I came across these books one day a couple of years ago and pointed them out to my good friend, Lainey, who loves anything to do with the Great War. She picked the first one up and went on to read the others and raved about them! *LOL* Finally, a few weeks ago, there was a sale and I managed to pick up this book and books 3 & 4.
I'm glad to say that I quite enjoyed it!
Now there are a lot of words in this book. The author likes words. But that's not a problem because it translates the setting and feel of the book perfectly, I thought. The book is set in 1929, ten years after the end of the First World War, but the Great War permeates every nook and cranny of the story.
Maisie is a great character. VERY competent and quite brilliant, she does have her faults though. Just not too many of them. *LOL* I enjoyed traveling with her as she sought to unravel the mystery of The Retreat and as well, her trips back into her youth and time during the war. I'd say a good third if not more of the book is taken up with what one would term her 'backstory', but it worked.
In conclusion, I quite enjoyed my read, despite thinking at the outset that it just might be a very pedantic read - it wasn't at all. I actually fell a little in love with the characters and I'm looking forward to my next read in Maisie's world!
Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
I was hoping that this book could turn it around, but honestly I was just bored. You would think a book about time travel would be interesting, but it's really not. I think Brackston is hoping to set up Xanthe so have an epic nemesis like in her "The Witch's Daughter" series and I just cannot live through that mess again. This book doesn't hang together very well. Xanthe is not interesting at all. We have some pieces about her ability to "spin" through time, but no real information. We also have her talking to another character about this and my eyes glazed over. I wanted Xanthe to go back to Samuel and her protestations about her mother and her store just got annoying. We also have three love interests this time through and I just threw up my hands. The big bad was a laugh and a half and I just maybe snickered at the ending. Maybe next time Xanthe listens to someone.
Xanthe is trying to stay focused on helping her mother run her antique business in the town of Marlborough. Xanthe still thinks about Samuel, the man she met back in the seventeenth century. However, Xanthe is determined to not travel back in time. She had a hard time lying to her mother and she knows that she can't say back in the past. However, on a shopping trip with her mother, a chocolate pot "sings" to Xanthe. She doesn't know why it's calling to her and why it seems so reluctant to show her it's story. When Xanthe gets a vision that Samuel is in danger, she travels back in time to find out that he is being held prisoner and soon to be hanged for a plot against the king. If this isn't enough, Xanthe's ex Marcus is running around Marlborough trying to get her to talk to him again. And of course we have Liam still wanting more from Xanthe though she's told him she's not ready for a relationship.
I don't know, I should not have been hoping that Xanthe fail and stay back in the past. Her reasoning behind staying for her mother made me cringe a bit. I don't really see Xanthe doing what she loves, she's staying to take care of her mother and help her with her business. We hear how Xanthe is a really good singer, and I don't recall her singing that much this go round. Maybe once I think? It just seems as if all of her supposed passions are dried up. When Xanthe finally meets someone who knows about her abilities though she can't get information out of them. I started to get annoyed because it makes zero sense to me why it's not discussed. And then of course, Xanthe meets another spinner, or what I call a dark leaper (you Quantum Leap fans know what I am talking about). Honestly that is what jarred me a bit, I did start thinking about this book being a send up of Quantum Leap and then I started to see if I could find that series streaming anywhere.
I can't even say much about other characters. The most interesting one to me is a woman that Xanthe meets in the past who won't tell her much. We sadly don't get enough scenes with her and Samuel. Liam bugs me and Marcus sucked. We have Xanthe revealing her powers to someone and I was so bored with that that I started looking up Quantum Leap gifs.
The writing read as forced to me a few times. I mean honestly this whole Samuel is in danger thing could have been tied up pretty fast. But nope, we have Xanthe jumping back and forth in time and dealing with nonsense from Marcus and going over her abilities with someone and then going back in time trying to deal with the evil leaper. Pick a story-line and stick with it please.
The flow was off and I kept going oh is she still on that with so and so? I just started to lose interest in this whole book by the 70 percent mark or so. It was a struggle to finish cause we have like 3 or 4 "endings" before we get to the dun dun dun one.
The book jumps back and forth from our time to the 1600s in England again. The only reason why I am giving this book 2 stars though is that Brackston obviously did research on chocolate houses in that time and place and chocolate pots. I didn't even know that this was a real thing and got interested in reading about them and liked the details we are given. At times the book reads as a history book, but it didn't bother me at all.
The ending is a cliffhanger and one wonders how Xanthe is going to get her way out of this one.
Despite the author’s literary skill, I didn't think much of this novella. In its brief page count, it chronicles the tragedy of Ethan Frome, a struggling young farmer hastily married to a cousin who constantly insists upon her unspecified ailments; while yearning for a better life, Ethan falls hard for his wife’s penniless young cousin, Mattie, who has joined them as a sort of servant.
There is merit here: the clear but artful language and descriptions of the New England countryside (where it is apparently always winter); the nuanced portrayals of everyday events and the characters’ emotional states; a story that moves relatively quickly and builds emotion as it goes. I suspect it’s a rare reader who doesn’t have an emotional reaction to the book, which is short enough and compelling enough to read in a single sitting.
But for many readers – myself included – the predominant emotional reaction is likely to be frustration. This is the second Wharton I’ve read, and both books follow characters who refuse to take available options to solve their problems, and finally conclude (or appear to conclude) that death is the only answer. These books are apparently meant to demonstrate how society limits the individual’s choices. But, to put it rather crudely, I think what this book really demonstrates is how being a pussy limits Ethan’s choices. Why doesn’t he stand up to his wife? Why doesn’t he abandon the farm to his creditors, go to the nearest city and get a job? Why does he feel he could only leave if he could afford to get to California, at a time when new immigrants were arriving and surviving on the East Coast every day? It’s hard for me to feel for a character whose real problem seems to be that he doesn’t have the spine to stand up for himself and the woman he claims to love. Mattie’s problems are somewhat more legitimate, but the story is told so much from Ethan’s perspective that we don’t quite know her; I was left wondering whether she in fact loved Ethan, or just saw him as her only protector; even she might not know the difference.
The other thing that rubs me the wrong way is Wharton’s introduction, in which she explains that the story is short because her poor rural characters are “simple” people with simple emotions: “but half-emerged from the soil, and scarcely more articulate.” This is so condescending and lacking in empathy that I wonder how qualified she really is to write about these characters. Just because someone is poor, half-educated and hasn’t been raised to consider their emotions worthy of analysis and discussion, doesn’t mean they don’t have complicated emotions, or that their life isn’t a long and complicated saga. This book is short because all of the set-up happens before it starts, leaving us to follow the characters only for some quick rising action up to the climax, and then we skip a couple of decades and get all the denouement in a quick retrospective. From a literary standpoint this works well. But the shortness and simplicity comes not from the fact that the characters are incapable of experiencing more, but because Wharton is incapable of imagining them doing so.
I don’t regret reading this: it’s short, well-known and an interesting story. But I definitely wouldn't recommend assigning it to teenagers; even as an adult, it’s a little hard to sympathize with these characters. And let’s keep in mind that while Wharton – without the benefit of today’s social science – fell for the common human fallacy of believing that members of out-groups have emotions less meaningful and complex than our own, we shouldn’t do the same.
Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women, and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, True Colors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including RT’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita, and the Gold medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.
Although this is likely not a series that I would necessarily gravitate toward on my own, I am glad that I have had the opportunity to read and review each of the three books thus far. Ordinarily, I prefer action and some mystery or suspense when reading fiction, and while there is arguably a bit of this in the Legacy of Sunset Cove series, the true foundation is built on relationships and people. In the first book, I admittedly had a somewhat difficult time connecting with and truly engaging with the characters. This improved in book two, and “Surf Smugglers” presents a blossoming and maturation of the central figures that is realistic and endearing.
If there is a single word that captures the spirit of “Surf Smugglers”, it is “change.” Melody Carlson draws credible parallels between the United States entering the war in 1917 and the battles that each character, as well as the town of Sunset Cove itself, likewise faces. There is a suspicion of continued rum-running, and with the war coming closer to home due to the draft, shortages of both employees and goods become more common. Even women’s fashion adapts, becoming more austere and less frilly. Developing a local Red Cross chapter and making other amendments to the town further highlight how war influences even more backwater locales.
Most compelling, however, is Carlson’s portrayal of the community. The people reflect the challenges and transformations of the time period, because “history did not change itself overnight.” In “Surf Smugglers”, I appreciated the inclusion of a colored woman as one of the important secondary characters, and the ensuing implications. Similarly, there is a theme of second chances and of not judging or forming an opinion too hastily. I know that I have struggled with this myself, and having it raised as an issue in the novel is a reminder of how we should model the redemption that our Savior has given us. One of the characters who matured the most is Katy. Her approach to life, “Take chances and make changes”, leads her to plenty of new experiences. The spiritual element in the narrative is light, and I think that this series would appeal to any readers who enjoy historical fiction, historical romance, and coming-of-age stories.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
The Avid Reader, August 31
Connect in Fiction, August 31
Among the Reads, September 1
She Lives To Read, September 1
Through the Fire Blogs, September 1
For Him and My Family, September 2
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 2
Just the Write Escape, September 3
Patiently Waiting, September 3
Blogging With Carol , September 3
CarpeDiem, September 4
Betti Mace, September 4
Christian Bookaholic , September 4
Reflections From My Bookshelves, September 5
Wishful Endings, September 5
Remembrancy, September 5
Maureen’s Musings, September 6
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess , September 6
Bigreadersite , September 7
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 7
It’s Story Time With Van Daniker, September 7
Connie’s history classroom , September 8
For the Love of Literature, September 8
Hallie Reads, September 8
Moments, September 9
Simple Harvest Reads, September 9
FOR THE LOVE of Books , September 9
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 10
Pause for Tales, September 10
To Everything A Season, September 10
Retrospective Spines, September 11
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 11
Texas Book-aholic, September 11
Older & Smarter?, September 12
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, September 12
janicesbookreviews, September 13
A Reader’s Brain, September 13
Inklings and notions , September 13