Book Review: What I Remember Most

what-I-remember-Most-3501

What I Remember Most
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

There is nothing I love more than the anticipation of reading a new book by a favorite author. I mark my calendar far in advance and begin counting down the days about two weeks before launch date. The only thing that comes close to equaling that excitement is when I’m surprised with the the opportunity to review a copy in advance in the form of an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the author or publisher. Recently, I had the opportunity to get my hands on an ARC of Cathy Lamb’s newest novel, What I Remember Most.

As an avid reader and fan of Lamb’s work, I walked into this book expecting a good read. I’ve read everything she’s released, and so there’s a reason why I always anxiously await her next book. With that said, though, I had no idea the huge treat that was in store for me. Simply stated, this book was absolutely beautiful and probably the best book Lamb has released yet. It was without any doubts one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

As with many of Lamb’s books, What I Remember Most is filled with a strong female leading character surrounded by a close-knit group of quirky friends. But what sets this book apart and above all others is the grit and determination of the main character, Grenadine Scotch Wild. She’s a young woman who has been knocked down by life and by the system her entire life, and yet she refuses to give up. She refuses to be beaten and she refuses to accept defeat. She keeps her chin up and her head high as she plows forward through life in search of the peace and fairness she deserves. She’s tender-hearted, yet tough as nails and unafraid to stand her ground against those who would take advantage of her. And through all of this, she’s intensely likable and the kind of person we all wish was among our inner circle of friends. She’s the kind of character that a reader falls in love with, and the one who lingers in your memory long after the last pages have been turned.

When an author starts with a character as appealing as Grenadine, she has a responsibility to that character not to drop the ball on the storyline. Luckily Cathy Lamb was up to the task and brings the reader an unforgettable story of a young orphan as she navigates through the foster care system and then, later, the real world. It’s a story of love, loss, survival, determination, perseverance, friendship and new starts.

This is a book that I will be recommending to every one of my friends, and one that you won’t want to wait any longer than necessary to read.  This book is not yet available at Rochester Public Library, but a request has been sent to purchase it for their shelves.

Advertisements

Book Review – A Different Kind of Normal

A Different Kind of Normal
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

It’s finally here!  I feel like I’ve been waiting years, and it’s finally here!  Today marks the release of Cathy Lamb’s newest novel, A Different Kind of Normal.  And oh boy, are readers in for a treat!

Out of the kindness of her heart,  Ms. Lamb sent me an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this new release.  I say “out of the kindness of her heart,” but I’m sure there was no small amount of self-preservation involved.  After all, I’m sure it was just a bit disconcerting to receive contact from a reader who declares – in her best Kathy Bates stalker imitation –  “Ms. Lamb!  I’m your biggest fan!”  Scenes from Stephen King’s Misery likely flashed through her imagination, and she decided to take precautionary steps:  (1) Send Cathie Armstrong a copy of the newest book to keep her happy, and (2) Add Cathie Armstrong to the list of potential stalkers…just in case.

Okay, in all seriousness, I wasn’t that bad.  I hope.  I’ll let you know if the cops bang down my door at three in the morning and abscond with my laptop and the 15 rolls of duct tape (in designer colors) that my daughter has on hand for “emergencies.”

But back to A Different Kind of Normal.  I can sum this book up in one word:  Beautiful!  In true Cathy Lamb fashion, readers are brought a story that will make you laugh out loud, and is absolutely certain to bring forth tears of empathy and grief.  It’s what Cathy Lamb does best, and it’s probably why she truly is my favorite author.

Lamb’s newest novel tells the story of 17-year old Tate.  Born to a strung-out and drug-addicted  mother (Brooke), and adopted at birth by his 19-year old aunt (Jaden), Tate’s life will be anything but easy.  Likely due to his biological mother’s drug abuse and lack of any prenatal attention, Tate is born with a very enlarged head and lopsided eyes which make him appear freakish to strangers.  To his family – his Boss Mom (adopted mom, Jaden), his Nana Bird (grandmother), and his uncle and cousins – Tate is beautiful.  He’s brilliant and funny, and he teaches his family that love and laughter heal tears.

When Tate begs to go out for the basketball team, Jaden’s overprotective and hovering tendencies begin to smother her enthusiastic son.  Can Jaden put aside her fears and allow Tate to behave like a normal kid?  Can she step back and allow him to handle, in his own way, the teasing of strangers without pounding them to a pulp with her bare hands?

A Different Kind of Normal is what fans of Lamb have come to expect:  a story of love and family, beautifully written with strong characters, some sadness, and a whole lot of humor.  She simply never let’s us down!

Finally getting to read a new Cathy Lamb book is like being on a diet for a whole year; eating only fresh fruits and vegetables, but yearning for that warm chocolate lava dessert at your favorite restaurant.  You finally decide to treat yourself, so you feel the need to eat it slowly and savor every single bite because you know – when you’re done – you’ll have to go right back to those ho-hum fruits and veggies you’ve been existing on for the last year.

I’ve finished my “dessert.”  I wish I could say I ate it slowly and savored every single bite, but the truth is that I shoveled it in with a serving spoon in each hand.  It’s going to be a long year while I wait to see what Cathy Lamb has in store for us next.

This book is not yet available at the Rochester Public Library, but is available through inter-library loan. Check with the Reserves Desk to request a copy!
For more information about Cathy Lamb and her books, visit the author’s website at www.cathylamb.net.

Book Review – The Last Time I Was Me

The Last Time I was Me
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

What can you say about a woman with an anger problem? An anger problem brought on by the deaths of her husband and unborn child and, subsequently, by her beloved mother? Follow that anger problem with a cheating live-in boyfriend (upon whom she extracts sweet revenge) and you have a seriously unhinged woman. Take that seriously unhinged woman and put her in an anger-management course (court directed, no less), throw in some quirky characters and an anger-management counselor with her own obvious anger issues, and you have a great story. But why stop there? While you’re at, throw in a dead body, a germ-phobic Bed and Breakfast owner, an opera-singing, pancake-flipping diner owner, and NOW you have a great read!

There was just so much going on in this book that it’s hard to even explain what it was all about. Suffice it to say that Cathy Lamb has taken a tragic character that most authors would leave tragic, and made her into someone you wish you knew. Someone who lacks that filter we all have that warns us that, “Hey – maybe you shouldn’t say that, even if it is true!” A character whose honesty and plain talk make her not just enjoyable, but downright lovable.

To say that I loved this book is a complete understatement.  I laughed and I cried, and sometimes I laughed while I cried.  As I turned the last pages, I was sorry to see the story end; and, in the end, I simply couldn’t stop thinking about the characters.    What happened next?  What will tomorrow bring?  I simply wanted more.  It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, and I still want more.

The Last Time I was Me is available at the Rochester Public Library.  For more information about this book, or other great reads by Cathy Lamb, visit the author’s website at www.cathylamb.net.