Showing posts with label summer reads. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer reads. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Giveaway/Beach Read Alert! Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon


Title: Mystic Summer
Author: Hannah McKinnon
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.


My Review:

I haven't read a lot of beachy romances lately, but when I saw the title of Mystic Summer and realized it was set in Mystic, Connecticut, there was NO way I could turn it down!  Nothing like a hometown (well, almost hometown...I grew up in next-door Groton, but spent a fair amount of my youth hanging around Mystic) read to kick off the summer.

Even though my main attraction here was the setting, I ended up loving the story itself.  Maggie is a great protagonist--she's a smart woman, but makes a fair amount of mistakes as she navigates this uncertain time in her life.  I appreciate that she isn't a perfect character who never fumbles or questions her decisions.  She also finds herself in a rather messy love triangle, the results of which I found satisfying without being corny or predictable.  There may not be anything groundbreaking or heart-stopping to this novel, but it's got BEACH READ written all over it.  Fun characters, summer flings, high school nostalgia, and even a wedding thrown in--what else could you ask for?  I was able to read this in a few small sittings, and it was a great choice at a time in my reading life when I really needed a smartly-written, yet lighthearted novel.

As a local, I'll say that McKinnon's ability to bring out the atmosphere of the town was admirable.  I loved all the shout-outs to nearby shops and landmarks (Bank Square Books, Harp and Hound, the drawbridge, woohoo!).  However, I am morally obligated to point out a few inaccuracies, though I'll keep the list short in order to not sound TOO picky: based on where Maggie lives, she and her friends should be alumni of Fitch High (GO FALCONS!!) not Stonington High, the Naval Base is in Groton (not New London), and there is NO local resident who eats at Mystic Pizza nearly as often as Maggie and her friends do (tourist trap! haha).  Okay, I'm done.  Told you I was being picky.  ;)

Anyway, since today is the second official day of summer, I'm recommending this one for your poolside read list for sure!

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour.
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE. And connect with Hannah McKinnon via Twitter and Facebook.
GIVEAWAY TIME!!
The publisher has made 1 copy of Mystic Summer available to be won by one of my lucky readers.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below!  US/Canada entrants only please, giveaway ends 6/28/16.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

Title: The Mermaid Chair
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: March 31, 2005
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Inside the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on tiny Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. Jessie Sullivan’s conventional life has been “molded to the smallest space possible.” So when she is called home to cope with her mother’s startling and enigmatic act of violence, Jessie finds herself relieved to be apart from her husband, Hugh. Jessie loves Hugh, but on Egret Island—amid the gorgeous marshlands and tidal creeks—she becomes drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is mere months from taking his final vows. What transpires will unlock the roots of her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, as Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, she will find a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right.

My Review:

I was initially drawn to this book because I (and much of the rest of the world) enjoyed Kidd's other novel, The Secret Life of Bees.  I'd heard mixed reviews about this one, but gave it a try anyway.

Early on, I felt myself getting drawn into the book's atmosphere.  The narrator for the audiobook, Eliza Foss, provides a wonderful Southern lilt that perfectly fits my imagined voice for Jessie.  She also does a great job providing very distinct voices to all of the other characters in the novel (something that I find can make or break an audiobook for me).  And the fictional setting of Egret Island was beautiful--I wished I could explore the island in real life.

However, it wasn't long before I started to dislike Jessie's character.  She quickly started to come off as selfish, and constantly had an explanation for why everything she did was right.  But what really got me is this: Kidd tries to mask it with flowy prose, but the bottom line is that after 20 years of marriage, Jessie is bored and feeling tied down, so she rectifies the situation by cheating on her husband with another man.  I'm not averse to books that deal with infidelity--but I am not a fan of writing about it in such a way that it seems common, easily forgivable.  This book does that.  Jessie does what she does, explains it away throughout the novel, and maddeningly few pages are given to the way to which it is reacted.

The stated purpose of the book is to explore the connections between "the spiritual and the erotic", but I just don't think this was well-expressed.  I found myself not caring very much about the Mermaid Chair aspect (and while there is an interesting mystery surrounding Jessie's family, I found it's conclusion seemed like it was pulled out of thin air, disconnected from other parts of the story).

I think one of the better points of this novel is that you need to find yourself before you can "give" yourself to others.  I would have enjoyed the book more if that had shined through a bit brighter.  But it was hard for me to focus on that message with the messy way that Jessie's infidelities were handled.

Overall--this book had a lot of promise in the beginning.  Great setting, great voice, interesting family mysteries.  However, Jessie's perspective did not make me feel sympathetic to her in the least, and you need to be able to root for her at least a little bit if you want to put faith in the story Kidd is trying to tell.  An potentially beautiful story with an unfortunate POV problem.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review: The Beach House by Jane Green

Title: The Beach House
Author: Jane Green
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Source: e-book loan from my local library

Plot summary from Goodreads:

Known in Nantucket as the crazy woman who lives in the rambling house atop the bluff, Nan doesn't care what people think. At sixty-five-years old, her husband died twenty years ago, her beauty has faded, and her family has flown. If her neighbors are away, why shouldn't she skinny dip in their swimming pools and help herself to their flowers? But when she discovers the money she thought would last forever is dwindling and she could lose her beloved house, Nan knows she has to make drastic changes.

So Nan takes out an ad: Rooms to rent for the summer in a beautiful old Nantucket home with water views and direct access to the beach. Slowly, people start moving into the house, filling it with noise, with laughter, and with tears. As the house comes alive again, Nan finds her family expanding. Her son comes home for the summer, and then an unexpected visitor turns all their lives upside-down.

My Review:

I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase "chick lit".  I don't like it, because it implies a genre that is vapid, silly, and full of hot-pink-spined books.  While I find this true of SOME books in this genre (AHEM, Shopaholic series), it is most definitely not true for all (or even the majority).  However, I still sometimes use the term because it's easy and less clunky than saying "women's literature" or something of that sort.  Go ahead, call me lazy...

Anyway, I suppose you would say this book falls under chick lit, but I have to immediately follow that by saying this is SMART chick lit.  It's women's fiction that deals with relationships realistically, and makes an effort to get in the heads of each of its characters.  And oh yeah, I LOVED IT.

The story centers primarily around Nan and her 3 boarders (names withheld because I don't want to spoil).  However, it starts off following them well before they all end up in Nantucket, so the first chapter or two are a bit disorienting as you follow the lives of these seemingly unrelated people.  But once you figure out who's who, the variety of perspectives in this story is awesome.  Not only do you get the POV of each of the 4 main characters, but you get short snippets from their spouses' perspectives, their kids' perspectives, etc., creating a narrative that puts you in the head of nearly every character, and giving you a look at each of the 4 main characters from a whole host of different vantage points.  I love books and movies that do the whole we-don't-know-each-other-at-the-beginning-but-soon-our-lives-will-collide thing, but that paired with this crazy multi-person perspective?  Genius.  It's the #1 reason I loved this book so much.

By the end of the book, I felt like I knew each character so well.  Green spends a lot of time making sure you really understand the emotions of each person, in every chapter.  It doesn't take you long to start feeling invested in their well-being.

Themes of infidelity, being true to self, and "everything happens for a reason" were strong throughout the novel.  There are some GREAT plot twists, and the ending is perfect.

I only had 2 small beefs with this book.  Number one: the themes of the novel are highlighted WAY too much.  I think every character said/thought something along the lines of "she felt like she was coming home" or "he finally felt at home" or (enter cliche statement about home here).  Halfway through, I was like, "OKAY, GOT IT, THE BEACH HOUSE IS A METAPHOR, WE'RE GOOD".  Same goes for the "everything happens for a reason" theme.  I prefer it when authors assume I am smart enough to figure out the embedded themes on my own, cuz I is purty intellijent.

My other (very minor) complaint was that the American characters would sometimes use British-style language in conversation.  Not a huge deal, but it was noticeable...I'm sure it snuck in because Green is British.  It was just a little awkward in the dialogue when I picked up on it.

But overall?  The rest of the book was so good, I don't even really care about those 2 small complaints.  This is not my first Jane Green novel, and while I have really enjoyed most of them (Jemima J is definitely another to check out), this one might be my favorite so far.  This would be a great summer read, so quick--go get it before summer officially ends!

 
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