I won The Last Blind Date in a Twitter contest by the author, Linda Yellin. Honestly, I didn't quite know what to expect when I won, much less when thI won The Last Blind Date in a Twitter contest by the author, Linda Yellin. Honestly, I didn't quite know what to expect when I won, much less when the book came in the mail. I don't usually read romance, although I'm willing to give some books a try.
Thankfully, The Last Blind Date is not a typical romance. Sure, there are anatomical descriptions of Linda's love interest, including underwear. She never rubbed my face in it, though. There were no washboard abs and voluptuous breasts that heaved with passion.
In a nutshell, the novel is based on the somewhat true story of Yellin and how she met her current husband. Then a Chicagoan, she went on blind date after blind date after her first husband died of cancer. She had given up on true love, until a mutual friend introduced her to Randy Arthur.
A long-distance relationship ensued, with a few dates and one-night stands, until Linda finally felt ready to commit. Unfortunately there was still the minor detail of Randy's still-legal wife Susan, whom he was in the process of divorcing. His two children by Susan also complicated matters.
As much as Linda said she was in love with Randy, and as patient as she was during his divorce, I couldn't help but feel annnoyance at the man. He expected a woman to fly halfway across the continent to be with him, giving up her job and her friends and all other ties in the process.
Yet he dragged his feet to finalize his divorce. He called her "Susan" sometimes, and celebrated their anniversary on his and Susan's old anniversary. She left her whole life behind to start over in the unfamiliar territory of New York City, while he comfortably sat back and let things unfold.
Linda is clearly in love with Randy, and he does support her and try to help her adjust to her new life. I just felt like he didn't see how much she was giving up to be with him. Her patience knows no bounds with Randy's uppity children, btw, the reason he can't leave NYC in the first place.
I sighed with exasperation as Phoebe pointed out Linda's need for a new wardrobe. I celebrated with Linda when she figured out the New York City subway system. In many ways, I felt like Linda was the bosom friend I never had growing up, down to our insecurities in gym class:
"Gym class picked up where grade school playgrounds left off, with a caste system and pecking order that slid from cool to hopeless. I envied the with-it girls, who were inevitably also the athletic and popular girls, the one who were able to run around the bases without ruining their hairdos, or able to kick a soccer ball in a direction they actually wanted it to go. They radiated entitlement. They left towels on the locker room floor."
I hear you, Linda, I hear you. Overall, The Last Blind Date is full of humor and heartbreak, true love and the awkwardness of mixed families. I look forward to reading Yellin's other book, Such A Lovely Couple....more
Stories of witches are always common around Halloween, but Cathy Lamb’s A Different Kind of Normal is not a typical supernatural tale. In lieu of monsStories of witches are always common around Halloween, but Cathy Lamb’s A Different Kind of Normal is not a typical supernatural tale. In lieu of monsters and ghosts, high school bullies stalk the pages and the specter of drug addiction haunts the protagonists. The characters use wit and endurance rather than magic spells to overcome hardship. Jaden Bruxelle is a tough, independent hospice nurse who is raising her younger sister’s son Tate. Tate is a cheerful, boisterous seventeen-year-old. He sees the bright side of every situation, despite abandonment by a mother who chose drugs over him, and a deformity in the back of his head. Tate desperately wants to play basketball in the hope that he will finally gain social acceptance. The kids at his school physically and verbally bully him regularly. But Jaden is afraid that any physical impact in the game will displace the shunt that carries the extra cerebral fluid out of his head and keeps him alive. Colorful characters in Tate’s and Jaden’s life pepper the pages with their own stories, some tragic, but also humorous. Jaden’s mother Rowan is a soap opera star who alternates between Hollywood and the family home in Oregon. She firmly believes she is a witch from a long line of witches, and often tries to convince Jaden of her true heritage. Jaden’s brother Caden is a former wrestler who is now a florist and single dad with a twelve-year-old daughter and three-year-old triplets. His muscular appearance masks his gentleness towards his children. Jaden is a matter-of-fact narrator who sees everything in black-and-white. At times, though, her narrative tends to veer uncharacteristically towards the overt sentimentality of a romance novel whenever she is around her crush, Ethan Robbins, Tate’s doctor. Cool, calm Jaden disappears in raunchy daydreams during scenes with Robbins, and sometimes even when he’s not present. One moment in Jaden’s greenhouse when he comes over for lunch painfully reads: “We waited in the awkward, steamin’ silence together. I reached for another clay pot, then withdrew my hand as I thought of straddling Ethan on my wicker chair with the red pillow. The pot toppled over and I caught it before it hit the floor. I put the pot back, then stared at a ceramic peacock I had on a shelf to distract my rampaging lust.” Jaden’s attraction to Robbins does go to show the length of her devotion to Tate – she refuses to compromise Tate’s access to the best neurosurgeon in the region with a personal relationship. Of less importance is the constant hassle of Dirk Hassells. Yes, that is the character’s actual name. Dirk Hassells is the son of one of Jaden’s clients who has liver cancer. He repeatedly makes sexual advances at her. When his father eventually dies, Hassells sues Jaden for negligence as payback for her rebuffs. His storyline only provides a nuisance to Jaden and doesn’t really contribute to the plot. If Hassells and Robbins perhaps had fallout over Jaden, the tension might have moved the plot forward in that respect. However, the two men never meet and Hassells remains a grumpy and unnecessary secondary character throughout the book. The multiple storylines are not difficult to follow, but the plot is not always linear. Jaden’s memories of her childhood, especially of her sister Brooke’s descent into drug addiction, do provide a decent amount of plot exposition. Moreover, tales of her witchy ancestors provide an important backdrop to the story. The Bruxelles’ witch ancestors, in particular two cousins named Faith and Grace, are models of survival for Jaden and her family. Faith and Grace braved angry mobs, a treacherous ocean passage, the wild American west, and other perils over the course of their lives, yet always came out strong. In the same way, their descendants in the novel face insurmountable obstacles – drugs, physical deformity, and the death of a loved one – and tackle them together. If you don’t mind lengthy family histories, a roundabout plotline, and some whacky characters including a few (possible) witches, A Different Kind of Normal is the book for you....more