I’m the one who sat in a folding chair out in the hall selling tickets to the prom but never going, the one everybody liked but no one wanted to be with.

A self-anointed spinster at fifty-one, Myra Lipinsky has endured the isolation of her middle life by doting on her dog, Frank, and immersing herself in her career as a visiting nurse. Myra considers herself reasonably content, telling herself, It’s enough, work and Frank. And it has been enough — until Chip Reardon, the too-good-to-be-true golden boy she adored from afar, is assigned to be her new patient. Choosing to forgo invasive treatment for an incurable illness, Chip has returned from Manhattan to the New England home of his childhood to spend what time he has left. Now, Myra and Chip find themselves engaged in a poignant redefinition of roles, and a complicated dance of memory, ambivalence, and longing.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Never Change, the author captured the characters by revealing the small and ordinary details of their lives, and showing us how Myra, the protagonist, fit into their worlds and connected with each of them.

For a woman who grew up feeling alone and unlovable, Myra had certainly developed that unique skill that endeared her to those she cared for in her role as a visiting nurse.

I loved how she bent the rules, bringing her patients into her life, doing little extra things for them, and nurturing them in ways that each of them needed most.

Her growing connection to Chip, the man who was that high school golden boy, the one she loved from afar, grew into a sweet and loving story that could probably happen only in these circumstances: a man dying and the woman who nurses him to the end becoming the center of his universe.

What Myra learns about herself, her capacity to love and be loved, was poetic and beautiful. I was rooting for both Chip and Myra, even though there was bound to be sadness along the way. Would Myra find a way to move on and redefine who she was in the world? Could the gifts she received from Chip help her on that journey? A beautiful story that earned 5 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “NEVER CHANGE”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today I am featuring an older book from an author I enjoy:  Never Change (e-book), by Elizabeth Berg, a wry and beautifully distilled portrait of one woman’s resilience in the face of loneliness, and of a union that transcends life’s most unexpected and challenging circumstances.

 

Beginning:  (Prologue)

The Tuesday before it happened was a perfect summer day.  Driving through town on my way home, I saw two young girls holding hands as they tried to cross a street against the light.  They would start to cross, then stop; start again, stop.  Finally, all the traffic sighed and halted; and the girls bolted to the other side of the street and began to laugh and push each other, exhilarated by their survival.

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56:   “I’d like to stay as normal as I can for as long as I can,” Chip says.  “And when things start to go, I’m going to go, too.”

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Synopsis:  You know people like me. I’m the one who sat in a folding chair out in the hall selling tickets to the prom but never going, the one everybody liked but no one wanted to be with.
A self-anointed spinster at fifty-one, Myra Lipinsky has endured the isolation of her middle life by doting on her dog, Frank, and immersing herself in her career as a visiting nurse. Myra considers herself reasonably content, telling herself, It’s enough, work and Frank. And it has been enough — until Chip Reardon, the too-good-to-be-true golden boy she adored from afar, is assigned to be her new patient. Choosing to forgo invasive treatment for an incurable illness, Chip has returned from Manhattan to the New England home of his childhood to spend what time he has left. Now, Myra and Chip find themselves engaged in a poignant redefinition of roles, and a complicated dance of memory, ambivalence, and longing.

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  I always love an Elizabeth Berg novel, for how each story pinpoints those moments in life that seem ordinary, but turn out to be extraordinary.

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REVIEW: THE FUTURES, BY ANNA PITONIAK

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of life. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

My Thoughts: As I began reading The Futures, I was drawn in by the NYC setting, the financial crisis that would soon be erupting all around the characters, and that ongoing sense of actually living the story along with them.

Julia and Evan could be any young couple starting out, fresh from university with all their ideals guiding them. Julia came from a privileged life with a well-to-do family in Boston, ready to pick up the pieces for her if she ran into problems. A sense of entitlement certainly contributed to how she handled the events that unfolded over the months following the beginning of their seemingly perfect life.

Evan had a different kind of upbringing. From a small town in British Columbia, he depended upon his employment to maintain his visa, so he was in a more tenuous position. But he, too, had the strong ideals of a new graduate, and he certainly had the naivete of someone from small town life set down in the midst of a sophisticated and high-pressured environment.

It wasn’t surprising that Julia and Evan had a failure to communicate, partially due to their parallel lives. Evan worked until late at night, and Julia, with a shorter work day and time on her hands, fell prey to a burgeoning tendency to feel sorry for herself for not having the attention she thought she deserved.

When secrets and betrayals brought their relationship to a crashing halt, Julia escaped back to Boston, while Evan tried to keep his head down at work, as if hoping that everything would blow over eventually.

Alternately narrated by Julia and Evan, the reader has the opportunity to live inside their individual heads throughout the story, feeling empathy for each of them, while wondering how they would extricate themselves from their bad choices. Definitely engaging, I could not put this book down. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, BY AMY HATVANY

 

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

My Thoughts: It Happens All the Time, narrated alternately by Amber and Tyler, leads us to the pivotal moments that will change everything.

The story begins with Tyler and Amber in a car, with Amber in control. She has a mission. One that she hopes will erase the effects of that disastrous night.

Then we move back in time, and from then on, we see their lives and their friendship unfold. From each perspective, we come to understand how each of them feels, and what their differences are, despite the deep friendship.

Amber’s history, with anorexia and anxiety disorders, offers a peek into how she sees the world. She views the friendship with Tyler as an important one. He is like the big brother she never had.

Tyler, whose father is emotionally and verbally abusive, suffers from anxieties that interfere with his daily life, including his work. To him, Amber looks like the one person who can make him whole again.

When Amber and Tyler develop a special closeness that summer after college, they each are flirting with each other, but with different goals in mind.

The drunken night changed everything. Amber felt betrayed by Tyler’s actions, but Tyler felt as if he was finally getting the closeness with Amber that he had always desired.

How will they resolve their differences? Will they heal? A story that kept me turning pages and in a quandary about their dilemma. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.
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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “EENY MEENY”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent acquisition:  Eeny Meeny (e-book), by M. J. Arlidge.   It is the “dark, twisted, thought-provoking” (#1 New York Times bestseller Tami Hoag) international bestseller—first in the new series featuring Detective Helen Grace.

 

Beginning:  Sam is asleep.  I could kill him now.  His face is turned from me—it wouldn’t be hard.  Would he stir if I moved?  Try to stop me?  Or would he just be glad that this nightmare was over?

***

56:  Mark hovered in the doorway, unable to step inside.  His head pounding, he was assailed by wave after wave of nausea—the sheer busyness of the room made his head spin.  He was tempted to turn and run, but he knew he had to face the music.

***

Synopsis:  Two people are abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive.

It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Helen Grace has ever seen. If she hadn’t spoken with the shattered survivors herself, she almost wouldn’t believe them.

Helen is familiar with the dark sides of human nature, including her own, but this case—with its seemingly random victims—has her baffled. But as more people go missing, nothing will be more terrifying than when it all starts making sense….

***

What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

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REVIEW: ALMOST MISSED YOU, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 

 

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My Thoughts: From the very first pages of Almost Missed You, I felt a connection to the character of Violet, and her serendipitous first meeting with Finn. I was reminded of occasions in my own life when events happened in such a way that they seemed “meant to be,” so I could totally relate to Violet’s feelings about her missed connections with Finn, and how happy she was that they finally connected. It did seem fated.But as we soon find out in this back and forth storyline, the fault might have been “in their stars.” Or in their overly persistent push to make these connections happen. Finn’s secrets were the huge stumbling block for them, once they did connect. And when events began to unravel, with secrets revealed in a most hurtful way, I was sure that his past would be too much for them to overcome. But could they find a new starting point?

Of course, Violet’s share of the responsibility lay in her failure to probe more into Finn’s past. Did she really ever know him?

Then there were the two “best friends,” Caitlin and George, and how their own actions and lack of transparency had contributed to it all.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, hoping for some kind of resolution, eagerly waiting to see if Violet would reunite with her child. The fate of the other characters seemed less important to me, as I definitely rooted mostly for her. A book worthy of 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher, via NetGalley.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “A SEPARATION”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a relatively new download for me:  A Separation, by Katie Kitamura, who, with exquisitely cool precision, propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.

 

 

Beginning:  It began with a telephone call from Isabella.  She wanted to know where Christopher was, and I was put in the awkward position of having to tell her that I didn’t know.  To her this must have sounded incredible.  I didn’t tell her that Christopher and I had separated six months earlier, and that I hadn’t spoken to her son in nearly a month.

***

56:  Later that afternoon, I hired a taxi and drove to one of the small villages inland.  I imagined Christopher must have done the same at some point—there was only so much time you could spend on the terrace, by the pool, or otherwise within the confines of the hotel before tedium set in.

***

Synopsis:  A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love. 

A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others.

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What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

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