Tag Archives: Book Review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildConfession: I love Harry Potter.
(This isn’t something I advertise much. I know many of my friends and acquaintances would object because the books are about witches and wizards, but I definitely don’t feel that way.)

I’ve read the entire series at least four times–probably more. J.K. Rowling sure knows how to tell a story. She created a wonderful world full of unexpected plots and dynamic, deep characters. So when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out, I couldn’t wait to read it. I went to a local book store and paid $30 for a new copy. (I like buying books at independent book stores when I can, even if it costs a bit more.)

It took a few days to finish, and I’m just so torn up about the whole thing. I loved that I got to read another Harry Potter story. And I loved how wonderfully complex the plot was. But I was so bummed that they chose to sell it as a script that Rowling didn’t write, even if she was involved in creating the story. It felt like fan fiction. Really well done fan fiction. Like it was Rowling’s work, but they didn’t get it quite right. Some of the dialogue didn’t sound like the original characters, and some of it just didn’t sound like Rowling wrote it.

I really, really loved Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because, well, Harry Potter, but I wish Rowling had written it as another book. It just wasn’t what it could have been.

Have you read it? What did you think?

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

tapestry of secrets thomasFrom the back cover:

For decades, Perla Phillips has hidden the truth of a decision that still fills her with guilt. But now, seeing her granddaughter, Ella, struggle in a similar way, she’s prepared to finally open the past to her family, no matter the consequences. But when the opportunity is snatched from her in a most unexpected manner, will she have waited too long?

Spanning generations, this moving family drama weaves together the interlocking stories of two women as they navigate relationships, family, faith, and the choices that will shape their lives. Heartwarming and nostalgic, the story explores the courage to share the wounds of the past and celebrates the legacy a family passes from one generation to the next.

Sarah Loudin Thomas’ latest book, A Tapestry of Secrets, lives up to the standard she set with her first book, Miracle in a Dry Season. Thomas twisted several storylines together in a way that made me feel like I was part of the small town where the story takes place. I loved the way the romance plot unfolded and kept me guessing, and the slow revealing of Perla’s history as she shared it with her daughter and granddaughter added depth to her character and wrapped up loose ends going back to the first book in the series in a satisfying way.

I just really love Sarah Loudin Thomas’ stories. This one, the third in her Appalachain Blessings series, was almost as good as the first book she wrote. According to the author notes, she wrote this one first. The series starts as historical and ends up contemporary as it follows one family through decades of life. The whole series is worth reading, and it has more depth than a lot of the historical romance fluff I typically read.

4 stars
I liked it and will suggest it to those who might be interested.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

Buy it here.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

fromthismomentcamdenDespite the fact that it took me FOREVER to finish this book, I really, really loved it. (I can be a super lazy reader, which is basically because it’s a lot easier to binge watch Royal Pains on Netflix than it is to hold a book . . . ). It was my third Elizabeth Camden novel (you can read my review of one of the others here), and it’s my favorite one.

Camden has a special talent for creating living, breathing characters that are just so human. I felt so conflicted while I read because the main characters both had significant character flaws that just rubbed me the wrong way, but I loved them anyway. It made for a complex emotional experience that left me cheering at the end of the book. (How cheesy does that sound? It’s pretty much how it went down, though. Sorry.)

Camden also knows how to weave a plot that keeps you guessing and makes you forget you’re reading Christian historical fiction (at least most of the time).

Looking for a good read? Start here. Excuse me while I go track down all of the other Elizabeth Camden books I didn’t realize existed . . .

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

Buy it here. 

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

All Summer Long by Melody Carlson

all summer longThe weather is gorgeous, the calendar is full, and time to relax is much appreciated. For me, this summer means surviving lots of extrovert activities—grad parties, family get-togethers, camping trips with friends—and that means my
“introvert days” are extra important. If I don’t have a chance to be quiet, to recharge by myself, to feed my mind without the noise, I get super grouchy. Just ask my husband. I am not a pleasant person to be around.

I’m battling the grouchiness with some extra reading time. I decided to give up Netflix unless I’m at the gym or with my husband in favor of more time to read my Bible, journal, and get sucked into some good books.

I’ve read some fun ones so far, but All Summer Long by Melody Carlson has been my favorite. It’s a chick-flick in book form. The main character is as lovable and ambitious and hopeful as your favorite rom-com heroine, and her love interest is every bit as dreamy as Tom Hanks. (Okay, maybe not quite Tom-Hanks level, but you get the picture.)

