We Should not be Friends by Will Schwalbe

Dear Fellow Readers,

Happy March! I have seen signs that Spring is coming. If only it would quit snowing! I am so happy that the days are longer. I am sure I didn’t notice this as much years ago but now, I look for every drop of daylight. Hopefully, soon outdoor time! That is what I am truly looking forward to.

Have you read the author, Will Schwalbe before? I have read his book, The End of Your Life Book Club, which is about the books he read and discussed with his mother while she was dying. It was a very touching book and it talked about books. One of my very favorite things to talk about! He also has a book entitled, Books for Living, which looks very interesting.

He has a brand-new book out! It just came out last Tuesday. The new book is We Should Not Be Friends and it tells the story of his friendship with Chris Maxey. They met at the end of their junior year of college and got to know each other during their senior year. On the face of it, they could not be more different. Will knew that jocks were the opposite of who he wanted to meet. They represented a world very different from his land of theater people, writers, and visual artists. Will would work at the AIDS hotline on the weekend while he assumed that Maxey would drink and hang out with other jocks.

Despite Will’s reluctance, he did end up getting to know and even begrudgingly respect Maxey. The book is about their friendship over the decades (They are both in their 60s now.) Since the story is told from Will’s perspective, we find out a lot more about him and his perceived “friendship fails” 

I like the way that Will Schwalbe writes. It draws you into his world – you feel like you are listening to an old friend. I did wonder why he decided to write about this particular friendship. He refers to other friends in the book that were interesting. Oh well, it must have been important to him.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to you along with his other books.

Thanks for reading.

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The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

Dear Fellow Reader,

Did you set a goal on http://www.goodreads.com for your year? I have been setting a reading goal for the last few years. I read a lot but I like to use Goodreads for two reasons. The first is that it keeps track of what books I have read. I will admit that sometimes I forget what books I have read. I can then look on Goodreads and see if I have read it. Also, I set a reading challenge every year. I have found that if I have slacked off a bit (it happens!) it prods me to read – I don’t want to not meet the challenge I set for myself!  The sidebar along this post gives an update on the books I have recently read. You might notice that I have been on a streak of reading Miss Silver mysteries. I will admit I retreated into them for a week or two. I just needed something not taxing to read. They were written in the years between 1928 – 1961 (!) so the style is different from what we are used to. There are 32 books in the Miss Silver series and each has a little twist from the ones ahead of it. There are some reoccurring characters but you can read them in any order.

I was also given a copy of The Soulmate to read for my unbiased opinion. I enjoyed it very much. While reading the book, I kept wondering if the narrator was unreliable or if it was her husband that was unreliable. It kept me guessing for a long time. And then! 

Gabe and Pippa live in their dream house in a sleepy coastal town. There is one big drawback to the house. It is located on a cliff and often people try and commit suicide by jumping off the cliff. As the book opens, Gabe is going out to try and talk another person out of jumping off the cliff. We learn that Gabe has been incredibly successful in talking to the others who have tried, out of jumping. But on this particular night, the person jumps.

Because the person actually jumped, there is a police investigation. Days later Pippa discovers that the woman who jumped is someone they know. But Gabe didn’t tell her that he knew the woman nor did he tell the police that he knew her.


Not only did they know her but she was the wife of Gabe’s ex-boss.

As the book progresses, we learn more about Gabe’s work and family history. What starts as the perfect marriage shows some cracks.

There were many twists and turns to keep you wondering what could be going on. What is truly going on here? And why are these people doing what they are doing?

I think this book is a good one for you to read. I enjoyed it and I think you will also.

This book will be released on April 4, 2023.

Thanks for reading!

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The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Dear Fellow Reader,

Wow! It has been hot. And there hasn’t been a drop of rain in a long time. Of course, this is the summer that I finally decided that I should do more in the yard. So, I planted and now I am watering and hoping.

(NOTE: I apparently wrote this and forgot to post it. It is no longer summer or warm or dry.)

This week’s book is historical fiction. It is the book for my library book club for last June. And I missed the meeting. There is something about reading the book and then missing the meeting which is a drag but it can’t be helped.

The Secrets We Kept follows two storylines that intersect. I would view the intersection of the storylines as tenuous at best. One of the storylines is about Boris Pasternak’s mistress, Olga. Boris Pasternak was a poet in Russia. The Russian government supported the arts as long as the artists behaved. It seems that the government had been told that the epic work of Boris Pasternak’s life, Dr. Zhivago, showed the government in a poor light. Olga was brought in for questioning in the middle of the night and kept in jail for several weeks. She had no idea if she would be released. They tried to get her to write a confession that the book was anti-government.

Then the book shifts to the US and office for the CIA. Irina is a Russian immigrant who is recruited to work in the typing pool. But she is actually groomed to become an operative. The story tells us about Irina’s life and that of the other women in the typing pool and the secrets they keep. The women learn not to think about what they are typing and which men to stay away from in the office. One day, the dazzling Sally Forrester arrives in the office and the women are quite sure she is not really a receptionist. Sally is an operative who had been brought in to advance Irina’s training.

While it is interesting, the point of the book does not arrive until about 2/3 of the way though the book. When talking to someone a week or so after reading the book, I didn’t remember how the two sections intersected. I would not say that the book builds up to the intersection. By then, you are much more caught up in the personalities of the characters and not what the US Government is trying to do. That is just part of an assignment that does involve the book Dr. Zhivago, but I thought it fell a bit flat.

This book was a Reese Witherspoon book club choice. That means that people were perhaps more enthralled with it than I was. While I read and finished the book, I wondered why some parts were in the book. There is a relationship between Irina and Sally. They were apparently not real people so how did that help the story? Sally’s work left more questions than it answered, and it had nothing to do with the overall plot. Why was it there? I did learn much more about Dr. Zhivago than I ever knew before and that was interesting.

So, this is a lukewarm recommendation.

Thanks for reading!

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Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle

Dear Fellow Readers,

This image truly relates to the book I am reviewing today. I do, on occasion, read paranormal cozy mysteries. They are light and have some humor and I find they are great when I want something to read that takes very little thought. They are like TV. They entertain without taking up any head space. One such series that I enjoy are the Angie Fox Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries. I have read them all.

Okay, I don’t normally want to admit that I read those books but I shouldn’t feel that way. We all need something light and easy occasionally.

As you may have guessed, today’s book involves a bit of paranormal activity. (Although any paranormal activity means there is a fair amount of it.)

Bettie Hughes comes from money. She made money and lost money. She is currently broke and living in someone else’s house. (She is basically squatting in a house of a dead woman.) She is obsessed with her online image. She posts frequently giving the illusion that she is doing great. But she really isn’t and particularly because Christmas is coming up fast and she will have to go see her family. She absolutely does not what them to see that she had met the expectations that some of them have for her – that she is broke. She made terrible business decisions and lost.

One night during a pity party that she is throwing for herself, she plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas is You”, backwards and her very own Christmas spirit arrives. Hall is her Christmas spirit and he appears to be just what she needs. Although his ability to use his magic correctly seems a bit off at first.

She decides that the perfect plan is to take Hall home with her for Christmas and pass him off as her fiancé. He can provide her with all she needs to show off to her family. So they arrive home and no one pays any attention to them. So she makes Hall take her back in time and start over with an even bigger splash. And then that still doesn’t do it so back in time the go again and this time their entrance gathers the attention that she wants.

In the meantime, Hall just loves Christmas. He wants to be able to do all the things that humans do to celebrate the holidays. There is suddenly a skating rink so they can all go skating. He bakes with Bettie’s mother. He redecorates the house daily with a different theme. He tries to show Bettie all the wonderful things she has right at her fingertips.

She is resistant. She has grudges that she wants to clear up. She wants to hurt those who hurt her. But he finally gets her to see that she doesn’t really accomplish anything by inflicting damage to others.

This book is about redemption and the power of love although it is easy to lose that in some of the ways that Bettie acts.

I have to admit that I was not wild about this book at first. I kept reading, so it wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t enjoy the first part of the book. But then I did get caught up in the story and it did not end exactly as I would have expected. So, I would recommend this book but I would say that you need to push through to get to where it gets better.

Thanks for reading!

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Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Dear Fellow Reader,

An hour ago, I was in the basement waiting for the National Weather Service to cancel the tornado warning that it issued for my area. And now I sit here, and the sun is shining. I can see a bit of blue sky between the white clouds. You just never know what the day will bring.

I read a book by Elizabeth Strout for a book club a couple of years ago. It was My Name is Lucy Barton and I don’t remember much about it but it was dark. I know there were scenes between a mother and daughter in a hospital that truly showed a terrible relationship.

So, now I have read Lucy by the Sea. I think that Elizabeth Strout’s writing style is very different. It is brief and to the point. The chapters contain many sections with each section running either from a couple of sentences to a few paragraphs. The breaks allow for a change in thought or movement of the plot. While at first, I wasn’t too wild about it, I think it is very effective. The breaks allow Lucy to allude that something is going to happen in the future and then she goes back to the present or the past. It is not confusing at all as to where you are in the story even with the breaks.

Lucy is living in New York as she always has. She is still in mourning for her husband, Dwight, who died about a year ago. She loved him with all her heart. She has an ex-husband that she is friendly with and since Dwight’s death, she will occasionally travel with him. Their relationship is platonic but they have a long history. Her ex-husband is a parasitologist. He sees that there is going to be a huge change coming and he tells Lucy and his daughters that they need to leave the city. One daughter and her husband take his advice and move into the husband’s parent’s home while the parents are wintering in Florida. William tells Lucy to get ready that he is going to pick her up and they are leaving the city. Lucy doesn’t really understand what William is talking about but he is so insistent that she packs a bag and leaves with him for Maine.

And then the pandemic hits and some of their friends die.

The story is about that time. They are in Maine and they are not welcomed in Maine. They live in relative isolation out on a cliff and spend time taking separate walks around the area. It is the story of what Lucy expects to be a few weeks in Maine then turns into a much longer time. We learn more about the relationship between Lucy and William (and what went wrong) and how their relationship with their daughters. Lucy’s relationship with her dead mother also plays a big part in the story.

The reader learns the story of Lucy with all its warts and beauty.

If you are ready to read about the pandemic and its effects, then this is an interesting read. Is it too soon after the pandemic? Depends on the person, I guess. I truly enjoyed the writing style and the very human characters. I think you should read it.

Thanks for reading!

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