Review: The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

Alexis:

Hi, everyone! I’m moving into my new apartment tomorrow. I’m really excited, but I’m also already exhausted just thinking about it!

The Masterpiece is the last book I read on the beach. It isn’t my usual read, but it was a great beach read! Overall, this is one of those books that I read and I liked, but it didn’t leave a long-lasting impression.

The book alternates between two timelines. In 1928, Clara Darden is an illustrator teaching at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. In 1974, Virginia Clay is a recent divorcee and cancer survivor who begins working at the Grand Central Terminal when she finds a painting abandoned in the old art school. 

What I liked: I loved that the story centered around a building. I learned a lot about the history of the Grand Central Terminal. The story focuses a lot on the beauty of the terminal in the 20’s, and how the building has been worn down over the years by the time the 70’s roll around. 

I really enjoyed reading about Clara’s life as a woman struggling to prove herself as an artist. I loved her determined character, and her struggle resonated with me. I also learned a lot about art, especially how illustrators, not to mention women artists, were viewed in the 1920’s. 

What I didn’t like: I wasn’t a huge fan of Virginia’s storyline. I’m not really sure why, but it didn’t resonate with me like Clara’s storyline. 

Clara’s sectionsfocused too much on Oliver, in my opinion, and I wasn’t a fan of his character.

I also found the ending to be melodramatic and not very believable. 

As an aside, my mom also read this book. She loves historical fiction, and she really liked this book. She loved the descriptions and the history of the Grand Central Terminal. 

VERDICT: 3 stars

Choosing a Book to Read Tomorrow

Alexis: Hi, everyone!

I’m trying to choose between these three books to read tomorrow. I’m just not sure what I’m in the mood for.

If anyone’s wondering, I’m thankful that Anna left most of the books she accumulated while living in NYC at home, so I have a lot of books to choose from!

I hope you all have had a great and productive Monday. Goodnight!

Review: The Editor by Steven Rowley

Alexis: 

What I liked: I like Rowley’s writing style. I remember liking it a lot in his other book, Lily and the Octopus. His dialogue is always on-point and funny, and I enjoy his imagery. 

I also really liked James as a character. I found him funny, and I enjoyed reading about his relationship with Daniel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in the 1990’s, and I enjoyed the political climate and the history of the book.

What I disliked:

I really couldn’t get into this until about halfway through. James’ story was a little too boring at first, and I found myself skimming a lot of the details. I wanted to have more of James’ backstory earlier on in the story.

My biggest issue with the book was with Jackie Kennedy as a character. I could tell that Rowley was being careful with how he wrote her, and because of this, she never felt fully fleshed out as a character. I’m not a huge fan of historical people being one of the main characters in books, and I don’t think she served a good enough purpose. In my opinion, the editor would’ve made more of an impact in the story if Rowley had made up a famous editor and created a backstory for her. 

There was also an event towards the end of the book which I felt like didn’t fit into James’ character, and was a little too on the nose. 

Overall, I liked James and Daniel, and as a writer myself, I enjoyed reading about James writing his novel. But the slow plot and Jackie’s character dragged this down a star.

VERDICT: 3 stars

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Review: In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Alexis: Read 2/1/19

In the Midst of Winter is a story of grief, guilt, and love. The book focuses on three main characters: Lucia, a lecturer from Chile; Richard, a professor; and Evelyn, a caregiver from Guatemala. Half of the book is set in 2016, explaining how the three characters meet and become involved in each other’s lives, while the other half explores their complicated, and often depressing, pasts.

I adored the first half of the book, which opens on Lucia’s life in New York City during a snowstorm. It’s such a promising premise. As the reader, you are immediately thrown into the minds of Lucia and Richard, and I enjoyed reading about their contrasting personalities. I love that Lucia has a bug-eyed old Chihuahua, while Richard has four cats that he simply calls one through four in Portuguese. Though I found Evelyn’s life and story interesting, I felt like her dedicated chapters didn’t reveal her character or thoughts as well as Lucia’s and Richard’s.

As usual with Allende’s writing, I love her descriptions in this book and I think they serve the story and the characters well. I also enjoyed reading about the tumultuous histories of Chile and Guatemala, as well as Richard’s time in Brazil.

This book went in a different direction than I expected, however. The morbid reason the three characters go on a journey together works at first, but I found that it didn’t work the further I got in the story. I correctly guessed the twist towards the end. When I finished the book, I was left underwhelmed. It addresses such deep and interesting histories and emotions, yet it ends on an almost “oh, well!” and weirdly cheery note, which dragged down my review.

VERDICT: 3 ½ out of 5 books

Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Alexis:

I liked the first half of The Light We Lost—not the prologue, but I’m not really a fan of prologues unless they give important historical/background information.

The book is written in first person in the eyes of the main character, Lucy. Throughout the book, she addresses a “you,” which refers to her first love, Gabe. Each chapter ends with Lucy posing a question, or a series of questions, to Gabe. At first, I liked this formatting, but it got repetitive and old fast.

The beginning of the book focuses on their relationship, which lasts just over a year. Their relationship is a classic first love relationship. Lucy and Gabe are infatuated with each other, and their relationship mostly focuses on their physical chemistry. They share their hopes and dreams with each other while living in New York City.

Then they break up. I liked reading about Lucy’s grief and seeing how she deals with her loss. Lucy moves on; Lucy meets another guy. Yet Gabe is ever-present, whether in the back or the front of her mind. Even five, ten years down the road, all Lucy can think about is Gabe, and this begins to feel repetitive and, frankly, annoying.

I kept yelling (metaphorically, of course), “Lucy, you are a grown, married woman! Get a grip and stop only thinking about yourself!”

And, ultimately, this is what I have a problem with in the second half of the book. The characters become self-absorbed and predictable. I simply didn’t care about them anymore. The plot rambles, and most of it deals with Lucy’s feelings of insecurity in her relationship and her life.

Of course. That was my first thought about the ending: of course that’s how it would end. I might have been on board if Lucy finally changed at the end, if she grew up and accepted what wasn’t meant to be, but she didn’t.

VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books