Reading Sara Review: Wherever There is Light

Wherever There is Light, by Peter Golden

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Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Atria Books; 1st edition (November 3, 2015)

Reading Sara Rating: 4/10

fates and furies rating

Reading Sara Review: It has taken me a few weeks to write this review because I was not entirely sure what to say. I wanted to like this book. And there were some pieces of it that I enjoyed. But for me, it wasn’t one of the great books that I will read this year (or even have read in recent memory). But other people have loved it – this is solely my opinion!

Wherever There is Light has glimpses of greatness – following the characters through their personal development and growth all set within a backdrop of New York City and Paris between 1930s-1960s.

The story is about Julian, a German Jewish immigrant, who we are told has a shady mobster past and Kendall, a young (and dare I say impressionable) African American aspiring artist. Their love is supposed to be one for the ages – their families do not support them, society does not approve of their mixed races, and turmoil haunts their relationship. It has the ingredients for an excellent story – but unfortunately, it did not come together for me.

The story could have gone in so many unheard-of and exciting directions because of the incredible time that it is set in. Julian’s parents had just fled persecution in Nazi Germany. How did Julian feel about what was happening over there? Did he understand what a close call it was for his dad to secure a position as a professor in America? Additionally, the mixed race relationship was prime for an interesting dialogue with glimpses of the past as good historical fiction would provide. This did not do that. Their love affair did not feel genuine to me. Instead, it felt safe and melodramatic. This was set on the brink of the Civil Rights movement while Jim Crow laws ruled the South, it seemed like so much more could have been said (and would have been said, realistically) between these characters.

Instead, the characters were half-developed. We were told that Julian had a shady past, but never had the opportunity to witness it (remember future writers: don’t tell – show!). And Kendall seemed lost between who she thought she was and who she felt like she should be. Her rebellion against her mother felt like wasted energy.

This comes from someone who loves World War II historical fiction – and I believe that some excellent books have been published recently in this genre. I was hopeful for this one, but in the end merely disappointed.

 

Reading Sara Review: The Lake House, by Kate Morton

The Lake House, by Kate Morton

The lake house

Hardcover: 512 pages

Publisher: Atria Books (October 20, 2015)

Reading Sara Rating: 6/10

my name is lucy barton rating

Amazon Book Description: Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

Reading Sara Review: I listened to the Lake House on audiobook, so bear that in mind when reading this review.

This book was classic Kate Morton – she is a creative storyteller that weaves pieces together magically. The characters were well-developed and interesting – though there were a lot of them to keep track of through the story. The plot is mostly unpredictable, and the scenes are easy to visualize because the descriptive writing flows from the page.

My biggest complaints about the book are things that were likely within my control. Because I was listening to it via audiobook, I would sometimes space out and forget what was happening. It took me a while to get into it since I never had a huge chunk of time to dive into it (my commute to work is roughly 10 minutes, not very conducive to a book with long chapters). The books jumps around in time often – so I found myself extremely confused many times about who was talking and what pieces of their story were important. Between the confusion and the lack of time to get into the book, it took me months to get through (which is rare for me).

There are two primary mysteries in the story: the disappearance of Theo (which involves the Edevane family) and the “Bailey Case” which detective Sadie Sparrow alludes to many times. I thought it took too long to finally uncover what the Bailey Case was about and what went wrong – but glad that it was resolved in the end. As for the disappearance of Theo, Morton did a great job of keeping the mystery alive throughout as bits are uncovered by various characters. I thought that I knew what happened to Theo multiple times, but enjoyed discovering the truth alongside the other characters.

I know that with the new rating system a six may seem like I did not like this book – which is not the case. It was a lovely book, and I hope that if the description appeals to you that you read it and tell me what you think! For me, it took me too long to be invested, and I eventually was just reading to get the conclusion (but again, that may be my fault for not making the time!).

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: Losing the Light, by Andrea Dunlop

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Welcome to Books & Wine Wednesdays!
A special Wednesday feature with a book review & wine recommendations! 

Losing the Light, by Andrea Dunlop

Losing the Light

 

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Washington Square Press (February 23, 2016)

Reading Sara Rating: 7/10 (even better with a glass of wine!) 

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: This book was created for 20-something and 30-something lady book clubs. Here’s what we know happens at the start of the story: a college student travels to France, she falls in love with a dashing Frenchman, and something terrible goes down between her and her best friend somewhere between then and now, likely a twisted love triangle. It is delicious. And you (and your book club) will devour it quickly.

The book starts with the protagonist, Brooke, a 30-something living in New York City, getting ready to move in with her fiancé. A person from her past pops up unexpectedly, which, lucky for us readers, leads her down memory lane to her time studying abroad in France.

The end of the book is full of emotion, surprises, and a dash of mystery. It is a light read that made me want to go back to France (not for the love triangle drama, but just to drink wine and eat dark chocolate).

What I liked about the book: Brooke and Sophie were classic college friends who have an intense friendship solidified by an intense experience of studying abroad together. While Brooke was running away from something, Sophie was adventurous and daring. Together, they found someone they could confide in, laugh with, all while drinking wine and practicing their French. I liked that Sophie is a bit misunderstood. I would have loved seeing the story from her viewpoint, or even parts of the story. Brooke, however, was a relatable character. She was figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. She was self-conscious and aware.

There was a lack of character development of Alex, who is at the center of the love triangle that unfolds, which left me needing more. It felt clear to me from the beginning that he was sleazy and not trustworthy. And perhaps this is my 30-something viewpoint, which is quite different than my 20-something perspective, but I wanted Brooke and Sophie to choose friendship over a man – I wanted to watch them grow and develop into themselves while on this incredible opportunity. I wanted Brooke to write a novella and Sophie to sell her paintings – none of which happened because there was way too much drama for any of that to unfold.

The drama is fun, and the love triangle reveals itself in an interesting way. This is one of the books that you can tell something terrible is going to happen eventually – and you turn the pages waiting for the other shoe to drop. The best surprise, though? After the shoe drops, there is more to look forward to as a mystery continues to unravel.

The book is sexy, intense, and fun. Not serious literature here, folks, but an excellent choice for your next beach read!

Wine Recommendation: Brooke and Sophie study abroad in Nantes, France – which lucky for us wine lovers is near the Loire Valley.

Within the Loire Valley, the area near Nantes is mostly known for Muscadet wine, a light white wine that is often recommended with fish. Again, perfect for sipping by the beach with this book! They are usually going to be crisp with some slight floral tones. As usual with white wines, do not serve it too cold! The flavor will be enhanced more as it warms. If you do not believe me, I’ll let the New York Times tell you a bit more about Muscadet.

Muscadet has a bit of a bad rep for being a “cheap” wine. Here’s the thing: cheap wine can be good. I find that a $15 bottle of wine that is excellent fills me with more pride than buying a $80 bottle that better be good for that price. Just saying.

You can find a variety of Muscadet wines for under $20. Look for a 2011 or 2012 vintage and you will be all set!

 

Reading Sara Review: America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

America’s First Daughter
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Americas First Daughter

Paperback: 624 pages

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016)

Review: 9.5/10 (clearly I loved it!)

Rating for Americas First Daughter

Reading Sara Review: This is a hard review to write because I loved this book. From the beginning, this book enthralled me by the brilliant storytelling, the incredible weaving of time and place through letters, and certainly most of all with Patsy Jefferson.

America’s First Daughter is the story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson. This book is based largely on facts, real events that happened throughout the course of America’s history (even Patsy burning letters and censoring what the world was to know of her great father is true). What I love about books like this is that we know about Thomas Jefferson – but the uncovering of a strong woman behind him, a great daughter to support him after he vowed to his dying wife that he would not marry again, that is a story that is untold, until now.

If you are a fan of academic history, this is probably not the book for you. The authors take liberties and guesses at some of the friendships, romances, and scandals and create a story that is fascinating to follow. Maybe all of these things did not happen, in fact, they probably did not. But, some of the important things did happen, and the other things help the story along the way (and making reading it fun!).

Patsy is certainly the heroine in this book – stepping up to be “First Daughter” when there is a need for a “First Lady” by the President Jefferson’s side, making sacrifices for her family her entire life, and being a strong woman in a man’s world. A major theme in the book is sacrifice. Jefferson certainly sacrificed much to his life as a public servant. And Patsy sacrificed much in service to her father, and later to her family. Those that surrounded them in their life, their circle, felt that sacrifice and that pressure in their own ways. Whether it was a child marrying for security, or helping a sibling because of the strain it would place on the family – there was intense pressure to maintain that sacrifice throughout their lives.

Along with an interesting storyline of Patsy’s life, the authors wove the issues of the day – women’s right, slavery and the politics of the media (yes, even then! Though news traveled slower!), which gave this novel more depth. Seeing Thomas Jefferson through his daughter’s eyes makes him a real person, much more than a founding father that we learn about in school. Even in his brilliant mind, he had internal struggles. This story takes place in a fascinating time, but the Jefferson family truly lived through some amazing things. Starting with the revolutionary war and being driven from Monticello because “the British are coming” to residing in France at the onset of the Fresh Revolution to returning home and being a part of President Washington’s cabinet – what an incredible part of history!

I worry about recommending books that I truly love to other people. What if they don’t love it as much as I did? What if they hate it and no longer take my recommendations? I think that this is one of the best books that will come out in 2016, certainly one of the best historical fiction books. If you read it and hate it, please don’t tell me. But I hope we can still be friends and give each other more recommendations!

I could say so much more about this novel, but won’t for fear of spoiling some of the fun!