Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

The Overdue Life of Amy BylerThe Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Harms’s first novel, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, had me laughing out loud and almost crying with understanding; her second novel, The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay had me falling in love – mostly with the small Minnesota town but this, her third, lacked, in my opinion, the plot development of those other two novels. Still, it got me thinking, which seemed to be the whole point.

Amy Byler, the central character of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is a dedicated librarian raising two children on her own after her husband went on a business trip to Japan and decided to stay there, abandoning his wife and their life.  Three years later he returns asking for a chance to get to know his children.  Amy has all kinds of reactions to his return but when their children decide (reluctantly) to give their father a chance, she is left with a week to herself and an opportunity to visit NYC and take a little time for herself.  When her husband asks for more time, the real adventure that is her #momspringa begins.

Amy is another of Harms’s lovable, relatable, recognizable characters and the supporting characters are well-rounded and endearing (even, at times, John). But there seemed to be little more to the story than a character you rooted for (and, pretty often, wanted to be!) and a couple of interesting ideas – #momspringa and Flexthology (not quite sure that was the name of the reading program Amy wanted to introduce in her school but it was a neat idea). I enjoyed reading The Overdue Life of Amy Byler because I liked Amy but the whole thing often seemed like an extension of the fictional article at the center of her New York adventure. What story there was, was fun, sometimes funny yet predictable (not necessarily a bad thing). Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I were a mother or wife (not that I couldn’t use a 3-month break from the every day!)

While I may not have been able to appreciate the Amy’s particular turmoil, there are other novels about single motherhood (or all motherhood for that matter) and the conflicting emotions that come with it that I also enjoyed despite never having been in their shoes.  I enjoyed Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan and I highly recommend One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.  If you enjoy Harms’s style, I would also recommend reading her other two novels, especially The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane which is one of my favorite reads of recent years.

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For the Love of Books

New Year, New Look, New Books

I’m hoping that 2019 brings new and exciting things to my life as well as yours.  We may not know what’s in store for us but one thing I know for sure is that there will be great books to read.  Some of my favorite writers have new books coming out this year.  While I may not get to them all (because of all of the new and exciting things 2019 has in store for me, of course!), these are the upcoming releases I’m most excited about:

  • I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella – While her popular Shopaholic series may have gotten stale, Kinsella redeemed herself a couple of years ago with the wonderful My Not So Perfect Life, which is why I’m so looking forward to I Owe You One (expected publication:  February 5, 2019)
  • The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion – Reading The Best of Adam Sharp last year may have been a huge disappointment but Simsion’s return to Don and Rosie has me excited to read him all over again. (expected publication:  February 5, 2019)
  • The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms – Though it has only been a year and a half since I read Kelly Harms’s The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane and The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay, I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for her to release another. (expected publication:  May 1, 2019)
  • The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay – I’ve only read two of Reay’s novels but I’ve enjoyed their heart and humor, especially in Lizzy and Jane.  I always look forward to more of her novels to read. (expected publication:  May 14, 2019)
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman – Whether it is the unexpected humor of The Garden of Small Beginnings or the sharp-tongued wit of Other People’s Houses, Abbi Waxman’s writing always makes me laugh.  I can’t wait to meet Nina Hill and learn about her bookish life. (expected publication:  July 9, 2019)
  • The Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller – Tom Miller’s thought-provoking fantasy/historical fiction, The Philosopher’s Flight may not have made my top reads from last year but the story is so unique and timely that I must know what happens next. (expected publication:  July 16, 2019)
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – Stradal’s first novel, Kitchens of the Greater Midwest, is one of those novels that I feel it might take multiple readings to fully appreciate.  It is the author’s unique voice and view of the people and their lives in the middle of our country that has me anxious for more of his writing.  (expected publication:  July 23, 2019)
  • Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier – I am only halfway through the Sevenwaters series so I won’t be getting to Harp of Kings any time soon but any new fantasy series by Juliet Marillier is a reason to get excited. (expected publication:  September 3, 2019)
  • Kopp Sisters on the March by Amy Stewart – Yes!  Another Kopp Sisters novel is on the way and you can bet that I will be putting in my request at my local library as soon as I can.  I am especially anxious for the next chapter thanks to the all the questions at the end of Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit.  (expected publication:  September 17, 2019)

 

My source for publication dates is Goodreads.com and may be subject to change.  Happy reading!

For the Love of Books, Year in Review

Shelly’s Year in Books | 2017

It’s that time again!  Time to review my reading for 2017.  All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for me – bookwise at least – with far fewer low points than high points.  I won’t dwell on any low points as I didn’t read anything so unbearable that I felt compelled to give it only one star or even a generous two.  So I’ll mention some of the high points.  I read so many great books this year that I’m finding it very difficult to narrow it down to just one favorite.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • My first exposure to Liane Moriarty could not have gone better.  Big Little Lies is both impulsively entertaining and thought-provoking.  I can’t wait to read more of her work.
  • The first book in Amy Stewart’s wonderful Kopp Sisters series, Girl Waits with Gun was my top read of 2016 and the third book in the series, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, which came out this fall, did not disappoint.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is not in the running for top-read since this was my second reading of the first book in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster series, but it was still a high point in my 2017 reading.  It’s always nice to visit an old friend.
  • Not only did I enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life but so did many others as it was one of the finalists for Goodreads.com’s books of the year.
  • BBXX: Baby Blues:  The First Two Decades became a welcome addition to my collection of comics anthology.  Not only did I laugh out loud at Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s hilarious comic strips but I learned quite a bit about the behind-the-scenes of comic strip creation.
  • Abbi Waxman’s debut novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings was one of the most hilarious and heartfelt novels I’d read in a long time.  I loved it so much that I told all my reader friends that they had to read it.  I don’t often do that.
  • Kelly Harms’s The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is The Garden of Small Beginnings main competition for top-read this year.  They each had a wonderful sense of humor, a whole lot of heart, and lovable characters.

In the end, though, I think I’ll give the honor of top-read to The Garden of Small Beginnings simply because I want to spread the word about this delightful novel about a widow raising to precious and precocious little girls even further.  Waxman’s second novel is coming out in 2018 and I hope that I’ll be sharing another wonderful review for her in the coming year.

For a comprehensive look back at all 50 of the books I read in 2017, click here:

Check out My 2017 Year in Books on Goodreads!  And I wish you all happy reading in 2018.  Happy New Year!

Source: Shelly’s Year in Books | Goodreads

Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay

4 Stars

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The biggest problem I had with Kelly Harms’s second novel The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay is just that I read it too soon after reading her hilariously heart-warming first novel, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane. Where that book was laugh-out-loud funny yet inspiring look at friendship, family, and learning to love yourself with a couple of dashes of romance, The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay is more clearly defined as a romance. Not that it is a typical romance. Like that first novel, it has a well-rounded, lovable (and detestable – I’m talking about you here, Mitchell) cast of characters, a wicked sense of humor (though a bit more subtle than that which made me laugh so much in the first novel), and a good journey of self-growth for Lily. The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay also shows off Harms’s talent for description, which she used so wonderfully in her first novel to show Janey’s relationship with cooking and the beauty of the Maine coast. Here it allows us to see the world through Lily’s artist’s eye and the magic of the Minnesota winter. Her descriptions felt like looking at one of those stark but dazzling paintings of a snowy landscape and I just wanted to be there with all of the wonderful characters falling in love with one of the Hutchinson boys.

If you enjoy The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay, you might also like Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan