196: Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie (like Chevy not Stevie) decided she was going to finally leave her husband and while she’s packing the car the night she musters the courage, she gets a call. Tim was in a car accident, before she even gets to the hospital he’s dead. (Spoiler for the very first chapter.)

Dean lost it. It being the ability to throw World Series Winning Pitches. It’s been two years and no one knows why, not for lack of trying. So he decides to escape his life and makes an extended visit to Maine to hang out with Andy (his and Evvie’s best friend, although they don’t know each other yet).

Dean rents the apartment in the back of her big house. Evvie tries to determine how to live with the guilt of not being sad her husband’s dead. The two of them grow a lot. They start over a few times before finding their way.

I thought this was a lovely book, and it’s a debut! It took me a bit to get the ages of the main characters, but after I established the timeline it rolled pretty easily.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

195: Far from the Tree

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

To go from taking a week to read a book to finishing one in less than 24 hours. This book was so good. It’s YA, and about adoption and foster care and family and love and hard stuff.

Joaquin entered foster care when he was about 18 months old and now he’s almost 18. He’s still there. He’s had a couple of close calls on adoption but no one’s really loved him like Mark and Linda do now – and he doesn’t know what to do with that. It’s hard to receive love when you’re whole life has been filled with the opposite.

Grace was adopted before birth giving her birth mother some extra help over the course of her pregnancy. Now she’s living through the experience her mother had as a pregnant, teenage mom giving her child up for adoption as well. Will she want to see Peach or just forget this ever happened? The boyfriend, his parents, her friends, and everyone at school couldn’t be less supportive. He’s being crowned homecoming queen, and all she gets is the giant S for SLUT on her sweater forever.

Maya was adopted at birth followed shortly by a surprise little sister to her parents. She’s always felt out of place being the one brunet in a family of red heads. Her parents fight a lot, there’s a bit of a drinking problem, and she just doesn’t know where she fits.

Joaquin, Grace, and Maya have the same mom, and they’ve just learned that the others exist. A new family is formed as they begin navigating life together as siblings.

This book was SO GOOD. Tears, laughter, and even some of myself in a bit of their stories. If we want to remove abortion as an option in this country, then we need to change so many of the attitudes portrayed in this book surrounding foster care, adoption, birth parents, and teenage pregnancy. The attitudes were hard to read through because they’re so true.

Family isn’t always a mom and a dad with 2.3 kids living in the same house for ever – that’s only one version of it. We need to normalize the other versions of family! Go read this book, it’ll be worth it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

194: The One-in-a-Million Boy

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

It took me a long time to finish this book, a whole week. Why? Because Christmas movies were much more compelling. And also I went to California was was just tired and jet lagged all week. The 3-hour time difference is not joke.

I heard about this book on What Should I Read Next years ago from Anne Bogel. She kept saying, “I’ve been meaning to read this but haven’t until a bookseller put it in her hands one day.” Then she read it and loved it. So I thought I would too.

I didn’t. It was just okay. Maybe it’s just the season. Maybe what I really wanted was a sappy love story (see most of the books I love), and this is not that. It’s about a father falling in love with his son, for the first time – after he’s gone. It’s about an old woman finding her home and place in the world. It’s about a mother entering a loving marriage. It’s about the journey.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

193: All in Good Time

All in Good Time by Carolyn Astfalk

All in Good Time is the exact kind of love story I’m here for. Two strong Catholics in their 30s find each other and it’s wonderful. It’s not perfect. They’re both sinners, they know it – and they frequent the Sacrament of Confession. No matter what they make time for Sunday Mass.

Even in the midst of everyone, including his brother, Brian remains committed to the Lord’s call to chastity. Melanie’s been dealt a hard hand losing her husband to a senseless car crash when their youngest was only 1. Life became quickly complicated with three little ones on her own.

They find each other in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds. They don’t lose their faith. Hard times come, they don’t always make the best decisions, but they come back to each other through prayer, the Rosary, and Scripture.

Carolyn has one more book, which I’m off to reserve, buy, or rent ASAP.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

192: The Lager Queen of Minnesota

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

About half way through this book I realized I really loved the author’s previous book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest. If you loved that one, you’ll definitely love this one.

Edith and Helen were about 6 to 10 years apart and end up leading very different lives because Helen wants both of their inheritances to pursue her dream. Her dream was always better and more important than Edith’s because she wanted it more. Helen pretty much steals Edith’s share in a Jacob and Esau situation and they don’t speak for 51 years.

The book weaves back and forth between Edith, Helen, and Edith’s granddaughter Diana over the course of 51+ years. Helene believes until the end of her life that her sister hated her and wanted her to fail. Edith just wanted the best for her and was waiting for her sister to come home to her.

A story of love and loss and family and beer brewing. Lovely!!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

191: The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Emma Saylor finds herself in a jam after her Father’s wedding. Her bff has to fly to Ohio so she can’t stay with her. Her Nana suggest Mimi, the grandmother she hasn’t seen since she was 4 years old.

So she spends the first three weeks of the summer at North Lake, the place her mother called home that she’s only ever heard bedtime stories about. Meeting her cousins, aunts, and friends of the family provides the rest of the story of her mother that her dad has been too hurt to tell.

Such a sweet young adult romance story that’s more about a girl finding her story than a boy, although she’s not alone at the end of the summer.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

190: The Boston Girl

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

I just noticed that this author also wrote The Red Tent, a book I’ve been wanting to read for years and have even checked it out of the library a few times and still haven’t read.

But back to this book … which I listened to on audio in the car and LOVED. Addy is speaking to her granddaughter but the entire book is in her voice at age 85 and not really dialogue. It was fabulous. The narrator sounds like an older grandmother and it was just perfect.

The book felt like a memoir, but it’s a novel. It was so interesting to learn about life in the 1910s, 20s, and 30s. I loved hearing about how she lived through a time when women weren’t able to do much, but she lived her life against the grain. Overall such a great listen to!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️