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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Fiction Review – Someday, Someday, Maybe

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

 

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

So, I suppose I should start this review with a disclaimer.  I love Lauren Graham.  I loved her in The Gilmore Girls and Parenthood.  When I found out Lauren had written a novel (yes, we’re on a first name basis), I had to add it to my list of books to read.  Granted, it took me a few years to get to it (I mean, in my defense, I’ve moved twice and had four surgeries since it was released so I’ve had some things going on).  But, this summer, it was the perfect go-to for pool reading.

Here’s the breakdown of Someday, Someday, Maybe: Franny Banks has placed herself on a timeline to become a successful actress.  She has given herself three years to really be able to make a living as an actress, no more waitressing and odd jobs to make ends meet.  Someday, Someday, Maybe picks up with only six months to go on Franny’s timeline.  We follow Franny on her ups and downs during these final months of auditions, call backs, agent interviews, acting class, waitressing gigs, boyfriend drama, and a family wedding.

I won’t give away the ending, you’ll have to read the novel yourself to determine if Franny finds her success as an actress.  With excerpts from a handwritten daily planner dispersed amongst the chapters, Graham has a funny, fast-paced novel that was quirky but enjoyable.  The sections of daily planner really took me back to my college days when my life was chronicled by the notes in my daily planner.  I’m not sure that was even an intention of Lauren’s, but I rather loved it!

I also really enjoyed the reader’s guide at the end of the paperback edition I read that included a conversation with Lauren and her Parenthood co-star Mae Whitman, whom I also love. But the thing I loved most about this novel was the character of Dan.  Dan is one of Franny’s roommates and the scenes with him are some of the best in the novel.  His personality is endearing and his changing relationship with Franny was, for me, what pushed the novel along. The questions about their relationship kept me interested almost as much as wanting to know if Franny would get that big break for her acting career!

If you want a novel that is both lighthearted and heartwarming this summer, give Someday, Someday, Maybe a chance.

 

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Beautiful Day

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I have read numerous books by Elin Hilderbrand and what I enjoy most is that she can transport me to Nantucket with her vivid descriptions.  Beautiful Day is no exception to this, but I don’t think the other areas of the novel delivered quite as I hoped.

The novel begins with a wedding invitation.  Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married in Nantucket.  Almost every detail of the wedding has come from The Notebook, a guide written by her mother Beth before her death to help Jenna with the planning of her wedding.  Margot, Jenna’s sister, is dealing her own problems and dreading the entire wedding weekend. She has been at her sister’s side and followed almost every direction in The Notebook.  Beth has given direction on flowers, colors, location, music, food…everything.  The pressure to have the wedding Beth envisioned is a pressure that has weighed heavily on Jenna, Margot, and their father Doug.  Friends and family descend on Nantucket, but The Notebook doesn’t include guidance on what to do when there are doubts and cold feet, thus the perfect summer wedding may now be called off.

In true Hilderbrand style, Nantucket and the Carmichael island home (even the tree in the backyard) are characters in this novel.  As Hilderbrand does best, her locations become characters themselves and the reader can almost feel the salty breezes.

I think my main issue with this book was The Notebook itself.  I understand that Hilderbrand wanted it to be an outpouring of love from mother to daughter, but to me it came off as overbearing and manipulative. The entries in The Notebook irritated me and, even with all the praise for Beth from other characters, came across as a power play with the impression that Jenna would be a disappointment to her mother if Jenna didn’t follow every word. This seemed to overshadow the entire novel since excerpts from The Notebook are dispersed throughout the novel.

I think Hilderbrand’s position as queen of the beach read is probably safe, but I hope her next book that I read leaves a better impression on me.  And I will read another of her novels, that is of no doubt. Hilderbrand offers a type of escapism that typically is very satisfying for me.  Even though Beautiful Day didn’t leave me with a beautiful feeling, I still recommend Hilderbrand’s novels.  If you’re interested, check out my review of Hilderbrand’s Winter Street previously posted in the PaperBackSwap.com Blog.

