R E V I E W :: THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY by Freya Sampson

June Jones had planned to leave her home town for university, but a family emergency kept her in Chalcot, the small English village, and she developed a solitary existence working at the library and spending time immersed in books. As her world shrank, so did her self-confidence. Yet, she adhered to her routine, and she loved her job, even though her boss, Marjorie, was insufferable.

Her ordered existence, however, is disrupted when the council announced budget constraints would lead to closing some of the libraries in the district. At first, June avoids explicitly aligning with “FOCL” (Friends of Chalcot Library), but watching the devoted patrons fighting for the library and understanding all the ways the library is essential to them inspires her to take a stand for what she believes. Her new friendships make her realize her loneliness, and she even rekindles communication with Alex Cheng, a classmate from London in town helping at his family’s restaurant. Despite June’s efforts and the rising community support, powerful forces are at work behind the scenes against the library.

I loved the library setting and all the library denizens. They were interesting secondary characters who showed that libraries are more than repositories of books. Once their backstories were revealed, they also challenged stereotypes. I also liked the age diversity—a precocious young boy to an elderly man and everything in between.

June at times frustrated me, she was so conflict-averse. On the one hand, I share that trait so empathize. On the other, June really let Marjorie take advantage of her and demand inappropriate personal tasks.

While there is a romance between June and Alex, it’s not the focus of the book, and I even wish that there had been more scenes with him. The book reminded me more of A Man Called Ove or All the Lonely People told from a thirty-year-old’s perspective.

Review: THE OTHER ME

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng, Publication Date: August 10, 2021


An aspiring artist an alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kelly never looked back when she left her Michigan hometown. But on her birthday, while attending her best friend’s art opening, she opens the door to the bathroom and walks into her own twenty-ninth birthday party in Michigan with her family and a husband, Eric, who had been a high school acquaintance. She has twelve years of new memories—but has echoes of her Chicago life.

What’s more, she experiences glitches: her tattoos fade in and out, and when she asks Eric about conversations they’ve had, he denies them. She doesn’t doubt he loves her, but he also has a controlling impulse and a covert relationship with a secretive and security-conscious start-up.

Kelly tries to find her real life, but there’s no one she can really trust, not even her own memories.

For me, The Other Me started slowly, and I thought there was too much time and repetition regarding the authenticity of Kelly’s relationship with Eric while I would have been happier for Kelly and Linnea to interact more. Once the situation clarified, Kelly determined a course of action, and more characters entered the narrative, I thought the action was more exciting and that interesting ethical issues were introduced. Trying to keep it vague – best to go into it without too many preconceived ideas!

Thanks to @NetGalley and @Berkleypub for providing a digital reading copy in exchange for an honest review and to @berittalksbooks for organizing the #berkleywritesstrongwomen #berkleybuddyreads!