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Posts Tagged ‘book recommendation’

Historical Fiction Review – The Winter Sea

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

When thinking about this review I had a difficult time deciding what category to put it in…The Winter Sea is historical fiction, with the feel of chick lit and modern day fiction and a little fantasy thrown in for good measure.  I decided to go with historical fiction due to the presence of actual historical figures and events that were integral to the success of the novel.  But with all of that said, I hope the readers who claim not to be fans of historical fiction will still give it a chance.

Carrie McClelland is an author conducting research regarding the efforts to restore James Stewart (the young King James) to his throne in Scotland.  Beginning her research in France, where James was living in exile, she soon realizes she actually needs to be in Scotland and changes the perspective of her story.  Through historical research and family connection, Carrie creates the story of Sophia and her place at Slains Castle, her relationships with various supporters of King James, and her love story that transcends war and exile. The depth of Carrie’s connection to the story, and the way in which the truth is revealed to her, leaves her questioning what she has long believed of her family history.

I think Kearsley has a winner with this novel.  She used an interesting format (chapters set in the present day and chapters that were from Carrie’s historical novel that she is writing) and I liked the mirroring of the past in the present. Kearsley carefully weaves together the past and present and makes sure all of the details connect between the past and present. Kearsley created an ethereal love story that left me feeling hopeful and fulfilled with both stories being told.  For creating fantastic characters and leaving me satisfied with the story but still wanting more, I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

Audiobook Review – The Litigators

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

The Litigators by John Grisham

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I have really been enjoying listening to John Grisham audiobooks lately.  On a recent whirlwind road trip I listened to The Litigators.  The version was abridged and, while I usually prefer unabridged, this was a decent abridgment.  And there were times my husband and I were both laughing out loud, which is always a good sign.

David Zinc has had it at work.  He wants out of his high-powered, high-stress job at a law firm where he is being worked into the ground.  David reaches the end of his rope and leaves his job in dramatic fashion and, afterwards, he finds his way to the law firm of Finley & Figg.  Finley & Figg is a totally different kind of law firm than the one he left. He finds himself in an unconventional law firm with lawyers who can’t agree on how to get new business or how to handle clients.  David gets his footing and confidence while pursuing a case that changes everything for him and Finley & Figg.

I thought The Litigators was a legal drama with heart and humor.  It has a fair share of twists, cut throat lawyers and just enough doubt to make it interesting.  One recommendation: definitely read (listen to) the epilogue!

 

 

Fiction Review – Winter Street

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

This past holiday season I was looking for a new holiday book and found Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand.  I have read (and listened) to other Hilderbrand books and one thing I like is that she can make her locations seem almost like additional characters to the story.

Enter Winter Street and the Quinn family. Kelley and Mitzi Quinn own and operate the Winter Street Inn, a bed & breakfast in Nantucket. Mitzi drops a bombshell on Kelley just before Christmas and his children rally around him to provide support and encouragement.  But little does Kelley know, his children are dealing with various crises of their own.  And what about Kelley’s ex-wife Margaret, where does she fit in?  Mitzi has never liked her but do her children and Kelley need her now?  And what about Bart, the Kelley’s son with Mitzi and new Marine who recently went to the Middle East? All calls and emails to him are unable to be delivered. Is he safe?

Everyone gathers at the Winter Street Inn for the holiday and to support Kelly but does he really want to keep the bed & breakfast after this holiday heartbreak?  The Inn is a Nantucket staple but Kelley might not have the heart to keep it going himself.

Winter Street is a holiday novel about the function within a dysfunctional family and the power of moving on and accepting things you cannot change. It was a quick read that is lighthearted and great for a cold (snowy) winter’s day. I’m looking forward to joining the Quinns again in Winter Stroll.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Mambo in Chinatown

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

 

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

 

It has been a very long time since I picked up a book and couldn’t put it down.  When I started Mambo in Chinatown I thought I would just read for a few hours one morning and then get on with the rest of my day.  But that was not to be.  I couldn’t stop myself from turning the pages and I finished it in one day…less than 9 hours from when I started!

For me, Kwok found just the right balance with this book. She was able to address serious issues without being preachy or overly sentimental. She was also able to cover a variety of topics without the plot seeming thin.  There were moments of intense emotion but also moments of lightheartedness that made me smile.

Charlie is a beautifully created, sympathetic character and I wanted to know how her story would develop and how she would change. I felt emotions on her behalf; I was in tune with her and shared her feelings when she was hopeful, frustrated, excited and disappointed.  I really wanted her to succeed and find her true place. Wanting to know what would happen for Charlie is what kept me reading all day.

Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown is a touching book about really getting to know yourself without being dependent on other people to tell you what to believe or do.  I definitely recommend it and know I now need to add Kwok’s novel Girl in Translation to my reading list…and I’ve already requested it from a fellow PBSer!

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Sugar Queen

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

 

The Sugar Queen was recommended to me by a friend after I told her I enjoyed Allen’s Garden Spells.  I’m glad I took her recommendation; I wasn’t disappointed in The Sugar Queen.

Josey is living in practical isolation with her mother and housekeeper.  She has forced herself into basic servitude to her mother in an effort to make up for being a difficult child.  One day she finds a woman hiding out in her closet. What? Yes, Josey finds Della Lee, local waitress, hiding in her closet.  Josey is perplexed and annoyed and doesn’t understand what Della Lee is doing there and why she won’t leave.

Pretty soon Josey finds herself going out on errands for Della Lee and, miraculously, her life starts to open up.  Josey finds a new friendship but could she find more?  After years of being without friends or outside hobbies, she’s making decisions she knows her mother would not approve of and she’s daring to be herself.

The Sugar Queen has a little dusting of fantasy but that is part of the charm about Allen’s novels. If you’re looking for a little book escape with family drama, love and friendship with some magic thrown in for good measure, pick up a copy of The Sugar Queen.  (And if you can manage to get your hands on the Random House Reader’s Circle edition, take the time to read the Reader’s Guide at the end…there are some great tidbits in there!)

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – Colonel Brandon’s Diary

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

 

Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I love Jane Austen’s novels.  I have read each one more than once and I wish there were more.  I am forced to go to Austen retellings and continuations by other authors.  Amanda Grange has a series of novels that provide retellings from the heroes’ points of view.   I recently picked up Colonel Brandon’s Diary from one of my (too many?) ‘To Read’ bookshelves.

What I enjoyed about this book is I think it made Colonel Brandon more relatable.  In Sense and Sensibility he seems so serious and hard to get to know at times. This novel sheds some light on his possible thoughts and reasons for his actions.  Grange presents a Brandon with a gentle, caring spirit, which I think we see in Austen’s novel but not to this extent.

Robbed of happiness in love at a young age, Brandon thinks he is destined to be alone until his path crosses with that of Marianne Dashwood.  Brandon continues to try to right the wrongs of the past and make up for things he think went wrong because of his decisions (or indecision).

While I don’t think Grange’s novel possesses the depth of Austen’s novels, I think Grange does pay good homage to the characters and the spirit of Austen’s novels.  I think this novel series of heroes’ diaries is a fun way to revisit some favorite Austen characters.  I have also read Captain Wentworth’s Diary and Mr. Knightley’s Diary from Grange’s diary series and I liked Colonel Brandon’s Diary the best of the three.  If you’re a fellow Austenite, you may want to give this series a try.

Historical Fiction Review – Ross Poldark

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall (1783-1787) by Winston Graham

 

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

 

I am a huge fan of almost anything shown on Masterpiece Classic.  I get a lot of my reading suggestions through these television programs.  This year a new version of Poldark was added to the Masterpiece schedule and it was a huge success.  When I learned more and discovered it was based on a book series, I had to do some research.  Much to my joy, there are twelve books in the Poldark Saga!

In the first installment, Ross Poldark is just returning from fighting for the British in the Revolutionary War.  He is battered and tired and ready to settle back into a life in England.  Ross is looking forward to being reunited with his love Elizabeth but his return is not the happy one he envisioned.  Elizabeth is no longer his love, his father has passed away, and his homestead is in shambles.  Thus begins the battle to bring order and purpose back to his life under unexpected and dismal circumstances.  Ross must deal with family drama and ridicule from many in the district.  He doesn’t live up to the expectations many people have for him and is forced to forge his own path without their stamp of approval or assistance.  Graham gives Ross a rich voice with dialogue that is witty and direct, a style that was often avoided in those times because of tradition and social graces.

Ross has definite flaws and I found myself occasionally getting frustrated with him but he is also very mindful and, at a time when others are warped and controlled by greed, he remains a step above.  I absolutely love his cousin Verity and hope she is a prominent character in the future novels. Set in Cornwall, the landscape and descriptions of the mines and mining practices of the time were very interesting and not belabored (I’m thinking of the utterly painful pages and pages of descriptions of Russian farming practices in Anna Karenina).  I really enjoyed this first novel in the series and I look forward to learning more about the future of the Poldark family.  5 stars for Ross Poldark!