Shadow of the Storm: Book Review

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“There will be times when there is nothing you can do but survive, to place one foot after the other into the driving rain.” 
― Connilyn Cossette, Shadow of the Storm

Title:  Shadow of the Storm

Series: Out of Egypt Series

Author:  Connilyn Cossette

Publish Date:  October 18th, 2016

Reading Format:  Kindle Book

Goodreads Summary: 

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

Review:

Connilynn Cossette has become a favorite author of mine over the past few years.  I love that she focuses on Biblical fiction, and her ability to tell a story about women from so long ago that can still feel relevant today.  I have enjoyed her Out of Egypt Series and have finally concluded it after unknowingly reading the books out of order.  (I accidentally read the 3rd book first before knowing it was the final book in the series. Oops!)

Shadow of the Storm is my favorite of the trilogy.  I found Shira’s story to be the most moving to me of the three, but that might have been because I felt like I was reading this book at the exact time I needed to.  You know what I mean?  Have you ever opened a book and knowing this is exactly what you needed for the mood or life moment you are in?  This was definitely it for me!

It had been almost two years since I read the 1st book, Counted with the Stars, in the fall of 2017.  I wasn’t sure if I would remember too much, but it wasn’t too hard to recall Shira and Kiya’s adventures from before.  In this book Shira is the main character this time around and it is set at the base of Mount Sinai, where the Hebrews resided for 1 year following their exodus from Egypt.  Having grown up hearing and reading the biblical stories of Moses and the Israelites exodus to the promise land, I always find Biblical fiction so fascinating.  It seems to feel in the blanks a bit about what daily life would have been like and give more detail to the bigger picture.

Much like the other 2 books, Shadow of the Storm is filled with a lot of action and drama with an overarching love story. The story lines can fill like they follow a specific pattern in each book, but each story feels different and unique without feeling like a been-there-done-that plot line.

If your looking for a historical fiction novel that isn’t set in World War II then I would suggest checking out this series.  As a fellow lover of historical fiction, reading a time period not set between 1936-1945 has helped me not to burnout in my reading life and enter into a book slump.

And as a trigger warning to some who may chose to read this, Shira does have a traumatic event in her past that makes her uncomfortable around men.  You may want to research further before deciding to read if you are sensitive to certain themes.

Rating:

4 out of 5 stars

The Library Book Book Review

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Title: The Library Book

Author: Susan Orlean

Publish Date: October 16th, 2018

Reading Format: Audio book

Summary:

The Library Book is a Nonfiction book about the fire that happened at the Los Angeles Library in the late 1980s. It tracks the day of the fire, the accused arsonist, and how the Los Angeles Library system works in modern day.

Review:

Nonfiction is usually a hard genre for me to tackle. If I do read Nonfiction it is normally one that is strictly historical. While there is history in The Library Book about the fire most of what Susan Orlean focuses on in her book is how the city of Los Angeles runs their library system. As a fellow reader I did find this part interesting because I got to see an in depth look of how a library functions.

I did listen to this on audio which made the experience of reading it easier. I typically can become quite bored with the overload of information over time. Susan Orlean did a good job of looking at the arson and also questioning if the fire that destroyed the Los Angeles library should have been considered an arson in the first place. This kept my interest going and while it did lag in some places I did want to finish it.

After reading The Library Book I think that I am now more willing to read more books in this genre. Though I’ll admit they will more than likely be in the audio book format going forward.

Rating:

3 out of 5

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Save the Date Book Review

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Title: Save the Date

Author: Morgan Matson

Publish Date: June 5th, 2018

Reading Format: Hardback

Summary:

Charlie is the youngest of 5 kids. Her mom is a famous comic strip writer and illustrator who is currently about to end her famous comic based off of the family’s life. And her older sister Linnie is getting married at the family home they all grew up in before their parents sell it. Let’s just say the few days leading up the the wedding isn’t as smooth sailing as the Grant family would like it to be, and Charlie is there in the middle of all of it.

Review:

Before I get into my review completely let me start off by saying something a little about myself that will be beneficial to understand my feelings about Save the Date. I am an only child. The only siblings I have are two stepsisters but I by no means do I understand what living in a large family is like. With all that now out of the way, let’s get into it.

Charlie Grant is about to graduate from high school and head to college in the fall. But before her school year wraps up, Linnie, the oldest daughter of the Grant children, is about to get married. She has decided to marry her long time boyfriend in the backyard of the house she grew up in before their parents sell it. This means that all the other siblings, including an estranged brother, and many relatives and friends are all headed to the Grant household for the weekend. As you can imagine all sorts of problems spring up along the way.

One of the biggest hang ups that Charlie has through out the book is that she doesn’t know how to move forward in life. She is stuck in the past and the only thing she is focused on all weekend is that the family will all be together again under one roof. To her it is about recreating how everything use to be and trying to prevent some of the biggest changes coming her way. Such as, her parents choosing to sell the home she has only ever known and her mother ending the comic strip about the families life. She is also internally torn about college. Charlie has technically chosen to stay at home and attend the local college her dad teaches at, even though she has been accepted to may other schools around the country including Northwestern University in Chicago.

While the story line about the wedding is how the book is marketed, the larger story line, or rather the real story line, is about the Grants. Charlie is a little immature for my taste, but she did grow on me by the end of the book. I loved Bill (aka Billiam, not his real name just something one of the characters call him) he seems like the nerdy male lead that has been missing in some of the books I’ve been reading lately. The book very much reminds me of Father of the Bride. So if you like that movie then Save the Date would be a book I would suggest you check out. It would also make a great book to add to your summer reading list.

Rating:

3 out of 5

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Lady Midnight Book Review

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“You belong where you’re loved.” 
― Cassandra Clare, Lady Midnight

Title: Lady Midnight

Author: Cassandra Clare

Series: The Dark Artifices

Publish Date: March 8th, 2016

Reading Format: Audiobook

Summary:

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Review:

At this point I’m all in when it comes to the world of the Shadowhunters and everything Cassandra Clare wants to give us. I’ll probably read every book she publishes, but I’m not so sure that The Dark Artifices series is my favorite. It might actually be my least favorite of the three series so far, however, it was still a 4 star read for me. This is obviously because Cassandra’s writing is quite good. She makes a world unlike any other and her characters will make you fall madly in love with them (aka Jim Carstairs). With all of that said Emma and Julian are a too tragic for me personally. Both are orphaned and carry a heavy weight of losing their parents in such violent ways. Julian is forced to live with the guilt of how his parents died (I won’t spoil how if you haven’t read The Immortal Instrument series yet) and become the unofficial father to his four younger siblings.

Lady Midnight is a heavy book. I’ve already read the second book in the series so I know it only gets heavier down the road. Though I would expect no less from the author. Tragedy is her forte.

At the moment I have not completed the series. I think I’m going to need to take a little time before I jump into Queen of Darkness.

Rating:

4 out of 5

Do you read Cassandra Clare’s books? Which was your favorite series?

Happy Reading,

Meghan

My Dear Hamilton: Book Review

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“I was someone before I met Alexander Hamilton. Not someone famous or important or with a learned philosophical understanding of all that was at stake in our revolution. Not a warrior or a philosopher or statesman. But I was a patriot.” –Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, My Dear Hamilton

Title: My Dear Hamilton

Authors:  Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publish Date:  April 3rd, 2018

Reading Format: Paperback

Summary:

 My Dear Hamilton follows the life of Eliza Hamilton.  The book is a fictional biographical look at one of America’s founding Mothers and wife of Alexander Hamilton.

Review:

 I was highly anticipating this book when I saw that it was coming out in the Spring of this year.  I actually wasn’t waiting in anticipation because of the whole Hamilton craze that is happening right now, but rather because I loved the authors first book together America’s First Daughter.  And I’ll just go ahead and say that My Dear Hamilton did not disappoint.

The book is all told from Eliza’s perspective and it begins during the American revolution, and before she meets her husband Alexander Hamilton, and moves through the different stages of her life up to her later years.  Before I read this book there wasn’t a whole lot I knew about Eliza Hamilton other than who her famous husband was.  My Dear Hamilton changed all that for me.  Even though this is a fictional book, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie did such a wonderful job with their research. The novel entwines the tragic and beautiful parts of Eliza and Alexander’s love story quite well.  And delves into them as both a couple and individuals so that Eliza shines throughout the story rather than being diminished to the background of Alexander’s life,  which is why I chose the quote from the book above.  During each of my reviews I try to use a quote under the cover of the book to showcase the story.  Kind of like a small highlight to lure you into the book review.  This particular quote stood out to me more than the others I have chosen in the past and I think that is in large part to the fact that Eliza Hamilton as a character has stood out to me the most this year in my reading.  She was a profound woman who existed in a time that history likes to write out, so I’m grateful that My Dear Hamilton tries to rectify that by not only making Eliza the main character but also by taking the time to research her and the other women during the Revolution.

I highly recommend reading My Dear Hamilton as well as their other book America’s First Daughter.

Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars

 

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Caraval: Book Review

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“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”
― Stephanie GarberCaraval

Title:  Caraval

Series: Caraval Series

Author:  Stephanie Garber

Publish Date:  January 31, 2017

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Reading Format:  E-book

Publisher’s Summary:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Review:

I was almost certain that I might not come across a book this year that I would truly enjoy, but Caraval may have saved the day!

Caraval has been on my want-to-read list ever since it came out last year and I’ve almost bought it a dozen times while in Books-a-Million, but for some reason would decide to go with something else.  However, Amazon came through (or I suppose the publishers of the book did) when it was a Kindle daily deal sometime back in January or February.  I immediately bought it and couldn’t wait to start reading because I knew by reading the description of the story that Caraval was just going to be a book I would love.

And I was right. This was exactly the type of story I like.  It’s fantasy with romance and a magical world to get lost in, which are all prefect elements to books I love to read.  I will admit though that the beginning was a little slow for me, however that isn’t very uncommon in fantasy novels because world building is apart of the genre and that usually takes up some of the plot.  It was easy to get over though because once the main characters were in Caraval the story really began to take off and I couldn’t put it down. T

There is so much mystery surrounding the game of Caraval and it’s creator, Legend, that as the reader you seem to get lost in this magical place as much as Scarlett does.  And I think this makes her as the narrator of the story  a great idea because you see Caraval through all of Scarlett’s first time experiences with the game.

Also the imagery that came to my mind while reading the book showed to myself at least how much I liked Stephanie Garber’s writing.  She brings Caraval’s world to life well by her descriptions of the places and people Scarlett meets while in the game. I didn’t feel overwhelmed at anytime by the magic in the story or the world building either, but I could tell while reading the book that there was so much more to explore in this world in future books.

Which I’m super excited for the next book in the series that I already pre-ordered.  When I finished the book and knew I had to pre-order the next one, that was the best way for me to tell I really liked Caraval.  Plus I don’t have to wait that long, as it comes out the end of this month. Yay!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

The Address: Book Review

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Title:  The Address

Author:  Fiona Davis

Publish Date:  August 1, 2017

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Reading Format:  Hardback Book

Summary:

Told in the perspective of two different characters, The Address follows Sarah Smythe in 1884 as she is given the opportunity to become the lady managerette of The Dakota in New York City after a chance encounter with the architect Theodore Camden at her former job in London.

The other perspective follows Bailey Camden in 1985, who fresh out of rehab is given the chance to start a new by her “cousin” Melinda to renovate her apartment, the former home of Melinda’s great grandfather Theodore Camden.  Bailey, who’s own grandfather was the ward to Theodore, has always known the rumor that surrounds Melinda’s apartment; which is that the famed architect was murdered by a former servant of the Dakota, Sarah Smythe.  But Bailey soon begins to uncover the truth behind that tale.

Review:

One of the reasons I’ve hesitated to write some book reviews as of lately is that I haven’t really been enjoying some of the books I’ve been reading in the past few months.  I feel as though most of these books have so much potential to be great but end up falling flat in the end.  I also don’t love writing negative reviews.  I find them unpleasant to write and never like trashing something someone has spent a lot of their time on creating.  However if I want to keep my blog going I’ll have to write reviews that are both good and bad, and I always want to be honest about how I feel about the things I read.  So with all that said The Address was not my favorite Historical fiction book.

For starters I don’t love dual timelines. I find that if they aren’t written well I can get the characters mixed up or find it hard to follow.  Also Bailey’s story wasn’t really interesting to me.  I realize that she is used to uncover the mystery surrounding Theodore Camden’s death, but I could have done without her all together and purely had a story that only was told through the eyes of Sarah.

Sarah’s story also takes a weird turn.  It is almost as though the author came across some interesting history during the time period and decided to add it in, but she speeds through it so quickly I wonder if it was even worth telling the story that way.  In my opinion Fiona Davis could have found a better way to tell this part by going a different path.  But what do I know?

By the last one hundred pages I was ready to stop reading The Address all together.  I had more or less figured out how it would end and had almost completely skimmed all the Bailey chapters to get to the end as soon as possible.

I feel that if I’m going to read a Historical Fictional novel I would prefer it stuck to one time period instead of two.  I know it is possible to have a dual timeline that works, for example The Wedding Dress that I read back in February did a nice job.  And my all time favorite novel The Nightingale also does a nice job, but it only touches on a more present time period all of three times and mainly focuses on past.  I guess what I’m trying to say is the author of The Address just didn’t have writing style I was looking for, and I know it could have been better.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

At Water’s Edge: Book Review

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“In all its beautiful, tragic fragility, there was still life.”
― Sara GruenAt the Water’s Edge

Title: At Water’s Edge

Author:  Sara Gruen

Publish Date:  March 31, 2015

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Reading Format:  Paperback

Summary:

Maddie is married to Ellis, who comes from a very wealthy family.  Maddie and Ellis financially depend upon Ellis’ parents until Ellis drunkenly embarrasses his father at a New Year’s Eve party and finds himself and his wife cutoff from the family fortune.  Determined to defy his father, Ellis decides to do the one thing his dad could not which is to find the Loch Ness monster.

With the help of their best friend Hank, Maddie and Ellis set out to Scotland in 1943 to find the monster.

Review:

If you place any book in Scotland I’ll probably read it, especially a Historical Fiction novel.  At Water’s Edge has both those elements and was an easy purchase to make.  Finding the time to read it was a whole other story as it only took two years to finally pick the book up after I had bought it.

My first impression when I had finished reading At Water’s Edge, was the author Sara Gruen does not have a fondness for husbands.  This might be a slight spoiler to the novel, but Ellis is anything but a good husband (or person for that matter).  And I make that comment because she also wrote Water for Elephants and the husband in that book was also an awful person.  Though I’ll confess I haven’t read Water for Elephants, but I have committed the cardinal sin of seeing the movie without reading the book and in the movie the husband is a horrible person. So with that assessment I can conclude husbands in Sara Gruen novels equal not good people.

After making that assessment (and small tangent), I found that At Water’s Edge was entertaining but not overall satisfying.  3/4 of the book is mostly build up to the climax of the story and then it quickly wraps up everything, which left me feeling a bit confused and as though I had been cheated out of the plot line. Sort of.  Though I suppose it was set up that way because you are following along with Maddie and she is really naive and then suddenly enlightened by the end.  Which is how I felt as the story unfolded.

The story line is also a little odd and I’m not just talking about the fact that three rather wealthy Americans decided to hunt for the Lock Ness monster, but that they would be allowed to go to Scotland while a giant war is happening in the first place.  At Water’s Edge is set in 1943, so literally smack dab in the middle of World War II, and they manage to be allowed to cross the Atlantic to go to Scotland.  Call be crazy, but wealthy or not, there is no way any private citizens were permitted to travel to Europe during this time. Let alone be willing to do it. Though *gasp* I could be wrong.

There is also the fact that Ellis and Hank aren’t serving in the military during this time because Ellis is colorblind and Hank is flat footed.  Both men claim to be ashamed of the fact they can’t serve and are embarrassed by those who shame them for it.  So logically why not go to the front lines of the war, obviously they’ll be super supportive of you….Oh wait! They aren’t.  I just feel as though the author wanted the drama of the War but the story would have been better suited for about 10 years after, or it just should have been a World War II focused book.

Honestly At Water’s Edge was not really what I expected.  It is one of the better books I have read this year so far, but that isn’t really saying much because I have truly read some duds this year.  The writing as a whole was pretty good and I like Sara Gruen’s writing, I just wasn’t fond of some of the plot holes that show up along the way.  I think if you are looking for a book set in Scotland there are so many others you could choose from, so maybe pass on this one if you have another book in mind.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Counted with the Stars: Book Review

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Title: Counted with the Stars

Series: Out of Egypt

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publish Date: April 5th, 2016

Reading Format: Kindle book

Review:

Over the summer I was given the opportunity to review Wings of the Wind, the 3rd book in this series Out of Egypt, but at the time I had thought it was a standalone book.   It hadn’t seemed to matter that I’d read the last book first; however, now that I’ve started from the beginning I’m seeing how different Wings of the Wind could unfolded as some the characters would have been familiar.  Counted with the Stars makes the title of the series more understandable, as the first book is mostly set in Egypt.  The novel follows Kiya, the daughter of a prominent man in Egypt, who is sold into slavery after her father loses all of his money.  Kiya serves in a house along with Shera, a Jewish slave, who begins an unlikely friendship with Kiya and can explain all of the strange things happening in Egypt.

This book is a Christian Historical Fiction novel and it centers on the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and follows along with the events during the seven plagues.  Much like the other story I read in this series, the author writes the events that happen during the Old Testament from the points of views from those who would have witnessed them first hand.  Biblical Historical Fiction in Christian novels are far more preferred by myself than those set in Victorian or early 20th Century eras.  I find the latter to often feature the lead female of these novels with weakened character traits who are too enamored with romance and toil over seemingly mindless things.  While Biblical Fiction can be more adventurous and have stronger female characters that I often like reading about better.

Counted with the Stars flows much like Wings in the Wind did, which is common in most books written by the same author.  This wasn’t however too evident while reading Counted with the Stars and I didn’t feel that the plot was becoming overly predictable.  I enjoyed following the events through Kiya’s eyes.  Seeing it as an Egyptian who witnesses the plagues before her and not understanding it as Shera did, Kiya makes for a great narrator.  When I originally read the summary I assumed that half of the book would focus on Egypt and the other would concentrate on the exodus, but much to my surprise a majority of the book is set in Egypt.

I would rate this book higher than Wings in the Wind, though barely.  The series has been really great so far and I look forward to when I’m able to read the second one.  As has been the case with other book series I’m almost certain the second book will be my favorite.

 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Anna and the French Kiss: Book Review

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“Boys turns girls into such idiots.”

-Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Series: Anna and the French Kiss Series

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA Romance

Publish Date: December 2nd, 2010

Reading Format:  Paperback

Review:

I’ve seen this book floating around on Booktube for a while now and I finally broke down and bought it.  Anna and the French Kiss is about an American girl who is sent to France by her estranged father to spend her senior year at a boarding school in Paris.  There Anna meets Étienne St. Clair, a boy she becomes best friends with and wants to potentially be something more, except one problem he already has a girlfriend. (Of course)

The book is a fast read.  I read it in one weekend and for me that’s an accomplishment because I am a slooow reader.  It’s a YA contemporary romance that comes with all the drama and angst one would both expect and hope for.  This story was cute and frustrating all at the same time and I was entertained from start to finish.  Typically I don’t often read within this genre because I can find teenage lead female characters to be too whinny.  Anna did not come across that way to myself but others may disagree.  Étienne would have been totally crush worthy to my teenage self had I meet him when I was 17 and he makes a great love interest in the book.

Anna and the French Kiss is the first in a series of three novels.  I was hoping to have already read the second book by now, but I accidentally picked up the third book and haven’t gotten around to buying the second yet.   I’ll get around to it I’m sure but I’ve got so many other books I’ve either started to read or am hoping to get too eventually soon, and this series may have to be saved for next year or next summer.  There is something about YA contemporaries that I feel they should be read during the summer, perhaps it’s because they make great vacation reads.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan