Book Reviews · Recommendations

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

Nights of Rain and Stars
By: Maeve Binchy

Published: 2005
Published By: Orion Books
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 5/5

 

Synopsis

In a Greek taverna, high over the small village of Aghia Anna, four people meet for the first time: Fiona, an Irish nurse, Thomas, a Californian academic; Elsa, a German television presenter; and David a shy English boy. Along with Andreas, the old man who runs the taverna, they become close to each other after witnessing a tragedy when a pleasure steamer catches fire in the harbour. NIGHTS OF RAIN AND STARS is the story of one summer when Fiona, Thomas, Elsa and David all have to face the particular life crisis which first made them leave their homes and end up in Greece. With the help of Vonni, a middle-aged Irish woman who lives in the village and is now a near-native, they each find a solution – although not necessarily the one they anticipated…

 

My Thoughts

In this novel a group of very different people find themselves at a Greek taverna as a tragedy unfolds in the bay below them. This catastrophe makes them contemplate their own lives and the decisions that led them to the village.

After hearing my Mom rave about Maeve Binchy’s Nights of Rain and Stars, I bumped it up on my reading list. I’m glad that I did because it allowed us to discuss it when it was fresh in her mind. I ended up enjoying this story much more than I anticipated.

The cast of characters was ripe with flaws and faults. In fact as individuals, they weren’t very likable at all, but together they formed friendships that brought out the best qualities in each other. Not only was the setting beautiful, but the solidarity the villagers showed during the time of tragedy was very touching.

Nights of Rain and Stars would make for a good beach read and I would recommend it to fans of Maeve Binchy.

 

Notable Quotes

“…Someone who had not shown the courage to change because he had not known what opportunities for change there were.”

“Now I will open a bottle of wine to celebrate that we were here tonight, with all our hopes and dreams still left to us as we sit in another night of stars.”

“Cry a lot, but laugh as well. It’s how we survive.”

“If hearts can be heavy in heaven her poor heart will be like a lump of lead.”

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

More than 50%: Woman’s Life in a Newfoundland Outport 1900-1950 by Hilda Chaulk Murray

More than 50%: Woman ‘s Life in a Newfoundland Outport 1900-1950
By Hilda Chaulk Murray

Published: 2010 (Originally 1980)
Published By: Flanker Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

Synopsis

Hilda Chaulk Murray’s More Than 50% is an important piece of Atlantic folklore that encapsulates a woman’s role in the Newfoundland and Labrador outport community. In the days before Confederation, women and men worked hard to prosecute the province’s robust cod fishery, and although women’s work kept them on shore, their contribution to this once-thriving industry was no less important than men’s. In fact, it was universally accepted that the matriarch was the driving force in meeting the family’s and indeed the entire community’s needs. Murray’s hometown of Elliston, Trinity Bay, in the early twentieth century is the setting for this book, in which she gives a guided tour of the female’s unique and ever-changing roles, from girlhood to womanhood, in the outport way of life.

My Thoughts

More Than 50% was derived from the authors academic thesis for Memorial University (Memorial University of Newfoundland). I came across this book in a small gift shop, when I last visited the island. The topic of women’s life in out-port communities interested me, as that is where my own family were born and raised. Although they are from different communities and weren’t in the fishery, much of the content pertained to what my grandmothers lives would have entailed. And of course those who came before them, as well.

Yes, this book could use some more editing, however it was the content itself that kept my attention. I felt that Hilda Chaulk Murray painted a clear picture of life during the time periods she covered. It must have been fascinating to travel around her home community interviewing its older residents.  She talked of old Newfoundland traditions that were passed through the generations as well as the impact the decline in the fishery had on its people. I found it especially interesting to learn about life in pre-confederation Newfoundland, including how many felt more connected to the United States than they did the country they would eventually join.

The roles of women in the both the fishery and household made for an important topic to be covered. I would recommend it to those who are interested in Newfoundland culture and history.

 

Notable Quotes

“The inshore cod fishery was the main work but the only thing certain about it was the uncertainly.”

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date
By: Morgan Matson

Published: June, 2018
Published By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format Read: ARC, Net Galley, eBook
Genre: YA Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 5/5
♥♥♥♥♥

 

I was sent a copy of Save the Date by Morgan Matson, by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My Thoughts

Morgan Matson is one of those authors who I’ve heard a lot of reviewers rave about. So naturally I became curious and eager to find out for myself if her novels lived up to all the hype. In the case of her latest release, Save the Date, it definitely lived up to my expectations.

Save the Date is much longer than most books in this genre. However I think that I would much rather 1 longer novel than unnecessarily stretching it out into a series. I would describe this novel as a humorous family drama, with a little bit of romance thrown in.

Morgan Matson included some mixed media formatting, with the inclusion of text messages and in the form of a comic strip, illustrated by Charlie’s mother; Grant Central Station. The syndicated comic was based on the hijinks of the Grant family as they grew up. Often times this caused problems within and outside of their home.

This was essentially a comedy of errors that surrounded the nuptials of Charlie’s sister Linney. Anything that could go wrong did and just when the reader begins to think that it is smooth sailing ahead, something else happens.

I found it refreshing to read about a family that felt so real. Charlie’s admiration for her older siblings was very endearing, even if she saw them through rose tinted glasses, so to speak.

Save the Date would make for a fun and entertaining spring/summer read. I would recommend it to those who enjoy light contemporaries in the young adult genre. I look forward to reading more from Morgan Matson in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Rumors (Luxe, #2) by Anna Godbersen

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Rumors (Luxe, #2)
By Anna Godbersen

Published: June, 2008
Published By: HarperCollins Publishers
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA Lit

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

After bidding good-bye to New York’s brightest star, Elizabeth Holland, rumors continue to fly about her untimely demise.

All eyes are on those closest to the dearly departed: her mischievous sister, Diana, now the family’s only hope for redemption; New York’s most notorious cad, Henry Schoon-maker, the flame Elizabeth never extinguished; the seductive Penelope Hayes, poised to claim all that her best friend left behind—including Henry; even Elizabeth’s scheming former maid, Lina Broud, who discovers that while money matters and breeding counts, gossip is the new currency.

As old friends become rivals, Manhattan’s most dazzling socialites find their futures threatened by whispers from the past. In this delicious sequel to The Luxe, nothing is more dangerous than a scandal . . . or more precious than a secret.

My Thoughts

Rumors is the second installment in Anna Godbersen’s young adult historical fiction series, Luxe. In the first novel we are introduced to New York’s most prominent socialites. Picking up a couple of months after the conclusion of book one, I was glad to learn that we follow the character Diana Holland. As the younger sister to the previous main character, I found her to be much more interesting than the elder Elizabeth.

The Luxe series is often compared to the television show Gossip Girl. However instead of modern day, the first two books take place in late 1899. And instead of an online blog, newspaper columns like the “Gamesome Gallant” report all the latest scandals.

Like in the first novel, I found that some of the character descriptions and fashion to be more modernized than they would have been at the time. I also found that some of the plot lines weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been.

Despite these two grievances, I really enjoyed Rumors. High society and New York are two of my favourite topics to read about. Although I think the most enjoyable aspect of this book was the tone that was portrayed. It was a tone of pure snark that fit perfectly, not only with the gossip columns but the vain characteristics of the socialites.

I would definitely recommend this series to fans of the young adult genre and I’m looking forward to continuing on with the third installment.

Notable Quotes

“It was as though the city had always been wrong for him, and here, far away, where the land was open, he had arrived at his full strength.” pg. 39

“Society does not forget.” pg. 52

“Once a reputation has been too often confirmed, society cannot forget it.” pg. 76

Book Reviews

The Road Home by Beverly Lewis

The Road Home
By: Beverly Lewis

Published: April, 2018
Published By: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: ARC, Kindle, eBook
Genre: Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

I was sent a copy of The Road Home by Beverly Lewis, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Lena Rose Schwartz hadn’t planned to leave her Old Order community in Centerville, Michigan. But then, she could not have foreseen the accident that made her and her siblings orphans. After her parents’ funeral, her younger brothers and sisters are farmed out to various nearby relatives. But when the deacon in charge of the arrangements tells her there aren’t places enough for everyone, she agrees to go live with her father’s second cousin and his family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Beside the fact that Lena has never been more than a few miles from home, she’s never met the family she will now be living with. But worse than that is the thought of being separated from her siblings. How will they manage without her to care for them–especially eight-year-old Chris? And what about Hannes Lehman, the beau she was sure would soon be asking her to marry him? It was true that he was not the man her father would have preferred for her. Maybe that was what the deacon was hinting at when he said “a fresh start might do you good.”

It won’t be forever, she consoles herself. I’ll come back as soon as I can to take care of my family–and to make a home with Hannes. But doing so may prove far more complicated then she ever imagined.

My Thoughts

Beverly Lewis is an award winning author of Amish fiction and I have been eager to read from her extensive collection. I was thankful to have been given the opportunity to read and review her latest release and began with very high expectations.

I enjoyed learning about the Amish culture in the two different communities; Lena Rose’s hometown of Centerville, Michigan and her adoptive home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The comparisons of the different traditions in these two Old Order communities were surprising to me. Including how the women wore their hair and the style of buggies used. The setting and culture depicted in this story, was by far my favourite part.

Although The Road Home was an endearing story, it didn’t draw me in or captivate me like the other books I’ve read from this genre. The style of Beverly Lewis’s writing was much more stern than I anticipated, so I expected the story to take a more serious or tragic route than it did. Instead I found it to be slightly boring and drawn out.

Unfortunately The Road Home wasn’t for me, however I am interested in giving this author another try. I hope that I will enjoy the next novel more.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Meeting Place (Song of Acadia, #1) by Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn

The Meeting Place (Song of Acadia, #1)
By: Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn

Published: April, 1999
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: Kobo, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

A Chance Encounter Forever Changed Their Lives–and Destinies.
Crafted by two masters of inspirational fiction–Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn–and combining the engaging historical settings, rich characterization, and heartwarming messages quintessential to both authors, The Meeting Place is another timeless story for you to cherish.

Set along the rugged coastline of 18th century Canada in what was then called Acadia (now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), The Meeting Place re-creates a world that was home to native Indians, French settlers, and English garrisons. Such diverse populations did not live in accord, however. Instead, they were isolated within their own groups by a brewing political tension under the difficult English rule.

Amid such chaotic times two women, both about to become brides and both trying to live lives of quiet peace, meet in a lush field of wildflowers. Louisa, a Frenchwoman, and Catherine, who is English, continue to meet secretly through the seasons, sharing both friendship and growing faith.

The outside world does not mirror their own tranquil happiness, and the dreaded crackdown by the English throne threatens far more than their growing bond. In the face of a heart-wrenching dilemma, Louisa and Catherine strive to maintain their faith and cling to their dreams of family and home.
Winner of the Christy Award, presented by the Christian Bookseller Association to honor the best in Christian fiction.

My Thoughts

Janette Oke is an author with a list of books so long, its hard to know where to start. My first introduction to her books was with Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West, #2) and since then I have been very eager to read more.

I began The Meeting Place with high expectations and definitely wasn’t disappointed. Beginning in 1753, it follows the budding, forbidden friendship between two young women; a French Acadian and an English Colonialist. They learn that despite their different cultures and their warring homelands, they had much in common. The way they built their bond around their Bible study was really quite beautiful.  There were so many passages that I marked to re-read and savor. Strength was a common theme in the Meeting Place, especially when hardships ensued. Catherine and Louisa drew strength from their husbands, their cultures, faith and especially their friendship.

While the cast of characters was interesting, it was the setting that really captured me. My pre-confederation education didn’t exactly shine a light on the British’s expulsion of the Acadian’s, so this era in our history is a fairly new interest of mine. The descriptions of the highland glen, the maritime local and the different seasons the story spanned draws the reader in and plays with their senses. After having the opportunity to visit  Fort Louisburg in Nova Scotia, I was able to vividly picture the landscape and what life was like during that time period. I was pleasantly surprised when that very place was mentioned in this book, as it gave me a better understanding of the different locations mentioned.

The Meeting Place is a wonderful story filled with heartbreak and hope. I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy Christian historical fiction and I very much look forward to reading the second book in the Song of Acadia series.

Notable Quotes

“A man was either French or English, and though villages were but a stone’s throw from one another, most inhabitants would go an entire lifetime without speaking to the other side.”

“The questions which had no answers were best left unspoken, and confessions were best whispered down a dark well at midnight.”

“It’s our meeting place. Our sanctuary. When we come here we come as equals. Women. Wives. Friends. We share the same dreams. The same hopes. We must not let others keep us enemies.”

Additional Notes

To read more about my trip to the Fortress of Louisbourg please visit my old blog: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads.

Book Reviews

Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris

Everything She Lost
By: Alessandra Harris

Published: January, 2018
Published by: Kindle Edition
Format Read: eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Suspense

Rating: 2.5/5 
♥♥.5

I was sent a copy of Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris, from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

After suffering a mental breakdown that nearly destroyed her marriage, Nina Taylor works hard to maintain her tenuous hold on sanity and be a good mother to her two young daughters. Despite her best efforts, she questions the possibility of a full recovery.

Single mom Deja Johnson struggles to overcome her troubled past and raise her young son. But her friendship with Nina brings more complications. What Deja is hiding could not only destroy relationships, but endanger lives.

One traumatic night threatens to shatter Nina’s mind. With Deja’s help, she strives to maintain her mental balance. But as events spiral out of control, the women must find out if Nina is losing her sanity or if someone is plotting against her.

(Synospis from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

The synopsis for Everything She Lost caught my interest because of the mental health theme as well as my ability to relate to being a single mother. I had the opportunity to read and review Alessandra Harris’ debut novel Blaming the Wind and quite enjoyed it.

Back with another diverse contemporary fiction, Harris has thrown in a bit of suspense with her second release. Overall, I liked the concept of the story, which was ripe with deception. It definitely kept my attention throughout however, I had problems with the execution. There was so much going on with the plot that it didn’t quite piece together smoothly. The ending was quite rushed, leaving me with questions that could have easily been resolved.

Although this book fell short for me, I would still recommend Alessandra Harris as an author, especially her novel Blaming the Wind.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type: Some Stories
By: Tom Hanks

Published: October, 2017
Published By: Alfred A. Knopf
Format Read: Hardcover, Library Book
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

Featuring additional performances by Peter Gerety, Peter Scolari, Cecily Strong, Holland Taylor, and Wilmer Valderrama on “Stay With Us.”

My Thoughts

Uncommon Type is a collection of fictional stories that all have one thing in common; they mention typewriters in one way or another. Now the machines aren’t the main focus of the stories (with the exception of one), but they are weaved into the stories briefly to tie them together.

I admit that I picked up this book on a whim, out of curiosity, being a life long fan of Tom Hanks. Although I would also like to add that I didn’t begin it with the highest expectations, after reading the description. With a 2.5 star rating, it is safe to say that I definitely did not love this book.

I struggled to finish the first story, as it just didn’t interest me and I didn’t care for the characters. Thankfully the second would keep my attention more. However I found that a pattern formed, going from some interest to little as I continued reading.  There wasn’t a single short story that I would have given a rating over 3 stars.

My rating was based solely on my own personal interest in the content and not the ability of the author. Because in reality Tom Hanks isn’t a bad writer. Each story was authentic to Hank’s voice, his own interests and personality.

Unfortunately I think that I would have enjoyed an autobiography written by Tom Hanks, than this collection of short stories. However I would recommend it to others.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Summer at Sunset (Summer, #2) by Beth Labonte

Summer at Sunset
(Summer, #2)
By: Beth Labonte

Published: December, 2018
Published By: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle, eBook
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

For Summer Hartwell, holding her and Graham’s wedding a thousand miles from home seemed like a good idea. Even if it is at a retirement community. How else could she avoid planning the wedding with her neurotic, anxiety-ridden mother? But with one week left to go and Summer’s parents arriving on the scene, things begin to quickly unravel. Between the swingers parties, the Viagra jokes, and the copious amount of alcohol, Summer’s not so sure her parents will make it out of there alive. Then there’s the matter of Graham being Grade A top choice meat to every woman over sixty-five, a few of whom Summer suspects of trying to sabotage the wedding!

Can Summer and Graham hold things together long enough to make it down the aisle?
(Synopsis from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

Summer at Sunset is a fun contemporary fiction that picks up 2 years after the first book in the series, Summer at Sea. Our main character is now engaged to be married and wins an all expenses paid wedding at her in-laws retirement community.

It was nice to be reunited with the quirky cast of characters, including Summer’s neurotic parents. Ironically she learns that she may not be all the different from them. You know what they say “like mother, like daughter.” We are also introduced to several of the residents from the retirement community, who are young at heart, enjoying their golden years in the Florida sun. Only their daily routines mirror more of a college fraternity than that of a rest and relaxation.

While I found it to be an enjoyable read, I didn’t rate it as high as Summer at Sea. I didn’t like the characters quite as much as I did upon their initial introduction to me. Although I found it perfectly understandable that she would be stressed out, I found Summer to be a bit annoying at times and I wasn’t a fan of her fiance. An inflated ego isn’t a trait that I find attractive at all. The conclusion of this story was more over the top, than I expected.

However I enjoy the way Beth Labonte weaves pop culture into her stories and the personalities of her characters. There were several laugh out loud moments and I especially enjoyed the visits to Disney World.

I look forward to the next installment in this series and I would recommend it to fans of contemporary chick-lit.

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Seriously… I’m Kidding
By: Ellen DeGeneres

Published: October, 2011
Published By: Grand Central Publishing
Format Read: Audio Book, Library Loaner, OverDrive
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Humor, Autobiography

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

Synopsis

Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air, and her life makes for great (and very funny) reading.

“I’ve experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you’ll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I’ve put together for you in this book. I think you’ll find I’ve left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I’m saying is, let us begin, shall we?”

Seriously… I’m Kidding is a lively, hilarious, and often sweetly poignant look at the life of the much-loved entertainer as she opens up about her personal life, her talk show, and joining the judges table of American Idol.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Seriously… I’m Kidding has been on my to-read list for a while now. When it finally came available to borrow from my library I jumped at the chance to listen to the audio version.

Narrated by Ellen herself, this audio book was just like listening to the opening monologue on her talk show. I enjoyed her observations on the world around her and admire her for keeping her jokes clean. Unlike most comedians, Ellen’s humor is suitable for all ages.

Although an enjoyable listen, I did find some of the rambling to be a bit much and settled on a 3 star rating. I would recommend Seriously… I’m Kidding to fans of Ellen DeGeneres.