A Study in Charlotte: Book Review

 

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Title: A Study in Charlotte

Series: Charlotte Holmes Series

Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Publish Date: January 3rd, 2017

Genre: Mystery/YA/Retelling

Reading Format: Paperback

Summary:

Jamie Watson earns a rugby scholarship to a prep school in Sherringford, Connecticut.   Starting his new school brings Jamie not only geographically closer to his estranged father but also to Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter to the infamous Sherlock Holmes.  Naturally Jamie, the great-great-great-grandson of John Watson, feels that he and Charlotte are destined to be the best of friends.  Too bad, however, for Jamie that his first meeting with Charlotte doesn’t go as planned, nor did he expect to find himself to be framed for murder along with Ms. Holmes.

Review:

I’ve only ever read one Sherlock Holmes Novel and that was The Hound of the Baskervilles for my 7th grade literature class.  Needless to say I’m far removed from having read that book and outside of movies and TV shows about the famous fictional detective, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories.  So when I decided to pick up A Study in Charlotte as an impulse buy at Target (what isn’t an impulse buy at Target?) I didn’t know what to expect other than the retelling of a classic with Sherlock and Watson’s great-great-great-grandchildren.

First let me get this out of the way by saying that the entire time I visualized Charlotte and Jamie mostly like this:

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Though granted the main characters in this book were all but 16 (and one happens to also be female), I couldn’t quite get around Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson.

Now that I have planted that idea into your mind as well, I’ll continue on with my review.

The first two words that come to mind to describe A Study in Charlotte is dark and funny.  The wittiness between Charlotte and Jamie is quite reflective of anything else Sherlock related, and the common themes that haunt her great-great-great-grandfather also haunt Charlotte.

There is enough in this book that it has a familiarity to it but also provides enough originality that it doesn’t appear like a redundant plot line.  Brittany Cavallaro does a good job of incorporating the original stories while maintaining her own take on the novels to produce a murder mystery I actually enjoyed reading.  As someone who doesn’t venture into the mystery genre very often because I can sometimes find them predictable, I never lost my interest in what was happening in the book.

If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes I would suggest reading A Study in Charlotte but if you are expecting an exact replica or a continuation of the original novels then you might be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Book Review

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Title: The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, Epoct, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 2nd Edition (Because the title wasn’t long enough already!)

Author:  Susan Veness

Publish Date: April 3rd, 2015

Genre: Travel

Reading Format: E-book

Review:

So I’ve mentioned this a time or two before but I love Walt Disney World and all things Disney.  I figure The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World would be a quick and mildly insightful book to read.  It got me closer to my goal of reading 35 books this year while also providing some new information.  The most interesting  part of this book were the small sections from the Imagineers who worked on different parts of the parks.  It’s amazing to see how much detail they put into each attraction, ride, and restaurant at the Disney parks and resorts.

While there were a lot of things I have read before (thanks pinterest!) on Disney World, I did learn some new things, such as, the fountain in Epoct when it first opened was filled with water from around the world and the Magic Kingdom has changed and expanded since it first opened in 1971 several times.

It will be interesting to see if a newer edition will be written in the next couple of years as the parks change even more with the additions of Pandora, Star Wars Land, and Toy Story Land.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

Wings on the Wind: Book Review

*This book was given to me by the publisher for review purposes.  All thoughts and opinions are my own*


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Title: Wings of the Wind

Series: Out of Egypt

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Publish Date: May 2, 2017

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Reading Format: Paperback

Publisher Summary: 

Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.
Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.
Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?

Review:

Wings of the Wind is the third book in a Series called Out of Egypt.  I was not aware of this when I got the book, however, I didn’t feel that I was missing anything by not having read the first two.  The two main female characters from books one and two do play supporting character roles in this novel and they share enough of their background to the main character Alanah that I was aware they had importance to the series but didn’t find that I was losing the plot of Wings of the Wind without having read the first two books.

With that side note out of the way, let me dive into my thoughts on this book.  When I received my email from the publisher for the books they were offering for the month of May I took one look at this cover and immediately requested it.  I was also drawn in by the summary as I don’t often read ancient historical fiction novels but when I do I usually enjoy them.  This book was no exception to that rule.

The Out of Egypt series is set from the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt through their wandering of the desert for 40 years.  Wings of the Wind takes place towards the end of the 40 years when the Hebrews are beginning to take back their promise land from the Canaanites.  Alanah is a Canaanite woman who loses her Father and her Brothers to the war with the Hebrews.  She wants to avenge their deaths and disguises herself as a man where she sneaks onto the battlefield.  Alanah is wounded and found by a Hebrew Soldier named Tobiah, who upon discovering that she is a woman takes her back to the Hebrew camp.  Tobiah makes the decision that in order to protect Alanah from the other Israelites, as she is seen as the enemy, he must marry her. It sounds like a cheesy plot line, and I’ll admit that I was expecting it to be too gooey of a romance to really get into the book. However I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case and instead the romance is built up nicely through out the book.

My favorite thing about Wings of the Wind has to be that the Author Connilyn Cossette fills in the space with details of what might have happened during the stories of the Bible.  I grew up in church and I’ve heard the stories of Moses and Israelites the wandering through the desert many times.  As most stories are told in the Bible they are direct and too the point, conveying the message without filling in the details. Connilynn Cossette presented a fictional observation of what daily life may have been like during this time.  And she does it with a strong female character in Alanah who can stand on her own but is lovingly supported by Tobiah and not possessively sheltered as some stories can portray a woman rescued by a man.

I’d really love to read the first two books in the series and also see this one progress to when the Israelites have established themselves in the promise land.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


Happy Reading,

Meghan

My (Not So) Perfect Life: Book Review

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“This is the trouble with meeting people in real life: They don’t come with profiles attached.” ~ Sophie Kinsella, My (Not So) Perfect Life

Title: My (Not So) Perfect Life

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Publish Date: February 7th, 2017

Genre: Chick Lit/Fiction

Reading Format: Hardcover

Summary:

Katie Brenner is trying to make it in London. She works in branding for Demeter Farlowe, the boss who’s life Katie would love to have.  As she struggles with daily living, Katie turns to Instagram that presents not-as-it-seems images of her everyday life.  She manages to discover a possible new romance while attempting to move up the ladder in her job when Demeter fires her.

Not sure of what to do, Katie returns home to Somerset where her Dad and Step Mom have started a glamping site on the farm she grew up on. Claiming to be on sabbatical from her job so her parents won’t find out she’s been fired the unexpected happens, Demeter shows up with her perfect family for holiday at the Brenner’s farm.

Review:

I wrote this in my What I Read in April 2017 post, but I’ve never read a Sophie Kinsella book before.  This has more to do with the fact that I’m not generally drawn to the world of Chick lit and therefore don’t tend to browse that part of a bookstore, but if you judge a book by its cover as I do then you might understand why I couldn’t pass over My (Not So) Perfect Life. 

Right off the bat I’m going to state the obvious about a Chick lit book: it’s cute and there’s romance. Now that that is out of the way let’s break down my thoughts on the novel.  First, I  liked the character of Katie Brenner. She’s relatable, funny, and smart.  In the beginning of the book in part one when Katie is first in London, she goes by Cat and tries to establish herself as a true Londoner.  She presents herself in a less than true version of who she is, and in a world of social media over-saturating everything we do Katie isn’t too far removed from the real world.  I mean who hasn’t posted an alternate version of themselves on Instagram to appear they have it all together and then some.  Her transition from life in London to being back home also gives her character growth.  When Katie goes back to Somerset you can see her mature in a positive way which I liked.

My second thought about the book is that the romance doesn’t over do it but comes across nicely without moving too quickly.  I like slower moving romantic plots then the they-met-and-now-they-are-already-in-love types.  And lastly the humor in My (Not So) Perfect Life was actually funny and had me laughing out loud at times.

I liked this novel and it’s made me want to pick up a different book by Sophie Kinsella. So if anything I’ve gained a new author who’s writing style I like, and sometimes that is not always easy.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark: Book Review

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“You can’t get any ‘cooler’ than Disney World.” ~ Ridley Pearson, Disney After Dark

Title: Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark (Book I)

Series: Kingdom Keepers

Author: Ridley Pearson

Publish Date: September 1st, 2009

Genre: Middle Grade

Reading Format: Paperback

Summary:

Finn and four other teens are picked as DHIs, or Disney Host interactives and Daylight Hologram Imaging, for Walt Disney World.  During the day their holograms guide guests around the Magic Kingdom, but at night time Finn and the others discover that they are transported to the park at night as their holograms and find out that everything there seems to come alive.  They learn through the Imagineer Wayne that they were picked as DHIs to help defeat the Overtakers, who not only want to take over the Disney parks but also the real world.

Review:

Excuse my poor attempt at summarizing Disney After Dark but it took me about 8 to 9 months to read the book so I had to reread the back cover to fill in the holes of the story line I couldn’t completely remember.  And by the first sentence you may already be able to tell that I didn’t love this book because it took me too long to read something meant for 11 to 13 year olds.

I initially bought Disney After Dark while I was planning my Disney World trip last year. As I was planning my vacation I would watch tons of Disney vloggers on YouTube to get an idea of things to do at Disney, and noticed that a few them would mention the Kingdom Keepers Series as books they liked to read that were set in the parks.  Now mind you most of the people who suggested these books were around my age so between 25 to 30. I figured if they read the book and liked it then I should try it too.  Well the main issue I had with Disney After Dark isn’t that it was too young for me but rather that the characters were too young for the author.

Now I don’t know how old Ridley Pearson is nor do I know if he has any kids, though I do imagine the latter part is true; but I do know that his perception of how the average 13 year old speaks and/or interact with each other distracted me through out this entire book because of how off it felt.  Now I’m nearly 28 (only a month away. Yikes!) so I haven’t been 13 for almost 15 years now and I don’t work in a setting with teens nor do I have kids but I can state with confidence that the 5 DHIs in Disney After Dark isn’t an example of who 13 years old are. I mean it can’t be because I don’t believe anyone’s talked this way since at least 1999.

I do want to add that I didn’t hate Disney After Dark (After I devoted a lengthy paragraph about the characters), it is a cute book  with adventure and is set in the Magic Kingdom. As someone who loves Disney I enjoyed that the books main focus is on all things Disney. I enjoyed this fact so much that I’m probably going to attempt to finish the series even though I am prepared to cringe through all the dialogue along the way.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Is there a book series that you continued to read even though the first book in the series wasn’t fantastic? Did you end up liking the other books? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Winter Garden: Book Review

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“To those who are here, those who are gone, and those who are lost.” — Kristen Hannah, Winter Garden

Title: Winter Garden

Author: Kristin Hannah

Published: February 2, 2010

Genre: Contemporary/Historical/Fiction

Reading Format: Kindle book

Summary:

Meredith and Nina Whitson have always had a very cold relationship with there mother Anya. The girls only warm connection with their mother came in the form of the Russian fairy tales Anya would tell them as children. When their beloved father passes, his last request to Nina is for her to have her mother retell the fairy tales to the girls.  As Anya reluctantly begins to tell the tales again her daughters learn more about her past than they ever have before and what seemed like an impossible relationship between mother and daughters starts to form.

Review:

One of Kristen Hannah’s other works is my all time favorite books, The Nightingale. I love Kristen’s writing and how she expands upon the different relationships the characters have with one another.  While Winter Garden did not surpass my love for The Nightingale I still found this book to be a good read.

The setting of Winter Garden .  I will say the book has a slow start to the actual fairy tale parts that Anya tells to her daughters. Because this does take awhile I felt that the end of Anya’s fairy tale was rushed and too much of the first 100 to 200 pages are devoted to the build up of the stories without actually devoting a lot of time to tell them.  Other than that Winter Garden was a good book. I learned some stuff about Russian history I’ve never known about and its made me want to look into other historical fiction set in Russia.

Winter Garden is also a very emotional read.  Much like Kristen Hannah’s other books, the author really plays with the readers heart strings with Anya’s story.  At times the characters themselves can be a bit irritating, at least that’s how they made me feel. This was especially true with Meredith’s need to control everything while also claiming to do it because she want’s to make everyone happy.  In truth when I think about the story line that takes place in “present time” (story takes place in the year 2000 in Washington State and also in Leningrad, Russia during World War II), I could have actually done without it completely and had it focus only on the Leningrad parts. Even with that said I’d still recommend Winter Garden, if you like World War II history but would like a mix of family drama then you should read this book.

Rating: 3.85 stars out of 5

Happy Reading,

Meghan

The Shadow Queen: Book Review

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“Her skin was as white as snow, her lips as red as blood, and her long hair as black as ebony.” — C.J. Redwine, The Shadow Queen

Title: The Shadow Queen

Series: Ravenspire

Author: C.J. Redwine

Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling

Published: February 16th, 2016

Reading Format: Audio book

Summary:

A retelling of Snow White were Snow White is a fugitive with magic named Lorelai. Her seven dwarfs come in the form of her brother, a former royal guard, and a Gyrfalcon named Sasha. And her huntsman/prince is a dragon king that both loves her and wants to kill her. Plus Lorelai is the only one who can stop the evil queen from destroying the kingdom of Ravenspire that rightfully belongs to Lorelai.

Review:

By my summary of the book you may be able to tell that The Shadow Queen isn’t exactly like the fairy tale of Snow White.  Mostly the book takes parts of Snow White but the author, C.J. Redwine, made the story her own with Lorelai. I also listened to this book through Audible and the narrator is what really sold my liking for The Shadow Queen. I truly felt like I was being told an old fairy tale by a great storyteller.

My favorite twist in this retelling is Kol. Kol’s character is both prince charming and the huntsman; he is also the new king of a neighboring land where the people there are both human and dragon.  Kol comes to Ravenspire to get help from the evil queen, Irina, where he makes a deal with her that if he brings Irina Lorelai’s heart, that the queen will then save his kingdom from the Ogres. Of course the predictably of the quest in this part of the story is that Kol does not bring Irina back the heart of Lorelai and thus Irina forces Kol into a pact to kill Lorelai that he cannot remove himself from.  The perfect twist to that plot line is that because Kol is human who can turn into a dragon, he possess both hearts of man and dragon.  Once Irina removes Kol’s human heart we as the reader get to see the internal struggle he has to control his dragon heart.

I thought The Shadow Queen was a great retelling for Snow White.  I usually stay away from retellings, as I can often find them predictable and lack surprise elements in the story line but I was not disappointed with C.J. Redwine’s version.  I just recently got the second book in the series The Wish Granter, a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and I’ve been holding off on it to read other books but I’d like to get to it sooner rather than later.

Star Rating: 4.75/5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan