Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Bunch of Books

Since I haven't posted about books that I've read for several weeks, I decided to put them all together in a book post. They are all Advance Reader's Copies and I enjoyed some good reading!

The first is entitled Same As It Ever Was by Claire Lombardo. I had some trouble getting into and enjoying Claire Lombardo's debut novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had, but I slid easily and enthusiastically into Same As It Ever Was. The description of the story may sound dull and banal, but I found it completely immersive. At fifty-seven, Julia Ames finally feels like she may have gotten a handle on things. She was raised by a mother who didn't understand her and seemed emotionally unavailable; Julia got into some emotionally devastating situations. She is understandably prickly and standoffish, but she marries a man named Mark, has two children of her own, Ben and Alma, and tries her very best, all the while feeling like she isn't doing anything right.

While shopping for her husband's 60th birthday party, Julia runs into a friend who 20 years ago made her feel seen and understood, but also made it possible for Julia to continue her self-sabotage. Claire Lombardo successfully explores friendship, long-term marriage, motherhood, and family dynamics through her stunning writing, taking us from Julia's adolescence through her marriage, to her deep friendship with Helen Russo, and all that came afterward. This is domestic drama at its best; by that I mean a story that is written with understandable emotions and realistic well-drawn characters. One of the things I liked best about Same As It Ever Was was how it made me feel seen and understood. This was five stars for me. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Doubleday for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on June 18, 2024.

If you enjoy fantasy or tales of King Arthur, I can highly recommend The Bright Sword by Lev Grossman. When I read that Lev Grossman had written a new book, I went right to Edelweiss to request a copy of The Bright Sword. It was everything I hoped it might be and more. I read that the author has been working on the book since 2015 and it shows, in extensive research and amazing storytelling. While the subtitle is A Novel of King Arthur this is not simply a mediocre retelling of the King Arthur story that so many are familiar with. Grossman introduces a new knight as the protagonist, Collum of the Out Isles. Collum makes his way to Camelot only to find most of the knights gone and the Round Table in shambles. Arthur is dead, along with most of his knights, and there is no heir. Those who are left are mainly previously minor characters that other authors have not found worthy to tell their stories. In this author's hands, Sir Dinadan, Sir Bedivere, Sir Dagonet the Fool, and Sir Palomides rise to the forefront. It is up to Collum and these not-so-minor characters to see if things can be set right. The Bright Sword has all that we've come to expect from Arthurian legend, magical swords, knights, and evil wizards, but Lev Grossman has written with originality and given characters new motivations that make this a book well worth reading. This was another five-star book for me. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Viking for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on July 16, 2024.

Agony Hill by Sarah Stewart Taylor is the only four-star book in the bunch. It's the first book in a new series featuring Franklin Warren. Set in 1965, Detective Warren leaves Boston because of a tragedy in his own life and moves to Bethany, Vermont as a State Police Detective. There is a barn fire on his first night there, and Warren is charged with determining if the death of Hugh Weber was suicide or murder. Weber was found in a room in the barn that had been locked from the inside, so while things seem clear at first, they become murkier on further investigation.

There are a whole host of suspects and others living in Bethany, and it is a lovely quaint setting with excellent descriptions of Vermont. Several of the characters (like Alice Bellows and Arthur Crannock) seem extraneous and a distraction in this novel, but they may become more important in subsequent volumes. I enjoyed this initial novel and getting to know Franklin Warren and his neighbors and colleagues in Bethany, and would consider reading subsequent entries in the series. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Thanks to St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on August 6, 2024.

Lastly, there is
Sandwich by Catherine Newman. 
The author's previous novel We All Want Impossible Things was an average three-star book for me, but Sandwich was easily five stars. It's the story of Rachel (nicknamed Rocky), her easy-going husband Nick, and their grown children Willa and Jamie (and Jamie's girlfriend Maya) vacationing for a week at the same beach house on Cape Cod that they've rented for 20 years. Newman's writing about the mishaps of vacation (clogged toilet, strep throat, and a hospital visit) is very realistic but also quite funny. Throughout the week, Rocky reminisces about the early days of motherhood and these are also honest, poignant, and funny. Rocky is currently menopausal and prone to hot flashes, so we're treated to more humor and realism combined perfectly. The whole book was the perfect combination of realism, some not-very-good things, poignancy, humor, a few secrets, and lots of love, respect, and communication among family members. I'm fairly sure that Sandwich will be one of my top books this year.
"And this may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel. To say, Same. To say, I understand how hard it is to be a parent, a kid. To say, Your shell stank and you're sad. I've been there."
(This quote will make complete sense if you do yourself a favor and read the book.)

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on June 18, 2024.

There are currently giveaways for The Bright Sword, Agony Hill, and Sandwich on Goodreads if you are interested. Here's hoping you're reading some good books!


  1. Thank you for all these great reviews! I entered the giveaway for Sandwich (which ends today, so just in the nick of time!).

  2. I, also, really enjoyed Agony Hill! I have added the others to my TBR list! Thank you, as always, for your excellent reviews! (and do I detect an alternative to Netgalley?)

  3. You've certainly had some very good reads lately Bonny! Based on Kat's review of Agony Hill yesterday, I requested another book by the author from my library. I've added a bunch to my TBR list - thank you!!

  4. You have hit the reading jackpot lately, Bonny. Congratulations! I am quite envious of your access to books that have yet to be published. :) I so appreciate the reviews from folks who have no vested interest in selling me a book.

  5. I read the first title with a David Byrne voice in my head before I even realized I was doing it. It made me laugh.

    1. I haven't thought about that album in a long time and didn't make the connection myself!

  6. Adding Agony Hill and Sandwich to my TBR list. Thanks, Bonny!

  7. thanks for some good ideas of what to read! I am currently reading through a mystery series but after that I want to get a tbr list going.

  8. Thank you for your reviews of some new and upcoming books. I'm giving several of these a place on my TBR list.


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