 

 

 

Audiobook (Fiction) Review – The Bette Davis Club

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

On a recent work trip, I listened to The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter.  Unbeknownst to me, Jane Lotter passed away in 2013. The forward by her daughter Tessa highlighted Lotter’s sense of humor and life as a writer. It was an unexpected and touching way for the book to begin.

Margo Just is a middle-aged woman who is in California for her niece’s wedding.  Dreading the day because of her very strained relationship with her half-sister Charlotte, Margo is drinking double martinis and hoping to get through the event unscathed.  When her niece Georgia disappears before the wedding, Margo is offered $50,000 by Charlotte to go after Georgia and bring her back, along with property that Georgia took without Charlotte’s permission.  Margo has no idea what this mysterious property is and doesn’t want to get involved but finds herself in need of the money and decides to accept the challenge.

Margo finds herself in her father’s classic red 1955 MG convertible with Georgia’s jilted fiancé Tully.  This is the start of a long car ride of awkward discussions, petty arguments, a search for clues of Georgia’s location, and a reality check on the state of her relationships and life.

I thought The Bette Davis Club was a funny and heartwarming novel.  Margo was self-deprecating and seemed like she was in denial but she was funny and charismatic.  Margo’s life had been punctuated by hurt and disappointment that colored her life choices but through the journey to find Georgia, Margo managed to find herself and come to grips with the losses she had endured.

I have since learned that Lotter wrote her own obituary and, after reading it, I wish I would have had a chance to know her in life.  Funny and witty with a great grasp of just the right words to use, Lotter was a humorist of the highest order and I highly recommend her novel.

 

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – The Courtier’s Secret

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

The Courtier’s Secret by Donna Russo Morin

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

The Courtier’s Secret was my first official novel of summer.  I found it to be the perfect action adventure/love story to read by the pool (or on my pool float) while sipping a cool beverage. I was transported from sunny Florida to France in the 1600s.

Louis XIV is reigning over a court of opulence and deception.  Many courtiers love the grandeur that is Versailles, while others feel suffocated by the pressure of performing every day to the whims of the King.  Jeanne du Bois is newly returned to court and under the oppressive thumb of her abusive father, Gaston.  His only use for his daughter is to marry her off to a gentleman of the court who can improve her family’s standing before the King.

Jeanne is not the pliable daughter Gaston desires. Jeanne doesn’t want to be a pawn in his schemes and even through fierce, violent arguments and beatings, Jeanne will not bow to her father’s will. Her uncle secretly gives her fencing lessons and Jeanne feels most free when she is using a sword, independent and strong. Jeanne rebels against being the submissive and accommodating courtier that she is expected to be.

One day at the end of her secret lessons, Jeanne and her uncle jump into the fray to assist the Musketeers in an unexpected breach at the castle.  This one act takes Jeanne on an adventure with the Musketeers and she becomes a part of their efforts to foil a plot to assassinate the Queen.  In the process of building friendships with the Musketeers, Jeanne meets Henri who has his own family secrets that could change the course of Jeanne’s life and save the Queen.

I found The Courtier’s Secret to be very entertaining and would highly recommend it for those who enjoy historical fiction.  I thought the characters were varied and interesting, even if I found some of them to be despicable. I think the key for reading this book is to remember it is historical fiction and was meant to be entertaining, not a history lesson.  In the Acknowledgements, the author lists other books and resources for readers who want to learn about the time period.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Truly Madly Guilty

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Liane Moriarty is one of the authors I have really fallen in love with over the past couple of years.  I’ve read five of her books so far and each one has a gripping, need-to-read feel.  I know many readers have not been overly complimentary of Truly Madly Guilty but I tend to disagree.

Mirah gets a book signed by Liane Moriarty

Mirah gets a book signed by Liane Moriarty

I had the pleasure of attending a book event with Liane Moriarty during her promotional tour for Truly Madly Guilty. She was funny, personable, and self-deprecating. I could instantly see how her personality had come through in her books.  Moriarty said one common theme for all of her books is guilt and what different people do when they carry a burden of guilt. I thought back to her books I had read and realized that guilt did, indeed, have a some role in every story but in Truly Madly Guilty, guilt is front and center in the plot.

