Book Reviews

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook
By: Nicholas Sparks

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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 Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House
By: Kate Morton

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Published: October 2015
Published by: Atria Books
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Dual-timeline

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Loanneth; a secluded Cornwall estate was home to the Edevane family and the secrets that would remain hidden for over 70 years. Disgraced investigator Sadie Sparrow, stumbles upon the long abandoned estate and becomes fascinated with what became of the family and the mystery behind what happened to their youngest son Theo.

Kate Morton became one of my auto-buy authors, after loving her novels The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper. Although I didn’t connect with The Distant Hours, I had very high expectations for The Lake House.

This novel captured my attention immediately and I instantly felt familiar with Kate Morton’s style of writing, although it has been some time since I last read a book by her. One theme I noted throughout this and the previous books I’ve read, is the environmental settings Morton features. Whether it be a Victorian garden or a lake front estate, the fragrant descriptions are always so vivid.

While I really enjoyed this reading experience, I thought that the assumptions the present day characters made, in regards to what really happened decades earlier were far reaching given the evidence they uncovered. As a reader I enjoyed having the historical perspective, but it felt as if those in the current day would have had to be privy to more facts in order to reach the conclusions they did.

Other reviewers have mentioned that this authors novels tend to follow a formula, which may be predictable to some readers. While I do see their point and I was able to correctly figure out the mystery, it is still worth reading.

Book Reviews

Trouble and Strife by Johanne Levesque

Trouble and Strife
By: Johanne Levesque

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Published: March 2018
Published by: Austin Macauley Publishers
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Sometimes the smallest voices make the deepest impact.

Josephine Hadley, a 1930s Canadian housewife, fills her days looking after her children, her indifferent husband and a stream of Depression-era visitors. Her contribution to her guests is a bowl of stew and an open heart.

Her small world, however, is soon shattered by a tragic event which forces her to become the breadwinner. Can she run a business without sacrificing herself? And is it possible to act on a long-buried desire without remorse?

Johanne Levesque’s first novel, Trouble and Strife, is a poignant and heartbreaking look at a woman’s life in a fast-changing time. With intimate details and a deft poetic touch, Levesque has captured the spirit of an age where war and economic hardship altered the workplace, home and women’s lives forever.

My Thoughts

Debut author Johanne Levesque, shares a tale of a Toronto housewife raising her family during the Great Depression.

I had the opportunity of meeting the author at a community event in my hometown, several years ago. Being a historical fiction fan and eager to help support a local talent, I scooped up a copy of Trouble and Strife.

Told in the style of diary entries, this book offers a day-in-the-life glimpse of a women who wasn’t accustomed to hardships in her married life and who, even in the depths of the Great Depression, still had more than most. Josephine was a privalaged woman, whose redeeming quality was her charitable work, assisting those hardest hit by the state of the world.

While I was grateful for the opportunity to read and review Trouble and Strife, I did not connect with the characters at all. There were times when I questioned the historical accuracy, found contradictions and inconsistencies in the storyline. Unfortunately in the end I rated this novel only 2 stars and wouldn’t recommend it to other readers.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness 2) by Rhys Bowen

A Royal Pain
(Her Royal Spyness, 2)
By: Rhys Bowen
Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren

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Published: July 2008
Published by: Berkley
Format Read: Paperback, Audio Book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

It’s 1930s London, and Lady Georgiana — thirty-fourth in line to the throne — has a lot on her plate, but little in her cupboards, in this national bestseller…

Baked beans and boiled eggs. That’s what my houseguest, the Bavarian princess, will have to eat if I don’t get help posthaste. The Queen of England has requested I entertain said princess, placing her in the playboy prince’s path, in hopes he might finally marry.

But queens never consider money, of which I have little. And which is why I moonlight as a maid-in-disguise. My plans:
1) Clean house in manner of palace.
2) Blackmail brother, Binky, into sending a few quid.
3) Unteach Princess Hanni English from gangster movies — lest she address the queen as “old broad.”
4) Keep eye on princess at parties, where she drinks like a fish.

Then there’s the matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni’s unwitting involvement with the communist party. It’s enough to drive a girl mad…

My Thoughts

Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series follows 34th in line to the British throne; the fictional Lady Georgiana. She may be of royal relation, but like the majority of the world during the 1930’s she is struggling to make ends meet and live up to her social standing. In this second installment of the series, Lady Georgiana is tasked by the Queen to host a young Princess from Bavaria, in hope that she will win the heart of the Prince. Tie in a Communist plot, high society and three deaths, then you have A Royal Pain.

I had so much fun reading this novel. The situations Lady Georgiana gets herself in are always entertaining. The addition of an American gangster film loving Princess Hanni was hilarious.

I alternated between reading a paperback and listening to the audiobook. Katherine Kellgren’s narration of Lady Georgiana reminded me of Lady Mary Crowley from Downton Abbey, only less snooty and with a better sense of humor.

I highly recommend A Royal Pain and the Royal Spyness series to fans of humorous historical mysteries.

Books Hauls · TBR

October 2021 Book Haul

Today I would like to share the physical books I added to my collection during the month of October.

The first three books I got a great deal on, at Value Village.

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My Story: Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Anne Brady, 1912
By: Ellen Emerson White

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Dear Canada: Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope
By: Jean Little

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Beartown
By: Fredrik Backman

And finally when visiting my local Newfie store, I found a rare book that has been on my TBR for quite a while.

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Death at the Harbourview Cafe
By: Fred Humber

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

The Lieutenant’s Nurse
By: Sara Ackerman
Narrated by: Lauren Ezzo

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Published: March 2019
Published by: Harlequin Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Sara Ackerman’s The Lieutenant’s Nurse, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. However I wasn’t able to read the eBook, so this is my review of the Audiobook.

Synopsis

November, 1941. She’s never even seen the ocean before, but Eva Cassidy has her reasons for making the crossing to Hawaii, and they run a lot deeper than escaping a harsh Michigan winter. Newly enlisted as an Army Corps nurse, Eva is stunned by the splendor she experiences aboard the steamship SS Lurline; even more so by Lt. Clark Spencer, a man she is drawn to but who clearly has secrets of his own. But Eva’s past—and the future she’s trying to create—means that she’s not free to follow her heart. Clark is a navy intelligence officer, and he warns her that the United States won’t be able to hold off joining the war for long, but nothing can prepare them for the surprise attack that will change the world they know.
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eva and her fellow nurses band together for the immense duty of keeping the American wounded alive. And the danger that finds Eva threatens everything she holds dear. Amid the chaos and heartbreak, Eva will have to decide whom to trust and how far she will go to protect those she loves.
Set in the vibrant tropical surroundings of the Pacific, The Lieutenant’s Nurse is an evocative, emotional WWII story of love, friendship and the resilient spirit of the heroic nurses of Pearl Harbor.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Army Corps nurse Eva Cassidy is eager to get away from a difficult situation in her home state of Michigan and embarks on a journey to her assigned station in Hawaii. While aboard the S.S. Lurline, she befriends a Lt. Spencer and becomes accidentally privy to some classified information. However, it isn’t long after they arrive in paradise that the unimaginable happens; Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese.

I have been looking for a historical fiction set in Pearl Harbor for quite some time. When I read the synopsis for The Lieutenants Nurse, I jumped at the change to add it to my TBR list.

Not only was the island setting absolutely beautiful, but I really enjoyed Eva’s trip aboard the steamship as well.

Although I didn’t have any particular issued with the narration of this novel, at times my interest in listening to it waned and I found myself wishing I could turn to a physical copy or eBook version to read.

My final impression of The Lieutenants Nurse was that it was interesting and at times fast paced. I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction with romance.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: September 2021

Total Books Read in September: 6
Total Books Read in 2021: 44

Series September Challenge

For the month of September I challenged myself to read books from series that I have in progress. I was able to get to all of the physical books I mentioned in my TBR post. However I wasn’t able to finish A Royal Pain in time.

Series Books Read:

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Royal Wedding (Princess Diaries 11)
By: Meg Cabot

Genre: Series, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: 3.5/5

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The Bookshop on the Shore
(Scottish Bookshop 2)
By: Jenny Colgan

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Series
Rating: 3.5/5

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Fly Away
(Firefly Lane 2)
By: Kristin Hannah

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Series
Rating: 5/5

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Sweet Little Lies
(L.A. Candy 2)
By: Lauren Conrad

Preformed by: Jenna Lamia
Genre: YA Lit, Series
Rating: 3/5

Also Completed:

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Of Mice and Men
By: John Steinbeck
Read by: Gary Sinise

Genre: Classics, Audiobook
Rating: 4/5

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Flight from the Fortress
By: Lyn Cook

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 6
Total Number of Fiction: 6
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 0
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 3
Total Library Books Read: 3

Formats Read

Physical Books: 3
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
2

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half
By: Brit Bennett

Narrated by: Shayna Small

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Published: June 2020
Published by: Penguin Audio

Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half follows the lives of The Vignes twins and the opposite paths they follow. Their stories present a comparison of a lower class African American women to that of her sister who passes as white and lives a privileged life among with her wealthy husband. Readers follow a timeline that spans the 1950’s to the early 1990’s.

I was drawn to this book as I was very interested in the descriptions of society from these two different situations. If I had to use a word to describe The Vanishing Half, I would say that it is a quite read. The events (especially those that were more traumatic) were told in a way that made them seem less shocking and more mater-of-fact. I think that some readers might be turned off by this style of writing. However I thought that Brit Bennett’s use of metaphors showed her talent as an author, beautifully.

Shayna Small’s narration of the characters felt authentic and did justice to the story. Although I thought the ending was abrupt, I would reccommend Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half to those interested in diverse historical fiction. I would also advise caution to those who may be sensitive to such trigger warnings as domestic abuse.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: July 2021

Total Books Read in July: 4
Total Books Read in 2021: 32

Backlist Catch-up TBR: 4/7

Backlist Catch-up TBR Books Read in July:

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The Lake of Dreams
By: Kim Edwards

Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
NOTE: I won a copy of The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards, from Goodreads and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Lieutenant’s Nurse
By: Sara Ackerman

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5
NOTE: I was sent a copy of Sara Ackerman’s The Lieutenant’s Nurse, from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Additional Books Read:

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
By: Roald Dahl

Genre: Children’s Books, Children’s Fiction, Classics, Chapter Books
Rating: 3/5

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Murder at Blackhead
By: MK Staple

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1/5

DNF

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All My Love, Detrick
By: Roberta Kagan

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 4
Total Number of Fiction: 4
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 2
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 4
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 3
eBooks:
 0
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Articles · Recommendations · Worth a Watch

My Firefly Lane Playlist

Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane has been on my TBR for years, however in light of the release of the Netflix adaptation, I decided to bump it up my list. I finally read this book in April and enjoyed the coming of age story of two best friends.

For those who are not familiar with this book here is the synopsis:

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From the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Source: Goodreads

I loved all the cultural references to the time periods it covers. Kristin Hannah really transports her readers back in time. Another aspect I loved, was how much amazing music was incorporated into this book and how it played such a pivotal role in the different chapters of Tully and Kate’s lives.

Today I would like to share with you some (and I could add tons more ha) of my favourite songs that were mentioned in Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

Daydream Believer by The Monkees

Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen