Monday, March 18, 2013

Bittersweet & Other Reads

That’s first word describes my feelings a couple of weeks ago as I picked up several  reserved books at our local library. One of these, A Week in Winter, was the final novel written by Irish writer Maeve Binchy, who passed away unexpectedly in late 2012. Ms. Binchy was among my favorite authors; an earlier post had more details on her writings.

When her death was announced, there was also mention of this recently completed book, and months ago, I placed a library hold request and forgot about it. So, it was an unexpected delight that this one was waiting for me. A Week in Winter is full of Ms. Binchy’s trademark humor and characters  you come to know all about — as if they’ve become good friends.

This book one was no exception.

IMG_8402Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where everyone knows everyone. Chicky Starr returns home after spending 20 years in America, pretending she's been widowed by an American husband she never  married. She plans to convert Stone House, an old mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, into a bed & breakfast seaside holiday resort. Her staff includes Rigger (bad boy turned good who becomes the house manager, marries and fathers twins) and Orla, Chicky’s niece who needing a lifestyle change, becomes an accomplished chef. After months of work, Stone House is ready for its first guests:  John, the American movie star, who thinks he’s travelling incognito; Winnie and Lillian who were talked into taking a holiday together; Drs. Nicola and Henry, who have been shaken by seeing too much death; Anders, a young Swede, who hates his father’s business, but has a talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, who criticizes everything; the Walls, a contest entering couple, who are unhappy at winning a week’s stay at Stone House as first prize was a Paris stay; and Freda, the librarian, who is afraid her psychic visions have a way of coming true.

Binchy's stories are sketchier in this final work, than in previous books, perhaps due to a rush to complete this final book. Nevertheless, it was good to settle down for a final read with a favorite author one last time.

J.K. Rowling is best known for the Harry Potter series beloved by young and older readers alike. A Casual Vacancy is her first novel solely for adults.IMG_8400 Its setting is Pagford, a suburban West Country town, and begins with the death of Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother. Subsequently, a seat on the council is vacant and a conflict ensues before the election for his successor occurs. Factions develop, concerning whether to dissociate with a local council estate, “the Fields,” which Barry supported an alliance with. However, those running for a place soon find their darkest secrets revealed on the Parish Council online forum, ruining their campaign and leaving the election in turmoil.

This novel was not to my liking; I quit reading after only 3 chapters.

The Clifton Chronicles is Jeffrey Archer’s ambitious series of which the first two out of five books, Only Time Will Tell and The Sins of the Father, have been released. The third book, The Best Kept Secret, is due at the end of April.

archer chronicles (2)Only Time Will Tell includes a cast of characters that span the Great War to the outbreak of the WW II, when Harry Clifton must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the streets of 1940 New York City, it paves the way for future volumes, which will bring to life 100 years of history to reveal a family story.

The epic of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” Harry never knew his father, a Bristol dock worker, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle Stan, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. An unexpected gift wins Harry a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school. As he enters adulthood, Harry learns how his father really died, but the truth only leads him to question, if he is the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line.

In Sins of the Father, it is only days before Britain declares war onarcher chronicles (3) Germany. Harry Clifton, hoping to escape the consequences of a family scandal, and realizing he can never marry the woman he loves, Emma Barrington, has joined the Merchant Navy. When a German U-boat sinks his ship, Harry and a handful of sailors are rescued among them an American named Tom Bradshaw. When Bradshaw dies, Harry seizes a chance to bury his past, by assuming the man’s identity. But after landing in Best Kept SecretAmerica, he learns his mistake, when he finds out what was awaiting Bradshaw in New York.  With no way of proving his identity, Harry Clifton becomes chained to a past that could be worse than the one he had hoped to escape.

In the Best Kept Secret, the drama will continue with the marriage of Harry Clifton and Elizabeth Barrington for Harry Clifton and bring this family saga into the 1960s.

Thanks to the recommendation of fellow blogger Rebecca suspect (2)of Shenandoah Gateway Farm, I just finished my first book by Robert Crais, author of the popular Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels. This new book is a stand-alone novel and not part of a series, which is what attracted me to it. Of course, the characters may very well turn out to be featured in future Crais novels.

Scott James is an LAPD officer whose partner, Stephanie, was murdered and he was seriously wounded. Maggie is a USMC-trained German shepherd patrol dog who lost her handler, Pete, in Afghanistan and also was seriously wounded. Both Scott and Maggie suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Now, as part of an LAPD K9 team, they learn to help each other trust and love again and investigate the case no one wants them to touch, the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie.  What they learn is nothing like what Scott has been told. The journey takes them through darkest moments of their past.

This was a fast read and,while I am not a huge fan of novels of this type, I may try one or two more works by Mr. Crais.

How about you — any books to recommend ?


Rebecca said...

I am glad you sort of liked it!

DeniseinVA said...

I always enjoy a good book review, thanks so much!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Not ever been a Binchy fan but have been very curious about Dowling's novel. Your comments match those of other reader friends; so far no one has enjoyed it that I know so I will not bother myself with it. I am very far behind postng my book reads to my book blog, but if the snow continues here as it is this AM, I just might accomplish that this week. While in MS I met a new friend at Books A Million who so recommended "Roses" by Leila Meacham that I bought it. I usually do not read these type, but she was right, I loved it as she said do all other women who read it; ala Gone With the Wind in that it is a saga, about strong southern women & men. I recommend it even at 700 pages. Haven't read Archer in awhile, but do like his too.

Country Gal said...

Looks like a lot of good reading going on there ! Nothing like getting lost in a book ! Thanks for sharing . Talking about winter , we are in the midst of a winter storm a mix of everything and high winds and very cold , come on spring I say ! Have a good day !

barbara l. hale said...

I finished "A Casual Vacancy" and ultimately thought it was a good book. But it is hard leaving "Harry Potter" behind. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for Rowling making that transition.'s difficult for Harry Potter fans anyhow.

Montanagirl said...

I enjoyed the book "Waiting For White Horses" by Nathan Jorgenson. Excerpt: Waiting for White Horses, set in the tall pines of northern Minnesota's spectacular lake country, is a story of trusted friendship, loss and recovery, love and redemption.

NCmountainwoman said...

I have picked up the Maeve Benchley book in our local bookstore several times. Perhaps I need to actually buy and read it. I'm always interested in "new" authors and I haven't read anything by her before.

grammie g said...

Hi B...My email has been goofed with and it would appear that I sent out 8 emails around 11:30 last night but I really didn't!! They all came back Daemon mail failure..just don't open anything that came from me today!!
All passwords have been changed, what a pain!!

Anvilcloud said...

Your reviews are a good read. I will probably skip all of these. I was really tempted by the Binchy one until I reached your conclusion.

Daisy said...

Thank you for sharing your reviews. I was wondering how the book by J.K. Rowling would be. It sounds like from your review, that it isn't going to have the following that the Harry Potter books had.

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