Review: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (May 30, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 039916216X
  • Source: Publisher

It’s Memorial Day weekend in 1938. Following family tradition, Lily Dane has left her life in New York and returned with her family to the oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island. Her plans for a peaceful, relaxing summer are changed when the Greenwalds return to Seaview. A painful past full of heartbreaking events comes rushing back to Lily.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald once played a big role in Lily’s life. Budgie was Lily’s best friend; they grew up together sharing many fond memories of Seaview. Nick was once Lily’s fiance, their relationship destroyed seven years ago. Nick and Budgie have recently married, an event that raised quite a few eyebrows and stirred up the gossip in Seaview.

Budgie has returned to Seaview in the hopes of reconstructing her family’s old house…and her relationship with Lily as well. Always one to be the center of the social scene, Budgie takes it upon herself to try to set Lily up with Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton, a “friend” of hers from their college days. Despite this, Lily’s love for Nick cannot be diminished and despite Budgie’s attempts to push her on Graham, Lily can’t stop thinking about Nick. The two are forced to revisit the events that pushed them apart, facing the emotional devastation that ended their relationship. Both are bound by intense emotional obligations, yet when the true circumstances are revealed, both see one another in a completely new light. A a horrific hurricane looms, Lily and Nick must face and overcome their own emotional storms, changing their lives forever.

The setting of this novel plays quite the integral role in this story. A calm, serene beach in the path of a looming hurricane. It’s not hard to draw the connection between what is happening in the setting to that of Nick and Lily’s relationship. This setting is also what will draw readers to embrace this novel. Who can resist a warm beach in the summer, warm sand under your toes?

While I’m typically turned off by love stories in general, the feeling I had after reading Williams’ previous title, Overseas, allowed me to take a chance and dive into this novel.  As I suspected, I was quickly wrapped up, nearly obsessed, with Nick and Lily’s love. Perhaps because it is a love that is true and classic, one that has succeeded in standing the test of time. Using chapters with alternating time periods, Williams so eloquently builds up each of the characters, detailing their transformation and emotional evolution over the past several years.

The characters are extremely rich in this novel. Williams is quite successful at balancing Budgie’s outrageous and obnoxious behavior with the serenity, calm and innocence found in Lily.  How the two could have been friends for so long is beyond me! And the love triangle/square!? Wowser. It was quite intense, I found myself furiously turning the pages to find out what was going to happen.  And the passion? Well, you’ll see for yourself.

My only complaint would be the ending.  I’m ecstatic about what transpired but thought it was an easy means to get to the desired ending. That said, the rich beauty and beautiful writing throughout the novel, the truly dynamic and captivating storyline, really won me over in the end.  If you are looking for a beautiful, rich novel to take you away this summer, this is the title for you. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (December 31, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0670026603
  • Source: Publisher

To put it frankly, Louisa Clark is an incredibly dull, normal girl. She has a steady boyfriend and still lives with her mom and dad in the same village in which she was born. After losing a job she loved, she’s desperate to find another. It is her income that helps support her parents and her sister, a single mother.

The opportunity that comes available to her is so unlikely: working as a caregiver to the wealthy young quadriplegic, Will Traynor. Bound to a wheelchair after a brutal accident, Will has lost his life as a young active man, world traveler, participating in a host of extreme sports. Will is extremely volatile, incredibly harsh and moody. At first, Lou things she’s in over her head.  After giving up a few times, however, the two form the most unlikeliest of connections. When Lou learns of a life-altering decision Will has made, she strives to provide him a life worth living.

Admittedly, I was quite wary of this book when I read the synopsis. Loyal followers will acknowledge that I’m not exactly a fan of romance. Despite these feelings, I dove in to reading this novel after quite a bit of encouragement from individuals whom I trust who adored this novel. And….I’m so glad I did. Perhaps it’s because Me Before You is the most unlikeliest of “love stories” I have read. Two completely different individuals who would have never crossed paths had it not been for the horrific accident that brought them together. While unlikely, the relationship they share is quite realistic and believable, not sugar coated in the least. Without giving away too much the ending, while difficult, is truly genuine and not at all the fairy tale ending of many love stories. All of these things combined with the truly sympathetic (while sometimes infuriating) lead characters, Moyes has created a truly rewarding, heartfelt, memorable novel.

Let it be known that I had no intentions of posting any more reviews this year. That said, I was so desperate to include this novel in my “Best of 2012″ list to post tomorrow, I just had to write about it. I’ll admit to sobbing quite a bit while reading this book, and not the soundless sobbing but the gasping, messy sort of sobbing. While truly emotional it is more uplifting than depressing.  So I implore you to embrace the beauty in the unlikeliest of love stories I discovered in Me Before You.  It is a novel that has moved me, with a message that will carry on with me for some time: Just live well. Highly, highly recommended.

Love is Murder Blog Tour, Featuring Lee Child!

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (May 29, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0778313441
  • Source: Publisher

To celebrate the release of Love Is Murder, an anthology including works by 30 of the hottest authors writing romantic suspense today, featured bloggers will “host” one of the authors on their blog, including a teaser of that author’s short story.

I’m excited to be hosting Lee Child, by far one of my favorite thriller writers of all time! Following is an excerpt of Lee’s contribution to Love Is Murder:

Lee Child – I Heard a Romantic Story

I heard a romantic story. It was while I was waiting to kill a guy. And not just a guy, by the way. They were calling this guy a prince, and I guess he was. A lot of those guys over there are princes. Not just one or two a country. Families have princes. All kinds of families. They have princes of their own. There are hundreds of them. They have so many that some of them are twenty-five-year-old assholes. That kind of prince. And he was the target. This young asshole. He was going to show up in a large Mercedes sedan. He was going to get out of the backseat and walk about ten steps to the porch of the house.

 Bio:

Previously a television director, union organizer, theater technician and law student, Lee Child was fired and on the dole when he hatched a harebrained scheme to write a bestselling novel, thus saving his family from ruin. Killing Floor went on to win world-wide acclaim. The hero of his series, Jack Reacher, besides being fictional, is a kindhearted soul who allows Lee lots of spare time for reading, listening to music, the Yankees and Aston Villa. Visit him online at www.leechild.com.

Contributing authors to this anthology include: Lori Armstrong * Jeff Ayers & Jon Land * Beverly Barton * William Bernhardt * Allison Brennan * Robert Browne * Pamela Callow * Lee Child * J.T. Ellison * Bill Floyd * Cindy Gerard * Heather Graham * Laura Griffin * Vicki Hinze * Andrea Kane *Julie Kenner * Sherrilyn Kenyon * Dianna Love * D.P. Lyle * James Macomber * Toni McGee Causey * Carla Neggers * Brenda Novak * Patricia Rosemoor * William Simon * Alexandra Sokoloff * Roxanne St. Claire * Mariah Stewart * Debra Webb

Please be sure to check out my write-up of this title on the SheKnows Book Lounge as well as the other stops in this blog tour.

Review: The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (June 19, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451651805
  • Source: Author

It’s been two hundred years since Lanore entombed the horribly wicked Adair behind a wall of stone and brick. She now lives in London with her new lover, Luke Findlay. In an attempt to atone for her past sins she is giving away the treasures she has accumulated over the years. Despite the horrible brutality Adair used to show his love for Lanore, she still feels guilty for entombing him. Additionally, just months before she was forced…urged by Jonathan, a man who she had loved with all her heart, to end his suffering.

Meanwhile, the massive home in which she and Adair resided, the place in which he gave her eternal life, is being demolished. This destruction frees Adair from his tomb and he has only one thing on his mind: find Lanore.

Lanore notices instantly that Adair is free; she senses a tingling in her body she cannot explain. Despite being an ocean away, she instantly feels fear for what Adair may do to her when he does find her. Unwilling to allow Luke to risk his life and the lives of his daughter, she flees. She locates friends from her past, other immortals, to assist her. Fans of The Taker will recognize many of these characters. Knowing that Adair has just as many individuals willing to assist him, yet not realizing that those she chooses to trust are working for the very man from which she runs. Understanding there is no point of attempting to evade Adair she instead decides to build up the strength, both mentally and physically, to confront him.

Meanwhile, Adair is forced to adjust to the changes in technology (and attire) that have transpired over the past two centuries. He uses this technology to track down his spell books, willing to do whatever it takes to get Lanore back. He performs a spell that brings back from the dead someone so near and dear to Lanore’s heart that she cannot resist the temptation to find him.

In The Taker, we learn of the sick and sadistic relationship Adair has with Lanore. At first, she was drawn to his power but soon learned of his plans to switch souls with Jonathan. It was then that Lanore decided to end Adair’s reign. In The Reckoning, Katsu very eloquently reveals a great deal of Adair’s past, how he became immortal, how he achieved his level of power.  Never a fan of Adair myself, I still found it quite interesting to learn about his history and how he became the horribly vile creature he is now. Additionally, we see a lighter, kinder (though not by much) side of Adair. Despite this, I still hold a great deal of hatred for his character, though this new information lessens my feelings of hate a bit.

Bottom line, The Reckoning is a tremendous follow up to The Taker and serves the role a second book in a trilogy should: fill the reader in with more information on the history of the characters. Additionally, the ending paves a clear path to the third book in this trilogy, and a hopeful ending at that! My favorite part of this trilogy, what I think is the biggest selling point,  is the skillful way the author portrays the concept of immortality metaphysically, magically, without the need for supernatural characters.

Ultimately, The Reckoning is a novel about redemption, betrayal and, for you romantics out there the power of love. This is a trilogy you cannot afford to miss out on! Highly, highly recommended.

Note: I do feel it is important to be transparent about my relationship with Alma. I do consider her a dear friend; we’ve shared meals together and I have very willingly provided advice and pointers to her along the way. I was beyond ecstatic to find myself mentioned in the acknowledgements. All this said, my friendship with Alma in no way influenced this review or my feelings about this book.

Review: Overseas by Beatriz Williams

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (May 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0399157646
  • Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Kate Wilson is a twenty-something Wall Street analyst, trying to make a name for herself. At an important client meeting, she’s banished to her cubicle, expected to sit around should the rest of her team find a need for her.  It is while she’s sulking at her desk that she runs into Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor, the handsome British billionaire Julian Laurence.  Never been one to attract the attention of the opposite sex and without a serious love interest since college, Kate is shocked at how interested Julian is in her.

The two embark upon a whirlwind romance. Julian doesn’t attempt to disguise his feelings for Kate, but he’s definitely holding something back. Eventually all is revealed: Kate & Julian’s love affair actually started almost a century ago in World War I France when a mysterious women saves the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford. For some reason, their love has truly triumphed through time,  Kate arriving on the Western Front just in time to save WWI Julian Laurence from death.  Can Kate accept all of this unbelievable news and truly succumb to the love of her life? Or is all of this too much for her?

Overseas  is the perfect summer weekend read! Put a hold on your life, cancel all your appointments for once you start this one you won’t be able to stop.  Not a typical fan of romance myself, I couldn’t help but find myself swept away in this escapist read!  When this book was compared to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I couldn’t resist!

Given the fact that this is a novel involving time traveling, the reader must of course suspend belief while reading this novel. There isn’t a great deal about Julian & Kate’s journey through time that can be believed and accepted.  Williams didn’t intend for readers to examine the probability or possibility of time travel, but instead lose themselves in the love story between Kate and Julian, a love story that stands the test of time.

Overseas is a book that truly took me away to another place and time, a novel that I’ve found myself recommending to anyone who will listen. Kate and Julian have a classic love that you don’t see a lot anymore in fiction, a romance so deep time and distance can’t stop it. This is saying a lot coming from a reader who typically doesn’t enjoy romance, but I found myself wanting to know more about Kate and Julian, about their life together. I’m hoping Williams intends on writing more about this couple, for now I want more! Highly, Highly recommended.