Jun 30

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Audio Books, Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction 22

My Dearest Bookworms,

You know how I really love audio books? And how I also really love Hamilton, and by extension, Lin-Manuel Miranda? I’m actually considering writing an entire post on the subject because I haven’t been THIS fangirly since high school. Because I’m fangirling so hard, I was checking Lin-Manuel’s IMDB just to see if he’d been in stuff I’d seen without me realizing it (which yes, yes that definitely happened.) BUT THEN. I saw that he was credited as having narrated some audio books. I remember seeing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz floating around the blogosphere and thinking that I should read it one of these days, but when I saw that LMM narrated? It jumped straight to the top of the list.

aristotleanddanteI’m just going to give you the abstract from Goodreads because I can’t form a coherent synopsis of this book:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Holy crap. Holy freaking crap, you guys. How do I love this book? Let me count the ways! First, Sáenz absolutely NAILS teenagerdom. That summertime listless boredom? It brought me back in a big way. Second, I absolutely adored these kids’ parents. They’re not perfect by any means, but both sets are so loving and compassionate. I don’t know why that struck me as so rare in a YA novel, but I wanted to give everyone a big fat hug. I can’t really tell you some of the other reasons I loved the book so so so much because they’d be spoilers, so you’re just going to have to trust me here. THEY ARE EXCELLENT REASONS.

I would have loved this book even if I’d read it with my eyeballs, but the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda read me a story? Incredible. You guys! He casually dropped at least two mentions of Alexander Hamilton, which were written into the book and in no way referencing Hamilton the musical. It was so meta. LMM is a fantastic narrator (no surprise) and you could tell he adored the words he was reading which made it that much better. Although, he seems to adore a lot of things. Because he is basically the best humanity has to offer. Like, if aliens wanted to exterminate us? I think LMM could talk them out of it. (I pray nightly that he doesn’t end up having some hideous dark secret or massive scandal somewhere down the line, because I just don’t think I could handle having my heart broken like that. No pressure, Lin. But behave yourself… Mostly.)

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve been this gushy about a book. Fittingly, I’m wearing a t-shirt that says “hyperbole” with an exclamation mark graphic. I am VERY EXCITED about this one. Go forth and read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Or have Lin-Manuel Miranda read it to you. If you ask really nicely, maybe I’ll do an interpretive dance of it for you. I hope you like tap!

Whew. Time to chat, Bookworms. What’s the last book you were ridiculously enthusiastic about? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 27

Unfinished: A Pairing

Book Club 12

Howdy Bookworms!

I don’t usually tell y’all about books I don’t finish because, you know, why would I? I would, if I had interesting stories to explaining why I didn’t finish them. As luck would have it, I happen to have a pair of tales to explain why I didn’t finish my homework. And it’s not because the dog ate it, seeing as I do not have a dog. Side note: I went to school with a girl whose family had a pet monkey and one time the monkey legitimately did eat her homework. I think her mom called to explain the situation. That’s a better story than mine, but you can’t NOT tell a story about a monkey when it’s even marginally relevant, you know?

janesteeleI was super stoked to read Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye after seeing a bunch of amazing reviews for it. I mean, a Jane Eyre (review) inspired gothic novel about a murderess? Sign me up! I downloaded the audio book from the library and all was going wonderfully. I had just about reached the end of the novel, you know, when ALL THE SECRETS are being revealed when the darn loan expired. Normally I love that I never have to remember to return digital library books but this time it bit me in the butt. Now I’m torn. I don’t want to go out and buy a book I’ve already read 95% of. I put myself back on the library hold list, but heaven only knows when I’ll finally get to wrap it up. If you decide to read this (and you should because it’s pretty great) pay attention to your library due date. Or just buy it. Learn from my mistakes, y’all!

The second book I recently didn’t finish was another story entirely. My office started a book club. Cool, right? It’s co-ed which is a new experience for me as I’ve always been in ladies only book clubs. I thought it would be a great way to branch out and try books I wouldn’t ordinarily read. Like, say, a sports book. That’s right. After our inaugural reading of The Martian (my choice obvi, review here) I was very supportive of my co-worker’s interest in Friday Night Lights by HG Bissinger. Until I started reading it. I made it 38% through the book. It was really a perfect storm of factors as to why I didn’t finish it. First, I stalled and didn’t start it until a week before book club. Normally that’s not an issue for me, but it was nonfridaynightlights fiction, which is always more of a challenge for me to get into than fiction. I should have seen that coming. Plus the fact that it was about high school football. I am about as NOT into sports as it’s possible to be, so play by play football scenes are super not my jam. What really did me in though, was that I just started getting angry with this book. Or, more specifically, Odessa, Texas circa 1989. They only desegregated their schools in 1982. HOW IS THAT EVEN LEGAL? Plus, a bunch of the folks interviewed were super racist. Not really surprising considering the whole segregation issue, but we’re not talking micro-aggression racism here. We’re talking full on N-word horror show. I found it profoundly upsetting. Don’t even get me started on the academic standards of this school, let alone the extra lax standards the football team was held to. I nearly threw the dang book across the room when I read that a teacher played a movie version of the The Scarlet Letter for an English class in place of having the class read the book. I don’t even LIKE The Scarlet Letter, but COME ON. Suffice it to say Friday Night Lights and I aren’t going to be reuniting anytime soon. Or ever, probably. At least I wasn’t alone. Only one person in our little club finished the book, and it wasn’t even the guy who chose it. Ah well. It happens.

Talk to me Bookworms! What was the last book that you started but didn’t finish? Why didn’t you finish it? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 24

Bite Size Reviews: June 2016

Bite Size Reviews 11

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

I knew that posting 5 reviews in a row last week was going to zap my blogging mojo! I’m popping in last minute so I don’t have a completely silent blog week. I’ve actually got some good ideas cooking, so maybe there’s something to taking a break. I’ll run away with you for the summer, Eliza! Hamilton references aside, we’re going to do some quick and dirty book reviews today. Small plates you guys. There’s like the tapas of book reviews. Mmmmm… Tapas…

bitesizereviews

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older- I listened to this one and it had some seriously cool use of Caribbean folklore and a fantastic narrator. It’s urban fantasy with a Raven Boys (review) / Diviners (review) sort of vibe. Older’s writing is smart and fearless, and he manages to weave social commentary, a coming of age story, and friggin monsters into a single book. It wasn’t an out of this world read for me, but I think that’s mostly because I’m not super into the urban fantasy young adult thing. If paranormal YA/ urban fantasy happens to be your jam, though? GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt- What in the actual f*ck is going on here? Honestly I don’t even know how to describe this book. I mean, between the multiple cults and the bizarre extended hiking journey, I’m at a loss. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read this. YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ THIS. Mostly because I want to discuss it with someone. Super weird book, you guys. In the best way.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen- It’s a bittersweet moment for me, because now I’m all out of SAA books, but when I saw this bad boy was $1.99 in the kindle store I had to snap it up. It was good times, as per usual. Sarah Addison Allen’s blend of magical realism and sweet southern fiction always makes me happy. I actually read the sequel to this, First Frost (review), before I read this one, but it really didn’t matter too much. It’s delightful even out of order. That cantankerous apple tree gets me every time!

What’s up in your worlds, Bookworms? What have you been reading?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 17

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Shakespearean 8

It’s Friday, Bookworms!

I made it through a full week of reviews! I have no idea what I’m going to talk about next week, but that is unimportant at the moment. Frankly, this daily review thing has been a great distraction from this God-awful week in the news. Plus, who doesn’t love a good Shakespeare retelling? Vinegar Girl by Ann Tyler is the latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which sees Shakespeare’s stories retold by some of today’s award winning authors. Let’s tame a shrew, shall we? *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I’m a bit of a shrew myself, so you can count on unfettered honesty.*

vinegar girlVinegar Girl takes a modern look at Shakespeare’s immortal classic, The Taming of the Shrew. Granted, I’ve never actually read The Taming of the Shrew (I have a hard time sitting down and just reading Shakespeare) BUT I have seen 10 Things I Hate About You approximately 8 billion times. Because Julia Styles and her “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion” was everything high school Katie wanted to be. And Heath Ledger (rest in peace, bro) was just so swoon-worthy. Obviously I am extremely qualified to discuss this book. (I still can’t figure out why publishers give me stuff either, but SHHHHHH don’t tell them I’m inept!)

Kate Battista’s life hasn’t turned out exactly how she planned. It’s not that she necessarily had a clear plan, but keeping house for her eccentric scientist father, taking care of her spoiled little sister Bunny, and working in a daycare where she’s constantly being reprimanded  definitely wasn’t part of it. It’s not her fault parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and lack of filter. The kids love her, shouldn’t that be enough?

Dr. Battista is on the verge of a scientific breakthrough, thanks to the help of his brilliant young research assistant Pytor. Unfortunately, Pytor? He’s about to be deported. In his infinite wisdom, Dr. Battista decides that if Kate will only marry Pytor, everyone’s problems will be solved. Because that always works out well.

It’s a ludicrous premise. It always has been. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still charming. Tyler adds in so many wonderful and weird little touches from a bizarre culinary staple to a misguided attempt at activism. I love Kate with all her sour sass and Pyotr with his awkward attempts to win her over. Dr. Battista was a bit of a buffoon, just shy of lovable, and Bunny needed a good smacking. But, all in all, it was a fun little romp through a well-worn story.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite Shakespeare retelling? Books or movies, I’m not picky. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 16

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Mystery 11

Howdy Bookworms!

Wow, you guys! Four posts this week?! I AM ON FIRE! BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS! Reviewathon, FTW! Today we’re talking about another one of the books I got at BEA. I was wandering aimlessly by myself (for what purpose I can’t remember) when I saw Florinda standing in line to get a book signed. I hopped in the line to chat up Florinda and got a book signed for myself with no idea who the author was or what the book was about. Turns out, I make pretty solid decisions when I’m oblivious, because the book I picked up was Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.

beforethefallWhen I went to start this book, I read a smidge of the “about the author” segment which informed me that Noah Hawley is a successful television writer and totally writes for Fargo, which Hubs and I watched obsessively last season. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know this beforehand or I’d likely have asked something weird and embarrassing about Kirsten Dunst or The Mother from How I Met Your Mother. Yep. Case in point of how much I suck at life. I don’t know the name of the actress who played “The Mother.” (I just looked it up. Her name is Cristin Milioti. Maybe I’ll remember that now.) Do TV writers even get to meet the cast? I honestly have no idea. But I’d have said something dumb, that’s for darn sure.

I was supposed to be discussing a book, wasn’t I? Alright, Before the FallOne summer night, a down on his luck painter finds himself riding in a private plane from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City. The plane belongs to a television mogul and his family, and they’re accompanied by some friends and the crew. Unfortunately, the plane goes down en route shortly after takeoff. The only two survivors are the painter and the four year old son of the television mogul. The book artfully weaves between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew. In the present, a series of odd coincidences cause media speculation to spiral out of control while the two survivors grapple with notoriety and loss.

I’m not usually huge on the whole mystery-suspense-thriller front, but I’ve got to admit I was fully engrossed in this read from page one. I was invested in the characters and MAN did I want to punch Bill Cunningham in his smug horrible face. (Bill Cunningham is a controversial TV pundit who works for the late mogul’s news network and his is absolutely THE WORST.) This is a good one, folks, give it a read!

Talk to me, Bookworms! Who was the last fictional character you wanted to pummel?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receives a small commission.*

 

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Jun 15

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Audio Books 8

Happy Wednesday, Bookworms!

I’m still playing catch up with reviews (thank heaven for Andi’s Reviewathon!) I’m a little nervous about tackling this next review because the book left me gobsmacked, but I’m going to try anyway. Y’all ready to hear my take on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Let’s do this.

americanahIfemelu and Obinze are teenagers living in Nigeria when they fall in love. They are separated when an unstable government makes their educational aspirations difficult to achieve in Nigeria. Ifemelu soon leaves for America while Obinze stays behind, hoping they’ll soon be reunited and begin a life together.

Unfortunately, life had other plans for the pair. Ifemelu’s introduction into American life wasn’t the seamless transition she’d hoped it would be. Obinze found it impossible to emigrate to the US. Instead he embarks on a dangerous journey into an undocumented life in London. Their lives have taken them very different places, and when they each eventually return to Nigeria, they face a new set of challenges.

Holy crap, you guys. This book was so flipping good. It was smart and humorous and beautiful and eye opening. I listened to it and I cannot recommend the audio version highly enough. The narrator was spectacular. If it bothers you to not know the correct pronunciation of names while reading, audio is definitely the way to go. I am not at all familiar with the pronunciation of Nigerian names, nor do I know enough about the language to play the sound-it-out game. Being able to hear the names pronounced with the correct accent added so much to my reading experience. (Admit it. If you read Harry Potter before you saw the movies, you mentally read “HERMY-OWN.” And now you feel silly about it.)

Seriously, y’all, you do NOT need to be a Nigerian expat to dig this book (although if you ARE a Nigerian expat, I’d LOVE to hear your take on it!) Reading books written by and about people of other cultures and backgrounds is important to me. I feel like it makes me a more empathetic, well-rounded human being. And, isn’t that kind of the point of life? I think what I”m trying to say here is that reading = life. I’m not at all prone to hyperbole. And you should read Americanah.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have you read anything awesome lately set in Africa? I’m just adding to the TBR pile with reckless abandon these days. YOLO. 

*I just said YOLO. WHO AM I EVEN? But also, if you buy something through a link on this site, I might make a few cents. My slang will still be pathetic though.*

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Jun 14

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

Historical Fiction 17

How Goes It, Bookworms?

There’s no set formula that’s going to guarantee I pick up a book, but pitching me a book that’s historical fiction about a troupe of sisters performing a Vaudeville acrobatic act is about as close as you can get. Needless to say, when I was approached about The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay, I couldn’t say “YES PLEASE” fast enough. (I always say “please” and “thank you”, despite my self-proclaimed bad manners.) *I received a complimentary copy of this book through the publisher for review consideration. You’ll get my honest opinion whether you want it or not.*

thetumblingturnersisters1919 marks the beginning of some tough times for the Turner family. The patriarch is a low paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, until he is injured and unable to work. The four Turner daughters and their parents have always lived on the edge of disaster, but this loss of income devastates their precarious balance. Their mother decides that Vaudeville is the answer and sets about grooming her daughters for the stage in a hurry.

The girls cobble together an acrobatic act that lands them enough paying gigs on the Vaudeville circuit to keep the family from being evicted. Traveling from town to town on the train also affords Gert, Winnie, Kit, and the recently widowed Nell a sense of freedom they’d never known at home. They meet a host of fascinating characters and performers along the way, as well as being exposed to the seedy underbelly of show business.

Gaaaaah there is almost nothing I love more than tales of old-timey show business! I positively gobbled this novel up. Fay did a fantastic job of incorporating real-life events into the narrative and made the story sparkle with life and energy. I loved every little bit of this book, from the painfully cheesy jokes the performers would tell to the characters’ romantic entanglements. Heartbreak and hilarity abound.

I did, however, have one beef. I live in Peoria, IL. The phrase “Will it play in Peoria?” (it’s a famous expression, I swear) comes directly out of the Vaudeville era and references the fact that the town in which I live is a big ol’ bag of middle America. An act could play well in NYC, but that didn’t mean it would work everywhere. Peoria, however, represented the median sensibility of all the folk in the land. The Turner sisters were mentioned visiting two other Central Illinois towns (Galesburg and Champaign) but neither my town nor our little catch phrase got a mention! I’m not going to lie, I feel kind of slighted, you guys.

All that nonsense aside, I loved the book. If you are in the mood for historical fiction and are even half as fascinated as I am by Vaudeville, you should check out The Tumbling Turner Sisters.

Talk to me Bookworms! Does your hometown (or the town you live in, I guess, seeing as I’m not originally from Peoria) have a claim to fame? I want to hear about them! The weirder the better!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jun 13

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Contemporary Fiction 12

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I have been terrible about reviewing books lately. I don’t mean that what I’ve been posting is terrible (because I obviously think that what I’m saying is very important and interesting all the time) buuuut I’ve been reading a whole lot more than I have been posting. I’m going to try break out of the cycle this week, folks. Andi at Estella’s Revenge is hosting a week long Reviewathon and I am all in. First on the agenda is one of my BEA acquisitions, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.

curiouscharmsArthur Pepper is a 69 year old widower who is merely going through the motions in life. He’s spent the year since his wife passed away engaged in the most mundane of activities, his most rewarding relationship being with his houseplant, Frederica. On the one-year anniversary of his wife Miriam’s death, however, things begin to change. Arthur finally brings himself to clear out some of Miriam’s things when he stumbles across a piece of jewelry he’s never seen before. Arthur is completely perplexed by the bracelet and its unusual collection charms. Arthur’s curiosity is piqued for the first time since Miriam’s death. The former homebody embarks on an adventure that leads him to encounter locations, people, and trousers he never would have expected.

I hate to play the comparison game, but I’m going to anyway. Raise your hand if you’ve seen Up! Yes, the Pixar movie. The one where the widower goes on a journey and finds purpose and joy in life in spite of his grief? The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a little like that. With fewer balloons and more ferns named Frederica, of course. But the general vibe? Totally there. I couldn’t help but love Arthur and all the misfits and oddballs he meets along the way. This is a feel good book of the first degree, and utterly charming. If you need a few warm fuzzies, this is your read, folks!

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite feel-good read?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 09

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts: June 9, 2016

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts 20

Greetings Bookworms!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on all the goings on, so let’s catch up today, cool? We’re going to play my favorite game, Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts hosted, as always, by Christine of Bookishly Boisterous. So. What have I been up to?

bookishnotsobookish

ONE: I have been planting flowers and playing in the dirt as I do every year around this time. Subtlety is not on the agenda, folks, this year everything is BRIGHT and SHOWY. Also, I have a lot of blue flower pots. I love all of it, I tell you. ALL OF IT!

TWO: A couple of weeks ago, Hubs and I went to a small town fair. We have watched more than our fair share of episodes of Deep Fried Masters, so when we saw that deep fried butter was an option at one of the food carts? You bet your bottom dollar we tried it. It was fine, I guess, it didn’t seem quite like what the “masters” made on TV. It tasted like a hollow buttery funnel cake. So, if bragging rights aren’t important to you? Just go with a traditional funnel cake and call it a day.

THREE: We held a yard sale in an attempt to clear out some of the accumulated detritus of life. At one point, a woman showed interest in a desktop trinket but left without buying it or trying to bargain a lower price. I assumed she just changed her mind. Until she showed up about 20 minutes later, asking if I would be willing to barter said trinket for a set of fancy padded hangers and several packages of stickers. I passed on the hangers, but I totally accepted stickers as payment. Because OF COURSE I DID. They were Goosebumps stickers and Christmas stickers, I mean OBVIOUSLY I will have uses for them. An excellent deal if I do say so myself.

These are my flowers. FLOWERS!

These are my flowers. FLOWERS!

FOUR: Last year when we held our garage sale, I managed to give myself a really weird sunburn thanks to poorly applied spray on sunscreen. This year I was diligent about sunscreen application and I used the lotion variety which is harder to miss spots with. All was well. Except. I forgot that I have bangs now. And that even when my hair is in a ponytail, I have a part. I sunburned the crap out of my scalp. Just another reason I should make a move on this life goal of mine to wear jaunty hats on the regular. You know who doesn’t sunburn her scalp? The lady in the jaunty hat, that’s who!

FIVE: It’s no secret that I’ve been running way behind schedule with book reviews these days, so I’m SUPER STOKED that the Andi of Estella’s Revenge is running a REVIEWATHON next week. This is the motivation I’ve been missing, you guys. I’m highly susceptible to peer pressure.

SIX: Have y’all been watching Game of Thrones? How much are you LOVING little Lady Mormont? That pint sized potentate stole my heart. LYANNA MORMONT FOR THE IRON THRONE!

There we are Bookworms! You’re now up to date with all the goings on in the land of Katie. What have y’all been up to?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 07

I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around by Ann Garvin: Review and GIVEAWAY!

Contemporary Fiction, Lady Fiction 13

Happy Tuesday Bookworms,

Whew! Summer, man! I’ve been reading plenty of books but I’ve been terrible about getting reviews written. It’s tough to buckle down and computer it up when the sun stays out so late and the weather is so delicious. I’m full of excuses. The point to all of this is that YES! Today I’m talking about a book! I was recently contacted by Ann Garvin and offered a complimentary copy of her latest book, I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around for review consideration. As per usual, I shall remind you that my integrity shan’t be compromised by the free book because I have truly terrible manners.

ilikeyoujustfinewhenyourenotaroundTig Monahan is has always been the steady, responsible type who helps everyone else out with their problems. She’s been taking care of her mother, who has been suffering from dementia. She’s always provided a soft landing for her flighty older sister. She’s a therapist, for heaven’s sake! Tig’s refusal to put herself (or more aptly, her boyfriend) first has caused immeasurable friction within her relationship. And all the glorious stability that Tig has worked so hard to build? It crashes down around her piece by piece. In the aftermath, Tig is forced into a new job, a new outlook on life, new roles, and unexpected challenges.

Dang. That little synopsis I just wrote doesn’t do it justice. This book was such a great exploration of messy feelings and complicated emotion. I love a feel-good novel, but I often find that they’re kind of one dimensional and obvious, you know? When I read a book in the self discovery vein, it often feels like there’s a sign blinking with “THIS IS THE CORRECT OPTION” when it comes to what choices the protagonist should be making, particularly in terms of her romantic life. I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around took a much more realistic approach to a set of improbable circumstances. It’s a hopeful book, on the whole, but it’s not one of those “follow your dreams and it’ll all work out perfectly” or “find your one true SOUL MATE and everything will fall into place” sort of narratives. It’s a little sad. A bit of a bumpy road. The choices aren’t always clear. Just like actual life. And you know what? I LOVED IT.

Want to know if you’ll love it too? Ann Garvin was generous enough to offer a GIVEAWAY of the novel (US entrants only, please.) Enter below, my little Bookworms!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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