Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: Through Waters Deep

Through Waters Deep
By Sarah Sundin
Published: August 4, 2015

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.

Sarah Sundin takes readers to the tense months before the US entered WWII. Readers will encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love, in this hopeful and romantic story.

My review:

Mary Stirling is quiet and efficient and she prefers to be in the background. Growing up she was always in the shadow of her best friend Quintessa but that didn't bother Mary at all. She'd learned the hard way that it is better not to shine and call attention to herself. On the day that a new destroyer is supposed to be launched, someone sabotages a bottle of champagne, filling it with gasoline. Thankfully no one is hurt but other suspicious incidents keep happening at the shipyard. Is it the work of someone who wants the U.S. to join the war or a Nazi sympathizer? Mary decides to keep notes of everything she sees going on in case it might help the FBI. 

Jim Avery is known for floating along through life unlike his older brothers who are also in the Navy. He likes to be helpful but prefers not to be the bold, take charge type especially after a tragedy in his youth.  Jim knew Mary back home in Vermillion, Ohio where he had unrequited feelings for her best friend Quintessa. They are thrown together again when they meet in Boston while he is stationed there and they become friends as they tour the city together and later as he helps her investigate the sabotage.

Jim and Mary are both held back in life by things that happened in their childhood. Mary believes that what happened to her was because of pride so she does her best to always be humble and stay out of the spotlight. It is hard for her to go to the authorities with any evidence she finds because she is afraid that would be seen as seeking praise or boasting. She also hesitates to take part in the church choir and even in her relationship with Jim. When she develops feelings for him she thinks he couldn't possibly be interested since she is nothing like Quintessa. Jim has a hard time with being decisive which leads to some misunderstandings and complications in his relationship with Mary, who he ends up falling for. He also struggles with being a leader on board the Atwood. Thankfully he has a great mentor in Lt. Commander Durant who helps him to understand what it means to be a good leader. 

At times I was frustrated with both Mary and Jim for not going after what they want in life but at the same time I could relate in a way especially with Jim. I tend to float through life myself and sometimes miss opportunities because of it. I think both characters grow over the course of the book and they are very likable in spite of their flaws and determined to help others and serve God.

The book takes place in 1940 and 1941 before the U.S. joins the War. The time period was interesting to me because of the various beliefs that Americans had about going to war. There was racism and isolationism as well as the belief that the United States should intervene before Hitler controlled everything. The turmoil is well portrayed by what goes on at the shipyard. The author also shows great command of Navy terminology and battle scenes. At times the details slowed the pacing of the story down for me but I think it added to the setting.  Attention to detail is one of Sundin's trademarks for her historical fiction. This is the first book in the Waves of Freedom series. I think fans of Christian historical fiction and WWII stories will enjoy Through Waters Deep. I also suggest her Wings of Glory series starting with A Distant Melody.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Post (23) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It was a rough week for me with sinus headaches. Yuck. I went to the doctor and got a prescription just in case it turns into a sinus infection. I am hoping it will clear up soon as I leave for a library conference on Wednesday.  I also hit a reading slump after finishing What We Saw. I just couldn't commit to reading anything. Even my current book isn't really able to hold my attention. The audio book is fun but I only listen to that in the car and it is a book I've read before. Thankfully Rick Riordan's new book will be out on Tuesday and I've preordered my copy. I usually love his books.

I am looking forward to the library conference. This year it will be in Cincinnati. I hope that I'll learn some things but also have time for fun stuff. I also hope the weather will be warmer. Today it was only in the 50's and I ended up wearing a sweater and turning on the heat in my apartment. 

Since I haven't been reading much this week I spent a lot of my free time watching TV. I started watching Scandal and am now hooked and kicking myself for not giving this show a chance years ago. Now I have some catching up to do! I also caught up on The Great British Baking Show and Once Upon a Time. I am planning to watch Home Fires tonight. It is set in WWII which is one of my favorite historical time periods and it stars Samantha Bond (Lady Rosamund from Downton Abbey). Indian Summers is on PBS tonight too. I loved the first episode. 

Last week on my blog:

After You by Jojo Moyes (review-spoilers if you haven't read Me Before You)

Books read:

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

This book made me so angry and sad. I think it's an important book for teens to read and touches on a very timely topic. It would be a good pairing with All the Rage by Courtney Summers.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (reread)


Future Perfect by Jen Larsen

This book just wasn't for me. I tried but I couldn't get into it. I don't know if it is the writing style or the pacing or the characters. 

Currently reading:

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

So far this is kind of slow going too. Maybe it will pick up once we really get into Annabelle's story.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (reread)

What I plan to read next:

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

I can't wait to read this and it will hopefully be the book that breaks my reading slump. I read a very positive review of it in Booklist so that's a good sign. It will be hard to picture Thor and Loki differently from the movie versions but I'm sure the characters will not be like their Marvel counterparts!

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

New books received:

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (library book)

Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray (library book)

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas (library book)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: After You

After You
By Jojo Moyes
Published: September 29, 2015

Note: If you haven't read Me Before You, you may want to skip this review due to spoilers for the first book. You've been warned...



When one story ends, another begins. The sequel to the beloved New York Times million-copy bestseller, Me Before You.
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .
For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.
After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.

My review:

Six months after losing Will, Lou is just getting by day to day. She works at a pub in the airport and goes home to her empty flat each night. She is sort of estranged from her parents after their blowup in the last book. Things change one night when she has an accident, falling from the roof of her apartment building. She wakes in the hospital to find her parents there and she goes home with them after she is released, gradually mending fences. Her sister tries to encourage her to go back to school and her dad exacts a promise that when she returns she will attend a grief support group. Lou reluctantly goes but soon finds her life turned upside down when she meets someone with connections to Will's past and she starts to fall for Sam, the paramedic on the scene of her accident. 

Me Before You is my favorite book by Jojo Moyes. I have to admit that I was initially surprised that there would be a sequel and I wasn't sure what to expect. Once I got into the story I realized that I did want to know what happened to Lou. Before she met Will, she was living this quiet and small life, hampered by her parents and her own past. Will is the one that really helped her to soar. Unfortunately his death set her back a lot. It also impacted her relationship with her parents and the way their family is viewed in the village where many judge her for her involvement in Will's death. 

Thankfully as the book goes along, Lou begins to heal and find a way to move forward in her life. It isn't without its stops and starts especially regarding the complication of Will's past. It takes a lot to let down her guard with people and start planning her future. Lou has to make some brave choices of her own. I also liked the character development for the secondary characters like Lou's mom who after decades of marriage has discovered the feminist movement and hilariously takes a stand.  Jojo Moyes nicely balances the humor with the sorrow so that the book is never too maudlin. I thought this was a decent sequel though it doesn't quite have the same emotional punch as the first book. Lou is a likable protagonist and I was happy to see her start to thrive again and it was nice to catch up with the other characters. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (167)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Starflight by Melissa Landers
Release date: February 2, 2016

Solara Brooks needs a fresh start, someplace where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. The outer realm may be lawless, but it's not like the law has ever been on her side.

Still, off-world travel doesn't come cheap; Solara is left with no choice but to indenture herself in exchange for passage to the outer realm. She just wishes it could have been to anyone besides Doran Spaulding, the rich, pretty-boy quarterback who made her life miserable in school.

The tables suddenly turn when Doran is framed for conspiracy on Earth, and Solara cons him into playing the role of her servant on board the Banshee, a ship manned by an eccentric crew with their own secrets. Given the price on both Doran and Solara's heads, it may just be the safest place in the universe.

It's been a long time since Solara has believed in anyone, and Doran is the last person she expected to trust. But when the Banshee's dangerous enemies catch up with them, Solara and Doran must come together to protect the ship that has become their home-and the eccentric crew that feels like family.

I loved Alienated and its sequel Invaded so I'm eager to read this new (unrelated as far as I know) novel by Landers.  Her other books had a combination of science fiction and contemporary teen fiction with humor, romance and suspense so I have high hopes for this book. I wish she'd been able to write a third book in the Alienated series (she only got a two book deal) but I think Starflight sounds like a promising start to a new series. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Top Ten Readalikes

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books To Read If You Like These Popular Books/Authors".

I consider the term "readalike" to be a little misleading. The books I suggest for each popular title are similar but not exactly alike.

If you liked Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, try:

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

If you liked Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, try:

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

If you liked The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, try:

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (not YA fiction but may appeal to older teens)

If you liked Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, try:

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

If you liked Cinder by Marissa Meyer, try:

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

If you liked The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, try:

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

If you liked The Selection by Kiera Cass, try:

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker
Matched by Ally Condie
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The Jewel by Amy Ewing

If you liked The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, try:

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

If you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, try:

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy
The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

If you liked The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, try:

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
When The Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi
Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Post (22) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

This is me as a Peanut. The Peanuts Movie website has this really addictive Peanutize Me feature that lets you create your own Peanuts character to look like you (well sort of).  The new movie trailer was recently released and it looks adorable!

This month has gone by so fast! I'm sad that fall is officially here but I'll try to make the best of it. I have already enjoyed pumpkin pie cake and apple cider. Now my favorite TV shows are starting up again. Last week I watched the first episode of Downton Abbey season 6 (really good!) and tonight is the first episode of Indian Summers on Masterpiece. I am excited to see it and hope it lives up to my expectations. Tonight is also the premiere of the new season of Once Upon a Time featuring a cameo by Merida from Brave.

In non-TV news, our Pinterest craft night at the library went really well. We did have some technical difficulty with some of the picture frames (they were stapled on and hard to remove) but everyone seemed to have a good time. We even had some out of towners from Pittsburg that decided to join the program when they visited the library and saw our advertisement. Next month we will be making homemade pumpkin spice soap in the microwave. I've never done that before so we'll have to try it in advance to make sure the craft works. We are also going to be making sweater pumpkins. They look really cute and will hopefully be easy.

This week is my book discussion week and fortunately I read both books already. Not so fortunately I am struggling to remember Big Stone Gap which I read in August. It had a lot of characters with weird names so I may have to brush up before Tuesday. 

Last week on my blog:

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (review)

Books read:

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas (reread)

I am glad I reread this as I think I missed some things the first time around. I think it was just as good even knowing the big twist.

The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas

I thought this was a good conclusion to the series and there were some unexpected twists. I like that the author took me by surprise

Lord Fenton's Folly by Josi S. Kilpack

While not as emotionally satisfying as A Heart Revealed, I still liked this. Lord Fenton starts out as an annoying dandy but he improves in character a lot by the end of the book.

Currently reading:

Future Perfect by Jen Larsen

I am really struggling with this book. I had more hope for it but I find it doesn't hold my attention. I don't know why because the premise sounded good. I have a feeling it will end up as a DNF if it doesn't improve soon. So far, I really prefer Dumplin'.

What I plan to read next:

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

I loved Murder at the Brightwell so I am looking forward to picking this one up soon. I may read it next.

First and Then by Emma Mills

This is described as Jane Austen meets Friday Night Lights. While I'm not a football fan, I am curious about how Jane Austen's novels will tie in.

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

I am reading this for Amazon Vine and my review is due soon so I will have to move it up on the TBR pile. It is a dual time period story with parts set in the 1960s and WWII.

New books received:

Ash and Bramble by Sarah Prineas (library book)

Moving Target: a Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci (library book)

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (library book)

Kiss Me by Susan Mallery (library book)

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato (for review)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Walk on Earth a Stranger
By Rae Carson
Published: September 22, 2015

The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times-bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a sweeping and dangerous journey across Gold Rush–era America. Walk on Earth a Stranger begins an epic saga from one of the finest writers of young adult literature.

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Girl of Fire and Thorns series, dazzles with the first book in the Gold Seer Trilogy, introducing a strong heroine, a perilous road, a fantastical twist, and a slow-burning romance, as only she can.

My review:

Leah (Lee) Westfall has the ability to divine gold, something that has enabled her family to survive and that they've kept a secret for safety reasons. Unfortunately all that goes to hell when the wrong person finds out the truth. Now Leah has to go on the run, heading to California and hoping to meet up with her best friend Jefferson on the way. The journey is filled with danger in the form of robbers, illness and accidents and always Lee has to stay a step ahead of the man who hunts her.

While Girl of Fire and Thorns is a fantasy series, Walk on Earth a Stranger is more like historical fiction with just a touch of fantasy included. There is plenty of historical detail and I enjoyed the prairie setting especially as Lee joined up with a wagon train.  I've always loved prairie stories and Lee proves to be a hardworking, smart and resourceful young woman. There are also some great secondary characters introduced and the story examines the plight of women, people of African or Native American heritage and homosexuals (though this is only hinted at with the term "confirmed bachelors") during that time period. Many headed west not just for gold but to make a better life where they hope to live the way they want. 

I loved this story and while it isn't as good as The Girl of Fire and Thorns which set the bar really high, it is still an excellent start to the series. The author has a gift for creating settings and strong female protagonists. I do wish we'd had more chance to explore Lee's abilities but hopefully that will change in the second book. I also think the villain was a little one dimensional so I hope the sequel will delve more into his character. I can't wait to read more about Lee and find out what will happen in California. Overall I was really happy with this book and I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy it as much as fans of her fantasy novels.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss