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!

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Book Review – Tiny Little Thing

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Source: Amazon

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams has been on my wish list and then TBR list for a while. I’d read about it on another blog or two, and I think I also saw it advertised on Goodreads. Finally, when I went on a shopping spree at the beginning of summer, I picked it up and put it aside for beach reading. I am so glad I had it with me!

Tiny Little Thing is set in the 1960s and is about Tiny Hardcastle, the wife of a Massachusetts politician, who is living the perfect life. She runs the household, including the family home on Cape Cod, and is the model housewife. But, as can be expected, Tiny has secrets. These secrets threaten to spill into the open when some photos arrive in the mail for her and her husband’s cousin returns from Vietnam.

I really loved this book, and I especially loved Tiny. The first person narration made her much more real to me, and made it easy to sympathize with her. This was another book which alternated settings and narration, and it worked so well – the secret was revealed slowly, while the current story took place. When everything came to a climax, I truly was shocked. There were plenty of instances where I thought I knew what would happen, but I never expected what actually did happen.

It’s safe to say that this book was one of my favorites that I’ve read in a long time. I was disappointed to reach the end, only because I was sad to leave Tiny and her world. Beatriz Williams is another author that I need to read more of, and I plan on making a trip to the library very soon!

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!

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!

Book Review – Send

Send by Patty Blount

Send by Patty Blount

Send, by Patty Blount, is one of the new young adult novels that I recently picked up on a Barnes and Noble shopping spree. I feel a need to make sure I am reading a wider variety of books so that I can give student recommendations more easily. I know that I need to find books that would appeal to boys, and this seemed like it might be a good choice.

Send focuses on the aftermath of bullying. Daniel Ellison is starting his senior year at a new high school where no one knows his history, and he must keep it that way. No one can find out that he spent time in a juvenile detention center at the age of thirteen for causing a classmate’s suicide. So when he arrives at school on his very first day and sees a fight about to happen, Daniel must make an important decision. Does he walk away and allow a boy to be bullied, or does he step in and stop the fight, risking the discovery of his past? Going against the voice inside his head, he decides to try to stop the fight. Daniel’s decision to step in creates his reputation and sets the tone for the rest of his school year. This decision also leads Dan into an initially unwilling friendship with Julie, a girl who watched him stop the fight, and who seems to know that he has a secret.

I had never heard of this book before I saw it on the shelves, so I didn’t know what to expect when I began reading it. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, the story line was very realistic and I feel like as the narrator, Daniel is a character that teens can easily relate to – especially boys. It was refreshing to see a story from the perspective of a (former) bully, and to get an idea of how deeply those poor choices affect such a person years later. Many people may think that a bully has no regret for the way they have treated others, but in Daniel’s case this isn’t true. His guilt and remorse is clear throughout the story and they are what drive many of his choices. My only complaint about the novel was the voice inside Daniel’s head, which I mentioned briefly in the synopsis. Daniel literally has a voice that he hears in his head, and with which he converses. While the role of this inner voice is very important to the story, I feel like it became distracting. Overall, though, I felt like the book was a very worthwhile read. When I find myself thinking of a book and its characters days after I have finished reading it, I know that I’ve found a good one.

Would I recommend this book to students? Yes. My only hesitation would be adult language and a brief adult scenario – again, as a teacher, I am often careful in what I tell kids to read; I don’t want to suggest anything their parents wouldn’t approve of! 🙂