The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Book Review

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Title: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Series: Sisterhood Series

Author: Ann Brashares

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

Publishing Date: September 24th, 2002

Reading Format: Paperback

Review:

I’d like to call the year of 2017 as the year of the reread. At least on a personal level, I can’t really speak for everyone else. But for myself I have reread several books this year, such as the Doon series and The Falconer series. And to give myself deep nostalgia I decided to buy all of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books and keep the train rolling on my need to read what I have read before.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was my favorite book between ages 16 and 20, and I wondered before starting it again if the book would hold up to what my late teen self thought of it. To put it briefly I don’t feel like it did. I’m 28 now and that changes the perspective I have on a lot of things as well as my attitude toward certain ideals I may have had on life at 16 versus how it feels now that I’ve become an adult.

If you have never read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants then let me explain what it is about. The book follows four friends: Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen. All four girls have grown up together and are the best of friends, and for the first time in their lives are about to spend the summer away from each other. Lena is going to visit her grandparents in Greece; Bridget is going to a summer long soccer camp in Southern California; Carmen is visiting her Dad in South Carolina; and Tibby is stuck in their hometown working at Walman’s. Before each one embarks on their new adventures Carmen comes across a pair of jeans in a thrift store that miraculously fits all four girls. This brings about the idea that the pants are to be shared by each of them and the journeys they all take over the summer.

When I first read this book in 2005 I deeply related to Carmen and Lena. Bridget seemed a bit too spontaneous and Tibby was too cynical to match my personality, so Carmen and Lena took center stage when it came to my favorite characters in the book. While I still can relate my 16 year old self to Carmen, I’ve come to look at all four main characters differently. For instance, Bridget is spontaneous because she is brave and doesn’t fear the consequences or rejections that may happen with her actions. I myself am a more timid person. I shy away from actions that may cause me notice or could potentially hurt my feelings. While Bridget’s actions in the book do have consequences that leave a lasting impact, her bravado was more intriguing to me while reading this book again. I was also more disappointed with the romance in the book. For whatever reason I remembered Lena and Kostos having a better romantic story line than what I read a couple of months back; and that had initially been one of my favorite things about the first book, but the romance between them is pretty much nonexistent throughout the story. Perhaps my memory isn’t how it use to be, or I read better romances in other novels over time.

While my love for the books hasn’t changed completely, I don’t hold it in as high regard as I once did. I still think that at 16 this is justifiable to being my favorite, but I’m a more active reader then I previously was and somethings just don’t stand the test of time.

Rate: 16 year old me would give it 5 stars, 28 year old me gives it a 3.75 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

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Princess Ever After: Book Review

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Title: Princess Ever After

Series: The Royal Wedding Series

Author: Rachel Hauck

Genre: Christian Fiction

Published: February 4th, 2014

Reading Format: Kindle

Review:

This is the second book in the Royal Wedding Series and follows a new main character, Regina Beswick. In the first book Once Upon a Prince, the main character Susanna met and fell in love with a prince and it reminded me of the movie The Prince and I (which is one of my all-time favorite movies when I was a teenager) as I read it.

One of the plots of the first book is them trying to find the heir to their neighboring country, the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg, this plot is the main driving force of the story line in Princess Ever After. Much like in Once Upon a Prince, Regina is an American who grew up in Florida and learns that she is the believed heir to Hessenberg. (Think Anastasia.) Regina, or Reggie, is visited by the Minister of Culture, Tanner Burkhardt, and after he convinces her she is in fact the long lost princess to his native country Regina follows Tanner back to Hessenberg. Because of her American background and the turmoil of having a potential monarchy again, Regina faces opposition both within Hessenberg and with herself.

I enjoyed this story as I did the first. It’s cute. That is the best word to use of the story and the characters that grace the pages inside. I found Regina to be a bit more stubborn and slightly less confident than I like to read in main female characters, but in the end she figures it out. This is a light and lovely read with romance and a villainous Prime Minister that will make you cheer for Regina to succeed as Hessenberg’s new ruler. And as I like to often mention this is a Christian Lit book and it does have a spiritual theme throughout, so if that’s not for you then you may want to skip this book as well as the entire series. But if that doesn’t bother you then I suggest checking it out. I really like the writing of Rachel Hauck and she has become and one of my favorite authors over the last year.

Rating: 4 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

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

Murder on the Moor: Book Review

*This book was sent to be from Bethany House Publishing for review purposes, all thoughts and opinions are my own

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Title:  Murder on the Moor

Series: A Drew Farthering Mystery

Author: Julianna Deering

Genre: Mystery/Historical/Christian Fiction

Reading Format: Paperback

Summary: 

Murder on the Moor follows Drew Farthering and his wife Madeline who travel to Bloodworth Park Lodge out on the Yorkshire Moor to investigate the murder of the local town vicar.  Invited by an old school friend named Beaky Bloodworth, Drew and his wife hunt for a killer several mysterious incidents seem to keep happening out on the Moor.

Review:

This is the fifth book in a series, which I did not know when I chose to read this but I learned quickly it is not a requirement to have read any of the other four previous to this one. In fact, after reading Murder on the Moor I’ve already decided that I’d like to read the others.

The best way to describe this mystery series is that it reminds me greatly of Downton Abbey with a mystery thrown in.  The book is set in 1930s England and Drew Farthering comes from a wealthier background much like the TV series.  I personally loved Downton Abbey when it was on and enjoyed the atmosphere of the setting for Murder on the Moor.  I also found Drew Farthering to be a very enjoyable character who could be quite funny at times, though his down fall for me in the series was his fixation on Beaky’s wife Sabrina who Drew believes to be a bit of a gold digger through out most of the novel.  Drew’s saving grace from this was his wife Madeline who seemed to have a more leveled head when it came to Sabrina and the things happening out on the moor.

The mystery part of the book was actually pretty good considering that I don’t tend lean toward the mystery genre much.  I found myself wanting to know what happens next and even some nights I would say just one more chapter and staying up way past my bedtime.

In all I would recommend Murder on the Moor and as I mentioned before I plan on reading the other books in the series. And on another note, before I forget, this is a Christian novel or at least that is how it is branded but unlike most that I have read it isn’t heavy with the topic. I always warn this mainly because while I’m a Christian and enjoy reading some fictional novels in this genre I know others may want to avoid it, but  Murder on the Moor is perhaps worth the read if you don’t mind a mention of God maybe a few times through out the story line.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading

Meghan

Waves of Mercy Book Review

*I received this book from the publisher for review purposes, all opinions are my own*

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Title: Waves of Mercy

Author: Lynn Austin

Publish Date: October 4th, 2016

Publisher: Bethany House

Genre: Christian/Historical/Fiction

Summary:

Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean at age seventeen with her parents and a small group of immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. Fifty years later, in 1897, she’s asked to write a memoir of her early experiences as the town celebrates its anniversary. Reluctant at first, she soon uncovers memories and emotions hidden all these years, including the story of her one true love.

At the nearby Hotel Ottawa Resort on the shore of Lake Michigan, twenty-three-year-old Anna Nicholson is trying to ease the pain of a broken engagement to a wealthy Chicago banker. But her time of introspection is disturbed after a violent storm aboard a steamship stirs up memories of a childhood nightmare. As more memories and dreams surface, Anna begins to question who she is and whether she wants to return to her wealthy life in Chicago. When she befriends a young seminary student who is working at the hotel for the summer, she finds herself asking him all the questions that have been troubling her.

Neither Geesje nor Anna, who are different in every possible way, can foresee the life-altering surprises awaiting them before the summer ends.

Review:

I’ve heard a lot about the author of this book, Lynn Austin, and many people seem to love her books. This is the first book of her’s that I have read and when I read the summary I was intrigued by the story especially because I love multiple prospective narratives and historical fiction. For the most part this is a lovely story and it shows the reader the lives of two women, Anna and Geesje, both of whom have had to overcome obstacles and questions in their lives and in their faiths.

I enjoyed learning about Geesje’s past and how her and her family immigrated from the Netherlands to come to America in the 1800’s. This was an area of history I wasn’t aware of in terms of the religious persecution that happened to those who did not choose to worship in the state churches in the Netherlands. Anna also faces this persecution from her own fiance and family as she decides to listen to the sermons of an evangelical preacher that is not apart of her family’s church. Anna is even faced with the ending of her engagement due to her continuing involvement with the church and this leads her character to go through a personal journey of what it is she wants and what it is she is looking for.

Like most Christian fiction, this book was slightly sappy and I am not a particularly sappy person. There were moments in the book where I found myself rolling my eyes in certain scenes. Also it should be noted about the narrative of the book is that we get two perspectives from Geesje, one is from 1897 and the other starts 50 years before then of her detailing her life from the Netherlands to living in America. The transition between these narratives is sometimes odd as Geesje in 1897 explains the actions she is taking to write her story in 1847. This sometimes threw me off when reading the story and would distract me from the flow of the story.

Overall this was a nice story. I didn’t love it and nor am I going to pretend I enjoyed the book all the way through. It would be boring in some sections and drag on in describing the characters feelings, but again I’m not sappy person so that’s a  more personal perspective of the book.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan