Archive for December 2018

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand


As the year comes to an end, it is important to reflect upon the days that have preceded this one. Today marks the final day of my seventh year of blogging and reviewing books. These seven years have seen much growth for me both personally and professionally. I'm a different person today than I was years ago, but the things that have always shaped me persist to this day. One thing that has certainly only continued to grow is my love of books.

On this day of reflection and celebration, it seems only fitting to review the final novel in Elin Hilderbrand's Winter series. Seven years ago, I wouldn't have even given a second look to Hilderbran's novels. A holiday-themed family drama just wasn't my preferred genre. As my tastes have diversified, I've come to appreciate the kind of character-driven story that  Hilderbrand's series presents. More life experience for me means that I'm able to better relate to the everyday challenges faced by the family in the books. Instead of turning away from a genre that was mostly unknown, I've embraced the series and have enjoyed it immensely.

Winter Solstice is the perfect conclusion to Hilderbrand's series. I won't provide any specifics about the plot because a summary just wouldn't convey the depth of the four novel story arch. Suffice it to say, this final book sees loose ends tied up and characters following the natural progression of their development. More than any of the other three books, this one really had me feeling like I was part of the family. Hilderbrand's writing placed me amongst the laughter and the tears as the Quinn family experienced life with each other.

Winter Solstice and the entire Winter series is a wonderful read for the holiday season. The themes of family, life, death, love, and loss permeate each page of the book through characters who are as engaging as they are dynamic. Hilderbrand's writing is able to convey varying emotions and alternating perspectives with language that is easily digestible by readers. I couldn't imagine a better book to end the year on.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2018, 47)

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand


A new year brings new triumphs and challenges to the ever-engaging Quinn family. Kelley, the patriarch of the family, has been reunited with his estranged wife Mitzi after she left him for the family's former Santa. Kelley has overcome a health scare and is happy to have his wife back by his side, running the family's Winter Street Inn like old times. Kelley's eldest son is about to be released from his prison term, his middle son is raising a family and opened a successful business, and recent revelations about his youngest son's missing military group provide hope that has been absent for the last two years.

All the good things aside, it wouldn't be a Quinn holiday without some drama. Kelley's daughter Ava is currently juggling relationships with two men, his daughter-in-law is dealing with a secret opioid addiction, and his former daughter-in-law is the drug dealer! If all that isn't enough, the Quinns are diligently preparing the inn to host a family wedding all as the holidays approach. When a huge winter storm threatens to derail all of their holiday plans, the Quinn's are forced to confront their personal tribulations and come together to make the season a success.

With Winter Storms, the third book in her Winter series, author Elin Hilderbrand recaptures some of the magic that made the first novel such a delight. The previous novel had a lot of plot to lay down, so there wasn't as much time devoted to the quieter character moments that made me fall in love with the characters in the first book. With a solid narrative foundation set, Hilderbrand is free to let her characters dictate the pace and tone of her story. She deftly combines the magic of the holiday season with the real-world struggles of an everyday family to craft a drama that is both emotionally engaging and narratively intriguing. Winter Stroll is the perfect reading companion for the holiday season.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2018, 46)

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand


The get-togethers are over, the presents are all unwrapped, and I'm left in the afterglow of another successful Christmas. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the season, I somehow found time to binge the rest of Elin Hilderbrand's Winter series. Book two, Winter Stroll, picks up one year after the events of the first novel Winter StreetThe Quinn family has certainly changed in the last year, but they are just as engaging as ever.

Kelley Quinn is finally settling into his next phase of life at the Winter Street Inn. His second wife has found happiness in her new relationship with the inn's former Santa. Kelley has rekindled a cordial relationship with his first wife who has used her fame and fortune to keep the struggling in afloat. One son is serving out a prison sentence for insider trading while the other has just welcomed a beautiful child into the world. Kelley's daughter finally seems to be in a relationship that provides the kind of love he always knew she deserved.

Things are really looking solid for Kelley. This weekend is the annual Christmas Stroll and it promises to be a time of family and fellowship. Still, troubles of the real world linger within the idyllic halls of the inn. Kelley's youngest son is still MIA after his military convoy was intercepted in Afghanistan. One year in and they still don't know if the men are alive. The facade of a picture-perfect holiday begins to fade further as revelations of unhappiness, second guesses, and a few people from darker times in the past emerge.

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand is a book that felt like checking in on old friends. The previous novel really set the foundation for the family drama, and this book took the ball and ran with it. Each of the characters was fleshed out more from the surface level that many of them were written in the previous book. This sucked me into the world even more than before. My only real complaint with the novel is that it didn't end with any definitive closure. Instead, Winter Stroll tees up the next book for even more character development. Fortunately for me, I have the next two books ready to read!

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, or Goodreads.
(2018, 45)

Elevation by Stephen King


In recent years, Stephen King has strayed from his horror roots to write novels that focus more on real-life scenarios. The Outsider, released earlier this year, arguably combined the best of both old-school-horror and Kings more recent sensibilities. In Elevation, an end of the year novella, King again combines a focus on real-world issues with a touch of fantasy.

Elevation is probably best described as a fable. Scott, a resident of Castle Rock, has an interesting medical dilemma. He's losing weight each day, but nothing he physically does seems to stop that process. He loads his pockets with heavy metal, but his weight is exactly the same. As time progresses, the weight loss starts to speed up. At the rate he's going, Scott only has a couple months before the scale hits zero.

As Scott is coming to terms with his dwindling mass, he's also battling it out with his new neighbors. One half of the married lesbian couple runs through the neighborhood each day. She brings their two dogs with her, both of whom have no problem using Scott's front yard as their toilet. After a pretty ugly confrontation, Scott decides to put things to rest and befriend the couple. He's heard the murmurs from other townspeople who don't approve of the couple's same-sex relationship. Determined to right some wrongs, Scott formulates a plan to set things right between the town and the couple.

Elevation works as a story of moral integrity and acceptance, themes that grow more and more poignant as the year has progressed. Those of you expecting a terrifying read from Mr. King should probably steer clear of this one. I've seen that the book was chosen as Goodreads best horror novel of the year, but that genre doesn't really reflect what Elevation is. Instead, it is a well-written and timely tale of one man's will to leave the earth a little better than when he got here. It wasn't what I expected, but it was ultimately a very quick and rewarding read.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2018, 44)

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan


We've only got a few days until Christmas, and I'm struggling to get all of my preparations in order. The past week has seen me unexpectedly purchasing a new car and spending the last several days sick in bed. Needless to say, I'm a bit behind on all things holidays. But things are beginning to get back on track. I'm basically done with my shopping (thanks Amazon!), I only have a few more days of work, and I've gotten in some really great Christmas reads. The one advantage to being home sick is you have plenty of time to catch up on reading! I quickly read through Jenny Colgan's latest book, Christmas on the Island.

The holidays can be challenging for anyone, but this year promises to be even more stressful for Flora. She lives on the island of Mure where she runs the Seaside Kitchen. Even though the tourist season has long passed, business is still booming. Ever the savvy businesswoman, Flora keeps a fresh stock of fruitcake that the locals are devouring. Business aside, she has an even larger dilemma. Flora is pregnant and isn't sure how to tell her boyfriend Joel. How will he react to this Christmas surprise?

Besides the more family driven drama of Flora, Colgan touches upon the more topical subject of political refugees. Dr. Saif has fled war-torn Syria with his two sons. The small family is slowly learning to assimilate into their new home, but the matriarch of the family is still missing. Colgan doesn't stray from the harsh realities of this subject. There is one scene that was particularly difficult to read and a bit out of place in the book. That being said, her portrayal of the realities of refugees is a stark reminder that not every family gets a picture perfect Christmas.

Overall, Christmas on the Island is a delightful read that manages to provide a character-driven drama that blends holiday fun with the realities of life. This is the third book in the series, so I'd definitely recommend reading the other two first. I didn't realize this was a series when I started, and the sheer amount of characters and implied backstory was pretty tough to juggle at first. Once I got everyone squared away, it was easy to slip into the drama that was unfolding. Christmas on the Island ended up being the perfect book to get me through a few sick days at home and to propel me into the holiday season.

For more information, visit the author's website, publisher's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
This review is part of a TLC Book Tour. Check out the full tour schedule here!

(2018, 43)

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith


Having enjoyed both The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm, I eagerly purchased Robert Galbraith's latest novel, Lethal White. Before I began reading that fourth novel in the series, I came to the realization that I'd somehow never read the third novel, Career of Evil. I read a lot of books each year (this review marks number 42), so I wasn't surprised by this mistake. Still, I knew I'd need to read this one before beginning the fourth book. Fortunately, Career of Evil was already downloaded to my Kindle, just waiting for me to dive in.

I've come to really enjoy Cormoran Strike. J.K. Rowling writing as Galbraith imbues her hero with a gritty realism that makes him a relatable underdog. the Afghanistan war veteran has built quite the private investigating firm, especially after solving a couple of high profile cases. Along with his temp turned assistant Robin, Strike's reputation has garnered the attention of all kinds of people. When Robin opens a package at the office, she's taken aback by the contents. Strike has learned to expect the unexpected, but even he is a bit startled to see the severed limb in the box.

As the pair begin to investigate the package, a suspect list of the worst kind of people arises. Each person is capable of unspeakable violence and terror. On the home front, Robin is torn between her relationship with her fiance Matthew and her growing fondness for Strike. With a pending wedding date set, she must face those feelings head on and come to a decision about the future of her career and her heart.

In Career of Evil, Rowling focuses much of her attention on her two main characters. The mystery takes a back seat to the strong development of both Robin and Strike. The feelings that have been bubbling between the two over the course of the previous two books come to a head in this one. Rowling perfectly balanced plot and character growth through the last two novels, so I was a bit disappointed to see this novel lean so heavily into the characters. It's not that I didn't enjoy the story arc of the characters, it's just that the imbalanced focus on them made for the least engaging mystery of the series. Despite these qualms, I ended up enjoying Career of Evil for the sense of conclusion it gave some of the existing plot lines from the previous novels. I'm really looking forward to reading the next novel too.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2018, 42)

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