Thursday, June 22, 2023

In a Nutshell Reviews

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

The Music of Bees
 by Eileen Garvin
Published by Dutton on April 1, 2021
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

A heartwarming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, following three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life's curveballs, who are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing--and maybe even a second chance--just when they least expect it.

Forty-four-year-old Alice Holtzman is stuck in a dead-end job, bereft of family, and now reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Alice has begun having panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn't turned out the way she dreamed. Even the beloved honeybees she raises in her spare time aren't helping her feel better these days.

In the grip of a panic attack, she nearly collides with Jake--a troubled, paraplegic teenager with the tallest mohawk in Hood River County--while carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck. Charmed by Jake's sincere interest in her bees and seeking to rescue him from his toxic home life, Alice surprises herself by inviting Jake to her farm.

And then there's Harry, a twenty-four-year-old with debilitating social anxiety who is desperate for work. When he applies to Alice's ad for part-time farm help, he's shocked to find himself hired. As an unexpected friendship blossoms among Alice, Jake, and Harry, a nefarious pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population and illuminating deep-seated corruption in the community. The unlikely trio must unite for the sake of the bees--and in the process, they just might forge a new future for themselves.

Beautifully moving, warm, and uplifting, The Music of Bees is about the power of friendship, compassion in the face of loss, and finding the courage to start over (at any age) when things don't turn out the way you expect.

What a touching and feel-good story!

I admit, I came for the bees, and I was absolutely engrossed in all the facts shared with me during this story. I especially like the way the chapter intros paralleled the relationship that was developing between Alice, Jake, and Harry, and it was this friendship that won me over. 

Alice was flailing under the weight of her grief. Following her husband's death, she self-isolated and was trying to deal with her anxiety. Her profound pain and loneliness made my heart ache. But then something very exciting happened. She almost ran over a kid in a wheelchair. I know it sounds like terrible thing, but it actually brought Jake into Alice's life.

Jake was grieving his own loss. He had spent the past year trying to adjust to his life as a paraplegic and was struggling with what his future held. Alice introduced him to the wonderful world of beekeeping, and Jake embraced it full on. I loved his zeal and was excited about this new adventure for him.

Harry rounded out this wonderful little trio. Harry lived with a lot of regrets and had a hard time making decisions for himself. He came west for a fresh start, and like Alice and Jake, he found genuine connections and a "family" who supported and encouraged him. It was lovely to see him blossom in this setting, and I was so proud to see him asserting and finding himself.

Is it terrible that I didn't care as much for the Big Ag plot? It was fine. I mean, it's always great to see David take on Goliath, but it was the friendship and love between these three that really touched my heart.

Overall, it was a joy getting to know Alice, Jake, and Harry, and seeing them grow and heal filled my heart with joy.

The Celebrants
 by Steven Rowley
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on May 30, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

A Big Chill for our times, celebrating decades-long friendships and promises—especially to ourselves—by the bestselling and beloved author of The Guncle.

It’s been a minute—or five years—since Jordan Vargas last saw his college friends, and twenty-eight years since their graduation when their adult lives officially began. Now Jordan, Jordy, Naomi, Craig, and Marielle find themselves at the brink of a new decade, with all the responsibilities of adulthood, yet no closer to having their lives figured out. Though not for a lack of trying. Over the years they’ve reunited in Big Sur to honor a decades-old pact to throw each other living “funerals,” celebrations to remind themselves that life is worth living—that their lives mean something, to one another if not to themselves.

But this reunion is different. They’re not gathered as they were to bolster Marielle as her marriage crumbled, to lift Naomi after her parents died, or to intervene when Craig pleaded guilty to art fraud. This time, Jordan is sitting on a secret that will upend their pact.

A deeply honest tribute to the growing pains of selfhood and the people who keep us going, coupled with Steven Rowley’s signature humor and heart, The Celebrants is a moving tale about the false invincibility of youth and the beautiful ways in which friendship helps us celebrate our lives, even amid the deepest challenges of living.

I love a good friendship story, and the friendship between these five people was a storied one. They may not have constantly been in each other's lives after 30+ years of friendship, but they came when they were called and needed.

Following the death of one of their own right before graduation, they made a pact. This pact involved the others throwing a "living" funeral for someone when they need to be reminded of how much they mattered and how much they were loved. It was interesting to attend all these funerals, but this book was all about the Jordans for me. There were these connecting bits between each funeral when I got to learn more about their love story, and I truly felt so much for them.

I agree with everything mentioned in the synopsis, from the Big Chill vibes to this being a beautiful tale of friendship. And I promise, you will both laugh and cry and feel so much for this group of friends. 

Ska music - yay or nay?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. The Celebrants sounds really good! I need to read it. I loved Lily and the Octopus but didn't have great luck with The Editor. I kind of gave up on the author. I shouldn't have, I guess! Great reviews.

    1. I have Lily but have yet to read it. One of these days. The Celebrants was a special story of friendship. Touching for sure.

  2. I was already taking notice of the title of The Music of Bees, but I hadn't yet checked it out. You definitely gave me all I needed to know to add it to the TBR! The bees brought me in, but I'm loving the sound of the relationships, too.

  3. Sounds like two lovely stories of friendship. Glad you enjoyed both, Sam!

    1. The Celebrants was a tougher book, but both were fantastic friendship stories for sure

  4. OK now I have to buy The Celebrants as I said I was waiting for your review to see if it was worth my money LOL

    1. I think you would enjoy it. It has a lot more weight than The Guncle, but lots of humor too, and it's touching.

  5. I love a good friendship story. I'm glad to hear The Celebrants is good. I loved The Guncle but struggled a bit with Lily and the Octopus.

    1. I have not read Lily though I own it. There's a lot of very emotional and touching moments in The Celebrants. It's not as lighthearted as The Guncle, but it's a great story