Reviews: Recent and Upcoming Titles (Spring, 2014)

Below are three books reviews.  Two are for titles released in March I should have posted sooner.  The other release tomorrow.  All three reviews are based on Advanced Reader Copies I received directly from Random House.  Per usual, I gave each an honest review.

In keeping with my temporary every other week posting, I’ll post the next in two weeks.  I wanted to be sure to have this review up before the next release.

Then and Always by Dani Atkins

Ballentine Books, May, 2014. Paperback, 320 pages.cover Then and Always

This hauntingly beautiful novel is Atkins’ debut. I was lucky to receive an ARC (it releases May 6). Rachel Wiltshire was involved in an accident on the eve of leaving for college while dining out with friends. The event changed her life, but was it for better or for worse? Five years later she is visiting home for her friend Sarah’s wedding. She has been suffering from debilitating headaches and collapses while out walking after dinner. When she wakes up, she is in the hospital and everything has changed: she is well and her scar is gone; her father never had the cancer that was killing him; her ex-boyfriend is now her fiance; and her late friend, Jimmy, is alive.

Rachel embarks on a quest to determine how she can exist in two realities. To this end, it is Jimmy who helps her retrace the life she believed was hers and relate it to the life she has found herself in. In short, it is a journey of self-realization. However, while is does sound like the alternate reality sci-fi-ish type thing is going on, I promise it isn’t and all will make sense in the end. Atkins’s writing is superb: vivid descriptions, subtle foreshadowing, and drawing out the mystery until the very end. Lastly, in keeping with this month’s theme, while in search of her missing memories she visits the library/archive of the magazine she works for to try to make sense of her life by examining the articles she wrote.

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

Ballentine Books, March, 2014.  Hardcover, 336 pages.cover blossom street brides

This novel, the tenth in the Blossom Street series, focuses on the stories several people in Blossom Street who frequent the store A Good Yarn. We step into the lives of newlyweds Bethanne and Max and see the trouble they have living in different states due to their businesses. When Max’s friend Rooster comes with him on a trip to Seattle, he meets Lauren and they begin a relationship, albeit also long distance. We see how Lydia, the owner of A Good Yarn, deals with her mother’s mental and physical decline and her adoptive daughter’s recent nightmares while a secret someone created a charity campaign using her store’s products leading to an increase in customers. Lastly, we see how Lauren’s bosses Elisa and Garry deal with their teenage daughter’s unplanned pregnancy.

Overall, the story captured me. I especially wanted to find out how Lauren and Rooster’s relationship played out and who created the knitting basket campaign.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Crown, March, 2014.  Hardcover, 480 pages.cover the divorce papers

Fitting a trend I’m finding this month, The Divorce Papers is another book where the title involves wordplay. Not only is the novel about a divorce case with all the paperwork involved, it is also written entirely as correspondence (a mix of e-mails, interoffice memos, and letters) and documents (statures, legal paperwork, etc.). Sophie Diehl is a criminal lawyer who does a preliminary interview with a woman who was served divorce papers while the main divorce lawyers at her firm are all out on vacation or at conference. Mia Mathers Meiklejohn Durkheim likes Sophie and requests she remain on the case. The rest of the book follows the case’s proceedings, including negotiations; personal conflicts between all parties; and the daughter’s, Jane’s, feelings about the situations. Mia’s meddling (in a good way) father also plays a significant role. Also, through Sophie’s work on the case she begins to understand her parents divorce and forgive her father.

Overall, the format of the book took some getting used to. I’d say the novel was average; there were an equal number of good and boring parts with some “laugh tracks” written in. However, since it seems to closely mimic a real divorce, I could see it as a painful read to someone who has been through one (either one themselves or who had parents divorce when they were a child). I know I haven’t been through one and there were times I felt pained about what was happening to the characters, especially everything poor Jane was caught up in.

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