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

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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

Mariana: Book Review

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Title: Mariana

Author: Susanna Kearsley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: August 1st, 1995

Reading Format: Kindle

Review:

Susanna Kearsley is easily my favorite author. I’ve never read a book of her’s I didn’t love, and her use of historical fiction with paranormal elements in her novels makes many of her books some of my favorites. I literally have all of her books downloaded onto my kindle and I’m slowly reading each one. The latest book of her’s I read is Mariana which I believe is one of the first books she ever wrote, but don’t quote me on that.

Mariana is about Julia Beckett who at 5 years old on a family trip comes across an old house in the English countryside instantly knows that is her’s. She is immediately drawn to it and several years later comes across the house again where she learns it’s for sale and buys it. The house, known as Greywethers, seems to have some magic; or at least that is how it appears to Julia who finds herself transported to the 17th century as a young woman named Mariana and travels between her own time and her potential former life.

This novel really drew me in. I was reading it quickly and yet at the same time I was trying to savor every moment by trying to slow my pace. But this book is too good not to put down and Susanna Kearsley did not disappoint when it came to the plotlines in this novel. I was in engrossed in both the story of Julia as I was with Mariana. I’d highly recommend this book if you have ever read anything else by Susanna Kearsley or if you like a bit of time travel within your contemporary romance novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

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

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

Forever, Erma: Book Review

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Title: Forever, Erma

Author: Erma Bombeck

Publish Date: January 15th, 2013

Genre: Humor/Nonfiction

Reading Format: E-book

Summary:

An anthology of Erma Bombeck’s best writing, and a tribute to one of America’s sharpest wits. (Publisher’s summary)

Review:

Erma Bombeck passed away in 1996, but for 30 plus years she wrote a syndicated newspaper column called At Wit’s End.  The column talked about all things that one might experience in the average suburban life, but it was laced with lots of humor. I personally had never heard of Erma Bombeck before reading this book.  I was after all only 7 when she passed and wasn’t particularly interested in anything in the newspapers that weren’t located in the funnies (though not a lot has changed in 20 years).

Forever, Erma had be laughing out loud and I was even leaving notes and highlighting sections because I wanted to locate some of things I read later to share with others.  Erma’s sense of humor is exactly what I find funny, and I while I was reading this book it was all I could talk about in conversations with others. I just had to share all of Erma’s wittiness with all my family and friends.

I highly recommend reading Forever, Erma or any of her other books she has written.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

Once Upon a Prince: Book Review

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Title:  Once Upon a Prince

Series: The Royal Wedding Series

Author:  Rachel Hauck

Publish Date: May 7th, 2013

Genre: Romance/Christian Fiction

Reading Format: E-book

Summary: 

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess—just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn’t going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simon’s Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family’s tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna’s aid under the fabled Lover’s Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He’s a royal prince. She’s a ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation. It’s the ultimate choice. His kingdom or her heart? God’s will or their own? (publisher’s summary)

Review:

Once Upon a Prince was a reread for me.  Originally I had read the book when it was first published about four years ago and I had loved it then, though I seem to have forgotten most of the story line from the first time I read it to this second time a couple of months ago.

This book is my ideal romance.  It sweeps you off your feet and you cheer for the main characters to fall in love throughout the entire book.  It isn’t filled with too much over the top drama and Susanna is a great leading female character, who’s struggles in her late 20s I could identify with easily. (Though I don’t have prince that I’m aware of waiting to fall in love with me. *sigh*.)

My opinion about Once Upon a Time hasn’t changed that much since I read it back in 2013.  I still really enjoyed the story and all the characters.  The setting in both the real St. Simon’s island and the fictional kingdom Prince Nathaniel is about to rule made perfect backdrops for the book.

 (Fair warning I’m about to vent in the next part)

I usually note when a book is Christian literature because I realize not everyone want’s to read in this genre.  However lately reviews on goodreads are becoming more frustrating to me because people will one star books for the most ridiculous reasons.  Do your research before you read a book. Most bookstores and online retailers label the genres of books, so I don’t see how it’s that difficult to find.  This isn’t really geared toward anyone who reads my reviews I just wanted to address it because I kept seeing one star reviews for Once Upon a Time and they all said “I didn’t know this was a Christian Romance” even though under genres that’s how it’s listed. Whatever!  Some people you can’t help.

Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

 

Midnight in Broad Daylight: Book Review

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Title: Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds

Author: Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

Publish Date: January 5th, 2016

Genre: History/Biographical

Reading Format: E-book

Summary (Publisher):

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Midnight in Broad Daylight is the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II. An epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption, Pamela Rotner Sakamoto’s history is a riveting chronicle of U.S.-Japan relations and of the Japanese experience in America.

Review:

I love history but oddly I don’t love to read about history.  I often find them to be a bit boring, or filled with too much information but no story to it.  I can count on one hand the number of Nonfiction books I’ve read that I’ve actually finished, Midnight in Broad Daylight being one of them and I loved this book.

It tells the story of the Fukuhara family. Parents born in Japan and immigrants to America, who raise their 5 children in a mixed cultural upbringing filled with the traditions of Japan and the modern aspects of America.  The book closely follows the lives of two of the brothers Harry and Frank.  Harry is the 3rd child and Frank is his younger brother.  After the death of their father and the start of the Great Depression in the United States, the boys who have spent their whole lives in America are moved to Japan by their mother, along with their 3 other siblings, to be closer to family.

Harry vows to return to America the moment they are forced to move and does after he finishes school.  He comes back to find that the town he grew up in and the friends he left behind don’t have a lot of interest in him any more, nor does the small town have any jobs to offer during the depression.  Moving to Los Angles, Harry bounces from job to job before moving in with a middle aged couple as their house boy.  The couple, who have no children of their own, treat Harry as though he were their son.  They even take in his sister, Mary, and her young daughter when she shows up after escaping her alcoholic and abusive husband.  Then after Pearl Harbor, Harry and Mary are sent to an interment camp until Harry is able to join the United States Army as a translator. Mean while Frank is still in Japan.  He is admitted into an elite school where he learns the ideology that heavily influences Imperial Japan. Frank and one of his and Harry’s other brothers, Pierce, are drafted into the Imperial Army.

Reading the Fukuhara story opened up a whole new world of curiosity for me about Japan, World War II, and cultures here in America.  This family’s story was heartbreaking and hopeful all at once, and presented a timely read even though it was experiences the Fukuhara’s went through nearly 75 years ago.  As an American I’m often surprised by how our society can be xenophobic because we are a rare group of people as our country is also not our ethnicity but rather built from many different ethnicities.  I alone can rattle off a long list of where my heritage comes from just like many others, but somehow we always tend to ignore that when it comes the the new immigrants who make their way to the United States.  Midnight in Broad Daylight shows the nastiness of xenophobia but also displays the strength of a family who attempt to move forward even when those around them want to hold them back because of who they are.

Rating: 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