A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh

Rating:                              3.75

General Rating: A cute little story about old age. The main character, Evy, caught my heart immediately. It took a bit longer for me to warm up to the storyline, but by the second half of the book, I loved it.

Skip factor:  7% I skipped parts in the first half and nothing in the second half.

Who should read:  Older women, but be warned, remember this is fiction. Following in Evy’s footsteps could be disastrous.

Summary:  If you’ve ever thought hard about future days in an assisted-living facility or nursing home, read this. After Evie’s husband passes away, she goes to live at Sheldon Lodge. She has one child, Brendan, whom she adores, but when she decides she no longer wants to live at the Lodge, she doesn’t bother Brendan and his wife. She embarks on a journey of her own.

Without a spoiler, the plot is not completely believable but so cute you keep reading. Evy’s lucky number is four, so when she decides to leave Sheldon Lodge, she finds herself at a race track betting on her lucky number four. She wins a very large amount of money and takes herself on an adventure.

Characters:  Leigh’s main character, Evy, grabs your heart from the start. Her other characters take some warming up to. Here they are in the order I liked them:

Evy is a quirky little old lady with a wild imagination. You can’t help but like her. Simply, she lies for fun, inspiring readers to wonder what she’ll do next. That anticipation keeps you reading.

Jean-Luc – I loved this character, maybe as much as Evy. Jean-Luc is the man Evy eventually falls in love with. He is introduced as a grumpy old man at a bar, but Leigh’s writing cleverly makes you take note of, even like, him immediately. Leigh hints he is cranky for some unknown reason, and readers fall in love with him along with Evy.

Maura is Brendan’s wife. She enters as a nagging minor character but in the latter half of the book, Maura emerges as a kind soul. Evy, who never cared for Maura, begins to see this better side of her, too. I went from not liking her at all to loving her in the second half of the book.

Brendan, the son, I didn’t like at all. He’s a negative person who never expresses himself. I do think Leigh conveys to her readers what it is like to be an introvert. I kept thinking, “Speak up Brendan,” but he barely does. He changes for the better, but not until much later.

Minor Characters abound during Evy’s travels. When she finally settles down, some advance to the forefront. I liked most of them, but none impressed me as much as the main characters. They flitted in and out for the purpose of helping readers grow to love Evy even more, which worked.

Storyline:  A cute story of a little old lady who refuses to sit idle in her senior years. She sets out on an adventure and finds love and happiness. The story is fun and simple, but it has underlying life messages including: live for the moment so you have no regrets in your old age, and life is not always as it seems. Evy’s perspective on life has changed over the years. What once seemed important to her, no longer is. A great lesson.

Writing:  Leigh’s simplistic writing draws you in easily. It’s more slow burn than page-turning. You aren’t compelled to read long into the night yet might find yourself wanting to reach for it the morning to find out what Evy is up to. Her writing is clean and crisp.

Once again as I’ve done in many books, I struggled toward the beginning, but its slow start was purposeful. A reviewer of one of my own novels put first-chapter struggles best: It took me a little bit to get into it, but I later realized the beginning of the book created the love for all the “friends who move bodies”.

Read this author again? Yes. I’m looking to read another of Leigh’s. If you have one you liked in particular, shoot me an email!  

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

 

Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause

Rating:                              4

General Rating: Do you like quirky? Read this. For the first third of Sorry I Missed You, I didn’t understand what the fuss over this book was, despite Krause’s writing being quick and clever, exactly what I love. But I plodded on and ended up glad.

Skip factor:  0% I skipped nothing. Krause’s short, crisp writing, with lots of dialogue, kept me from skipping anything at all.

Who should read:  For the first time in a review, I’m not sure who to suggest should read this novel. My guess is, if you like frivolous, quirky characters, good writing, and different plots, you’ll like this. That’s as good as my guess gets today.