I’m a long-time fan of Melody Carlson. When I was a teenager, I discovered her Diary of a Teenage Girl series, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it probably changed my life. Carlson’s characters became my role models, my example of what a Christian teenager and healthy relationships should (and should not) look like.

I loved this love story. And if you like happy, fluffy romance with a leading lady who follows her dreams thrown in, you’ll love it too.

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Murder Comes by Mail by A.H. Gabhart

murdercomesbymailMurder Comes by Mail by A.H. Gabhart was a great change of pace. I typically read historical (sometimes contemporary) romance, and this had that plus a murder mystery. It kept me on my toes, and I loved the plot.

The main character, Michael Keane, is a small-town deputy searching for a serial killer with the help of the local newspaper editor.

With the focus on the murders, the secondary character development suffered a bit, but I can easily get over that because the story was so enjoyable (is it weird to say you enjoyed a murder mystery?).

I’d recommend this book for anyone who loves small towns, mysteries, and great fiction. It’s a great summer read.

Excuse me while I go find the first book in the series . . .

4 stars—I liked it and will suggest it to those who might be interested.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Her One and Only by Becky Wade

heroneandonlyThis was my third or fourth Becky Wade book, and honestly, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others.

From my time as a fiction intern, I know that generally, publishers put less time and effort into a successful author’s subsequent efforts. The name alone is enough to sell the book, so the quality of the writing isn’t as important. (At least not on the business side of things. I’m willing to bet the editors feel differently about the books they work on.) I think that’s what happened with this one.

Wade writes great Christian fluffy romance that I love to read, but this one just wasn’t at the same level as previous books. It felt like it could have used another draft.

The characters weren’t as deep and developed. And because Her One and Only is the fourth book in a series, Wade threw in a minor storyline about a few characters we learned about in a previous book, but it wasn’t fleshed out enough to fit with the rest of the plot.

All that said, if you’ve read the other books about the Porter family, you’ll still want to read this one to round out their story.

3 stars—It was okay and I might recommend it to those who might be interested.
(Read more about my rating system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

FIVE STARS

I got out of my Christian book bubble for this one. I’ve been laughing at Jenny Lawson’s stuff on theblogess.com for about a year, so when I found out she wrote a memoir focused around her mental illness, I knew I had to get it. I didn’t exactly read it—I used my free Audible trial to get the audiobook, and I’ve been listening to it in the car over the last week or so. I highly recommend experiencing Furiously Happy this way—Jenny is the narrator, which makes it even better because no one “gets” how a book is supposed to be read quite like the author, plus the audio version comes with a bonus chapter.

Jenny did talk about her struggles with depression, anxiety, and a few other things, but mostly the book was just super entertaining, at least for me. Her writing style is fast and may give you whiplash, but I promise it’s worth it. I can’t wait to get ahold of her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened because I’m sure it’s as good as this one.

I highly recommend Furiously Happy, unless you find language and references to the author’s “lady garden” offensive.

I chose to review this book just because I loved it. I’m not getting compensated and my opinions were not influenced by the publisher or author.

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

thepaintersdaughter

FIVE STARS

Nothing like kicking off 2016 with a fantastic read! I stayed up a little too late last night because I had already been reading for . . .  um . . . five hours, and I just had to finish it. I didn’t bother to look at the clock when I finished because I didn’t want to know, but I’m pretty sure it was at least two hours past my bedtime.

I always have a hard time writing reviews for the really good books, and this is one of those. There’s nothing to pick at, no suggestions to make. Just lots of exclamations about the great plot twists, complex characters, and compulsion to keep turning the pages. So pretty much you should stop reading this reveiw and just go find a copy of the book instead.

If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a copy of The Painter’s Daughter, what about . . . ?

  • This is Klassen’s ninth book, and they’re ALL amazing (well, there is one I haven’t read yet, but I just got it for Christmas and I can’t wait to dig in).
  • The characters aren’t squeaky clean—they’re real and relatable.
  • BUT don’t worry, Jesus is in there, too.
  • Yes, it’s historical romance, but there’s a good bit of mystery mixed in.
  • Not into romance? What if I told you one of the main characters is a military captain and there’s a good war scene?

I have nothing bad to say about The Painter’s Daughter. Just read it so you can love it as much as I did.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Every Girl Gets Confused by Janice Thompson

every girl gets confusedBased on the cover of Every Girl Gets Confused, I was expecting a fluffy, feel-good Christian romance with a predictable plot and a happy ending. One that I was maybe a little embarrassed to be seen reading because, well, do you see the cover?

When I read books, I want the main character to feel like my best friend. That did not happen. The main character, Katie, was flat. I didn’t get to know her—why she worked at the bridal shop, her passions, what she wanted out of life. I felt like I was getting the life story—Facebook style—of someone I kinda-sorta knew five years ago rather than getting the inside scoop from someone who trusted me enough to let me inside her head.

It was a pretty fluffy book with a happy ending, but there was too much fluff. I didn’t get interested in the story until I had already read three-quarters of it because there wasn’t a plot. I followed Katie, the main character, through a few low- or no-stakes work and relationship “conflicts,” but they weren’t really enough to keep me turning the pages. In the end, it was the storyline of a few secondary characters that drew me in.

There were a few other little things about the book that I struggled with . . .

Nearly ever character had an outside-the-box name: Queenie, Hibiscus, Twiggy, Dahlia, Eduardo . . . I know names in the south (it takes place in Texas) are a little different than here in the midwest, but it was over the top.

Each chapter was named after a Doris Day song and featured a quote by or about her. Every time I started a new chapter, I wondered what she had to do with anything. It wasn’t until at least 150 pages into the book that I found out why Doris Day was significant at all. And it was pretty minor.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I wanted a light, fluffy, happy book. And while I feel like Every Girl Gets Confused got there eventually, it wasn’t worth wading through the first three-quarters.

2 stars—It was okay and I probably won’t recommend it.
(Read more about my rating system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.


Do you want the inside scoop? I had a really hard time writing and posting this review.

I recently found out that when I write a review, the publisher adds it to all the other reviews and ships it off to the author. Uggh. If I give a book a less-than-positive review, I do it to help readers make the most of their reading time, not to hurt the writer of the book.

I’m intentional about giving books I love a lot of recognition on my blog and social media, but when I don’t like a book, I gloss over it a bit. I post the review on my blog and Amazon (because I have to) and rate it on Goodreads, but maybe I won’t post the link on social media. And if I do, I certainly won’t tag the author. Writers tend to be the sensitive type, and I’d rather not kill their confidence by letting them know I didn’t like their book. Because even if I didn’t, writing is hard work! I’m still pulling for them.

When I read through the Acknowledgements, I learned that Thompson lost a grandchild while she was writing this book. No wonder it wasn’t as good as it could have been! How can I blame her?

To complicate things further, I discovered one of my college professors is Thompson’s literary agent. Since I keep up with him casually on Facebook, that makes it even harder to share my honest opinion.

Maybe I just care too much about what people think of me? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, and sometimes being honest means I have to do that. Just doesn’t seem right, does it?

I’ve never read a book by Janice Thompson before. A quick Google search shows me that she’s written A TON of books. I don’t want to judge her based on just this one. So I think I’ll give her another shot and try one of her other books. I’m pretty sure I have one buried in the 2,000+ titles on my Kindle . . .

 

The Chase by Kyle & Kelsey Kupecky

the_chaseI stepped out of my box a bit to review this book. I’ve been married for over six years now, so I don’t usually pick up books written for single girls. But since that’s all I used to read, I thought it couldn’t hurt to give this one a try and see if it might be useful for someone else.

The Chase encourages teenage girls to chase after God rather than guys. The authors, Kyle and Kelsey Kupecky, have been married since 2012. They take turns sharing bits of their own love story as they present some important truths about dating.

I really wanted to like it, but I just didn’t. The writing was mediocre and voice-less, the stories weren’t that interesting, and I could tell they hadn’t been married for very long when they wrote it. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the depth that comes with years of marriage just wasn’t there. To be fair, I’m a 28-year-old married woman, not the single teenage girl the book is written for, so maybe that doesn’t matter.) Just a few chapters in, I felt like their platform—Kelsey is the daughter of well-known author Karen Kingsbury and Kyle is a Christian recording artist—is what got the book published, not their skills or experience.

A few worldview things parents may want to know . . . 1) The Kupeckys seem to believe that if God calls you to be married, He has one person chosen for you, as opposed to believing there’s no such thing as a soulmate—that there are multiple people you could build a happy and successful life with. 2) The Kupeckys tell several stories of people they dated before they met. So if you’re opposed to dating, this book may not be a good choice for your kids.

Bottom line: it wasn’t terrible, but there are better books out there for single teenage girls who need a godly perspective on relationships. My favorite is Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.

2 stars—It was okay and I probably won’t recommend it.
(Read more about my rating system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.