Truly Madly Guilty is about six characters who attend a barbecue where ‘something’ happens that changes their lives.  But what happened?!  Moriarty does drag out the story and leave the readers wondering for quite a while.  I admit, I felt very uncomfortable reading this book most of the time.  I had a sinking feeling in my gut during all of the chapters that took place at the barbecue…what was about to happen?  I felt nervous and apprehensive the more I read and even though I didn’t really like the characters, I had to keep reading. I had a similar reaction while reading Gone Girlcheck out my review to that novel here on the blog.  I think when an author has the ability to create such a visceral reaction to a story then she must be doing something right!

The characters in Truly Madly Guilty were not my favorite literary characters. I had a difficult time relating to any of them and that did make it more complicated for me to really care about what happened to them. However, the mystery of the barbecue kept me reading so I decided to give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.  For a 5 star Moriarty recommendation, I would suggest The Husband’s Secret.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Small Great Things

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I love Jodi Picoult’s novels because of her deft tackling of ethical and moral issues that face our society.  I have been a fan since I read The Pact many years ago.  When I saw that Jodi was going to be in Kansas City during her promotional tour of Small Great Things I immediately purchased tickets and it was a wonderful event!

According to Jodi, she started a book about race relations many years ago but set it aside when she felt it wasn’t her place to bring up the issue.  Given recent events in the US, she felt it was time to tackle a story about racism and our societal and learned attitudes about race.  Picoult described her in depth research, from meeting with former white supremacists, talking medical jargon with nurses, and meeting with a group of African American women to discuss Ruth’s voice and language.  One thing that cannot be denied through reading this novel is that Picoult did her absolute best to write with authenticity.

Small Great Things is the story of Ruth Jefferson, an African American labor and delivery nurse with over twenty years’ experience. During another regular day, conducting a regular check of a newborn in the ward, Ruth’s life is turned upside down.  She is told the parents, who are white supremacists, don’t want her treating their son.  When there are complications after a routine procedure and the baby dies, the parents accuse Ruth of killing their child. In the aftermath, Ruth questions the choices she has made throughout her life, how she has raised her son, and if her career will recover.

In true Picoult style of telling the story through various points of view, the author draws the reader into the gripping, misunderstood and complicated lives of all of the characters.   What do we each know about other races and what different roles does privilege play in society that we may have not even considered before?  What creates hate in our society? Picoult has given us a book that holds a mirror up to our faces and forces us to look honestly at ourselves, our words, and our actions.  Small Great Things earns 5 solid stars.

Mirah gets a book signed by Jodi Picoult

Mirah gets a book signed by Jodi Picoult

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fiction Review – Made in the U.S.A.

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

 

Many years ago I read Where the Heart Is and I really enjoyed it.  When I saw Made in the U.S.A. on the shelf, I decided to give it a chance and, once again, Billie Letts didn’t let me down.

Told with the same straight-forward voice as Where the Heart Is, Made in the U.S.A. introduces us to Lutie and Fate McFee.  Children of a ne’er-do-well father who has left them with his girlfriend in Spearfish, South Dakota while he goes to Las Vegas to make his fortune, Lutie and Fate are used to a life with difficulties.  They soon find themselves struggling to take care of themselves in a world where they are at a serious disadvantage with limited resources and support.

When hope is lost and times beyond desperate, enter in a helping hand and support system that seems to be too fantastic and heaven-sent to be real.  A stranger with a way to help and a possible family where Ludie and Fate can finally find a place to belong.  But this stranger has issues of his own that the children don’t understand.

There were some very difficult passages in Made in the U.S.A.; passages that were painful and heartbreaking to read. Children who have been hurt and traumatized due to the actions of those who were meant to protect them leaves them in situations that are precarious, dangerous, and demoralizing.  Made in the U.S.A. is a story about being more than the tragedy of our circumstances.  Heartfelt and powerful, Letts provides a commentary of hope and faith during the darkest of times.