I have never considered myself a ‘book reviewer’, but I love to read, and I always form an opinion of a book in my mind, so why not share that opinion? Besides, since I’m an author myself, and I know how important reviews are to other authors, I should practice what I preach.
That being said, this is the spot to look if you’re interested in what I’ve been reading.
ON MYSTIC LAKE by Kristin Hannah
This novel made me cry – a lot. That pretty much sums up my review.
It should be enough, but I know most people won’t be satisfied with that, so I’ll give you more.
The novel is set on the west coast, in Los Angeles and in Washington State, and Kristin Hannah definitely has a way with description, both of the setting and of her characters. I was easily drawn into both. It was never too much or too little. She made me care, very deeply, for those characters, even the ones you didn’t want to care about.
I could say that it’s a story about a man who breaks his wife’s heart and sends her into the arms of another man, but you’d say that’s been done too many times and you don’t want to hear about it again. But, that’s only one layer to the story, and it happens to be only a small part of it. Each character, even the minor ones, have their own story to tell – their own heartbreaks, loves, losses, problems, and blessings. Every one of them evolves, changes, grows, and learns. And, that’s the gift you get from this novel. You get to see into the hearts and minds of people who are all broken in some way, and who find a way to overcome it and become stronger as a result.
The age-old story of lost love, and new love, is told in a way that keeps you emotionally tied to the novel. I should know. I wasn’t able to put it down.
As a side note, the novel was written in 1999, and even though it’s a contemporary novel, at times it felt strange to be in a world where cell phones and messaging weren’t the norm. At other times, it brought back good memories.
I’m embarrassed to say this was the only novel I had ever read by Kristin Hannah. That will no longer be the case. I’ll now stalk her. Unapologetically.
CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McLain
I have a confession to make, and for most of those who know me, you won’t be very surprised.
I’m not an adventurous person. There, I said it.
When I was a teen and young woman I read two authors religiously – Agatha Christie and Sidney Sheldon. I wouldn’t read anything else for fear that I wouldn’t enjoy it. I made an exception for The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, which I read several times, over and over again.
Eventually, I ran out of books by my then-favorite authors and either had to branch out or give up reading altogether. So, I dipped my toe in the reading pool, but remained cautious. I would find one author I liked and would read everything I could find written by that particular author, and, over time, I eventually built up a decent-sized stable of reliable authors.
Recently, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and picked up a book by an author I had never read, feeling sure I wouldn’t make it past the first chapter. I was proven wrong (admittedly, not for the first time).
Paula McLain pulled me into her novel, Circling the Sun, with a net made of gossamer so fine I couldn’t even feel the pull. The description of the flight in the prologue remained in the back of my mind for the duration of the novel, leaving me unsure of the type of ending I was going to encounter.
The novel succeeded in grabbing and holding my attention because of two elements. First of all, I was thrown into a country which I have never visited, but through Ms. McLain’s descriptions of Africa in the 1920s and 30s I felt I was there with her protagonist. The setting was weaved into the story in such a way that you didn’t feel like it was being spoon-fed to you. It was simply there, surrounding you.
The second element, which always succeeds in catching my interest, is the fact that the novel is based on a real-life person, Beryl Markham. I had never heard of this woman, but I am fascinated when an author takes a less-than-famous person and fictionalizes his or her life, using what little information is known about them to create an intriguing novel.
In this case, Beryl’s story of her successes and her defeats is captivating reading. Always keeping in mind that the novel is based on a true story makes it even more engrossing. Beryl lives a life which would be unusual enough in our present time, but living it during those decades would be virtually unheard of. Her strength of character, her determination, and her fearlessness were qualities which were not generally encouraged in young women in that time and place. Her talents, firstly with horses, and then with airplanes, were nothing short of remarkable.
I would like to thank Paula McLain for entertaining me with her excellent story and writing techniques, and also for teaching me to be a little more fearless in my reading selections. However, I will be falling back on my old habit of reading authors I’m familiar with at least one more time. I’ve discovered that Ms. McLain has a few other novels…