Friday, August 31, 2018

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives is a story set on a mysterious small island where the elite vacation each summer on the East coast served by the working-class inhabitants.  Everyone lives seemingly in harmony until one fateful day when murder invades their small community.

The Summer Wives is a historical fiction romance set in 1930, 1951, and 1969.  I am a fan of historical fiction novels that use flash backs and Williams employed the flashbacks seamlessly in this novel.  It was very easy to follow as the story was divided up in chapters for 1930, 1951, and 1969 and the chapters went in order.  The fateful decisions of the past and how they impact the future are masterfully unveiled throughout the three time periods as the novel progresses.  The three plots of the three time periods is as follows.

1930 – Bianca is a young Portuguese girl who lives with her aunt and uncle on the island.  The island has two distinct social classes, the wealthy who come in the summer, and the locals who cater to the wealthy.  When Bianca falls in love with a wealthy young man, will their romance be able to live beyond summer?

1951 – Seventeen-year-old Miranda is going to the island as her widowed mother is marrying the rich and glamorous Hugh.  Miranda meets her new stepsister and is intrigued by the mystery of her step-sister being engaged to one man while secretly meeting the lighthouse keeper’s son.  The ramifications of this summer change her life forever.

1969-Miranda is now a successful movie star and has come back to the island to escape a dying marriage.  What secrets will she uncover?

I enjoyed this novel.  I did wish there was more historical detail.  The Summer Wives seemed a lot like a soap opera set during a historic timeline with it seemed like many different people sleeping together and one surprise or revelation after another.  I loved soap operas as a kid, so I enjoyed it, but for those looking for history with their historical fiction, this is not the book for you.

I thought Williams did a wonderful job of really putting the storyline together and having it all seamlessly work as one cohesive story.

Overall, The Summer Wives was a good summer historical romance drama.

Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I took The Great Alone on a recent trip to Michigan to visit my family and I couldn’t stop reading it in the car while my husband was driving.  It was such a great story, I was pulled in and the story didn’t let me go until the end.  I felt this way about Hannah’s The Nightingale as well although The Great Alone is a very different story.

Thirteen-year-old Leni has a very young mom, Cora, who loves Leni’s POW father, Ernt, with overwhelming passion. Cora insists that Ernt was a very different man before the Vietnam war, but Leni cannot really remember those times.  Ernt has a temper now and can’t seem to settle down anywhere.  Then Ernt finds out a fellow POW friend left him property in the Alaska.  Hoping for a new start, the family heads north.

In Alaska, the family discovers they are ill prepared, but that their neighbors are there to help.  Leni meets Matthew and finally has a friend her own age.  But as winter approaches, Ernt’s mood swings and violence increases. They especially increase when he feels threatened by their neighbor, Tom Walker, who seems to have it all and admires Cora. Will the family be able to survive the winter and all that Alaska has in store for them?

I loved this unique story and loved the author’s note at the end where Hannah describes living in Alaska and her family’s lodge.  I was disturbed that this is labeled a historic fiction novel as I was born in 1978, but I guess the 1970’s was 40 plus years ago and it’s time to accept that I am historic.    The description of the work the family must do to survive in a rugged terrain without running water or electricity were fascinating.  It was like Little House on the prairie set in the 1970s.  

Alaska itself is a star of this novel with visit description of the beauty of the land as well as the people who live there.  My favorite character was Large Marge.  Large Marge was a former Washington DC prosecutor who gave it all up to live on the land in Alaska.  She tells it as it is and isn’t afraid to take charge.  I love that there were several powerful women in this story.  I want Large Marge to get a book of her own.

The discussion of the lack of rights for women, especially woman that were subjected to domestic violence was thought provoking.  I did feel that Ernt at times seemed like a one-dimensional villain, but then Hannah would bring him back for Leni to remember what a great dad he could be at times.
I also loved the romance that developed between Leni and Matthew as it was a Romeo and Juliet story set in rugged Alaska.

I loved this novel, but the ending still puzzles me.  I guess I really don’t understand how Matthew could be alive with his leg almost being severed and them not being found for two days.  I believe Leni put a tourniquet on Matthew at some point, but I just don’t understand how Matthew wouldn’t have died from a loss of blood or have lost his leg at the very least.  What happened to him was so disturbing . . . but I don’t even know if he should have lived.  I really want to talk to someone about this – leave any comments below.  If I could pick half stars, I would go with 4.5 stars out of 5 for this one.

Overall, The Great Alone is an epic and unique tale.  Kristin Hannah has a wonderful follow-up to The Nightingale.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Restless Wave by John McCain and Mark Salter

Title: The Restless Wave
Author: John McCain and Mark Salter
Read by:  Beau Bridges with an introduction by John McCain
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 14 hours and 15 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

I listened to The Restless Wave the past few weeks and wrote this review before the sad passing of John McCain this past Saturday.  I was greatly saddened by his passing.

I admire John McCain and I still wish he would have won the 2000 primary and ultimate election.  I think we would be a in a far different place in the world if he would have been running the country during 9/11, Katrina, and the economic crisis.  I like how he “straight talks” and does and says what he thinks is right for the country, even if that doesn’t always fall along party lines.  Disclaimer – I’m a moderate and don’t belong to either party.  I vote for both depending on the candidates.

I really liked the introduction that John McCain read himself.  It was a touching remembrance of visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial with veterans from that war.  Beau Bridges was the narrator for the rest of the audiobook and he did a fine job.  I liked the cadence of his voice, but I did ultimately enjoy John McCain’s voice itself for the start of the book.

I should have investigated this book more to have different expectations.  I thought it was going to be about McCain’s entire life, but it started right into the 2008 election.  It’s hard to be a loser of a race and talk about it.  Even McCain sounded like he was whining with his “it wasn’t fair!” thoughts.  I had a hard time with him saying that everyone was harder on Sarah Palin than they were on Barack Obama.  Having been an adult at that time, I remember the stupid things Sarah Palin said and remember the birthism and racism that Obama received on his side.   I did like how McCain took the stance during the election of not allowing racist talk during his campaign talks against his opponent.  I like that he stood a high moral ground and stopped a supporter when they were saying nasty things about Obama and said he was a fine man. I discovered after listening to this audiobook, that I should have listened to or read Faith of My Fathers by John McCain.  It sounds like that book goes more into his past.  I will put that on my “to read” list for the future.

I was glad when the book moved on to torture . . . although that sounds funny.  Having been a prisoner of war, McCain feels passionately about torture. I really loved how he said that to be a great country, we must stand by our ideals and should not sink to a base level.  I only wish more people believed this and implemented it.  As I listened to the audiobook I was amazed by all the great work that McCain did for this country to help us to stand by our ultimate ideals even if it meant disagreeing with Presidents Bush and Obama.  I like that he did wasn’t afraid to speak his mind to any of the Presidents.

Overall, The Restless Wave is an interesting look into John McCain’s unique perspective into politics for the past twenty years.  It ended up being a very timely audiobook for me to listen to in a sad way.  I recommend it for those looking to learn more about modern US history.