Showing posts with label connecticut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label connecticut. 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.
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, April 21, 2015

I'M FINALLY DONE! Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Title: Moby-Dick
Author: Herman Melville
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 1851
Source: received as a gift many moons ago!

Summary from Goodreads

In part,  Moby-Dick  is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor,  Moby-Dick  is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

My Review:

Time to be corny!

Moby-Dick was my white whale.  (Ba-dum-ching!)

Seriously though.  FOUR months to finish it?  Oy vey.  But it is done.

Why did I feel such a compulsion to read this classic novel?  I'll chalk up a lot of it to the fact that I grew up in Connecticut.  Because of course, every Connecticuter (Connecticutian?) born before the early 90's has a deep, soulful connection to the HARTFORD WHALERS!
What can I say.  My little state does not get much in the way of professional sports teams, and then they TAKETH IT AWAY.  So sad.

Anyway, the other thing is that I'm specifically from southeastern Connecticut, very near Mystic, which is home to the Mystic Seaport, a "living history" museum that chronicles a lot of the whaling history of the region.  Any kid who grew up in southeastern Connecticut went on AT LEAST one field trip to Mystic Seaport while they were in school.  Which means you toured a whaling ship and learned a lot about...whaling stuff.  All very relevant to Moby-Dick, RIGHT?!?!?

So I'm sure these are all important reasons why I made myself hang with this book for the first third of 2015.

Honestly, as time-consuming as this book was, it really was not a bad read.  Yes, there are some boring parts.  There are entire chapters devoted to whale anatomy and the proper dismantling of a dead whale and other such valuable whale-type knowledge.  There is also a lot of soliloquizing.  These sailors really like to listen to themselves talk!

But beyond that, there is also an interesting story.  Captain Ahab--you've all heard of him, but the guy is truly bonkers.  His journey to find Moby Dick is crazy and arrogant and foolhardy, which makes for excellent reading.  If you've ever heard anyone talk about this book over the years (and you likely have), you pretty much know what's coming from page 1.  But to watch it unfold is entertaining.  Figuring out Ahab, his fellow sailors, and the twists and turns of the journey itself, is certainly enough to keep you engaged.

There's also a lot of deeper meaning re: the arrogance of man, duty/honor, etc. but I'll let you hit up SparkNotes for that.  :)

I'm not going to try to go any deeper in my review about a book that's already been reviewed (and essayed, and analyzed) a billion times.  The question is, is Moby-Dick a book that you should pick up right now?  As always, it depends on what you're looking for.  If you want a classic with lots of subtle meaning, something that moves a bit slowly but still has an engaging story behind it...and you can stand all of the long-winded sections about whale biology, then I say, go for it.  I'm happy that I was able to experience this novel, despite the time it took to complete.

Have you read Moby-Dick?  For an assignment, or for fun?  Like or dislike?

This book is part of my 30 Before 35 list...woohoo!  It was also a pick from my TBR Book Baggie, so I took this opportunity to choose the next book from my bag.  The next one will be...

The Interrogator by Glenn Carle!

Stay tuned, hopefully I will get to it soon!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Small Fry Saturday #15: the Good Night Our World series

It's time for installment #15 of Small Fry Saturdays!  This is a whenever-I-feel-like-it meme to showcase books that my Small Fry is currently reading.  Feel free to do a SFS post on your blog (with the graphic above) or leave a comment below about your favorite kiddie reads.

The Good Night Our World series, published by Our World of Books

I first noticed this series of books when I was at a Hallmark store in Connecticut, visiting my parents.  My mom and I were out shopping alone, and while splurging on a new Vera Bradley bag for my birthday, I saw the book Good Night Connecticut at the sales counter.  I immediately fell in love and had to pick up a copy for Small Fry.

While the title implies similarities to the classic Goodnight Moon, the content is actually modeled quite differently.  Each book in this series brings you through a day in the title location: so at the beginning, it will start with "Good morning ______" and move through various spots in the given state/locale until the end, when you finally say good night.

Why do I love the series so much?  Because it's really cute to read a book to your kid that's specific to your area!  The Connecticut book makes stops at UConn (yes!), Mystic Aquarium, the Mark Twain house, Essex Steam Train...ah, the memories.  Even though we live in New York now, Small Fry will know many of these places as he gets older because my parents still live in my hometown.  Plus, Connecticut is a small enough state that one book easily sums up all of the major attractions...ha.  (I guess I need to get my hands on Good Night New York State as well.)

It looks like nearly every state has a Good Night Our World book now (check out Amazon/B+N to search for yours).  There are also more general ones, like Good Night Farm and Good Night Ocean (another one that we have and enjoy at home).

Do you have any favorite kid's books that are set in your home town/state?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

Title: The Hour I First Believed
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: November 11, 2008
Source: Personal purchase

Plot summary from Goodreads:

When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.

While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface.
As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary -- and American.
My Review:

Before I start any Wally Lamb novel, he's already got an "in" with me.  First, he bases many of his books in or around Three Rivers, Connecticut--a fictional town that is actually meant to mirror one very close to my hometown of Groton, Connecticut.  He throws in a lot of local references, which I eat right up.  And second, he used to teach at UConn (my alma mater), and a fellow member of the Husky community always gets some love from me.

But enough I-love-Connecticut jibber-jabber--on to the actual review!

This is not a book about Columbine, per se, though that is what originally drew me to it (I was a sophomore in high school when that happened, and thus it hit a bit close to home for me).  While that event is the trigger for everything else that happens in the novel, very little time is spent on that specific ordeal. This is more a novel about how one family had to deal with the effects of Columbine over a lifetime--how those events scarred them and changed their paths in countless ways.

If you've read Lamb's  I Know This Much Is True , you'll find the format somewhat similar. Tragic crazy event right at the beginning, protagonist who thinks he's got his stuff together but is really battling a lot of demons, and a historical side-story that ties into the ending. You'll even recognize some of the characters (the Birdsey twins make several appearances). I have to say that while I enjoyed the ties to the previous novel, I was a little turned off by the repeating format.  I expected more from Lamb, given that he had 700+ pages to come up with something totally different. I didn't think he would fall in to the formulaic category, and it seemed like an odd choice, since the subject matter could be taken in so many varied directions.

However, unlike some other authors I've read who stick with a plot formula, I liked this one anyway because the content was just that good. Lamb is a master of delving into the emotional complexity of any situation. The Columbine event is dealt with perfectly; it fits into the plot without overwhelming it. I didn't love Caelum (the main character), but I'm sure that was not an accident on the author's part.  There were a few slower sections (700+ pages can't be action-packed all the time, I suppose), but I felt invested enough in the characters that those sections didn't discourage me.

Overall, if you're looking for a good character-driven drama, this is pretty epic in scope.  I'd recommend trying I Know This Much Is True first (if you want the overlapping-characters effect) but otherwise, this is a great novel on its own.
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