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Posts Tagged ‘book review’

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:

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – Sacajawea

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

During a recent trip to South Dakota I discovered the novel Sacajawea in the Mt Rushmore gift shop.  I was intrigued and decided to give this massive paperback tome a try.  I love South Dakota and I am very interested in our country’s westward expansion and native cultures.

By all accounts, Sacajawea’s life started out pretty idyllic but it didn’t take things long to quickly unravel.  She experienced separation from her family, was traded as a commodity, treated badly and without respect by several key people in her life, and experienced many personal losses and disappointments.  When Sacajawea had the opportunity to join the harrowing Lewis & Clark expedition she was able to reconnect and honor many parts of her cultural heritage, while at the same time she came to appreciate some of the customs of the white explorers.  Much of Sacajawea’s life was tumultuous and uncertain but, based on all that is known of her, she was strong and resilient.

One thing cannot be denied about Waldo’s novel: extensive research was conducted to craft this novel.  The notes were lengthy but added a lot of depth to the novel.  I appreciate this level of research and attention to detail.  Even with this extensive research, there is much that is not known about Sacajawea’s life after the expedition.  There are various accounts of the direction her life took after the expedition and where and how she died.  Waldo presents one widely accepted version of Sacajawea’s later life and this, I think, is where the novel loses some of its traction; I think the first three quarters of the novel are stronger and more clearly presented.

From a historical perspective, Sacajawea is a wonderful novel that gives a voice to one of the most iconic women of American culture.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of the American west.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.