2016 Book #81 – Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

51I2zhJVSNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Date finished: 8/29/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2016 (Paperback)
Pages in book: 400
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.
Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.
Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I received this book from Book Browse in order to participate in an online book discussion on the book. If you’ve read it please come join the discussion! This book is about Beryl Clutterbuck, who later became Beryl Purves and then Beryl Markham. This book’s story is inspired by the true story of Beryl Markham, famous aviator, with some fictionalizing. In the book (and some of this stays true to her real life story), Beryl was brought to Africa with her family at a young age, but left alone there with her father when her mother decided to move back to England. Her father is not an overly sentimental man and does the best he can in raising her, though in doing so he makes her a more wild woman than society is used to seeing. Trying to curb that in her early teens, he sent her away to school but she rebelled until she was returned to the home that she loved. The book follows Beryl’s life through her childhood, teens, and eventually into her adulthood. She marries multiple times, has a handful of affairs, and also blazes down any open trail without any trace of fear. Many times in the story she is set back to where she began career-wise and has to start from scratch. She does it though, again and again, always wanting to be successful and most important, to do what she loves. For most of the book this means training horses but eventually it encompasses flying as well.
Overall I just loved this book. Beryl’s character was rough but it had a vulnerable side that made her so easy to related to. I loved her fearlessness and how accomplished she was. She never let anything beat her down, she managed to turn her career around time and time again with nothing but her friends’ support and her own hard work. The other characters in the book were entirely engaging and the story line was so interesting, I didn’t want to put the book down for fear that I would miss something. McLain’s descriptions of the African terrain was just amazing, I felt transported just through reading her words, as if I was actually in Africa standing by Beryl’s side through the story. And I love the way McLain writes and how much emotions were put into the story, I could feel them coming off the pages and it was just wonderful. This one is a must read, I would most definitely recommend it.

The bottom line: I just loved this book. It was extremely engaging and amazingly transporting. I felt like I was there in Africa beside Beryl throughout the whole story. The story line was interesting, I just couldn’t put this one down. I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page


2016 Book #33 – Remember My Beauties by Lynne Hugo

516VRbAfTYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Remember My Beauties
Author: Lynne Hugo
Date finished: 4/12/16
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Switchgrass Books
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Pages in book: 194
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.
Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.
Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book that takes place during Summer” since this book mostly takes place during the summer, though the last quarter of the book is in October. This book is about Jewel and her family, including her daughter Carley, her husband Eddie, his children Chassie and Rocky, and her parents Louetta and Hack. I don’t even know where to start really because there was just so much going on in this less than 200 page book. There are a lot of drug problems in this family. Jewel’s sister and brother are both drug addicts and so is her daughter Carley. Jewel tries to help Carley as much as she can but she can’t ever seem to find a way to pull her out of the hole that she’s in. Also, Louetta and Hack are invalids and Jewel takes care of them as well. Her parents aren’t especially affectionate people so they don’t really say things like “I love you” or even “thank you” very much. Jewel takes care of her father’s horses too plus holds a full time job so she’s got a lot on her plate right now. It all seems to start going downhill when her mother asks her brother Cal to come stay at the family home with them. From there things unravel in a family drama that is both intense and very dark at times.
Overall I thought this was an interesting book. It is hard for me to say with books like this that I liked/loved the book because it deals with difficult subject matter and what the characters go through is really just heart-breaking. I have to say that I am one of those readers that my emotions get linked up with what I’m reading so this book was a difficult one for me to get through, it was very dark and I found my mood blackening the more I read. The ending was a little more towards healing and heart-warming but still the story line of this book really affected me. It was definitely an interesting book though and was a quick, fast-paced read. I didn’t want to put it down even though it was creating such a riot of emotions within me. The author did a great job of capturing the reader and I think the story overall was wonderfully written. The story switched between character points of view but the transitions were smooth for the most part and it was the best way for the reader to see all the inner-workings of the character’s actions. I especially loved the pieces that were from the horses point of view, it was really a creative move for the author to give the horses a voice.

The bottom line: This was a short read (only 194 pages) and it was definitely not dull at all. I recommend it with a precaution that it does get a little dark so if you get drawn into books emotionally this will be a tough one. Also have a box of tissues handy. Really a powerful story though and very moving.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #18 – The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller


Title: The Marriage Charm
Author: Linda Lael Miller
Date finished: 3/7/15
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: HQN Books
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Pages in book: 297
Stand alone or series: #2 in Brides of Bliss County series

Blurb from the cover:

The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.
One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.
Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore.

My rating: 2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count towards my “Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “Pretty Dress Cover” square. When I saw this book at the store one of my first thoughts was “what a pretty wedding dress that is” so I thought it would fit into this category appropriately for bingo. So this book tells the story of the second girl in a group of three friends. And I can already see that the three girlfriends who have been best friends since they were children are going to magically fall in love with a group of three guy friends. I always find it interest how neat and tidy these things end up sometimes. So Melody and Spencer have a history I guess, she asked him to marry her after one hot and heavy summer when she was 20 and he said no because he didn’t want to ruin her life so then they didn’t talk for 7 years until their best friends got married. Seems realistic right?
So then the wedding throws them in each other’s paths again and then all of a sudden they are running into each other everywhere, even though they’ve managed to pretty much avoid each other for the past seven years. And then they fall in love and stuff. Honestly I was a little disappointed with this one. The conversations all felt unnatural and forced. The plot seemed unrealistic to me. I mean there was like a mystery/suspense aspect thrown in there with the robberies but I felt like it wasn’t really serious through the whole book and why would a master antique thief running an antiquities ring in multiple states care about some small town police chief? Seriously? And why didn’t we get to find out what kind of charm Melody would make for the three girls’ bracelets based on her engagement? THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE SERIES! I got to the end and I was like, what about the charm? The book is even CALLED the Marriage CHARM and we don’t get to find out what kind of charm she designates for herself.

The bottom line:  I’m fairly neutral on this one. It was a cute story but not too interesting. Don’t think I’d recommend it but also wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it.

Link to author website
Link to Amazon