Monthly Archives: May 2020

Review: The Best of Friends by Lucinda Berry

Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani have shared multiple big life events over the year of their friendship. Their friendship has rubbed off on their teenage sons, who have grown up together and are very close.

Then one tragic night, everything is ripped apart, leaving one of their sons dead, the other in a coma, and the other unable or unwilling to provide any details of how, why, or what happened.

Lucinda Berry’s The Best of Friends has a great premise, a solid first chapter, and a great hook. It’s just too bad that the novel never really delivers on the promise of its initial chapter.

Part of this stems from Berry’s utilizing alternating first-person narration by all Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani. What should have been a great way to put us inside the emotions and thoughts of these three best friend as they try to make sense of what happened and why instead gives us three narrators who all come across as so similar that it’s hard to recall who is narrating each chapter were each one not identified at the top.

About a third of the way through the novel, I found myself earning for Berry to make one of the voices more distinctive, but it never happens. And while curiosity about what happened and who did what to whom kept me going, I never felt a connection with the characters enough to be truly shocked or rocked by any of the secrets each is hiding from her other friends.

We do get answers to the central mystery, but it ends of not feeling quite like enough. Maybe I’m spoiled by the likes of Laura Lippman or Elizabeth George who give us mysteries that not only work as puzzles to be solved but also attempt to give us some insight into the implications of the mystery on its characters and the larger world. I have a feeling this will be one of those books that I see crop up on my feed again in the near future and I’ll quickly forget most of the details.

I received a digital ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Decade of Dysfunction by Mark Nagi

Decade of Dysfunction: The Road to Tennessee's Crazy Coaching SearchIn many ways, reading Mark Nagi’s Decade of Dysfunction: The Road to Tennessee’s Crazy Coaching Search was a bit like reading Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows. There are moments of early happiness, but you just know a bad end for some of the parties involved is just around the corner.

As a lifelong Tennessee football fan, reading about the mistakes, blunders, gaffs, and errors that led #VolTwitter to revolt a couple of years ago is both painful and enlightening. Memories of blown leads against teams we should have beat haunted me throughout this book. Nagi does a nice job of countering these by the successes that Tennesee had at points during the ten year period following the dismissal of Coach Philip Fulmer and the rollercoaster ride we’ve been on since that time.

And yet, having finished this book, I can’t help but come away wondering if Nagi might have benefited by allowing a bit more time to pass before diving into the events that led to Tennessee’s hiring Jermey Pruitt as head coach and Fulmer returning as athletic director. It’s similar to how I feel about DVD commentaries that come out six months or less after a movie has opened or an episode of television has aired. The participants may not have the time to get some perspective on things and really gives us some insight into what went on. I feel like a bit of time would have given the book a bit more perspective and might have coaxed out some participation by participants who declined to participate in this book.

At one point, Nagi references Clay Travis’ On Rocky Top, which delves into detail on Fulmer’s final season as coach (that season gets a chapter here). And I can’t help but think that Nagi doing this only brought my memories of that book to mind and made me compare the two. IN the long run, I am more likely to recommend Travis’ book to the Tennessee fan wanting to understand why letting Fulmer go was a tragedy and why his return as AD was part of the healing process that Tennessee football needed.

I can’t say myself necessarily doing the same about Nagi’s book. I did enjoy having the entire history recorded in one place and some of the insights into fan reaction during the Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Lane Kiffin tenures. But as Nagi circles in on the day #VolTwitter rebelled, I coudln’t help but find myself wanting something more — a bit more insight from the players involved in that situation, maybe even some insights into what the heck John Currie though we was doing and insights from the University higher ups that led them to pull the rug out from under Currie.

There are some interesting insights into the national perception of the Tennessee and how fans inside the state reacted to those events. I just wish there had been a bit more than the feeling that Nagi was only scratching the surface of a much deeper story.

That’s not to say I hate this book. I did enjoy reading it and taking this journey over a decade that has seen Tennessee football try to get back on the path to national prominence.


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Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little SecretsWhile finishing up her Christmas shopping in a crowded Seattle market, Marin Machado lets go of her four-year-old Sebastian’s hand for just a moment to text back to her husband. But in those moments, Marin’s world is shattered when Bash disappears and can’t be found.

Fifteen months later, Marin still hasn’t recovered from the shock and her marriage to Derek is on rocky ground. Haunted by “what ifs” with Bash, Marin wasn’t expecting the private eye she’s hired to discover another secret — Derek is having an affair with a younger woman named MacKenzie Li.

Enraged, Marin turns her pent up and anger and frustration about doing whatever it takes to rid herself of MacKenzie, which includes stalking her at her place of work, researching her on social media, and installing a shadowing app so she can keep track of everything Kenzie and Derek say to each other. Continue reading

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Review: Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally

Four Days of You and MeAlex and Lulu are as close to star-crossed lovers as you’ll see in Coffee County High School.

Beginning in their freshman year, both run for class president on the platform of how to best use some of the school’s vacant land. Alex wants a batting cage, Lulu want a garden to provide the cafeteria with sustainable fresh fruits and veggies. Despite being opposites, there is an unmistakable attraction between the two.

That attraction plays out over the next four years of their journey through high school in Miranda Kenneally’s Four Days of You and Me. The story unfolds one day in May as their class takes a field trip — whether it’s to the local science museum, a theme park, New York City or London. Continue reading

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