Saturday, July 18, 2015

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor: A Book Review

Displaying About the Book: When Heather Toulson returns to her parents' cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can't be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver's death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family's cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She's mourning her father's passing but can't let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family's belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family's history.

My Review:
I've had the hardest time coming to a conclusion on how much I liked this book.  The first few chapters seemed like information dumps with multiple characters thrown in, making it a bit overwhelming to get a good grip on the plot line.  However, once I got past those first few chapters I found myself being drawn into the mystery.  Dobson did a good job of switching back and forth between present day and the 1940s, and I enjoyed both parts of the story.  With the many twists this story takes and even the time period it is set in, Dobson has breathed new life into the oversaturated genre of literature containing English estates, Lords & Ladies, and forbidden romance.  Her writing style and the many twists of the mystery faintly reminded me of my favorite novel, The Forgotten Garden.
The only things that held me back from giving this book a higher rating was the fact that after three generations of women making the same "mistake" that part of the storyline became predictable and a bit redundant.  I also had a hard time getting behind Libby and Oliver's romance as I couldn't help but feel he was taking advantage of her. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I encourage you to check it out; especially if you love a bit of mystery set in the English countryside. 

* I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Book Review

About the Book:
Displaying IMG_0383.JPG"Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself."

My Review:
This book kept popping up here and there as I perused my usual sites for new books to read, so I thought I'd give it a go.  I read a few chapters online and entranced by the writing style I was sure this was going to be another Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society.  But, it wasn't.

I'm not sure what happened between the few chapters I read online and when this book arrived on my doorstep, but I just couldn't get into this book.  I'd sit down to read a few chapters and they just didn't flow for me.  The characters, while quirky and charming, just didn't jump off the page and pull me into their story.  I really had to make a conscious effort to read this book, and when I have to do that I know something is off!

I was really starting to feel for Perdu and his lost love, until I discovered that she was a married woman.  For me, marriage is sacred, and books that romanticize adultery just aren't worth the read.  Even though Manon's husband knew about Perdu and they were later able to meet and connect over having loved the same woman, I just couldn't get behind their relationship. 

I did thoroughly enjoy the fact that it was set in France, and of course had to visit our local French bakery for some croissants and eclairs to eat while reading; I think that was the best part of reading this book!

* I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer's List: A Book Review

*I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
                                                                     About the Book: 
Displaying A dying wish alters the course of a young woman's life.

Life hadn't been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness---caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother's bookstore---she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only tries she had at love . . . didn't turn out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something---or someone.

Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer's past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

My Review: 
I was first drawn to this book because the plot sounded original and whimsical, the perfect combination for a summer read! And I loved the cover, I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it generally works out well for me when I do.  However, this was not one of those books.  After the first few chapters I was really struggling to keep was just, painful to read. If I hadn't agreed to review this book I would never have finished it. 

 Since I don't like to just bash on a book, here are my reasons for giving it such a poor review:

-The dialogue is extremely formal, and the words do not flow naturally which makes the writing seem juvenile. Think "How are you today?" "I'm well, and yourself?" While those lines aren't in the book, that was the type of feel the dialogue had throughout the entire story.

-There were very few descriptions added in to accentuate the dialogue, which made for dull settings

-The descriptions that were there were simply not descriptive...and I quote "She dressed in a nice outfit-navy blue with a white vest." Navy blue what? Dress? Shirt? Pajamas? We have no idea!

-Higman switched points of view in the middle of a scene making it hard to follow at times

-She used the same words multiple times in a sentence, which, to me, is an indication of poor writing. "Summer glanced over the list and read from the list." "...amused at the sound of the funny smacking sound..."

-Not to mention that the characters were poorly developed and lacked depth. For having just broken off her engagement Summer moves on way too quickly for it to be believable.  Martin's character is thrown in too easily.  The situation with Martin's brothers and family is just...weird, and unrealistic.  There was nothing leading up to his brother's about face and change of heart, so it seemed really scripted.  

Overall, I found that the book lacked heart.  Between the stilted dialogue, lack of character depth, and nondescript scenes I have to say that I would not recommend this book.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children: A Book Review

* I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. the Book (from the back cover): "When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
   Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
   Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way."

My Review:
I had never read any of Sarah McCoy's books before, and after reading The Mapmaker's Children, I am itching to get my hands on her previous novels! This book pulled me in from the very beginning, and I had a hard time putting it down.  It can be hard to write a book that goes between two different time periods and seamlessly weaves the two different stories together, but McCoy does so flawlessly.  I found both Sarah Brown and Eden Anderson's stories intriguing and didn't skip ahead to read just one part, as I normally end up doing when books cover multiple time lines.

I have always loved the Civil War era and tales of the Underground Railroad so I was thrilled to discover new facts I had never known before concerning the use of dolls as maps to help lead the way to freedom.  It was obvious that McCoy did her research and I loved learning more about John Brown's family, and their role in the Underground Railroad.

The characters were well-developed and real. I especially like spunky, young Cleo and the relationship between Freddy and Sarah.  I could see how some people would think Eden was annoying, but with her character having been on hormone treatments and trying to unsuccessfully conceive a child for 7 years, I found her struggles believable. I enjoyed watching her grow and change throughout the book.

This is one of the better books I have read so far this year; so if you're a fan of historical fiction with a little bit of mystery thrown in I would highly recommend it!

For more information about Sarah McCoy and her other novels, click here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Art of Losing Yourself: A Book Review

About the Book:
"Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore. Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?"

My Review:
While I liked Ganshert's "A Broken Kind of Beautiful", I truly enjoyed reading The Art of Losing Yourself".  I found myself thinking about the characters throughout the day, and wasn't ready for the story to end.  Ganshert does a wonderful job of tackling tough issues, such as infertility, miscarriage, and broken relationships, all with a measure of grace. The characters are flawed and relatable; and I loved that not everything works out picture perfect in the end, because that's how life really is.  Although, I would have liked just a little more closure at the end, as I felt it was a little abrupt. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.

For a sneak peek at the first chapter, click here!
* I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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