Overseas – Book Review

I was a huge Beatriz Williams fan after reading a few books last summer: A Hundred Summers, Tiny Little Thing, and The Secret Life of Violet Grant. I happily bought Overseas, ready for another great read.

Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations.

Let me begin with the synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

Amiens, France, 1916: Captain Julian Ashford, a British officer in the trenches of the Western Front, is waylaid in the town square by Kate, a beautiful young American. Julian’s never seen her before, but she has information about the reconnaissance mission he’s about to embark on. Who is she? And why did she track him down in Amiens?

New York, 2007: A young Wall Street analyst, Kate Wilson learned to rely on logic and cynicism. So why does she fall so desperately in love with Julian Laurence, a billionaire with a mysterious past?

What she doesn’t know is that he has been waiting for her…the enchanting woman who emerged from the shadows of the Great War to save his life.

Overseas by Beatriz Williams

There were a couple of reasons that I wasn’t very pleased with this book. First of all, I really don’t think I’m dropping a major spoiler when I tell you that this book obviously involves time travel. Time travel is not the problem; I’m a diehard Outlander fan. What really bothered me about this was how easily the characters accepted the time travel. I felt like it should have created much more conflict than it did; there was practically no conflict at all when one character mentioned time travel to the other!

Beyond that, I had a hard time relating to the main character, Kate. Part of that could have been that her job as an investment banker was completely foreign to me, so I was absolutely lost when she would discuss banking matters. I definitely felt that she was just too much in certain situations – too bold, or too crass. Obviously this is just a matter of opinion and is based on my own personality. I just know that I would never be able to walk into someone’s kitchen and begin going through their cabinets and refrigerator on my first or second visit.

The main reason I had trouble with this book was the relationship between Kate and Julian. The best way I can think to explain it, and I hope that this will make sense, is that it was too much like Anastasia and Christian in Fifty Shades. Too in love, WAY too fast. To me, there was no actual basis for Kate to have fallen in love with Julian within weeks. I felt like her main reason for falling for him was his looks. I know it’s fiction, but I have a hard time accepting adults falling in love with each other before they truly get to know each other. Besides that, Julian was extremely protective of Kate – just like Christian Grey. He had his reasons, which were never given until late in the book, but it still reminded me too much of Fifty Shades. AND there was the fact that Julian wanted to shower Kate in his money and lifestyle: get her a new phone, give her a credit card so she can go shopping for new clothes, etc. I feel like I’m giving too much away, so I’ll stop there.

I hate to bash the book, because it wasn’t terrible by any means. I was able to push through the parts that frustrated me, and I’m glad I finished it. I rated it three stars on Goodreads, which to me is “pretty good.” Bottom line, though – I am very happy that this was NOT my first read from Beatriz Williams. I’ll be buying another book or two of hers, and I have complete confidence that I won’t be disappointed.

Book Review – A Hundred Summers

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Source: Amazon

As soon as I finished Tiny Little Thing, I jumped right into A Hundred Summers, also by Beatriz Williams. This has also been on my TBR list for a long time, and on the same shopping spree where I bought Tiny Little Thing, I bought A Hundred Summers. This one solidified Williams as a new favorite author.

A Hundred Summers takes place in the beach town of Seaview, Rhode Island, in 1938. Lily Dane has summered at Seaview for her entire life, and most of those summers were spent with her best friend growing up, Budgie Byrne. This friendship lasts through their senior year of college, until Budgie betrays Lily and Lily stops contact with her. It has been six years since Budgie and Lily’s friendship ended, and Lily is settling in for another summer at Seaview, when Budgie returns to her family’s beach cottage. She is not alone, though; she is with her new husband, and Lily’s former fiancé, Nick. As the summer goes by, Lily begins to form a new friendship with Budgie and to move on from Nick. It isn’t until the summer begins to draw to a close and the Great New England Hurricane approaches, that Lily learns that things were maybe not quite as they seemed six years ago.

I am so glad that I waited to read this book until I was at the beach! With the setting a small beach town, it was the perfect read as I listened to the waves crash – either in my beach chair in the sand, or an Adirondack chair on the porch of the house my family rents! I felt like I was in Seaview with Lily, and even more fun, like I was back in time, living in the 1930s. One thing my mom commented on as she read it (at my suggestion as soon as I finished it!), was how she wanted to have the same drinks the characters were drinking throughout the books. The details and descriptions drew me in so completely, so I knew exactly what she meant. Just like Tiny in Tiny Little Thing, I found Lily very easy to relate to and sympathize with. I also was a huge fan of the incorporation of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 into the storyline, and the historical note included at the end. This is something I would never have known about if I hadn’t read the book, and I was interested to learn more. I always love learning a thing or two while I’m reading a great story! A Hundred Summers was a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it. But if you’re anything like me and would be depressed reading about the beach while you’re land-locked, then definitely save it until you’re on a beach trip!

Book Review – Garden Spells

 

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Source: Goodreads

I continued my Sarah Addison Allen binge with Garden Spells, which is her first novel, and the prequel to First Frost, my first taste of Allen. Garden Spells did not disappoint, and was a perfect start to my beach reading!

Garden Spells tells the story of two sisters from a small town called Bascom, North Carolina. They come from a family known for its mystery, mainly thanks to the apple tree growing in the family garden. Legend has it that a bite of an apple off the tree will show the person the biggest event of their life.

Sydney Waverley left Bascom after graduation, wanting to get away from her family name and its stigma, and her first love who broke her heart. She ran from town to town, stealing, changing her name – living the life her mother had – until she wound up stuck in an abusive relationship. When she finally found the courage to take her daughter home to Bascom, she moved in with her sister Claire, whom she hadn’t seen in ten years.

Claire never left Bascom, but embraced her Waverley name and magic, living in her grandmother’s old house. Claire runs a successful catering business out of the house that specializes in edible flowers. People come to Claire for food that will help them to remember a favorite time, or to forget a feeling, anything they need. When Sydney returns to town and moves in, both sisters work to rebuild their broken relationship, as well as their own lives.

As I said, this book was another great read by Sarah Addison Allen. I liked the switch between Claire and Sydney, and I was glad to get more background on the two after reading First Frost. Of course, I wish I had known in the first place that this book came first, but both books were enjoyable regardless. I definitely consider this a good summer read – not too heavy, but still a good story that sucks you in. If you’re interested in reading Sarah Addison Allen, this would be a good place to start. Just make sure you read this one before you read First Frost!

Review: The Peach Keeper

I’m on a Sarah Addison Allen kick! Immediately after finishing First Frost, I pulled The Peach Keeper off my shelf, because I had so enjoyed my first taste of Sarah Addison Allen. The two books I’ve read so far have been the perfect reads for summer – although, First Frost would have been an even better read once fall comes around and I have my cozy decorations up! I’m sure I’ll be able to find something off my TBR pile.

The Peach Keeper is set in North Carolina, in a small town called Walls of Water. The story centers around two young women who have lived in Walls of Water their entire lives, and whose families have a history. Despite this, Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood have no interest in each other. So when Willa gets an invitation to the 75th anniversary gala for the Walls of Water Women’s Society Club, she of course brushes it off. Willa is especially uninterested this year because the gala will be held at the Blue Ridge Madam Inn, an old sprawling mansion built by her great-great grandfather…and being restored as a bed-and-breakfast by Paxton and her high-society family. As renovations and landscaping near their end, a skeleton is uncovered beneath a peach tree in front of the Blue Ridge Madam. The mystery surrounding the body brings Paxton and Willa closer together than they could have predicted, and helps them to discover more about their families’ histories, and themselves.

This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed (I finished it in three days – yay, summer!). I really liked both Willa and Paxton, and was happy to watch their friendship develop. This story had more than friendship, and I loved the romance piece of it, too. I found myself able to connect to the characters, especially Paxton and her relationship with her family. Somewhat similarly to First Frost, I came across several sentences that I especially loved. This story also had just the right amount of magic in it, which is present in all of Allen’s novels (and why I want to keep reading more!). Overall, if I had to compare the two, I may have to place The Peach Keeper slightly above First Frost. My only reason for this would be that I felt more of a connection to these characters, and that could simply be because they were the same age as me and going through similar experiences (kind of…).

Off to the library to check out another book or two so I can continue the Sarah Addison Allen binge!

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Source: Goodreads

First Frost Book Review


Source: Goodreads
I’ve recently finished First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. I have tried to write a succinct summary that does not contain any spoilers, but still (hopefully) makes you want to read the book, but I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job. So, I’m borrowing from Goodreads:

 

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections-rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds-are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby- a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, this was the first book I’ve read by Sarah Addison Allen. I’ve had two of her other books on my shelf, but just never felt like they caught my attention. I never realized that First Frost is a sequel to Allen’s first novel, Garden Spells. Still, I didn’t feel that the books had to be read in order, in order to understand what’s going on with First Frost, but I can imagine that it would have been helpful with background on the characters. I certainly plan on reading Garden Spells soon (and the rest of Allen’s novels – I’m hooked!).

One thing I especially liked about this novel was that the characters each had their own problem they faced. Those problems somewhat overlapped throughout, but the story line would switch between each character. I’ve noticed that I tend to gravitate towards novels with multiple story lines; I suppose they’re what draw me the most. Besides this, each character seemed realistic, like someone I would know in real life. The descriptions of the setting made Bascom a town I could easily picture myself living in. Something new for me as far as genre goes was the magical realism that is present in Allen’s novels. That aspect could be why I never felt compelled to read her other books I’ve had, though I can’t say why. Obviously, I didn’t know what to expect when it came to the magical realism, but I absolutely loved it! It was just the right amount of magic sprinkled in – I didn’t come away annoyed and rolling my eyes like I had when I suffered through Beautiful Creatures. Quite the opposite! I am itching to read the rest of Allen’s novels; they make a fun escape, but still allow you to use your brain.

But perhaps what I liked best of all was the underlying message that came through. I’m sure you can guess from my last post that this book really got me thinking about belonging and finding your place, and my own life. I often found myself wondering how I would feel or what I would do in different characters’ situations. I could easily see this book as a great choice for a book club because of those themes alone.

If you’re in a reading slump (or not), I can easily recommend Sarah Addison Allen. You may want to start with Garden Spells before First Frost, but I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed no matter which book of hers you choose. I’m off to the library today to find a couple more (vacation is coming!)! More reviews to come!

If you HAVE read any of Sarah Addison Allen’s other books, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!