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.

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The Shoemaker’s Wife – Review

Thunder is rumbling outside, and I have sissy-la-la Jinxy shaking in my lap as I write this. All I’m missing is a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

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Bloggin’ and dog-mommin’

Sometimes in your reading life, you almost forget that feeling of becoming so immersed and falling so in love with the characters and the story itself. Of course there have been plenty of good books that I’ve read over the past few years, but reading The Shoemaker’s Wife was an experience that I had been missing without even knowing it.

First of all, let me explain that I had never even heard of Adriana Trigiani (what kind of reader am I??) before receiving this book in a book exchange through Facebook last spring or summer. Talk about happy mail! The woman who sent the book to me included a little note: “Enjoy this book. It was wonderful!” but of course, I kept pushing it aside. Finally, I started a “book club” with two friends of mine at the beginning of this summer, and we added The Shoemaker’s Wife to our list. Thank. God.

The Shoemaker’s Wife centers around the lives of Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazzari, who both grow up in neighboring villages in the mountains of northern Italy at the turn of the century. Ciro and Enza meet briefly when Ciro is sent to dig a grave in Enza’s village, and the two feel an instant connection. They are quickly separated when Ciro is sent to America as an apprentice to a shoemaker; he leaves with no word for Enza, and she knows she must forget about him. Not long after, Enza arrives in America herself, and after some struggle, she finds her calling as a seamstress for the opera singer Enrico Caruso at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House. Enza’s and Ciro’s paths cross a few times over the years, and despite the feelings they have for each other, their lives keep taking them in different directions.

All right, I need to be honest and tell you that there is so much more I could add to that synopsis but I was afraid I would give too much away! Just do yourself a favor and go read this book!

This was truly one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long time, for so many reasons. There was enough conflict, but it never felt forced.  I felt so connected to the characters and could so easily picture the mountains of Italy, as well as the shops and streets of New York City in the early twentieth century. And the food! It is a miracle that I didn’t run to the nearest Italian restaurant and stuff my face with delicious pasta dishes and mozzarella cheese every single day while I read this book. Let’s be honest, it’s another miracle that I didn’t jump on a plane with a one-way ticket to Italy.
The Shoemaker’s Wife was inspired by Adriana Trigiani’s own family history, and it certainly did feel like I was reading a true-life story of two people who came to America with dreams to help their families back home. This story was such a lovely tribute to those who left their families and all they ever knew at the turn of the century, to go to a brand new place to make a brand new life. This was a beautiful read.

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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 – Beautiful Creatures

I finally made it through Beautiful Creatures over the weekend. I knew it was going to be hot, so I decided to take a day-trip to the beach. I packed my beach bag with a few books since I was sure I’d finish Beautiful Creatures, and of course I’d need a new book to start. I thought I should wait a little to write a post about it because I wanted to make sure I had all my thoughts in line. Get ready.

Sixteen-year-old Ethan Wate lives in the small Southern town of Gatlin. This is your stereotypical small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, and no one leaves. Ethan is anxious to get out after high school…but then Lena Duchannes comes to town and changes everything. Ethan realizes that Lena is the girl he has been dreaming about, and finds himself “drawn” to her. They develop a relationship despite the fact that Lena, the niece of the town recluse, is the outcast at Jackson High and everyone is set on tearing them apart. As they grow closer, Ethan realizes that Lena’s differences come from special powers. She is a Caster. Lena’s sixteenth birthday is approaching, which means she will be “claimed” – she will be chosen as a dark caster or a light caster for the rest of her life. Knowing that her mother was dark, Lena fears that she will be the same and is desperate to stop it. Ethan spends every possible moment helping Lena search for a way to save herself…until her birthday comes, and it may be too late.

As you may remember, I had been struggling through the book and was not a very big fan. At all. I wouldn’t say I hated it, but it was far from even being considered for a favorites list. It’s an “eh” book. Like I said previously, I’m not sure if my opinion was swayed by the reviews I read on goodreads, but it didn’t take much to figure out why so many reviews were negative.

One of the things that really bothered me was a lingering confusion over what exactly it means to be a Caster…how do they develop their “powers”? Are they similar to witches? What kinds of things can they do? These things were touched on, and there were different examples of Caster powers throughout, but I felt like there was never a very good explanation. I’m not saying Twilight was anything to rave about, but at least I understood the whole vampire/werewolf thing while I read the books! I felt like the authors of Beautiful Creatures just wanted to write a paranormal story, and made things up as they went along instead of thinking it out beforehand. (They do say in their acknowledgments that it took them three months to write the book, before going through editing. Gee, I would never have guessed…)

A second thing that I didn’t like was that there was no apparent basis for Ethan and Lena’s falling in love. There seemed to be no development of feelings over time, no getting to know each other. You know, those things we normal people go through in real life. In Beautiful Creatures, Lena and Ethan are “drawn” to each other because of a dream they keep having. And when they finally meet, Ethan’s world changes forever. Please. PLEASE! And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous lines. I wish I had kept count of how many times I rolled my eyes and thought, “Oh my God.” I couldn’t help but think as I read this, that a number of my students were reading these books, or had read them, and now have in their heads that this is what love is like…at sixteen years old. Hate to say it, but you don’t get an electric shock when you kiss someone unless you’re holding a fork in a socket at the same time.

Overall, the book wasn’t atrocious; I was curious to find out what would happen and how the story would end, which kept me reading. But I was by no means enraptured with this book, where I could NOT put it down. If a student is looking for a book to read and I know they like romance stories or fantasy/paranormal, I’ll recommend it but it won’t be with much enthusiasm. Should you read it yourself? Eh, if you feel like it. If you’re planning on watching the movie and are the type of person that likes to read the book first, go ahead. Or if you are thinking to yourself, “I have to see for myself what she’s talking about…”

Or just skip it and thank me. Okay, maybe I did hate this book. Can’t win ’em all.

http://thecasterchronicles.wikia.com/wiki/Beautiful_Creatures

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl Source: http://thecasterchronicles.wikia.com/wiki/Beautiful_Creatures

Book Review – Requiem

Requiem is the final book in the Delirium trilogy. If you haven’t read Delirium or Pandemoniumwhat are you waiting for?! But seriously, don’t read this post until you’ve finished both those books, unless you don’t mind spoilers.

This is completely unrelated, but I just noticed – Lena seems to be quite the trendy name, especially for YA novels. The Delirium trilogy stars a Lena; I’m reading Beautiful Creatures with Lena as a main character, and just read a review of City of Embers – with a Lena. Don’t you hate when a name becomes a fad?

Requiem focuses on the resistance and the buildup to a revolution against DFA and the government. Lena has made it back into the Wilds after a huge gamble to save Julian’s life in New York. What she didn’t expect for her return to the Wilds, was for Alex to join them (or to be alive at all). Suddenly Lena has to deal with feelings she thought had long been buried, while trying to hide it all from Julian, and watching Alex grow close with another girl.

As the resistance grows stronger, Lena and the others are threatened by Regulators, who have begun infiltrating the Wilds in order to suppress the Invalids. Constantly in motion, Lena’s group eventually find themselves at the center of the revolution – ready to attack Lena’s childhood home, Portland.

At the same time Lena’s best friend Hana is approaching her marriage to her selected match – Fred Hargrove, mayor of Portland. Hana seems to have the perfect life after her Cure. Perfect wedding, perfect husband, and perfect house; all will be hers. Of course, nothing is perfect, and beneath the surface, Hana’s life is far from it. While her story and Lena’s alternate throughout, it becomes clear that they will become intertwined somehow, and it is at this point that Hana must make a decision about her “perfect” life.

Requiem was a perfect end to the trilogy. Another wonderfully written book that used alternating chapters like Pandemonium; this time, the chapters alternated between Lena and Hana. When I got to Hana’s first chapter, I didn’t see the point and I thought to myself, “I really don’t care about Hana right now…what’s going on with Lena?” But just like Pandemonium, I felt myself getting drawn in with both stories, and constantly wanting to read one more chapter so that I could find out what happened with either character. What I loved about this whole trilogy, is the way little details throughout prove to be important later on (I guess the teacher in me would call it foreshadowing! 🙂 ). I think it’s safe to say that the Delirium trilogy is one of my favorite YA series. I know I will be recommending it to students, or asking which of them have read it so we can chat about it!

If you’re looking for a summer read (or three), these are your best bet! Have you read the series? What were your thoughts?

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Source: GoodReads