Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review | Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
Series: The Butternut Lake Series #1
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

Publish Date: April 8, 2014

Source: Library
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

It's been ten years since Allie Beckett crossed the threshold of her family cabin at Butternut Lake, Minnesota. Now, newly widowed after the death of her husband in Afghanistan, she's returned with her five-year-old son.

There, she reconnects with the friends she had in childhood-best girlfriend Jax, now married with three kids and one on the way, and Caroline, owner of the local coffee shop. What Allie doesn't count on is a newcomer to Butternut Lake, Walker Ford. 

Up at Butternut Lake follows these four unforgettable characters across a single summer as they struggle with love, loss, and what it means to take risks, confront fears, and embrace life, in all of its excitement and unpredictability.

Allie Beckett could never have imagined, when she ran away from her old life, that she was running into a whole new life, up at the lake…
  (from Goodreads) 

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

My Thoughts: This is a great read for summer and a great comfort read. 

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear centers around Allie Beckett and her son Wyatt who are grieving the loss of their husband/father after he was killed in action in Afghanistan. This happened before the book begins. When the book opens, the mother and young son have just arrived at a small cabin on Butternut Lake, ready to begin a new life free from the sad looks and tones of voice that have plagued them in the year since Allie's husband has died. This is the cabin that Allie spent her summers as a young person so she has come to a place of some familiarity, but it is completely new for Wyatt. Allie is able to reconnect with her best friend from her teenage summers, Jax, and share some of the local venues that she loved when she was younger with Wyatt. It takes a long time for the two to feel at home, months actually, but eventually they do - and it is only with the help of some of the other locals. 

Walker Ford owns the cabin across the lake as well as the local boatyard. Allie's good friend from when she was younger, Jax, is married and pregnant with three young children - perfect for helping Wyatt get settled in with friends. Local diner owner Caroline remembers Allie from when she ate at the diner as a child and is a near-constant source of advice, a babysitter, and just a dear sweet friend to her. Everyone in a this small town - everyone - has issues of their own that they're trying to live with and deal with. Nothing really too heavy, but this is something that is notable in this book (we're not the only one dealing with problems, we don't have to feel alone, etc). This is actually brought to Allie's attention at one point, and it really does help her to settle down a bit and feel a little more comfortable in her new place - like she doesn't stick out like a sore thumb because she's carrying around her grief. Everyone is carrying around something. 

Besides the small-town Minnesota lake setting, which I loved, I adored the character-driven nature of this book. The synopsis reads like this is an Allie/Walker story, and in a way I guess it is. But I learned so much about Jax and Caroline and their own stories, and the author developed them so well that I feel like I have a pretty good handle on at least a portion of the town now, and I'm ready to jump right into the next book. Also, the author mentions in her note that this book has themes of confronting the past in order to move forward in life - this is something that pretty much all of the characters has to do in some way, and I love the way the author chose to write this into each character's story arc. 

Small-town companion series are some of my favorites, and I'm glad that I chose to finally begin the Butternut Lake Series. I'm also glad that I waited until 1) several of the books are already out so that I can binge-read and 2) summertime to start this, because this first book begs to be read on the porch or by the water. I am such a huge fan of women's fiction/contemporary fiction with romance, and while this book falls firmly into this category, I think there is plenty in here for guys to grab it if they want to as well.


Up At Butternut Lake will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction
Romance: Slowly Developing with no triangle.
Setting: Minnesota, US
Small town series
Character driven plot

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
is currently available for purchase.


The Butternut Lake Series: 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review | Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Published by Knopf BYR

Publish Date: December 11, 2012

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

A wonderful, coming-of-age love story from a fresh new voice in YA fiction.

'Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I'm open to all kinds of bribery.'

From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost...head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he's 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?
  (from Goodreads) 

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

My Thoughts:  I wanted to be emotionally knocked-over by this story

Amelia is 15 and works in a local grocery store. She is disillusioned by her parent's marriage, or maybe she is disillusioned by her mother's seemingly constant state of unhappiness with her lot in life as a mother and wife and working woman. Maybe she is disillusioned with both and dreads the prospect at potentially ending up much the same way. At any rate, she finds a friend and listener in 21-year-old Chris, one of her coworkers. 

Chris attends college nearby and loves to talk to Amelia about her thoughts. For one, she likes to read and Chris is really into literature. Chris also loves to hear Amelia's well-articulated thoughts on feminism - something she is just beginning to learn about - he finds that they can carry on intelligent conversations about the topic. Amelia is also pretty but doesn't realize her own beauty and therefore isn't overly flirty or slutty or anything like that. She's just regular Amelia, and that is increasingly attractive to Chris as the book goes on. 

Amelia and Chris begin writing letters to one another to continue the deep conversations that they have while at work. Soon Amelia is thinking about Chris all the time, talking to her BFF about him, googly-eyed over him. She has it bad. Surely he feels the same way, right? After all, he's talking to her so much and writing to her!? And there was that one time at that party...

Does Chris really like Amelia? Or is he still in love with his ex-girlfriend? Is he flirting with Amelia and "getting to know her" when he writes her all of these letters about engaging topics like her family dynamic and feminism? Or is he really just innocently having great conversation with someone that is on his own intelligence level? 

This has the potential to blow up both if these two declare their feelings and also maybe if they do not. Because there is a six-year age gap between these two and Amelia has already fallen in love. 


I wanted to fall in love with this book so badly. I remember working in a grocery store myself when I was in college (with both high school age and college age coworkers), and I could just SEE this entire book play out in my head. I could see Chris at war with himself over his state in life: too old to be working at the grocery store, needing to move on to a more permanent job, moving on from his ex-girlfriend that treated him poorly and did him wrong, and beginning to look for the type of girl that wants to settle down and commit. I could see Chris as a good-looking guy just having friendly banter with a younger teenage girl that he was tasked with training on a cash register, and the girl crushing-then-falling-for him. I could see Amelia reading nearly all of his interactions in the wrong way. I could visualize this situation just being exactly what it was.Except in my head, it was far more emotional and the potential outcomes felt like more of a sucker punch when I thought about it than when I actually read it. This emotional scene that I created in my head? THAT is what I wanted from the book. But the more I read, the further disconnected I became to the story. 

So, why the disconnect

- I didn't feel any emotional pull to either Amelia or Chris. I liked them both very much as characters, and in some weird way, I really wanted it to work out for them (totally not sure how that would have happened, by the way, but I was somehow here for it). But they were both very flat on the page. And for me, I need to be emotionally connected. Here, the story was good with good potential, but nothing really stood out with Amelia and Chris: no major plot points, no full development to these characters. 

- The use of alternating POV's: I liked it in the beginning, but began to not like it as the story progressed. Amelia's story is told in narrative and Chris tells his story by way of journal entries, which is a nice surprise. However, the switch in POV tells and retells the same period of time, and then tells and retells the same period of time, and so on. It was so jarring for me because I kept forgetting that both Amelia and Chris were telling their own views of the same period of time. I can appreciate that there was no redundancy between the two narrators, but the time frame needs to be more obvious because I kept forgetting that Chris was journaling the same period of time that I just read about until I recognized a scene that Amelia described in her narrative. 

Still, I did very much like the narrative vs. journaling aspect. That was really cool. 

- I loved that Amelia and Chris were able to have engaging conversations because it is important to have friends that challenge us and stimulate us, right? But I lost so much trying to keep up with Chris teaching Amelia about feminism. I am not anti-feminism at all (and neither is Chris, which is awesome) but this portion of the story read so much like a textbook to me that it really detracted from the emotion of the story. Is this book about the relationship between two people or is it about feminism? 

Several of my friends and many other readers have loved this book for several different reasons, so I recommend that potential readers seek out other reviews besides mine. When I have a hard time connecting with all of the characters, it tends to sway everything else about a story for me. I feel, I really feel, like if this book had been available to me in audiobook format, I might have been able to connect to it in more ways because audiobooks tend to draw more emotion from me (more senses are used!) but sadly there is no audiobook available as far as I am able to discern.


Love and Other Perishable Items will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary
Romance: No triangles. 
Setting: Australia
Alternating POV

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
is currently available for purchase.


Check it out for yourself: