Posts tagged ‘Scotland’

The Schools out It’s Time to Read List

I have been reading a lot, and a lot of the books have been fun.  So here is what I think you should be reading while malingering by the pool.

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This was one of those big hype books that never sounded particularly like my kind of genre.  But it is just so good. Admittedly, it is another of those futuristic, lots of people die from a disease, stories. But the way the story is linked with the life of a celebrity actor is just fascinating.  The novel also takes  an interesting look at theater and how it changes as the world changes. Celebrity acting is such a disconnecting/lonely thing but a traveling troupe of actors connects people and towns.  I can’t guarantee your money back or anything, but this book is worth the leap of faith.

2. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: This book is creepy and scary and all of those good things that a creepy-scary book should be.  Below the floor boards in an old house, surrounded by encroaching woods,  someone finds the diary of a woman who was murdered in 1908.  This is really all I need to say, right?

3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: You know from the first sentence of the book that Lydia is dead but her family does not.  Lydia is the teen daughter of a mixed-race marriage in the 1970s.  Her father is Chinese and her mother is Caucasian.  While it is a mystery through-out how Lydia died, it is not the driving force of the book. It is instead driven by the dreams that parents have and how the unspoken force of these dreams can do great harm, even when they are meant with the best intentions.  This novel was amazingly insightful, particularly in how Ng examines how broken people carry their brokenness into parenthood.

4. At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen:  I didn’t think this was a stunning novel.  And it was extremely predictable, almost painfully so, but it took place in Scotland and that made me inexplicably happy.  It is set during WWII, when three American socialites Maddie and her husband Ellis, along with his friend Hank, decide to head to Loch Ness to find the infamous monster.  They are spoiled, rich kids with a ridiculous plan.  While Ellis and Hank spend their days drinking on the shores of Loch Ness, with binoculars, Maddie sits at the pub and waits.  There is a sully maid and a burly pub keeper – so one gets in a fight, another woman gets pregnant, etc.  I think you get the idea but it is a fun, mindless read for the summer.

IMG_0498Swim, read. Work, read. Have a cocktail, read. Have two cocktails, read.  Whatever happens just make sure it ends with a book. Cheers.


May 26, 2015 at 7:05 pm Leave a comment

I like you but not in that way – “Field of Blood” by Denise Mina

“Field of Blood” by Denise Mina, Published in 2004

I am not impressed. I really wanted to be but I am not.  The writing is there, the characters are good, the story was alright but something didn’t fall into place for me.

Field of Blood (Paddy Meehan, #1) Paddy Meehan is an up and coming journalist in Glasgow in 1981.  Well that is a bit of a stretch, she is more of a coffee girl for the local paper.  Paddy is a young, insecure girl – engaged to the boy her family loves and headed down the road to marriage and all of the trappings of what a good catholic girl should want.  But she doesn’t. She wants a career in journalism. She wants to change the world.

None of this makes her family particularly happy and that makes Paddy feel incredibly ostracized.   It doesn’t help that her name is the same as a small time crook who was wrongfully imprisoned for killing a woman in the 60s. It is also not helpful that she is trying to lose weight and is stuck on a diet of boiled eggs in all of their filmy, slimy glory.

When a young three-year old is found murdered and two ten-year old boys are arrested all of Glasgow is talking about the case.  Paddy quickly learns that one of the boys who had been arrested is her fiance’s cousin. She becomes interested in the case and the possibility that things are not as simple as the police are making it out to be. Let the super-sleuthing begin.

Mina does a brilliant job of describing Glasgow in its grittiest, dankest parts.  She is able to make the reader experience, maybe even smell, the poverty and that is quite a feat.

But here is the thing – I thought the mystery was kind of boring.  It is fairly easy to figure out who did it but you never really understand why.  I liked the character of Paddy though. She was strong-headed but insecure in a way that made me want to hug her or tell her I was proud of her.  She brought out the mom in me.  And I really would like to read the other books in the series to see how she grows up.  But I won’t rush out and start on the next one.  I have a long list of other books begging to be read. So for now, what happens to our egg-eating-aspiring journalist will just have to remain a mystery.  And I am good with that.

May 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm 2 comments

Let us hope we are all proceded in this world by a love story* -“The Winter Sea” and “The Violets of March”

*Quote by Don Snyder

Once in a while I long for a love story – a heartbreaking, filled with longing, happy (or tragic) ending love story. Writing a good love story is tricky. It has to be something the reader can relate to but also it has to have that right touch of the extraordinary.  Slip too far one way or the other and the story because ridiculous and too campy. Both “The Winter Sea” and “The Violets of March” were recommended by friends when, after a lot of really angst-ridden reads, I solicited suggestions for a good love story. Both novels did a great job of balancing the relatable main character with the extraordinary love element.  And so I finally ended reading two books with a smile on my face.

“The Winter Sea” by Susanna Kearsley, Published in 2010: Carrie is a novelist who writes historical fiction. While working on her novel about James Stewart’s attempt to claim the Scottish crown in 1708 she finds herself with writer’s block.  At the suggestion of her publisher she rents a cottage in the Scottish town of Cruden Bay where Slains Castle is located.  All of the sudden, Carrie finds herself able to write.  Her story, she decides, must be written from the perspective of a young woman, Sophia, who finds herself living at Slains Castle in the early 1700s.

While living in Cruden Bay, Carrie becomes close with some of the locals and of course falls in love.  Carrie finds she has a strange connection with Slains Castle, like she lived there centuries ago making her writing creepily accurate.  That part of the novel was a bit odd and I didn’t think necessary but it was an easy thing to overlook.  “The Winter Sea” is narrated by Carrie but then other chapters are the historical fiction novel Carrie is writing.  I usually hate this technique, a story within a story, but here it was fun.  Both stories were engaging enough to keep the reader interested and of course both were romantic enough to make this reader happy.  And any novel that is set in Scotland is okay by me.

The Violets of March” by Sarah Jio, Published in 2011: Emily was a best-selling author who finds herself with a bad case of writer’s block (yes, see above) and a philandering husband who is divorcing her for the “other woman.”  Emily decides to take a break from her life and go visit her Aunt Bee who lives on Bainbridge Island, a ferry ride away from Seattle. While staying with her Aunt, Emily finds what appears to be an old diary.  Written by Esther, the diary details Esther’s life and her
great but tragic love for Elliot.  As Emily reads the diary she starts to realize that Esther’s story is linked to hers and she is not just finding her next novel but finding herself.

The novel sounds a little corny but Jio is skilled at describing settings and the characters are lovable.  I decided while reading “The Violets of March” that I have to get, if not to Bainbridge Island, then at least to the sea next Spring. I could feel the sand, smell the ocean and I really wanted to be at the yearly clambake with the characters.  Happily, I was able to drink wine with the characters in the comfort of my own home.

I am not saying Jio or Kearsley are the next Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. But who is? And because I will never be able to experience “Persuasion” again for the first time (though times 2 through 5 have been pretty enjoyable) I am happy to try to find those great new love stories that make me smile at my husband in between turning pages.

Other reviews to check out:

From The Book Stop

From The Lost Entwife 

From The Lighthearted Librarian

From Book Chatter

From Sheri de Grom

November 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm 3 comments


There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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