PaperBackSwap Blog


Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Historical Fiction Review – Leaving Independence

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Leaving Independence by Leanne W. Smith

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I am always in the search of a great western.  Leaving Independence is a story of Abigail Baldwyn’s journey on the Oregon Trail with her children.  Abigail believed her husband Robert was killed in the Civil War but when she finds out he is alive and intentionally didn’t come back to his family, her grief changes to anger and then to resolve to find him.  While taken aback by the tone of her husband’s letter, she uproots herself and her children to travel west to, hopefully, be reconciled and reunited with him

Leaving Independence is full of the usual western genre suspects: the mysterious stranger, the strict religious believer, the rough cowboy, the damsel(s), etc.  But what category does Hoke Matthews fit in?  Hired to lead one of the companies during Abigail’s trip on the Oregon Trail, Hoke seems to be a man of integrity with loyal friends and the respect of the others; however, he is very secretive and generally keeps to himself.  Abigail and her children soon bond with Hoke and as the trail gets closer to Abigail’s husband,  Hoke begins to realize he has developed feelings for the family. But what will happen when Abigail and Robert are reunited?

Much of Leaving Independence is rather predictable.  In addition to the usual cast of characters, there are the usual trail complications: dangerous water crossings, weather difficulties, snakebites, illness, etc. Smith provides a story with characters that were fun to read about but the story left me a little unsatisfied with the quick conclusion.  I’m not sure this will make it on to my list of great westerns, it was an enjoyable read. 3 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Fiction Review – Mambo in Chinatown

Thursday, July 21st, 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 at different times 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 debut novel Girl in Translation to my reading list.

Fiction Review – Girl in Translation

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I recently read Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown in one day.  It was so good I could not put it down.  So when I realized I had missed Kwok’s debut novel Girl in Translation I immediately ordered it.  I was not disappointed! I think I have a new author to add to my list of favorites.

In Girl in Translation we are introduced to Kimberly Chang, a sharp, intuitive, and intelligent girl who has just immigrated to the US (Brooklyn) from Hong Kong.  Her mother’s belief in family tradition and resulting dependence on their family for protection and assistance creates mixed emotions and doubt in Kimberly. Girl in Translation is Kimberly finding herself in a new country by finding her voice and strength.

Girl in Translation is so skillfully written. As a reader I felt connected to Kimberly on a deeper level because I almost felt that I was learning to translate the American experience along with her. Her coming of age is a story universally understood but Kimberly’s coming of age took on new complexity and depth due to her experiences and challenges.

Kwok has a straight-forward and poignant writing style that creates a realistic point of view and experiences for her characters.  Kwok provides such realistic portrayals of life for immigrants from Hong Kong that it seems effortless but I know it must be crafted with deep emotion, honesty, and understanding.  I highly recommend both Mambo in Chinatown and Girl in Translation.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Heat’s On

Monday, July 18th, 2016

The Heat’s On by Chester Himes

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

This 1966 novel was re-published under the title Come Back, Charleston Blue, after the movie adaptation of the same name.

Two dope dealers, Sister Heavenly and Uncle Saint, are after a load of heroin stuffed into a string of eels. Their quest for this elusive stash results in a dozen murders and a bombing. Series heroes Grave Digger and Coffin Ed have to bend the law to get the job done.

This is a disturbing novel: Himes’ unrelenting vision posits a USA where thug and police lawlessness and violence are out of control, both fuel and exhaust of social breakdown. James Baldwin said of Himes’ Harlem novels, ”this web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger, danger, darkness.”

 

 

Audiobook Review – Then Came You

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

 

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Jennifer Weiner’s Then Came You is a novel told through various voices.  I listened to the audiobook and was quickly drawn into the lives of each character and became very curious about how all of the characters’ stories would come together.

At its essence, Then Came You is a love story that is multi-layered and multi-faceted.  Characters who probably would not have ever been in the same story come together through a variety of both positive and negative decisions.

Julie is ‘discovered’ in the mall but not by a modeling agency, by an agency that provides eggs to people who are trying to have children.  Her decision to donate her eggs is rooted in her love of family but will this be as simple a choice as she thinks?

Annie is married and she and her husband are struggling to make ends meet.  As a mother of her own children, she knows that being pregnant is something she knows how to do.  She sees the prospect of being a surrogate as a way she can make much-needed money for her family while helping another family at the same time.

But how will Julie and Annie’s decisions impact other characters in the story?  Weiner gives a unique voice to each character and deftly links the lives of all of the characters together.  I think listening to the audiobook was the right choice for me. The characters were funny, witty, sarcastic, condescending, and caring and their personalities were so clearly portrayed by the narrators.  If you’re in the mood for some good chick lit with some scheming, backstabbing, and forgiveness, you may want to give Then Came You a listen.

 

 

 

Nonfiction Review – Troublemaker

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Several months ago Leah Remini made the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote her book Troublemaker.  I was intrigued by her story of leaving her church after so many years and decided to read the book.

Remini is open and forthright in this telling of her life and, sometimes sordid, history with Scientology.  Knowing nothing other than some vocal celebrities practice Scientology and that it is based on L. Ron Hubbard’s writings, I was interested in learning more.

Remini doesn’t point the finger at Scientology and blame it for all of her troubles.  She openly admits she sometimes made the wrong choices and she could have done things differently.  Remini also acknowledges that Scientology and many of its practices helped shape her into being a better person; trying her best to help others and be a good member of her church.  However, eventually Remini realized there was something missing from her faith and she was disturbed by some of her interactions with others in the church.

Delivered with humor, wit, and honesty, I really enjoyed Remini’s book.  It was eye-opening and I found it so intriguing to be able to learn more about the inner workings and practices of Scientology and how she came to be a part of the organization.  For the reader who wants the scoop on celebrity inside information, there is some of that to whet their appetite but, fortunately for the rest of us, that is not the primary focus in the book.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Paper Magician Series

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

The Paper Magician series is a series unlike any other I have read.  I experienced reader highs and lows and moments of confusion and clarity through a story that was refreshing and enchanting in its uniqueness.

The series begins with The Paper Magician.  Ceony Twill does not want to be a Folder, a magician who uses paper.  She wants to be almost any other kind of magician.  But upon completing her schooling at Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, she is forced to choose folding due to the low numbers of current Folders.  In order to finish her education and become a professional, practicing magician, Ceony must successfully complete her apprenticeship with a mentor Folder and she is placed with Emery Thane.  Ceony and Emery develop an unexpected connection and they are projected into an adventure of fear and love.

Throughout The Paper Magician, and in books 2 and 3 of the series (The Glass Magician and The Master Magician, respectively), Ceony and Emery are thrown on the course of fighting and defeating Excisioners, magicians who practice illegal flesh magic.  They both have moments of self-doubt and they question everything they know about how magic works. What can an apprentice magician have to offer to defeat a magic that other practiced magicians cannot?  And how can she manage to focus on her apprenticeship and passing her final magician’s exam while trying to defeat this dark magic? And what about the feelings and connection she has for Emery, does he feel the same?

I thought book 1, The Paper Magician, was the weakest of the series.  The ‘quest’ Ceony jumped into was long-winded and I started to lose some interest. I felt having Ceony basically on her own so soon wasn’t the easiest scenario to believe and I felt like the character development wasn’t totally successful.  But even with that disappointment in the first book, the premise of the series brought me back for more.  Happily, for me, books 2 and 3 were more fast-paced and allowed the readers to really get to know the characters more deeply and understand their personal motivations.  I read books 1 and 2 but listened to the audiobook of book 3.  The narrator for The Master Magician was adept at bringing life to the different characters and listening to the book gave me different visualizations of the scenes.

Overall, I found The Paper Magician series unique and thoughtfully considered.  Every story line has a purpose and each is a part of the larger picture.  Readers looking to go on a magical adventure should check out this series.

Books 2 and 3 in the series: