Book Reviews

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook
By: Nicholas Sparks

Book Cover

Published: (Originally) October 1996
Published by: Warner Vision
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction, Dual Timeline, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

A man with a faded, well-worn notebook open in his lap. A woman experiencing a morning ritual she doesn’t understand. Until he begins to read to her. The Notebook is an achingly tender story about the enduring power of love, a story of miracles that will stay with you forever. Set amid the austere beauty of coastal North Carolina in 1946, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner returned home from World War II. Noah, thirty-one, is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories. . . until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again. Allie Nelson, twenty-nine, is now engaged to another man, but realizes that the original passion she felt for Noah has not dimmed with the passage of time. Still, the obstacles that once ended their previous relationship remain, and the gulf between their worlds is too vast to ignore. With her impending marriage only weeks away, Allie is forced to confront her hopes and dreams for the future, a future that only she can shape. Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments, and fundamental changes that affect us all. Shining with a beauty that is rarely found in current literature, The Notebook establishes Nicholas Sparks as a classic storyteller with a unique insight into the only emotion that really matters.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Allie and Noah’s love story began over a whirlwind summer romance as teenagers, only to be heartbreakingly separated. Years later, Allie is engaged to be married, but can’t seem to forget the boy from her youth.

As a fan of Nicholas Sparks, it saddens me to give one of his books such a low rating. Especially one that I had such high hopes for. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to connect with the characters or the story, like I have in previous books I’ve read by him.

I saw the movie back when it was in theaters and although the details are fuzzy, I remember having a very emotional reaction to it. It was disappointing not to feel that way when reading the book.

The reason behind my disconnect lies in the affair storyline. As an adult with more life experience, this didn’t sit well with me. Where as watching the movie as a teen, I was naively caught up in the emotion of the story.

Despite my personal grievances, The Notebook is a beautifully romantic story. It might not have been the right book for me, however I do feel that there is an audience for it.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The New Elizabeth (Sweet Valley High 63) by Francine Pascal

The New Elizabeth
(Sweet Valley High, 63)
Created by: Francine Pascal
Written by: Kate William

Book Cover

Published: January 1990
Published by: Bantam Books
Format Read: Paperback

Genre: Series, YA Lit, Middle Grade

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

If one more person calls Elizabeth Wakefield responsible or predictable, she’ll scream! In an effort to prove that she can be as adventurous as Jessica, her daring identical twin, Elizabeth secretly decides to take up surfing. That will show her friends she knows how to take risks.

But from the start, Elizabeth’s new hobby causes problems. She has a sneaking suspicion that her surfing instructor is falling in love with her. And even worse, she has to lie to her steady boyfriend, Todd, in order to keep her surfing a surprise. Todd’s becoming suspicious and angry — and Elizabeth is beginning to wonder if a daredevil reputation is worth the trouble after all.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I uncovered The New Elizabeth in a box of old books from my childhood. I remember really enjoying the stories about identical twins and followed them from their adventures as kids, right up to university. Elizabeth was always my favorite sister, which is probably why I’ve held on to this copy after all these years. Even at a young age I related more to her introverted personality than to the more spontaneous and outgoing Jessica. However in this installment Elizabeth wants to prove that she can be adventurous too by learning how to surf.

Although this was originally released in the 1980s, I think that the plot will still interest its target audience today. I would say that The New Elizabeth would be appropriate for older middle grade readers or younger teens. 

Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Another Late Monthly Wrap-up: October 2020

Total Books Read in October: 2
Total Books Read in 2020: 37

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The Last Bathing Beauty
By: Amy Sue Nathan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Rating: 2.5/5
NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan, from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

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You Can Thank Me Later a Novella
By: Kelly Harms

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella, Audiobook
Rating: 4/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 2
Total Number of Fiction: 2
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 1
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 1
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 0
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Last Bathing Beauty by: Amy Sue Nathan

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The Last Bathing Beauty
By: Amy Sue Nathan

Published: April, 2020
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ARC, Kindle, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Last Bathing Beauty y Amy Sue Nathan, from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.
Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.
Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Eighteen year old Betty “Boop” Stern wants more than a husband and children. She has dreams of being a fashion editor and having a full career. This is rare for a women in 1950’s America. The Last Bathing Beauty is a dual timeline novel that follows present day senior citizen “Boop” as she reminisces about the life changing events of the summer of 1951.

Fans of the movie Dirty Dancing will appreciate the summer resort setting. Readers will be transported back to a time that is often described as more simple. Although Betty would be faced with some life changing events, this book was chalk full of all things stereotypical of the 1950s. While I enjoyed these aspects, I often found our young main character to be too sugar sweet.

The Last Bathing Beauty showed an interesting comparison between the past and present differences in society, family values and scandal. While I did enjoy the 1950s setting, I liked present day “Boop” more than the naïve beauty queen of her adolescence. I struggled to finish this book as I didn’t feel motivated to read and I felt that too much of the plot was given away too soon.

Although my experience reading Amy Sue Nathan’s The Last Bathing Beauty, garnered a 2.5 rating, I would recommend it to fans of light historical romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Quick Thoughts on NYC Historical Fiction

Today I would like to share my quick thoughts on two historical fiction novels that are set in New York City. Both of these novels are set in the 1800’s and compare life in high society with that of the lower classes.

An Awakened Heart
(Orphan Train Novella 0.5)
By: Jody Hedlund

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Published: April 2017
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: eBook, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Trying to heal the ache she feels in her empty life, wealthy Christine Pendleton decides to volunteer at Centre Street Chapel. Ministering to one of the most deprived parts of New York City, the chapel aims at making a difference in the lives of the impoverished immigrants flooding the city. After seeing firsthand the hopelessness of the poor women and orphans, Christine is convinced more can be done to help them.

Guy Bedell has been serving at the chapel and pouring his heart out for the people he’s grown to care about. When Christine begins to challenge his methods and offers a new vision for reaching out to the community, can he trust that perhaps God has bigger plans in store for him–plans that may include this feisty socialite?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I generally jump at the chance to read books set in New York City, especially those in the historical fiction genre. Unfortunately An Awakened Heart took me some time to get into. I did appreciate how dedicated Christine and Guy were to help the impoverished immigrants in the city. I am curious to continue on to the next book ‘With You Always”.

Murder on Astor Place
(A Gaslight Mystery)
By: Victoria Thompson

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Published: May 1999
Published by: Berkley
Format Read: eBook, Libby App
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

After a routine delivery, midwife Sarah Brandt visits her patient in a rooming house and finds that another boarder, a young girl, has been killed. At the request of sergeant Frank Malloy, she searches the girl’s room and discovers that the victim is from one of the most prominent families in New York – and the sister of an old friend. The powerful family, fearful of scandal, refuses to permit an investigation. But with Malloy’s help, Sarah begins a dangerous quest to bring the killer to justice before death claims another victim.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Murder on Astor Place was an engrossing start to the Gaslight Mystery Series. Although I was able to correctly predict the outcome, I enjoyed the journey.

If I could compare it to a television series, I would pick Murdoch Mysteries, which is one of my favourites and follows a detective and female doctor. In Victoria Thompson’s book we follow a detective and a midwife.

I would highly recommend Murder on Astor Place and can’t wait to read the second book.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Quick Thoughts on YA Audiobooks

Today I would like to share my quick thoughts on two young adult audiobooks, that I read for free from Audible Stories.

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The Unexpected Everything
By: Morgan Matson

Narrated by: Bailey Carr
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

From Morgan Matson, the best-selling author of Since You’ve Been Gone, comes a feel-good story of friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans.
Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.
Future? A top-tier medical school.Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a congressman and he’s never around).Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby – pretty much the most awesome people on the planet. Who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.
So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out, too.
Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer premed internship and lands both her and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all – working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super-cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

-Source: Goodreads

Quick Thoughts

The Unexpected Everything was a great escape from dark times and was just what I needed. Although I found Andie and her friends to be a bit too “perfect”, I really enjoyed the innocence of this story. The romance was cute, but it was the father-daughter relationship that I loved the most. I would highly recommend Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything to those who enjoy contemporary YA Lit.

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Titanic: The Long Night
By: Diane Hoh

Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Two teenagers discover true love aboard the doomed ocean liner….
Elizabeth Farr never wanted to return to America. During her family’s vacation abroad, she has fallen in love with England, and is despondent when her father refuses to let her stay. Returning to New York means having her debut into society, and that means a swiftly arranged marriage. Elizabeth will never go to college, never learn to be a reporter – as she sees it, her life is over as soon as the Titanic reaches port. Of course, if she’s unlucky, her life will be over far sooner than that.
As Elizabeth and her family settle into their first-class cabins, Katie Hanrahan, a young Irish girl with dreams of finding fortune in America, makes her way to a steerage berth. Both girls have plans for the future, but love and death are about to intervene.

Source: Goodreads

Quick Thoughts

The tragedy of the so-called “Unsinkable” ocean liner has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, so when I saw this audiobook I jumped at the chance to listen to it. I liked how the author chose to feature characters in two different classes: first and third. Each character were at a turning point in their lives and experiencing their first loves, unfortunately I didn’t feel as if either story lines were portrayed as well as they could have been. While the concept of Titanic: The Long Night was interesting and the narration good, I felt the writing to be repetitive and there were so many missed opportunities to take the plot in better directions.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Engagement Party By: Kimberly Freeman

The Engagement Party
By: Kimberly Freeman

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Published: August 2014
Published by: Hachette Australia
Format Read: Kindle, eBook
Genre: Historical fiction, short story

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Flora Honeychurch-Black awakens on the day of her engagement party excited yet somehow unsettled. Throughout the day, despite the well-meaning attention of her friend Liberty and the distraction of the household’s many preparations for the night’s celebration, Flora’s unease grows. Her much-loved, erratic brother Sam unwittingly adds to the tension, behaving oddly and drawing mirth from her suave fiance Tony and derision from some of his sophisticated coterie of friends.
As the storm clouds gather outside and the engagement party begins, Flora realises that something is amiss. Where is Sam? What secret is he hiding? The answers may be more than Flora – and her new relationships and loyalties – can bear.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

1920’s Australia: Readers are introduced to Flora, a young woman on the day of her engagement party. However she is uneasy and fights with the thought that she might be making the wrong decision to marry her fiancé Tony. As the party is in progress, Flora realizes that her beloved brother Sam is missing from the festivities.

I thought this short story was a good introduction to Kimberly Freeman’s writing. I’m unsure how necessary this was but I did enjoy it and the characters we were briefly introduced to. However it left me wanting more.

This eBook also included a sample of another book by Kimberly Freeman, called Evergreen Falls. This is a dual time period historical fiction that follows Flora and Tony. So that would make The Engagement Party a prequal to this novel. I’m curious to know why that isn’t mentioned in this book title? To be honest. I found this to be annoying.

Would I recommend Kimberly Freeman’s The Engagement Party? Yes, but only to those who plan to continue on to read Evergreen Falls.

Additional Notes

Evergreen Falls
By: Kimberly Freeman

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Synopsis

A long-forgotten secret, a scandalous attraction and a place where two women’s lives are changed forever – Evergreen Falls is the captivating new novel from Kimberley Freeman.

1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.

2014: After years of putting her sick brother’s needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair – and a shocking secret.

If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, a rich and satisfying tale of intrigue, heartbreak and love from the author of the bestselling Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill.

Source: Goodreads
Book Reviews

Bundle of Trouble (Maternal Instincts Mystery, 1) by Diana Orgain

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Bundle of Trouble
(Maternal Instincts Mystery, 1)
By: Diana Orgain

Published: July 2015
Published by: Kindle Edition
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Series
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis


From Publishers Weekly

In Orgain’s charming debut thriller, office manager Kate Connolly becomes a supersleuth and a new mom in the same week. From the moment she and newborn Laurie lock eyes, Kate can’t imagine returning to work after her six-week maternity leave, but in expensive San Francisco, she and her ad exec husband, Jim, need every bit of both incomes. Then a dead body is fished out of the bay and linked to Jim’s estranged brother, George. Both the police and PI Albert Galigani, hired by the dead man’s mother, believe that Jim and Kate know more than they’re revealing. Kate is determined to find the elusive George and get some answers, but she soon gets in over her head. Galigani serves as a charming mentor as Kate navigates the twists of motherhood and an uncomplicated but engaging plot. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

-Goodreads

My Thoughts

Bundle of Trouble is the first book in the cozy mystery series Maternal Instincts by Diana Orgain. It follows new mom Kate, as she uses her maternity leave to investigate a murder that is connected to her brother in-law George. I was initially attracted to this novel as I am both a mystery fan and a first-time Mom. I was eager to see how the author would pair the two.

Overall the plot was enjoyable and quick to read. However there were some inconsistencies and less than smooth transitions from one part to another, which prevented me from giving this book a higher rating. I have yet to decide if I will continue with the series.

Book Reviews

My First Experience With Graphic Novels

During the month of April, I decided to read a graphic novel, for the first time. It is a genre, I have been curious about, but I didn’t really have any interest in typical superhero comics. Then I came across one that was more to my interest. Here are my quick thoughts on the graphic novel I read.

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The Beatles in Comics!
By: Michels Mabel and Various Artists

Genre: Graphic Novel, Biography, Non-fiction
Rating: 2.5 Rating
Quick Thoughts: The Beatles in Comics! is a graphic novel telling the rise and breakup of the Fab Four. Each chapter begins with a paragraph on a certain era of The Beatles career and is illustrated by different artists. It was interesting how each artist depicted their sections and I enjoyed re-visiting the biography of one of my favourite bands. However I did find it quite repetitive and decided on a 2.5 rating.

My overall first impression of graphic novels:

Although I am happy to have finally experienced this genre with a topic of my interest, I don’t think that it is a format I will be picking up on a regular basis. That is unless I come across more that really grab my attention.

What do you think of graphic novels? Have you read any? Leave me a message in the comments.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Snowfall and Secrets (Omega Mu Alpha Brothers, 1) by Kimberly Loth

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Snowfall and Secrets
(Omega Mu Alpha Brothers, 1)
By: Kimberly Loth

Published: September 2016
Format Read: eBook, Kindle App
Genre: Romances, Contemporary Fiction, Series

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Tess escapes from Florida with a secret as big as Miami. She needs to find someplace to lay low and hide from her overbearing family. Mackinac Island, Michigan, should be the perfect place to hide out. However, her timing is a little off, it’s the dead of winter and she’s never been in temperatures below fifty degrees. Just her luck, her landlord, Lukas, is as hot as the sun. He’s also moody and hiding secrets as well. Which suits Tess fine. A man is the last complication she needs. A Michigan blizzard leaves them trapped in the same house together and things heat up, fast. Tess finds herself falling for Lukas, in spite of the secrets that could ruin everything before it even begins.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Snowfall and Secrets attracted my attention for two main reasons;

1. It is set during my favourite season: winter.

2. Mackinac Island is one of my bucket list locations.

I don’t usually pick up romance novels like this as they tend to be too over the top for my liking. And yes, Snowfall and Secrets did have those kind of moments, however I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Tess and Lukas story as much as I did. The author got straight to the point with their attraction to each other. Although their individual circumstances kept boundaries in place.

As I anticipated, the setting, season and community on Mackinac Island were my favourite parts of this book. Now I want to visit there more than ever. The story behind the fraternity brother’s dogs and their names was a clever way to keep them connected so long after they finished college and thus giving a basis for this series.

I would recommend Snowfall and Secrets to fans of the romance genre. However I am not interested enough to continue on with the Omega Mu Alpha Brothers Series.