Summary:  This is the story of three very different women and their nerdy landlord. Upfront, there appear to be ghosts in the attic of the three-unit old-home-converted-to-apartment building they share. Each of the women, along with Landlord Larry, have a past dilemma haunting them (ha-ha) that they must come to terms with.

Nineteen-year-old Mackenzie can’t forgive herself for a lie she told at thirteen. Middle-aged Sunna, a beauty, can’t forgive a friend—and not just any friend but a more-beautiful, went-on-to-a-bigger-brighter-career friend—for ghosting her. And the totally friendless senior character, Maude, can’t get along with anyone because some man, Richard, left her at the alter—or rather, in the park in a wedding gown.

When a note in the mailbox, “Sorry I missed You” is found all but ripped to shreds, the three attempt to decipher who it was meant for. The only message they can decrypt, however, is someone will meet someone at a local coffee shop on some afternoon. Because of their haunting pasts, each of the women believe the letter was meant for them, and they begin meeting at the coffee shop every day, which results in a rather forced friendship. Then, when the building they live in presents ghosts of its own—real ghosts—they begin to rely heavily on each other.

Without a spoiler, the plot is silly, but by the time a reader realizes this, they’ve got too much invested in these women. By halfway through the book I couldn’t put it down because I LOVED all three of them along with landlord Larry.

Characters:  Krause’s characters are so different you’ll thrive on their interactions. I am honestly unsure which character I liked the most. Very seldom do I begin a book not liking any characters and end up loving all of them, equally. In fact. This is a first, so here are the characters in no particular order:

Sunna is a beauty but has been stifled by her ex-friend Britt, a bigger beauty. Sunna has no patience, is curt, and when she becomes acquainted with the older lady in her apartment building, Maude, she realizes she is on a path to become alone and friendless like Maude.

Mackenzie is the youngest and nicest tenant, who at times you believe might be a murderer. Yet you love her anyway for her compassion.

Maude is the old lady you love to hate. Bitter, annoyed, whiny, and honest to a fault, you can’t help but wish you had a little bit of her bluntness.

Landlord Larry is a forty-year-old punker who practically has nerd tattooed on his forehead. His thoughts are so entertaining that they add humor to his already peculiar, humorous life.

Minor characters – Not many. Richard, Maude’s ex, shows up but the reader judges him purely from Maude, Sunna and Mackenzie’s thrashing of him. A few other characters pop in for a line or two, but Krause keeps out the unimportant.

Storyline:  Strange, weird, silly, yet believe it or not, insightful. Lots of people won’t like this story. There are a few holes in the plot. Mackenzie and Sunna’s pasts weren’t firmed up in the end like their lessons learned. (I’m going back and reread to make sure I didn’t miss something.) And, not to ruin the tale, the way Krause winds up the ghosts in the attic is a tad farfetched even for me—an occasional paranormal writer. So, while I loved the characters and writing and enjoyed the wrap up of their internal struggles, the overall plot was a bit unbelievable.

Writing:  In Sorry I Missed You, Krause masters writing style, technique, word usage, and character development but, falls short in the beginning.

As a writer, I know beginnings are tough. You juggle the boredom of the backstory with opening sensationalism. Recently lambasted on Amazon about the beginning of one of my own novels, I’ve done some front-end soul-searching lately. Did I love the beginning of my own book? No. I didn’t blame my reviewer. My first chapter was okay. Second and third, eh. Fourth, I didn’t like. Then from five on out, I was pretty proud.

Sorry I Missed You re-sparked a flicker of confidence in me. I realized beginnings are tough for most writers—even fabulous ones like Krause.

I struggled through her first chapters. However, by forty percent in, I was back in my happy place. Comfortably curled up on the couch wondering how much reading I could get in before I started feeling guilty about my real-world chores.

If you love great writing and characters, but don’t mind a slow start, you’ll love this like me.

Read this author again? Yes. I loved Krause’s writing. I’m not a fan of wordy, and Krause isn’t. She writes clean and crisp. Her character development is as good as any writer’s, better than most. I’m anxious to read her again.  

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.