Two NetGalley reviews in one today as I’m reading quite a lot and I really don’t like letting reviews spill over into the next year; I also have the 31st reserved for my Iris Murdoch Project post and the 1st for my Christmas Acquisitions, State of the TBR AND What I’m Reading First post. So here we go. I read these in the opposite order to how they’re presented here, but I REALLY want people to read “Radio Free Vermont”!

Bill McKibben – “Radio Free Vermont”

(NetGalley 13 September 2017)

Vern is a 72 year old, widowed, radio veteran who has had to go on the run when he and Perry, a young IT ace, inadvertently became labelled as terrorists after flooding a new Walmart with raw sewage. They’re staying at Sylvia’s home, hiding when she runs her school for new Vermont citizens, showing them how to be good neighbours in a state where that’s important, and they’re joined by the marvellous biathlete, Trance, and Vern’s nonagenarian mum in inciting the citizens of Vermont to celebrate the small and local and push back against the big and impersonal. Rather than committing acts of violence or sedition, they prefer positive or amusing action and discussion, pricking egos and promoting the small and local rather marvellously.

I loved it when Ben and Jerry’s launched a special commemorative ice cream flavour and the creative acts the citizens embark upon. The women are strong and have full agency and people come in all types with different abilities and special talents. Elderly women share sewing instructions for the new flag on their Facebook pages and biathletes get on their skis to help – it’s a lovely read!

It’s a clever and funny satire which has a positive and strong message of hope and redemption which I’m sure will resonate with many people. There’s also a lot about nature and the environment, with Vern speaking at length about the way nature, once left alone again, will get itself together and start to repair itself, acting in quiet ways, unlike the more showy deer and bears of other states. The moral is stated in a lovely afterword by the author:

When confronted by small men doing big and stupid things, we need to resist with all the creativity and wit we can muster, and if we can do so without losing the civility that makes life enjoyable, then so much the better.

Being a new book, it references the pink pussy hats and non-violent occupation of airports after Trump’s election and the Muslim Travel Ban, but don’t worry if you’re bothered by Trump and tired of spleen and nastiness: this will restore your faith in human nature. I very much encourage people to get hold of a copy of this!

Thank you to NetGalley and publisher Blue Rider Press (Penguin) for making this available in return for an honest review. It was published on 07 November 2017 and I heartily encourage people to go out and buy it!

Debbie Macomber – “An Engagement in Seattle”

(NetGalley 13 December 2017)

Like many of Debbie Macomber’s books, this was made up of two shorter tales.

“Groom Wanted” wasn’t DM at her best, to be honest. It felt like it was one of her rebranded older books (the dates with the main character’s grandmother being able to fall in love at the start of WW2 yet be in her 80s for the story and the use of BlackBerries dated it to around 2000). That’s fine, but Macomber’s style has developed, and although this had a businesswoman heroine and an interesting Russian love interest, it was a bit formulaic and very repetitive in explaining exactly how people feel over and over, etc. It’s apparently the start of a series, and room was left open for the hero and heroine’s siblings to fall in love, but I’m not sure I’d read on. A bit disappointing.

“Bride Wanted” was much better. Although the Alaska series was a republished one, I really enjoyed it, and here we have a similar setup, with Chase coming down to Seattle from (very) small-town Alaska, having bought a billboard ad requesting a wife. However, he meets Lesley anyway, and then he has some explaining to do himself, and there’s a meddling ex-fiance making things difficult. It’s much more sharp and fun – when the two men meet, I loved the description of Chase: “The full plumage of his male pride was fanned out in opulent display”. There are some lovely side characters and the fun really begins when Lesley finds herself installed in Alaska … and Mom comes to visit. The book was worth it for this one.

Thank you to the publisher Harlequin / Mira for making this book available in exchange for an honest review. It was published today, 26 December.