Friday Favorites: A Flashback – 1/14/22

My first Friday Favorites of 2022. Seeing as I have been my usual procrastinating self with these posts, meaning I seem to miss more Fridays than not, I’m going to try to do a flashback some Fridays. Dig out some old reviews on books I rated 5 stars. I think it’ll be interesting to see if I remember all of the books I’ve given that high praise to through the years.

The book I’m highlighting this week was the first I rated 5 stars on my blog. Now, I had already been writing my reviews up on Goodreads, so it’s not the first book I ever rated that high. And I do remember this story. Not all the particulars, but the feelings. And isn’t that what matters the most?

Here’s a link to my original post for Out of Play, but below I’ve tweaked things a bit with the updated cover and some good links. It seems the links I’ve used in the past are dead now. But before you read on, I want to express that I remember really enjoying this story. I have this author’s name on my list of authors I’d love to read again, but she really hasn’t had much released since 2016 when I read this book. This is a hard business and I hope she’s able to get more of her work out there. The Kindle edition of this book is only a couple of bucks, and from what I remember it would be well worth the money.

Out of Play
by Joy Norstrom
Release Date:  October 27, 2015
Publisher:  Crooked Cat Publishing
Number of Pages:  211
Kindle Edition
Source:  NetGalley ARC
Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction
Ages 13 and up
It’s been fifteen years of marriage and the threads holding Gillian and Ralph together are wearing thin.

So thin, Gillian isn’t sure it’s worth holding on.

She’s a professional musician and yoga enthusiast who enjoys a good latte. He’s a larper. Larp stands for Live Action Role Play and involves spending weekends chasing imaginary foes in costume.

Gillian seeks support from a therapist and is surprised when she’s encouraged to give Ralph’s hobby a try. “Who knows? It may make you smile. It may make you laugh. It may even improve your sex life. How terrible could it be?”

Gillian’s about to find out.

Will going on a role-play adventure heal Gillian’s marriage, or will the game shed light on everything that is wrong?

The premise of this book seemed interesting to me.  Although nobody in my family is a LARPer (that I know of!) I am surrounded by the type of guys who would possibly do that.  My oldest goes to conventions and often does cosplay when he goes.  So I kind of get it.

Although I really enjoyed the writing style and the story pulled me in, this was a slow starter for me.  I can’t pinpoint the reason though.  Of course the beginning is all set-up which is needed, but that’s nothing new.  There’s a possibility that it’s because I wasn’t a huge fan of the heroine, Gillian.  As the reader, I could totally see where she was going wrong and got frustrated that she wasn’t able to open her own eyes.  Don’t misunderstand, I didn’t dislike her.  I just wasn’t all in with her yet.  As much as she frustrated me, I’ve known real people who have reacted the same way when knee deep in marital ennui.

By halfway through I was all in and had even thought I may actually give this book more than the 3 stars I was initially thinking it deserved.  I still wasn’t thrilled with Gill’s way of dealing with her issues, but somewhere along the way I decided to have her back.

All along I just loved the relationship Gillian had with her best friend, Jas, and her goddaughter, Jas’ daughter Arianna.  It was real and rough and loving and dirty and deep.  They were her support system when she didn’t even realize they were the ones lifting her. 

Where this book transformed for me was when Gillian’s truths started coming out.  Now, most readers will figure out at least the basics of what caused the problems in Gillian and Ralph’s marriage.  It’s the execution of the reveal; the heart-wrenching eye-opening that Gillian has to go through to truly heal.  These are the things that suddenly catapulted this book to damn near perfect in my eyes.  I cannot even describe the feelings that went through me while reading the last few chapters.  After the light humor through the beginning, things got super real.  Having some of these scenes play out in middle of a LARP event kept them from totally burying me in emotions since there was still that element of oddness. 

Joy Norstrom has a bright future in writing ahead of her.

5 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely*

About Cheri

I'm the mom of two boys and wife to my high school sweetheart. Our oldest, Josh, is living at home while working and paying off student loans. Our youngest, Griffin recently left his active duty Army job and is now National Guard here at home. He moved back to Michigan with his wife Kirsten and our beautiful granddaughter Hazel. I work part time and try to fit as much reading into my life as possible.
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