Friday, October 28, 2016


Title: Better Late Than Never
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 304

The main reason why I chose to read this book was the fact that it was set in a library. I love books and for a brief while, I wanted to become a librarian when I grew up. I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get free books that I could read all day, while occasionally helping people check books out. Then I read somewhere that librarians barely get time to read on the job, and I changed my aspirations.

Better Late Than Never is set in the Briar Creek Public Library, whose director Lindsey Norris announces a day of amnesty for overdue books. No fines will be charged no matter how late, or in what condition, books are being returned.

One of the books to be returned is The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. The book had been checked out by a local school teacher, Candice Whitley, on the day she was murdered, 20 years ago.

Lindsey believes that the book may have been returned by her murderer, and begins asking questions in an attempt to solve the cold case.

The book contained interesting information about books. For instance, we learn that Salinger didn’t want a cover design for his book in order to avoid distracting the reader. Though those references were interesting, they couldn’t raise this book above the ordinary.

Ms Cole is repeatedly referred to as the lemon, a tendency which would have understandable if the book had been written in Lindsey’s first person Point of view. In a 3rd person PoV, this tendency feels biased and awkward and somehow wrong as if the author were forcing us to think in a certain way. It is also downright annoying, as are the one-too-many uses of the words, buttinsky, and the L-word.

The writing is far from distinctive in any way. Of course, mystery writing isn’t meant to be literary fiction, but a few gems worth quoting would have helped. Instead you have nearly all the characters shuddering and getting goose bumps at the thought of the murdered woman checking out the book on the day of her murder.

All the characters are involved in far too much drama. From Mary being pregnant, to Lindsey’s on-off romance with Sully, to Paula’s interest in Hannah, to the dog, Heathcliff, I couldn’t wait for the murder investigation. And then there is Ms Cole hyperventilating on learning that the book checked out by Candice has returned.

The other characters are Ms Cole, the senior librarian, Beth Stanley, who works at the library and is also Lindsey’s best friend, Paula Turner, the new hire, and a few women from the crafternoon group. Robbie Vine, a British actor who now resides in Briar Creek, and Sully are both vying for Lindsey’s affections.

Together these characters account for much of the unnecessary drama in this book, taking away from the mystery that should have occupied the author’s sole attention. There was altogether too much time spent in showing the friendly banter and the camaraderie between the other characters. Consequently it took ages to talk about the actual murder investigation to begin.

Not that all this time spent helped. None of the characters actually stood out. They were all flat and insipid.

Lindsey’s third person PoV didn’t sit well with the running commentary of what was going on in her mind. Instead the author should have used the first person viewpoint; that would have made it far more direct and believable.

To make matters worse, there was the romance between Sully and Lindsey. It was such a huge part of the book that it overshadowed the murder. What’s more, it felt drab. When Lindsey describes what she had with Sully as intoxicating, it didn’t feel like that at all. A romance writer ought to make the reader feel a character is interesting too. But Sully was hands-down the most boring hero ever.

I disliked Lindsey as a character. She kept imagining people close to Candice as being bloodthirsty murderers and she spoke bad English too. I hope that is corrected by the author. For example, in one place, she says, would have been too easy of an answer. Incidentally, the mystery of who was spying on Lindsey was not resolved at all.

If it were possible for a reader to murder an author’s characters, I would finish Sully and Lindsey both, and allow Robbie to get on with life and the investigation. He seemed far more interesting, although the pretend-heart-attack in the library was taxing on my nerves.

Of course, in spite of everything that is going on in this book, the mystery is resolved, and it is someone that we'd never have suspected.

This was not a cozy mystery at all. I wish someone had warned me.

(I got an ARC from First to read.)

Monday, October 24, 2016


Title: Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor #1)
Author: Jennifer McGowan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416

Maid of Secrets is the story of Meg Fellowes, a 17-year street thief who makes a living by lightening people’s pockets. Part of the Golden Rose acting troupe founded by her grandfather, Meg’s fortunes change dramatically when she is chosen to be one of five maids to spy for Queen Elizabeth.

Meg is caught and taken to Windsor Castle, where she expects to be punished. Instead, she is inducted into an elite group of five maids who will serve as the Queen’s ‘eyes and ears.’ She is to be the Queen’s property, utensils she can bend and shape as she wishes or throw into the trash heap without a backward glance.

Should she refuse this assignment, the members of her acting troupe will be hunted down and tortured, while she would be imprisoned for life.

While the adventure sounds exciting, poor Meg has to make do with tedious attempts to translate and study texts in Latin, French, Dutch and Spanish, besides politics, social graces, observation skills and poisons, manners and food, dancing and elocution, language and court behaviour and how to kill or maim without creasing our skirts. All this under the tutelage of Sir William Cecil, who does nothing to hide his disdain for her.

The other four maids are Anna Burgher, Sophia Dee, Beatrice Knowles, and Jane Morgan, who Meg nicknames the Scholar, the Seer, the Belle and the Blade respectively. She herself is named Rat by the others, on account of the task she is enjoined with, ferreting out secrets and reporting them to the Queen.

While Anna and Sophia treat her with kindness and Jane tolerates her, Beatrice does nothing to hide her contempt of Meg, of the fact that is unlettered, and her humble background.

Meg herself cares nothing for literacy skills, but she does want to learn to read well enough to decipher the contents of a book that her grandfather gave her on his deathbed. The book and a set of golden picklocks are his legacy to her.

The queen assigns her to spy upon the newest member of the Spanish delegation, Rafe Luis Medina, the Count de Martine, who she suspects of being an agent of King Philip of Spain. King Philip was married to Elizabeth’s late half-sister, Mary, and Elizabeth suspects him of causing disruptions at the court in an attempt to prove her unfit to rule. She asks Meg to find out who is causing the disturbances and brutal attacks. It is a top secret mission and Meg must trust no one. 

Meanwhile, Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen’s spymaster, urge Meg to spy on the queen herself. Meg is torn between fulfilling her duty to the Queen and following their orders, knowing that she and her troupe will be punished if she doesn’t.

Intrigue is rife and everyone has secrets and is playing games, manipulating situations for their own ends.  The danger is very real, Meg realizes, when she comes to know that she has been brought in as a replacement for Marie Claire, a spy who was brutally murdered for her pains. Marie’s ears and tongue had been cut off and her eyes hollowed out of their sockets.

It’s all overwhelming for Meg, and the situation gets even more complicated when the Count turns out to be astonishingly handsome and charming. Isn’t her assignment hard enough without having to guard her heart?

Unfortunately Meg has no idea who is a friend and who a foe. She has to follow conflicting orders while ensuring that she doesn’t meet Marie’s fate. And it all comes to a head when the Queen announces the masked ball when there will be Sworn enemies.
Desperate conspirators. 
Fawning opportunists. 
Cunning traitors. 
And every one of them in disguise. 
God save the Queen.

Written in the first person of Meg, the story is an engaging one that sweeps you off your feet, straight into the London of April 1559, shortly after the coronation of Elizabeth as Queen.  The voice is friendly, winging her way into our confidence and goodwill.

Meg is an interesting character, intelligent and witty. I wouldn’t say her voice is distinctive, but she manages to meet adventure and danger head-on without simpering in the manner of other heroines of the time. And that is an achievement. 

I liked the fact that marriage wasn’t the end-all of her existence, as well as her sense of loyalty to her troupe and her secret skills. These include her light-fingeredness and the ability to repeat verbatim anything she has heard once, down to inflection, no matter what the language.  I also appreciated the fact that she fell into the deep end and learned to swim.

The author conjures up the London of the time, the sounds and smells of the streets, the rotting fish carcasses pooled in narrow ditches, the foul-smelling passages, that one knows from the works of Charles Dickens.

She also does a fine job of making the milieu come alive. It is a time when men have all the rights, and a married woman is at best a prize goat or a sturdy cow. She also excels in her descriptions of the outrageously flamboyant and slightly ridiculous costumes of the era.

I appreciated this book for the strength of the women in it. Elizabeth says she does not need a husband. She says The people need only a strong monarch to rule them, not a male one. And I need no one but myself to rule. It is a reminder that strong women have always stood up for themselves. Yet again, Elizabeth says, All men are a threat to women…no matter if she is maid or monarch…Especially those men we most want to trust.

Above all, kudos to the author for keeping the excitement burning throughout the story. The nervous tension, the danger all felt real. The Trenchmore dance where Meg steals the letters from Rafe’s pockets and has to return them to his pockets before the dance ends was a moment when I had my heart in my mouth.

I found myself getting caught in the excitement of it all. I also liked the fact that the romance here was not intrusive, and did not ever supersede the intrigue and the adventure. In this book, set within the genre of historical fiction, the romance was not without its charm.

With a sound knowledge of the Elizabethan era and its history, and a feisty and independent minded heroine to recommend it, Maid of Secrets is a book that deserves to be read.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Title: Prayers for Your Children: 90 Days of Heartfelt Prayers for Children of Any Age
Author: James Banks
Publisher: Discovery House
Pages: 235

Prayers for Your Children: 90 Days of Heartfelt Prayers for Children of Any Age by James Banks invites us to commit ourselves to 90 days of heartfelt prayer for our children, as long as we are alive.

It relates to verses from the Bible, especially the Psalms, from both the Old and the New Testament, spread over every day of 13 weeks or 90 days.

The book affirms that as parents, the best gift we can give to our children is the gift of prayer. No matter what their age, we can pray for them.

Each section begins with a brief reflection which introduces the week’s theme. The themes are pointers to live the Christian faith more meaningfully and include Knowing, Growing, Walking, Loving, Protected, Faithful, Fruitful, Thankful, Humble, Pure, Hopeful, Overcoming and Blessed.

The prayers are properly cross referenced to the appropriate chapter and verse, and related with examples and anecdotes.

The prayers don’t end with Amen, encouraging parents to add their own prayers at the close of each day’s reading. Also, it emphasizes that we can never pray too much and that the full worth of our prayers will be made evident only in Heaven.

As I prayed on, and I prayed for the 90 days as the book asked us to, I felt myself drawn into the book, pulling my nephews into the ambit of prayer, besides my own daughter and son. I prayed for the children by name and felt a deep sense of comfort knowing that I was committing my little ones to the care of Our Lord. 

I recommend this book to Christian parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles.

(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)

Monday, October 17, 2016


Title: The Snake Who Wanted to be a Horse
Author: Valerie Harmon
Illustrator: Carol Stevens

The Snake who wanted to be a Horse by Valerie Harmon is a sweet and unlikely story about a snake whose belly is sore from all the crawling that he has to do. He sees a horse, an animal whose stomach is so high above the ground that it never touches the ground. What’s more, Horse has such long legs that he doesn’t need to crawl either. 

And so, Snake decides that he wants to be a horse.

He asks Horse for advice. Horse first tells him to eat grass for a week, and then when that fails, to neigh and whinny all through the day for a week. Both courses of action produce hilarious results.

La Niña and El Niño, who listened eagerly as I read this book aloud, laughed the loudest when these parts were read.

And then Horse recommends that Snake move from one place to another by lifting his body off the ground. You can imagine the challenge inherent in that advice for someone like Snake.

But Snake is determined to become a Horse, and will put himself through any amount of pain.

The illustrations by Carol Stevens are adorable and they give a good push to the imagination.

El Niño wanted to know why Snake wanted to be a Horse and nothing else. I had to remind him that it was a Horse that he had seen when he was dissatisfied with his own lot. From there, he wondered briefly what would have happened if he had seen an elephant, for example, or a peacock. He also thought a tiger would have been far better.

In the end, I wondered if Snake’s goal was realistic. Of course, I tell my kids that they can be anything they choose to be. But could a Snake change magically into a Horse? 

Could you alter your genus? Trump your genes and become something totally impossible to achieve?

Snake does ultimately become a Snorse, part Horse, part Snake, ready to tackle the adventure of life with his friend, Horse, by his side to show him the way.

And as the kids clamour for an encore, I realize they’re too young to think about the unreasonableness of Snake’s desire.

It is the size of the dream that counts, and the size of the fight in the dog, as they say.

Here Snake wants to be a Horse with all his heart, and in the perfect world of children’s fiction, that is what he becomes.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Review: DEAD TO YOU

Title: Dead to You
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 256
GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

Dead to You is the first person present tense point of view of Ethan De Wilde who is meeting his family, father, mother, brother Blake and sister Gracie, after 9 years. Abducted at age 7, he is being restored to his family at age 16.

From the very beginning, Blake looks upon Ethan with suspicion when the latter, it seems, has no memories of his first seven years at home. Ethan cannot seem to remember anything of note. All his memories of the first seven years are linked with the family website created after he was abducted.

Ethan’s innermost thoughts are hidden from us, and we know as little about his life with Ellen as do his parents and siblings. The only thing we can guess is that it must have been traumatic enough for him to break out in a paroxysm of hysteria and panic.

Cami, Ethan’s childhood friend, is the only one who seeks to understand him. She helps him fill in the gaps of what he has missed since he was taken as well as some of the memories that she shared with him. Gradually, Cami and Ethan get into a relationship.

Ethan calls Gracie the replacement child, somebody who has usurped his place in the family. Somebody who was born to replace him.

Meanwhile, Blake feels himself lost in all the fuss being made over the Lost Boy and the Replacement Child. He resents Ethan for the trouble and the heartache he has caused the family, especially given the fact that at age 7, Ethan willingly walked to the car and got into it, when she should have known better not to talk to strangers.

Strangely Ethan is conflicted in his relationship with his birth mother, remembering nothing and feeling a strange connection with Ellen, the woman who took him away and later abandoned him at a group home. When he speaks of her, though, he refers to her as Eleanor, unwilling to speak her true name, and lead the police to her.

The characters of the parents and Blake and Gracie are thoroughly believable. The only person who seems at odds is Ethan himself.

The short chapters drive us forward faster.

I was disappointed in the ending. Not only was it something I expected, even while I hoped the author would come up with something smarter, but there was no particular building of atmosphere on our way to that conclusion.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Title: Inexcusable
Author: Chris Lynch
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 192
GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

This is possibly the first time we read of the accusation of rape from the point of view of the accused.

Keir Sarafian, a young man in high school, is accused of rape by Gigi Boudakian, the girl he loves. The story is written in the first person present tense point of view of Keir Sarafian.

Keir believes himself to be good, the kind of guy who always respects a woman and her views, the kind who knows that ‘No’ means ‘No,’ the kind who was raised right. It is unthinkable that Keir could ever be accused of rape, that too by Gigi.

Gigi has a steady boyfriend, Carl, but because Carl is an air force man, stationed far away, he allows Keir to take Gigi to the prom as Keir is an old friend of both.

Then on their Graduation Day, Keir not only gets drunk, he also imbibes some narcotic substances at the home of Quarterback Ken. Later he and Gigi drive to Norfolk University where Keir has been accepted. Older sisters Mary and Fran are studying there, and Keir, who is hurt over the fact that they did not bother to come to his graduation, is determined to rub it in.

It is here that Gigi accuses Keir of doing the inexcusable, an accusation that he vehemently denies. 

Do we believe him? Could Keir be capable of rape?

We don't know until much later.

Keir tries hard to get us on his side, as he explains his family background, what a great guy his dad, Ray Sarafian, is, and how it is unthinkable that he who has been raised by Ray Sarafian could ever do anything so inexcusable.

You can tell that Dad Ray is important to him. When his older sisters go to college, father and son are brothers, roommates, bastards and buddies.  And so it proves beyond doubt that Keir is a loyal son, brother and friend, the kind who always obeys the rules and follows the plan. Or so Keir is convinced.

But the truth is that Keir’s past has not been as clean as he reports it to be. Some months ago, he achieved notoriety for having unintentionally crippled a guy while playing football. It was a crisis that saw him blacklisted by the community but his father stood by him. Eventually the crisis passed, and Keir is accepted to Norfolk University, where his older sisters are already studying. It is then that he feels accepted again.

The story is not a linear narrative. The anecdotes, the tiny stories that are the backbone of our lives, slip through, making it a personal account of Keir as he recounts the story of his life, how he is a good guy who would never hurt those he loved. 

This refrain is repeated throughout the novel until you’re fed up of hearing it and want to tell him to shut up. 

I hate it when people I love condemn me.

I hate it when people I love scream at me.

I hate it when people I love are silent to me. 

Closer to the fateful moment, we get a slight variation to the refrain, I hate it when people I love let me down, as if it were others who deceived him.

At school, he acquires the nickname, Killer, which erected a rugged new structure on the formerly vacant lot of my persona. He revels in the nickname.

Keir is an unreliable narrator because he holds the truth from us and he lies to us. The author succeeds in making us feel a sense of revulsion towards this thoroughly amoral character who doesn’t seem to see himself as a wrongdoer at all. He gives us the examples of the incident on the football ground and the trashing of the soccer teams breakup party but in both cases, he sees himself as no great wrongdoer.

Sometimes he unwittingly gives away the truth, when he says, My will wasn’t good for anything. He admits that he can’t function under the influence; that My decisions, my memory, my brain control, deserted me at the hour of need.

His observations are good, they have a touch of wit about them, but the honesty in them becomes suspect when he relates things about himself.

Keir recalls his past mistakes and thinks It was never an issue of intent, but of intensity. As long as he stops before things go too far, it will be okay.

The narrative shifts back and forth between everything that happened before and all that happened after the inexcusable thing, but we aren’t told much about the inexcusable thing, until much later.

As a woman, I was left seething with rage. This is the first time I have wanted to enter the pages of a book just to sock a character.

The message which author Lynch delivered through this story was stark.

The manner in which he slowly revealed the truth was commendable.

Even if the character was not.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Title: A Flight of Arrows: A Novel
Author: Lori Benton
Publisher: WaterBrook
Pages: 400
GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

As I read A Flight of Arrows: A Novel, I thought about The Wood’s Edge, the previous book in The Pathfinders series, and was once again reminded of the quiet yet strong faith and the conviction that bursts forth from the tone of the omniscient narrator in both books. Both books are imbued with the same strong air of comfort that comes of knowing that our fates are held in the hands of a loving, forgiving God.

The style that is followed is similar to that followed in The Wood’s Edge. There are chapters for each of the years from 1776 onwards. Sometimes though there are multiple chapters in a particular year, written from the third-person point of view of different characters.

The book begins where the previous one ended. More than a year has passed since William ran away from home, unwilling to face the truth about his origins. He has made the cause of the British his own, while Reginald Aubrey fights on the American side, the side the Oneidas have aligned themselves with. It is one more wedge that divides them.

For Good Voice and Stone Thrower, and Two Hawks, the sadness is even more painful, knowing that their son and brother, for who they have longed all these years, has once again distanced himself from them. This time the distance is not just physical. 

A mountain of agonizing self-doubt and an utter unwillingness to forgive the man he called father holds him back. Nor can he come to terms with the fact that he is indeed Indian, he who has grown up believing that he is white.

And yet, the three will not stop hoping and waiting and trusting that William, their very own He-is-Taken, will be restored to them.

Anna is equally tormented at knowing that William won’t return and that Two Hawks and his parents as well as Reginald are denied the peace that must be theirs.

Meanwhile, Reginald’s refusal to accept Two Hawks as person or even as a potential son-in-law drives a wedge between him and Anna.

There is Strikes-the-Water, a girl who clearly resents Anna for her place in Two Hawks’ life.

The characters are all suffering. Reginald, bent under the weight of William’s refusal to forgive, cannot bring himself to accept forgiveness for himself. William physically runs away from the truth, only to find that he cannot outrun the truth, that the truth will find a way to enter his life.

Gradually, and it is a very slow process of realization that is beautifully handled, William begins to realize that his heart is not on the British side, that he is called upon to protect his people, Anna and Lydia, even Reginald, the man he thought of as his father, and his true family, Good Voice, Stone Thrower and Two Hawks, though he doesn’t believe that he will live long enough to be united with them.

Once again, I marveled at the manner in which Lori has married historical fact with fiction. It is after all a tumultuous and significant time in American history. America, as a nation, is about to be born.

Much of the book is taken up by the preparation for war and the actual skirmishes and active combat that takes place between the soldiers of the British Crown and the rebels who want independence.

While I read the long chapters relating to the battles, it was the chapters in which William is found and through which the family takes fledgling steps to one another that I loved the most. Lori has a knack for relationships, especially filial ones, that tugs at your heart.

The ending is heartrending because even though they escape relatively unscathed from the war between the British loyalists and the rebels, the Senecas, who fought on the side of the British, have lost many of their own soldiers and are demanding vengeance. 

They take Reginald prisoner, but Stone Thrower, with both his sons by his side, mount an exciting rescue mission. How it turns out is something that you have to read yourself to believe.

This is historical and Christian inspirational fiction at its best.

("I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.")

Monday, October 03, 2016


Title: Our Chemical Hearts
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Publisher: GP Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages: 313

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland is an unlikely story of an attraction at first sight that blossoms very quickly into love.

Unlikely because Grace Town is of average height, and average build and average attractiveness . And yet our first person narrator Henry Isaac Page knows that she is the great love of his life.

To make things worse, she dresses up in what appear to be hand-me-down men’s clothes, many sizes too big for her; looks unclean and unhealthy and even stinks, and walks with a cane. Even so, in the absence of slow-mo, no breeze, no soundtrack, and definitely no skipped heartbeats, he knows she is the one.

Despite being 17, Henry has never been touched romantically. He has always worked hard at school to keep his grades up and to get into a decent college. But his great ambition is to be the editor of the school newspaper, a goal for which he has worked hard.

Henry and his friends check out Grace’s Facebook page and discover that she was once lithe and beautiful. What could have happened just three months ago to break her like this?

At first Henry wants Grace because he senses her brokenness. A small part of her soul was cracked. Unconsciously, he dreams of being the one of putting her together, making her whole again. Not unlike Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of mending something broken by filling the cracks with gold.

But Grace is too broken for him to heal, too broken even for KIntsukuroi, and his unyielding passion for her breaks him a little in the process. 

When the three friends, with Sadie, stalk Grace at the local cemetery, they are shocked to see Grace in an expression of grief, sedated by the stillness that comes with seeing an intensely private moment that doesn’t belong to you.

Henry knows that his attraction to Grace is something bigger than he can comprehend, but her on-off attitude worries him. When she is drunk, Grace reciprocates Henry’s love, but denies it when she is sober. Indifferent to him for days, she suddenly turns intimate for a while, then turns off again. But even in the midst of the intimacy, she seems surprised to see Henry, as if she were expecting somebody else.

And then he learns that she is hurting from the death of her boyfriend, Dom Sawyer, in a car crash, the crash that left her with the limp.

Henry finds himself going to seed, disappointing teachers and failing to bring out the school paper on time. Love of the kind that Grace and Dom had feels eternal and cosmic, and when it goes out, it leaves pain behind.

What I liked about this book was that the supporting characters are also likeable. There is Henry’s sister Sadie, who is 12 years older than him, and a single mother and neuroscientist. While at school, she used to strike terror in the hearts of the teachers and students alike. I liked the character of Sadie, a little for her rebelliousness, but even more because she saved people’s lives and looked at her tiny son like he was made of bright diamonds, pancakes in bed on Sunday morning, and a thunderstorm after a seven-year drought.

Henry’s best friends are Australian émigré Murray Finch and the partly Chinese, partly Haitian Lola Leung. The sayings that Murray comes up with are hilarious. There’s no point pushing shit uphill with a rubber fork on a hot day.

I liked Henry because he wants to be a writer. He claims to have a built-in radar that tells him where a comma needs to go in a sentence.

Lola’s statement, Very few good things come out of sentences that begin with ‘Most girls’ reminded me of the biases that spill out through our words.

I must say that reading this book felt very disjointed because chapter 6 was missing, and I couldn’t read the text messages and FB posts that the characters sent to each other. That was a huge drawback, since I missed large portions. The gaps showed as blocks of grey colour on the page. While it didn’t affect my understanding of the plot narrative, I did lose out on the banter between the characters.

The author uses a lot of clichés, but in a manner that calls attention to them and makes you laugh. When Sadie, Lola, Murray and Henry are stalking Grace by the cemetery, Lola calls it the dead center of town. When Murray says, I hear people are dying to get in, Henry adds, I hear everyone inside is pretty stiff.

When Grace and Henry adopt a fish for as a mascot for their newspaper, Grace tells Henry, He has your eyes and Henry replies, He has your fins and gills.

Murray is funny in his pretend-play of engaging sleuth Madison Carlson for spying on his girlfriend.

So many Laugh-out-Loud moments like this.

The author also did a fine job with the pop culture references. I couldn’t get all of them, but the ones that I did were well executed.

The title refers to Sadie’s theory that we are all just chemical hearts, that love is a result of chemical reactions in the brain which either last or fizzle out. And if it gets over, we must start again because How does a novelist start a new book when the last one is finished? How does an injured athlete start training again from the beginning?

There was another theory that I found slightly difficult to grapple with at the beginning, but the longer I thought about it, the more sense it made. Love doesn’t need to last a lifetime for it to be real. You can’t judge the quality of a love by the length of time it lasts. Everything dies, love included. Sometimes it dies with a person, sometimes it dies on its own.

I found the ending perfect. It isn’t a conventional happy ending, but it does teach the value of detachment. I would have been disappointed to see otherwise.

(I got an ARC from First to read.)


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