ARC Book Review: Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout

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Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge #2) by Elizabeth Strout

ISBN: 9780812996548 (Hardcover)

304 pages

Published on 10/15/19 by Random House

Genre: Literary Fiction / Contemporary Fiction

Rating: ★★★✩✩

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Thank you to Random House & NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

*Any quote(s) used in the review are from the finished copy.*

Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, suicide, miscarriage, cheating, physical abuse, cancer, and possible pedophilia (the situation involved an older man, a young girl, and nudity.)

Story | Olive Kitteridge is at it again with her famous “Oh, Godfrey” and uneasiness around children. You learn about her hostility toward baby showers. That’s just a few things I love about Olive Kitteridge, her real and raw thought processes. She doesn’t always let it slip out of her mouth, but I’m glad we get to explore her inner thoughts and emotions toward certain situations. I find myself relating and agreeing with her the majority of the time.

Olive, Again focuses a lot on Olive’s relationship with Jack Kennison. It’s a very rocky relationship, but it’s not surprising considering the type of person Olive is. She wasn’t very nice to Henry either.

The individual storylines in this are fervent and disheartening, but I think the first book kept me more entertained. Olive, Again just kept me in a continuous state of heartbreak. I usually give high ratings to books that can get that kind of emotion out of me, but this just became too much. It just didn’t have the same vibe as the last book.

There is a lot of insight into Olive’s feelings on different topics—a ton of back and forth with herself. As she gets older, she digs deeper into her own conscience—her sad, depressing, suffering conscience.

“She realized it was as though she had—all her life—four big wheels beneath her, without even knowing it, of course, and now they were, all four of them, wobbling and about to come off. She did not know who she was, or what would happen to her.”

This book mainly focuses on the characters, so there isn’t a lot to talk about when it comes to the story. I will admit that it was quite nice to be back in Crosby, Maine.

Characters | There is a whole slew of new characters mixed in with some oldies.

Christopher, Olive’s son, visits her with his wife, Annabelle, and three kids. Unfortunately, tensions become very high. Chris never gives his mother the time of day. He doesn’t accept Olive for who she is. All she wants is to be present in his life, but it’s almost impossible that they all get along.

“But she saw behind her closed eyes the house, and inside her was a shiver that went through her bones. The house where she had raised her son—never, ever realizing that she herself had been raising a motherless child, now a long, long way from home.”

Kayley Callaghan – Eighth grader, father died two years ago, and cleaned house for Mrs. Ringrose. While there she would unbutton her blouse for Mr. Ringrose and he would give her cash in return. She didn’t feel like she could tell anyone about it. She enjoyed it at first, but it all abruptly came to end when Mrs. Ringrose said she didn’t need her anymore.
This short story surprised me and depressed me. I honestly didn’t expect this from the author. It was interesting to see Kayley’s thoughts on everything as an eighth grader. Way too young to be going through this. It made me sick.

Cindy Coombs – Used to work as a librarian at the local library, but now she has cancer. Olive talks to her about her feelings about death.

“You know, Cindy, if you should be dying, if you do die, the truth is—we’re all just a few steps behind you. Twenty minutes behind you, and that’s the truth.”

You learn that Olive—tough, fearless, grumpy Olive—is also afraid to die.

You definitely don’t have to read the first book to learn about these characters.

“I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing.”

Writing | Strout’s writing is still wonderful. She is able to make it flow so well and it’s all just a bunch of short stories. My plan is to read everything by this author. I have completed three novels by her so far, and whether I found this one all that interesting or not, I keep thinking about her writing style. There is something about it that I love so much. The simplicity of the sentence structure while discussing such melancholic topics. It’s a true talent that not a lot of people can manage.

Overall | Would I recommend it? Yeah! Just because I wasn’t totally fond of it doesn’t mean you won’t absolutely love it. It’s worth loving. Strout does preforms some incredible magic with her Olive Kitteridge duology. So many characters and emotions. You’ll fly through them. I’m almost sad there isn’t another one. You don’t often find yourself reading a book with such a raw character who is still fighting with themselves on the inside. Go pick it up! You can blame it on how beautiful the cover is.


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ARC Book Review: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

Thank you to Berkley / NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital copy in exchange for an honest review! 

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

Published 11/5/2019 by Berkley

ISBN: 9781984806093

339 pages (Goodreads says there is 320 pages, but the copy I’m reading goes to 339)

Genre: Contemporary Romance | Rom-Com

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The first rule of this book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

Review:

*I am late with my review, but any quote(s) used are from the finished copy.

“I’m the kind of baseball wife who still isn’t sure the difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game, and you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because I didn’t marry baseball. I married Gavin, a man with more integrity than you could ever dream of having.”

I’m quite behind on writing reviews. I’ve hit some sort of reading sprint, and I can’t stop. I finished two books in one weekend, which never happens to me. I’m slowly getting all of my thoughts together for each book.

Characters | 

The characters were all pretty interesting. I thought that the members of the book club were funny. They all had their flaws though, and some bothered me more than others.

I started out hating Gavin, then Thea started showing her true colors. Her mothering skills were fantastic. She treats her daughters like they matter, which I don’t see very often in novels. She has a semi-strong bond with her sister, which is great. I just don’t like how she treats Gavin. If you don’t want to give him the light of day, then just end it right then and there. Instead, she eggs it on. That kills me! The reader understands why, like, right at the end of the book. I get that she has a depressing past, but that doesn’t mean you need to take it out on other people. I just didn’t end up liking her that much, unfortunately.

I didn’t care for Liv and the way she treated Gavin. It wasn’t any of her business as to why Gavin was still staying at the house. I understand she was trying to take care of her sister but, there are boundaries. She was probably my least favorite character, other than Mack, who is part of the book club.

Story |

I would consider this a slow-burn romance. Nothing steamy happens until closer to the end, but I’m into the rom-com novels. This could totally be a movie! I would watch it.

The story focuses on Gavin and his desire to keep his marriage together after he supposedly tore it apart. The issue is that they both play a pretty big role in what path their marriage is going down. The reader learns a lot about Thea’s past and her relationship with her parents. I won’t spoil that for you since it’s a significant piece of information in the novel. I’m sure it won’t be a surprise to anyone who reads/watches rom-coms.

I loved this so much. This is romantic, but it also has a lot of familial dynamics. Thea and Gavin have two twin daughters, Ava and Amelia, who make it even harder to make a decision regarding their marriage. Oh yeah, did I also mention Thea’s sister, Liv? She plays a role in the whole ordeal too. She also has a lot of turmoil with their parents. Thea and Liv stick together. Let’s just say that Liv isn’t a fan of Gavin and vice versa.

My issues with the story: There was a point that I just wanted it to come to an end. This isn’t a very long book, but it does get redundant, I guess. It is still very fast-paced, regardless. It was a five-star read up until around page 260. I found myself not wanting to continue on, or just skipping to the end to see what happens.

I also found myself not wanting to read the excerpts of the novel. Obviously, the two stories are similar to one another, except one is from the 1800s and one is present day. The situations are different. I just didn’t care about those characters. Thank God that doesn’t show up too often.

Writing | 

I found the sex scenes to be very well done! They are scarce and short-lived, but they were 10/10. Good description of everything!
This is a romance novel, so don’t go into this expecting it to blow your mind. I found it to be a bit more sophisticated. The book club members have a very diverse vocabulary, which surprised me.

Overall | 

I would totally buy this for my shelves! I enjoyed it a lot, and I recommend it if you’re interested or if you need a funny, steamy, fast-paced read. This is the type of book that will lift you out of your reading slump, for sure! Go pick it up and show it some love.

“Love is enough.”
“It’s always enough.”


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ARC Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

560 pages

ISBN: 9780062662637

Publication Date: August 6, 2019 by Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to Harper Voyager / Netgalley for allowing me to read a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

Rin is back focusing on what she had done to end the third Poppy War. She’s still addicted to opium. It affects her performance and it becomes a problem. She also has the pressure of her god, the Phoenix. The sole reason she keeps herself alive is to seek revenge on the Empress who sold the Nikan to their enemy.

Rin wants to create a new Republic, and she will go through anything to do so. She even works with the Dragon Warlord to conquer Nikan. She wants that dream so bad that she throws herself into the Warlord’s war. She experiences all this as part of the Cike.

Of course, the Dragon Warlord’s motivations aren’t what they seem. The Empress is a lot stronger than anticipated, and Rin finds herself relying on the Phoenix more than she should. She will go to devastating extremes to create this new life for the Nikan.

REVIEW:

Characters | I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t care for any of the characters. It is surprising because you learn so much about all of them. If there is any book in this series that can help me connect with the characters in this world, it should be this one, right?

Rin was out of control. She didn’t think about the consequences of anything. Yes, she had the pressure of the Phoenix, but she doesn’t have that the entire time. She is so temperamental, and it reminds me of a young adult fantasy main character. She is extremely angst-y. I never find myself rooting for her.

Suni was actually my favorite out of everyone. He was so sweet to Rin even though she was a total brat. I wish I had a finished copy so I could give you some quotes from him! Suni had been a student at Sinegard, and was expelled when things went wrong. Despite all of that he was a gentleman.

Nezha had no backbone. Anytime Rin would confront him he would back down and apologize. I would give the sass right back to Rin, just like Chaghan did.

They had a lot of backstory, but they lacked raw emotion. They lacked anything that allowed you to connect and relate. They were, however, very entertaining to read about. That much is true.

Plot | The plot honestly confused me a little bit the further I trekked into the story. I don’t read a ton of fantasy, so that issue could be on me. I just couldn’t understand exactly where they were at any given time. This is why I write notes, but apparently it doesn’t help at all.

It’s very easy to understand the motivation of the story. Kuang makes that very clear, which I am appreciative of!

The beginning scenes were the best part of the novel, in my opinion. It’s very clear and concise. There is a specific scene where Rin is taken over by the Phoenix in the beginning that I thought was well done. I really enjoyed reading about it. As the story progressed I just lost all interest in what was happening. I enjoyed that even though it was a fantasy novel, the characters couldn’t stand being on a ship for long periods of time.

I think I go into fantasy novels expecting a deeper, thought provoking plot. I read too much literary / contemporary fiction. It seems to have become an issue.

Writing | I think that Kuang always shows so much promise. She writes fantasy tomes that readers can immerse themselves in. I just find that the writing drags after 40% of the novel. I wonder what else she would write outside of The Poppy War. I think that she could have tightened it up a little bit. Cut out some of the parts that didn’t need to be in the story.

Overall | This wasn’t a bad novel at all. It was entertaining, and the writing was solid. I just wanted it to be shorter and the writing could be compressed. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I’m assuming there’s another one. I would like to see where it is even going, but at the same time I don’t want to find myself a year from now writing another middle of the road review for it. I would hope things would change, but so many people adore this series. I don’t want to bring people down.

Would I recommend it? Sure. Take my opinions with a grain of salt. I’m sure this is a fantastic fantasy series. I haven’t read fantasy a ton. Would I buy or reread this? No, sorry.


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