Book Review #50: “The Great Gatsby”

The Great Gatsby - Complex

Image Credit: Complex

I may have mentioned before that I re-read The Great Gatsby at least once every year. This Book Review attempts to express my deep love and appreciation for this novel, first published in 1925.

I was first introduced to this thrilling work of fiction in Mr. Degnan’s English class in high school. At the time, I knew bits and pieces of the eras known as “The Jazz Age” and “The Roaring Twenties,” but I hadn’t willingly picked up a work written by F. Scott Fitzgerald until this particular assignment.

Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.

Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a man in his late twenties, the book catapults you head-first into the crazy world of New York City and Long Island during the summer of 1922. Nick is surrounded by a literal cast of characters, including Jay Gatsby, the owner of an extravagant, opulent mansion. Nick rents the modest bungalow next door, and is immediately awestruck by Gatsby, the incredible parties he hosts, the rumors that swirl, and the air of mystery. What follows in the coming days and months is a violent whirlwind of many parties, little work, lots of dancing, plenty of food and drink, and a time of celebration following The Great War’s end.

Nick reconnects with his cousin, Daisy Fay Buchanan. She is married to one of Nick’s college acquaintances, Tom. Jordan Baker, a beautiful amateur golfer, soon enters Nick’s life and his heart. Along the way, Nick learns that Tom has one main mistress, Myrtle Wilson, and rents an apartment in the city for other affairs.

An invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties thrusts Nick into another world. He learns the man is borderline obsessed with Daisy. Five years have passed since their chance encounter. However, Nick can see that Gatsby desperately wants to reconnect with her. Over time, he uses Nick surreptitiously to accomplish his goal.

Throughout the novel, affairs run rampant and can easily make the reader’s head spin. The dancing, music, and illegal alcohol will do that, too.

The characters’ personalities are heightened, and sometimes incredibly violent and unsettling. The fights and shouting feel real, and the hot summer day that serves as the novel’s climax makes me sweat every time.

Several of the characters suffer quite tragic consequences, and by the very end, many are bitter and disillusioned, to say the least. There’s a sense of an incredible downward spiral.

The novel is long enough to take readers on an incredible adventure set in a span of just a few months, but short enough to be thrilling, breathtaking, and entertaining without getting stale. Reading Gatsby for the first time inspired me to dive into Fitzgerald’s world and read more of his work. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Finishing the book leaves me in a slightly depressive mood, but in the end, it’s worth it. It gives me a sense of what those years were like for those who experienced it, in the cities, in modest houses, and in the ashes.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

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Book Review #49: “Prints in the Sand: My Journey with Nanea”

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Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the other two Book Reviews I’ve written about Nanea’s books:


The BeForever Journey Books are starting to grow on me. Choosing your own adventure is so much fun!

Our modern girl is in Hawaii, on the beach with her twin brothers and their babysitter, whom she calls Auntie Oli. Her father is “overseas” in Iraq. She’s struggling with him being gone, along with other things.

A traditional puka shell necklace, much like the one Nanea is given, transports her to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1942!

Along the way, our modern girl meets Nanea, Lily, the Honolulu Helpers, and climbs the Punchbowl volcano crater! She even gets to solve a mystery or two, like Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes!

I was impressed how the book focused on the war effort, and how women became more involved with the military.

The one major criticism was one of the paths / routes was so heavily embedded in the book, that I had a lot of trouble finding it. I wanted to read it, but it took me a long time to find it, and I got frustrated. I’m sure it was a simple oversight, but I didn’t like picking through the pages, trying to find the one route I hadn’t read yet.

I loved learning even more about Hawaii and the early war effort in this book.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #48: “Hula for the Home Front: A Nanea Classic 2”

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Image Credit: American Girl

If you havenโ€™t already, I would recommend reading the review of the first Nanea volume before checking out this one:


At the end of Classic 1, Nanea and her friends were preparing to return to school, nearly two months after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor.

To Nanea’s dismay, there’s a new girl in her class. Her name is Dixie Moreno, and Nanea immediately struggles to be nice to her. Donna has left for the mainland, and Nanea is still sour about that. However, Nanea tries hard to not “borrow trouble” and show kindness to Dixie. Along the way, they help each other out, and start to become friends.

Meanwhile, hula is a central theme in this volume. Nanea finds joy in her lessons, and she learns that her dog, Mele, is a talented dancer!

As Nanea prepares to celebrate her tenth birthday, things begin to relax a bit on the island. Her family and friends come together to pull off an excellent birthday surprise! She’s excited to celebrate, but she remains observant and guarded. Her brother, David, constantly talks about Lieutenant Gregory and how much he wants to enlist. He turns 18 in a few months’ time. Nanea is scared, and angry. How will she express her feelings?

Nanea learns several important lessons – Patience, understanding, a hint of wisdom, and how to make her own contributions to the war effort. Through hula, War Stamps, and a few other things, she learns that even kids can make a difference!

Like the first volume, I received an excellent education about Hawaii and its involvement in the early stages of the U.S. entering World War II. I was impressed at how much detail was included. I can only imagine how much research was done! The books also discussed the challenges that many Japanese-Americans faced in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and it was well-written.

I’m looking forward to reading her Journey Book! Look for that review soon!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #47: “Growing Up with Aloha: A Nanea Classic 1”

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Image Credit: American Girl

As soon as American Girl announced Nanea as their newest BeForever Historical Character, I knew I wanted to read her books!

These books are relatively quick reads for me, but since I love historical fiction, I try really hard to pay attention to all the details!

Nanea’s story begins in 1941, on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. Her given name is Alice Nanea, and the author packs a variety of Hawaiian words into the story. She’s the baby of the family, with an older brother, David, and an older sister, Mary Lou. Her mother is a Hawaiian native, while her father is from Oregon, from the mainland. I had to remind myself that Hawaii wasn’t a state yet!

Nanea enjoys spending time with her friends, Lily and Donna. They like shave ice on the beach, learning and performing hula, and school.

As the story progresses, we learn that Nanea’s father is a welder for one of the shipyards. Pearl Harbor is bustling with activity, especially as World War II has ramped up over the last several years. However, many on the island go about their daily business, welcoming tourists and taking care of their families.

A special contest is being held, and Nanea and her friends are excited to enter. The prize is a brand-new Schwinn bike! They have to meet four criteria. The deadline to enter is December 15th.

Then, on December 7th, everything changes. Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. Nanea’s father has to work around the clock, and her brother and sister volunteer their time and effort in the community. Nanea feels like the baby again, wanting to help, but being too young. Everyone is scared as martial law is declared, blackouts begin, and schools are closed.

Christmas doesn’t feel very festive, but the family celebrates anyway. They rekindle the Hawaiian spirit of “ohana” and “aloha.”

This story wraps up around January 1942. Just as things begin to look normal again, Nanea and her friends learn that one of them may have to leave because of the Army’s orders. Nanea wants to help her friends, but she’s not sure how!

Overall, I dug deep into Nanea’s story. I found myself dreaming about the story and picturing certain scenes every night when I went to bed. I really want to visit Hawaii now!

I really appreciate the attention to historical accuracy, while making it relevant to the main audience. Nanea may be the baby, but she’s starting to grow up. And, I learned a few new things along the way!

I’m already thirteen chapters into Volume 2 – Look for that review soon!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #43: “Gunpowder and Tea Cakes: My Journey with Felicity”

Gunpowder and Tea Cakes

Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the two other Book Reviews I’ve written about Felicity’s books:


I think I loved this “Journey Book” more than all the ones I’ve read so far!

I know I’m biased because I live about 45 minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg. Regardless, I love how American Girl has portrayed Williamsburg in the present day, as well as the colonial period.

Our modern girl lives with her dad and grandmother, above her grandmother’s antiques shop. A miniature portrait on a chain catapults her back to 1775, and she meets Felicity and her friends. I loved how the author incorporated the current Williamsburg interpreters into the adventure!

Maybe it was just me (I haven’t counted all of them), but I feel like Felicity’s Journey Book has the most adventures that the reader can choose. It was really cool, but it was part of the reason why it took me longer to read it than the other two volumes.

There wasn’t really anything that I disliked about this book. If you’re looking for adventure, heart-stopping thrills, and an education on colonial times, this is an awesome book to check out!

This reader definitely wants to dive deeper into Colonial Williamsburg and its history. For me, I have no excuse!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #42: “A Stand for Independence: A Felicity Classic 2”

A Stand for Independence

Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the review of the first Felicity volume before this one:


Volume 2 doesn’t quite pick up where Volume 1 leaves off, but that is easily forgiven. Like Love and Loyalty, Volume 2 covers the remaining three books of the original six-book series: Happy Birthday, Felicity!, Felicity Saves The Day, and Changes for Felicity.

Felicity turns ten years old early in the book, surrounded by family and friends. There are several surprises to be had – Grandfather gives her an amazing and precious gift, but warns her to be careful and be responsible with it. Mother is expecting a fourth child, and Penny the horse is due to be a mother as well! So much excitement!

Felicity learns an important lesson about responsibility as she outright disobeys Grandfather. She struggles with guilt and shame, but ultimately tells the truth. Will she be forgiven? Will the gift be taken back?

The second part of the book follows the Merrimans away from Williamsburg, and headed to Grandfather’s spectacular King’s Creek Plantation on the York River. I immediately recognized many of the names and places in the book. In my research, the plantation land has long been converted to a neighborhood full of houses and cottages, but the views of the York River are still breathtaking and beautiful. Seeing the modern photos (thank you, Internet), made me close my eyes and imagine what it looked like in 1775. The book helped immensely too – I saw Felicity, Nan, and William enjoying every one of their summer days, outside all day long! How carefree and wonderful.

The summer, however, is not without trouble. Mr. Merriman’s apprentice, Ben, becomes restless and impatient, and decides to run away. Luckily, Felicity comes to the rescue. The weaving of history is incredible. Ben struggles mightily with wanting to serve out his seven years as an apprentice to learn the trade, but the preparations for revolution grow stronger, almost every hour. At sixteen, Ben wants to join the fight. Will Felicity help him?

As summer fades to fall and winter, health issues plague members of Felicity’s family. Penny is due to give birth, but experiences complications, and an old enemy’s help is needed. Grandfather falls gravely ill, and the entire family pitches in to take care of him. The weather is just as violent, and the fight for independence grows stronger. Everyone spends the winter cooped up inside, trying to understand what’s happening in their family, as well as their colony.

Between the two books, I felt so much childhood nostalgia. I was propelled back to the early 1990s when I read and re-read the original six books, staring longingly at the beautiful illustrations. As I finished this book, I felt my excitement growing for Felicity’s newest book, Gunpowder and Tea Cakes. Review coming soon!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #41: “Love and Loyalty: A Felicity Classic 1”

Love and Loyalty

Image Credit: American Girl

I was a little apprehensive when I first learned that Felicity was being re-released under the BeForever line. She was originally archived in the spring of 2011. That’s quite a while!

However, I was pleasantly surprised when Al bought my Volume 1 and Volume 2 for my birthday earlier this month. Reading them has brought back so many childhood memories!

If you’ve read the original six-book “Central Series” before, you’ll notice that Volume 1 covers roughly the first three books. In this case, this includesย Meet Felicity, Felicity Learns A Lesson, and Felicity’s Surprise.

I easily connected with Felicity’s character, mainly because her stories are set in Williamsburg, Virginia, during colonial times. Having grown up just a stone’s throw away from the historic city (About 45 minutes), Felicity was fairly popular among my friends in elementary school. When we celebrated Colonial Days, I saw many girls dressed in the period clothes that American Girl sold – I felt incredibly jealous!

The “new” Volume 1 opens in 1774. At nine years old, Felicity Merriman is the oldest child, with a younger sister and brother behind her. Her mother is the homemaker, while her father runs one of the most popular shops in the city. He imports many goods from Great Britain, and it quickly becomes evident that tensions are rising between the Loyalists and the Patriots.

Like the other American Girl books, the historical accuracy blew me away. I felt like I was on the streets of Williamsburg alongside Felicity, as she spends time with her family, makes deliveries for her father with his apprentice, Ben, and makes a new friend, Elizabeth. I could easily feel the heat between her Grandfather, a Loyalist, and Ben, a strong-headed Patriot. Felicity herself deals with complications, as Elizabeth and her family are from England, and are devoted to the king.

Rumors of revolution begin to develop, and the theme of freedom runs throughout. Felicity fights to free Penny the horse from her abusive master. Ben wants to be a member of the militia, but knows he’s obligated to Mr. Merriman for seven years of service. One character is jailed, and the families come together to attempt to set them free. The people of Williamsburg are upset with the oppressive taxes, and set out to begin to declare their independence.

As Christmas approaches, Felicity deals with love, loss, and hardship. She learns to be less impatient and more thoughtful. She begins to grow and blossom, and develops a greater appreciation for her family, and for the events surrounding her and her city. She deals with a lot of conflict, but in conflicting times, she perseveres.

Although I miss the beautiful illustrations from the old books, I greatly appreciated the attention to detail. I felt like I was in 1774, and it was hard to come back to 2017!

My review of Volume 2 is coming soon!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