Currently Browsing: woman’s fiction

Review: It Happened in Scotland by Patience Griffin

Review: It Happened in Scotland by Patience Griffin It Happened in Scotland Author: Patience Griffin Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: I have a soft spot for stories set in the British Isles.  When I think of some of the movies I love, it’s no surprise that The Quiet Man, P.S. I Love You, and the wonderfully quirky The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain are in the top ten.  The scenery is as significant as the story—even part of the story.  I was inclined to like It Happened in Scotland by its location alone. Griffin made a bold move by setting her story during the cold winter months that do not hold the scenic glamor of spring and summer. The bitter winds off the ocean fit the sad, if hopeful beginning to It Happened in Scotland. Rachel had a bad marriage to Joe, Brodie’s cousin.  The two were as close as brothers, and both loved Rachel.  Rachel, not really knowing her own mind at the time had come to Scotland for the wedding.  That’s when she met Brodie and fell in love with him.  Still, she went through with the wedding and lived to regret it.  The couple were in the process of getting a divorce when Joe died unexpectedly. Years later, Rachel is returning to Scotland so their young daughter can get to know her father’s family and country. Rachel realizes almost immediately that she wants a second chance with Brodie who has been simultaneously missing and hating her for six years.  I wanted more about Brodie besides his broken heart and the guilt he carries about loving his cousin’s wife.  What’s Brodie doing out on his fishing boat?  In January?  What does he do with his haul each day?  There’s a discussion about him being able to support a wife and family, but in what manner?  Does he smell like fish or the ocean?  We needed more Brodie details. At its heart, this is a story of second chances.  There was a lot of denial, questioning, and not enough romance between main characters Brodie and Rachel.  It needed about 50% less angst and 30% more description of the scenic town that was so dear, Rachel wants to call it home.  Where’s the verbal brochure? (Probably in the first five books.) Still, Griffin is occasionally wonderfully insightful and I liked her writing style. In the strictest sense, It Happened in Scotland can be read as a standalone book,...
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Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster

Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster By The Numbers Author: Jen Lancaster Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: I was attracted to By the Numbers because I have arrived in the sandwich generation and my older brother is an actuary.  Main character Penny Sinclair is an actuary at the highest fellowship level who’s ready to move on from a painful divorce and embrace being an empty-nester.  Her parents and her children have other plans and issues with appropriate boundaries.  For those of you who don’t know what an actuary is (we had to look it up when my brother came home from college and announced that’s what he wanted to do with his life,) it is someone who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.  They are calculating ninjas.  This kind of work is especially cogent to the insurance industry where most actuaries are employed.  They are the ones who figure out how long you’re going to live. Becoming an actuary is a brutal process.  They sit for multiple, lengthy exams twice a year.  Each exam is like taking the bar and the process can take anywhere from six to ten years to complete.  They make pretty good money because, yeah, math.  We have a family joke that actuaries are the people who didn’t have enough personality to be accountants.  We can say that because my father is an accountant and truthfully, they both have a great sense of humor.  So my interest was piqued to see what Lancaster would do with a female actuary. Penny’s character borders on being a stereotype, but really, since so few people know what an actuary is, I’m not sure the word “stereotype” really applies.  The average reader will see her as financially obsessive compulsive.  She studies statistics and plans accordingly.  She reminded me of my father who, trying to plan for every possibility, actually budgeted for both he and my mother to get one speeding ticket the first year they were married.  The preparedness thing is probably Penny’s most endearing quality. This is how she does her best by her family. The book opens with emails going around among Penny’s family members about the upcoming wedding of her daughter Kelsey.  They are snarky and even rude. Penny’s own mother is described as a “lesser Disney villain.”  I very nearly DNF’d the book because there was no way I could trudge through an entire novel of these self-centered brats.  Thankfully, we got to Penny’s narrative fairly quickly and...
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Review: The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell

Review: The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell The Paris Key Author: Juliet Blackwell Reviewer: Nima Rating: C What I’m Talking About: The Paris Key is aptly named on several levels. I like a good title. In this case it ties together multiple plot points of locksmithing, love, ghosts of the past, and finding a way through to the future.  Main character Genevieve Martin runs away to Paris, following a formal separation from her husband, to take over the locksmith shop of her beloved late uncle Dave.  She will find that Paris holds the key to unlocking personal mysteries as she works to “find herself” during this period of stress and change. The book begins in Oakland, California. It’s especially ironic that Genevieve is running from this location when you consider that Berkeley, directly adjacent to Oakland, is known for its overly supportive community that seems to exist to help people discover themselves. Genevieve even makes a crack about her ex’s life coach.  I was disappointed when this phrase, “…what I really needed to do was find myself” came up because it’s a cliché that has always rubbed me the wrong way, used too often to justify adults abandoning responsibilities and family, even children, on a journey of self-discovery for answers that they believe lay elsewhere.  I think Blackwell is a better author than to throw out clichés. It’s also when I realized that as compelling as this “slice-of-life” story was written, I didn’t especially like it. The Paris Key is well written, tight, has good pacing, character motives that make sense, and I don’t think I saw so much as a single copy edit error.  It’s not a bad book, certainly not really a “C”. I’ve given better ratings to books that weren’t as well written and I acknowledge that.  What it is, is a melancholy book and I felt sad while reading it.  The depression of several characters felt depressing.  It’s to author Juliet Blackwell’s credit that she made me feel those feelings, but it was over 350 pages of depression hanging over the main characters before getting to the potential hope of the ending. Unfortunately the climax is abrupt and short for the length of its lead-up.  Relief was insufficient.  I wanted more hope, more happy.  The author doesn’t leave us in a soup of tears, but even this hopeful ending is still a sad one, including wasted years, wasted effort, hurt and pain.  No one gets through life without hurt and pain, but...
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