Book Review | Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Authour:
Paula McLain
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 1st, 2018
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“I didn’t want to cause trouble; I only knew what I knew. That Ernest could eclipse me, large as any sun, without even trying. That he was too famous, too far along in his own career, too sure of what he wanted. He was too married, too dug into the life he’d built in Key West. Too driven, too dazzling.

Too Hemingway.” (p. 100)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Paula McLain talk for the second time. The first time was for her book Circling the Sun which is a fictional account about the life of Beryl Markham, a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. In her latest book, Love and Ruin she returns to Hemingway by telling the story of Martha Gellhorn, a prominent war correspondent during her time and the woman who would become Hemingway’s third wife.

Now I’m not a fan of Hemingway, despite the fact that he is a great writer, however I was incredibly interested in Martha Gellhorn’s story solely for the reason that I knew her as a woman who despised being a “footnote” to Hemingway as she was an accomplished writer on her own before and after her marriage. And even though I was unable to connect with Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun, I was willing to give Love and Ruin a chance since I was actually intrigued by Martha Gellhorn, the person in addition to the life she led.

I’m not as avid of a historical fiction reader as I used to be so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Paula McLain and Love and Ruin. However, I was pleasantly surprised that unlike Beryl, I was actually able to connect with the character of Martha. I loved her desire to jump right into the action and obtain the stories from the civilians themselves. And I could relate to her love of adventure, especially as she grew older.

For the majority of the novel, Love and Ruin is a quiet novel and not much happens. However, it does eventually pick up and of course, the prose is lovely from start to finish. That being said, Martha’s relationship with Hemingway often feels like an afterthought. As a result, I felt like the pair’s falling out came quite suddenly even if there were hints here and there of the cracks in their marriage. Perhaps this is why I found the sections where readers gain a glimpse into the consciousness of Hemingway to be a compelling read. In fact, initially, I actually preferred them over Martha’s story.

With Love and Ruin, Paula McLain has solidified her place as not only a writer of historical fiction but one who tells the stories of the women who are often forgotten in the mainstream history. These are the women who if even referred to in history books, may have been portrayed in not the most flattering way. From her books, I have enjoyed rediscovering the extraordinary women who have appeared in them so far and I look forward to seeing whose story she will tackle next.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Authour:
Rachel Joyce
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 7th 2017
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I loved Rachel Joyce’s The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, as devastating, heartbreaking as it was and while I haven’t read any of her other books something about The Music Shop tempted me into picking it up. And fortunately I was given an advance copy shortly after hearing about it at the Penguin Random House Fall Preview.

Set in the 1980s, the book focuses on Frank the owner of a music shop who stubbornly refuses to get with the times and stock CDs (choosing instead to continue to own deal with vinyls). Among the cast of characters are his assistant  and his fellow neighbours who own various shops/businesses along the same old street and neighbourhood that has seen better days. I loved that this novel was inspired by the author’s real life meeting with a music shop whose owner was able to find the musical “cure” for her husband’s insomnia. This magical quality of being able to “know” what music a person needs to hear which is an ability that her protagonist, Frank also shares.

If I were honest The Music Shop started off a bit slow for me as I didn’t care about any of the characters. However, before long I found that I had been unknowingly drawn deep within the world and characters of the book. This may have been a result of the beautiful, whimsical prose. Or perhaps it was the fact that over time we get enough glimpses into the past of each of the characters helping us to understand why they are the way they are in addition to why people care about Frank a great deal.

While some may say that The Music Shop is an overly sentimental read, I loved that I was left with a warm feeling when I was finished with the book. It is a definite must read for music lovers and for people who are looking for an uplifting read that is within the along the same veins as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin or even Katarina Blvald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend as it’s also about the power of the arts, and how when ordinary people get together and work together they can make the extraordinary happen whether it’s just for one person or for far more people than they could have ever anticipated.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Waiting on Wednesday #22 | Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) by Kevin Kwan

wed Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights upcoming titles that we’re looking forward to/dying to read. It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

rich
Synopsis:
When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside–but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park–a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore–the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife–a woman hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette. A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold-leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan’s gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia’s most privileged families.

When I first heard about this book, I knew I needed it right

If you know me even a little bit, you will know that I am OBSESSED with Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series. I always try to stay on top of the latest news when it comes to the book series and the movie which is currently in casting. I’m also responsible for convincing most of my blogger friends (and a couple of non book blogger ones as well) to pick up this series.

The synopsis of the last book in this series promises a ton of juicy drama and I’m definitely looking forward to the face-off between Kitty and Colette! Rich People Problems is without a doubt my most anticipated 2017 release. Here’s to hoping that it proves to be a satisfying conclusion to what has been one of my favourite series ever! (I’m also hoping the author visits Toronto again so I’ll be able to get my copy of the book signed)

What books are you “waiting” on this week?

Top Ten Tuesdays | Top Ten Best Books of 2016

TTT Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesdays | Top Ten Best Books of 2016”

Book Review | The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

Authour:queenie
Rachel Joyce
Format:
Hardcover, 343 pages
Publication date:
October 21th 2014
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“It is a hard thing, as I said, this learning to love. But it is an even harder thing, I think, to learn to be ordinary.” (p. 205)

Back in 2012, a book by the name of The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce came out and started making waves. The book told a fictional story of a recently retired man who receives a letter from an old acquaintance who tells him that she is dying. He then proceeds to embark on a journey to visit her, travelling by feet from a distance that you generally would not walk. The book while it had an interesting concept did not truly resonate with me though I did find it a compelling read. However when I discovered that there would be a companion novel featuring Queenie, the old acquaintance that Harold had set out to visit I knew that I would very much take pleasure in hearing her story and I was right.

Like Harold’s story, the story of Miss Queenie Hennessy was not always a joyful one either. We learn with reference to her complicated relationship with her parent in addition to who she was before she came to work at the brewery with Harold. however perhaps most surprising of all was the friendship of sorts that developed between her and Harold’s son, David. In Harold’s story we do not see much of David, and from what we do get glimpse of, he seems to be an exceedingly selfish, spoiled and ungrateful person. However in Queenie’s story we witness a different side to him, one that shows him as a troubled and lonely individual. He ends up being a more sympathetic character in that he is portrayed as being extremely flawed although he does have a bit of a softer side too. Unlike everybody else in his life, Queenie is able to see past his façade and in her attempts to assist him, she gets further involved with Harold’s life and does something she later regrets and blames herself for its result.

Queenie herself is truly a fascinating character, and she was easier to relate to and sympathize with than Harold even though both are incredibly flawed people. I enjoyed following her tale as she left her workplace and Harold and came to find and create her own home and garden in a place by the sea. And I enjoyed reading about the conversations and behaviours of the cast of characters that she encounters at the hospice she ends up in. Accordingly while I was well aware of what happens to her in the conclusion, I felt that having read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry before The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy did not ruin the book for me. Instead it just further enriched my reading experience of the book.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is both an uplifting and heartbreaking read, and it was made even extra emotional in part due to the epilogue in the final pages of the book. Rachel Joyce is an exceptionally talented storyteller and writer, and she does a flawless job in this book of showcasing Queenie’s own personal journey. As Sister Mary in the book tells Queenie, “People think you have to walk to go on a journey. But you don’t you see. You can lie in bed and make a journey too.” She couldn’t be more right, thank you Rachel Joyce for allowing me to come along on Queenie’s ordinary yet extraordinary journey.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.