Book Review: His Name Was Zach

Finished Reading: His Name Was Zach
by Peter Martuneac

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Post-apocalyptic

Zach

I’m going to preface this entire review with the explanation that zombie fiction is really not my thing. I chose to read this book to support a fellow self-published author, and I want to make sure that anyone reading this review knows up front that my thoughts on it are likely tainted by the fact that I just don’t care for zombie stories. It’s not just the zombies themselves, or the gore & violence, but the hopelessness and despair, and the fact that they’re so often the same basic story. That being said, on with the review.

Zach and Abby found each other during the worst possible circumstances–a zombie apocalypse. Zach is a former marine, and Abby is a 14-year-old whose parents are gone. They decide to stick together, forming a father-daughter relationship to rival those with blood connections. Through many different kinds of threats, from zombies to dangerous humans, imminent starvation, and even overwhelming loneliness, they take care of each other. Will they ever find the rest they’re longing for?

Zombie apocalypse or not, I didn’t hate this book. But I didn’t enjoy it very much it either, and that’s not just because of the genre. The book has two main things going for it–a lot of heart and the realism regarding the main character’s marine background, due to the author being a former marine himself. However, there were many things that detracted from the book for me; in the end, I wasn’t the best audience for this book.

The book probably could have been cut down at least 75%, if not close to half, and told the same story. There was a lot of repetition, including many flashbacks that showed something we’d already been told, with nothing new to add, not to mention the pages-long Rev War daydream. There was unnecessary recap of past events, and a lot of repetition of dialog.

Some other issues I had were pockets of narration styles that didn’t fit with the rest (like a few paragraphs from a bird’s perspective and one time when the author/narrator informally addressed the reader); two female characters whose names started with A, which caused me to be confused about who was doing what, who was in peril, etc. during fast-paced scenes; grammatical issues and typos often enough to pull me out of the story.

I’ll pause here for a quick warning for those who are like me when it comes to content that makes them uncomfortable: the book is very graphic. There is more language than any book I’ve read (if it had been a movie, I would have had to turn it off…apparently it bothers me more to hear it out loud than to read it), and there is one particularly gory scene that made me very uncomfortable. Sexual situations (both consensual and non–and let that be a trigger warning for those who need it) were handled much more tastefully by comparison.

I think, though, that what bothered me the most was how the writing has a very YA feel, which I am certain was not the intention. And even with that, Abby talks like someone way beyond her years much of the time, while other times acting like a child. (This may have been intentional, given the traumatic experiences she’d gone through and the super-smart characterization given to her, but I didn’t get that impression.) Abby was probably my least favorite non-villain character, which is sad, since the (not-yet-released) sequel is titled Her Name Was Abby. I don’t know that I’ll have an desire to read it, though I’m not committing to that yet. There are a lot of ways the sequel could improve on the original.

For someone who doesn’t take in a lot of zombie apocalypse fiction, I felt like I’d seen many of the events from this book done before. Common tropes certainly can be used and feel fresh and unique, but they didn’t in this case. Though to be fair, there were plenty of things that happened that didn’t seem so cliche too. Overall, I think what I saw in this book was a lack of experience with writing. With more revision and feedback from other experienced writers, I think it would have been a better overall read. And I know that plenty of what I mention in this review is personal preference. If it seems interesting to you, please be sure to check out others’ reviews for this book.

Find out more about His Name Was Zach

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Book Gets

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf.” I posted 3 weeks ago about books I’d either gotten for Christmas or acquired shortly thereafter, and normally, I wouldn’t have much to add in this short of an amount of time. However, my husband and I went back to Half-Price books just yesterday, much sooner than normal, plus I do have a few more from right before Christmas I’d love to mention. So here are 8 of my most recent book gets:

1. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
Sadly, I had forgotten I got this until I started scanning my bookshelf for what should go on today’s list. I got it in the clearance section of HPB some time before Christmas (we go there a lot during the holidays). I “read” this in high school, but I’ll admit I didn’t read it very thoroughly. Though I did well in school, I was pretty lazy. I’d already seen the movie at the time that I read it for school, and basically read chunks of the book looking for scenes that were in the movie to write about. It’s definitely time to read it for real.

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I got my sister some books for Christmas and found some great deals on what she wanted on eBay. One of the sellers had a promotion of buy 2, get 1 free, so after I looked for a 3rd book that she would want, I found this in their list of eligible books and decided I might as well get it for me. I’d been planning to read it anyway!

3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I have read maybe 1 Sherlock Holmes story ever, that I can think of, and I couldn’t even tell you for sure what it was (Hounds of the Baskerville, I think). Like many others, though, I’ve viewed various iterations of Holmes over the years. I spotted this high on a bookshelf in our own house, but I didn’t even remember having it. Turns out someone had given it to my husband several years ago. Technically we already owned it, but it is now sitting on my shelf, and I plan to start reading it soon.

Plus, reading it will make my novel journal a lot more relevant to me:

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I’ve mentioned this book multiple times recently, but that’s just because of how good it is! I try not to buy books at full price if I can help it, because how do you sustain a habit if you spend that kind of money? So I passed on getting it when it was still on the “new releases” shelf. It was only marked down a few bucks when we went back to HPB yesterday, but my husband insisted that was good enough. (Read my review of this book.)

5. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
Brant Hansen is my favorite radio personality. If you’re in the mood for a fun, clean, often random podcast that makes you think, check out the Brant & Sherri Oddcast. He also writes some books that combine faith and humor and make some interesting points. This is his first book, and I really enjoyed his second one, Blessed are the Misfits. I’ve been hoping to read this for a while, but my library doesn’t carry it. Though I’ve checked every time we’ve gone to HPB recently, imagine my surprise to see it sitting on the shelf yesterday!

6. 2 books from the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard
I enjoyed this series a lot when I was younger, and when my daughter got old enough, I read the first book in the series to her. I have kept my eye out for these book over the years, even before she was old enough, and have maybe 10-12 on my shelves (there are 40!). I spotted 3 in the clearance section, but only bought 2 of them, because I was certain I had one of them already. Sadly enough, it turns out that I don’t have the one I thought I had (the cover looked so familiar!), but I do have one of the two that I bought…so I only added 1. Ah well…it’s time to keep a list on my phone of which ones I have, since I never know when I might run across more.

What books are you excited about getting recently? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!

Book Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Finished Reading: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

Dark Sea.png

On the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness live the Igiby family–12-year-old Janner and his younger brother Tink, little sister Leeli, and their mom and grandfather, known mostly as Podo. Their land has been conquered by Gnag the Nameless, who hails from Dang, across the sea, and who has sent his Fangs to keep the people in line. Through a series of connected events that all starts with a mischievous dog, the Igibys find themselves on the wrong side of the Fangs of Dang. When the Fangs come to realize that the Igibys have knowledge of the location to the jewels of the late King Wingfeather and the Shining Isle of Anniera, which are said to be the key to restoring Anniera and defating Gnag, the Igibys realize they will always be in danger.

This book was a lot of fun, with characters that are lively and entertaining and a lot of lore and history. The quirky nature of the narrative and even the names of various people and location had me chuckling more than once. Though it’s children’s fiction, it doesn’t pull any punches, and reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as Roald Dahl, to a degree.

Right off the bat, the explanation for the name of the world these characters inhabit gives you a sense of the writing style. The first person to exist woke up on the first morning, looked at a rock, and said, “Well, here we are.” Thus, the world’s name came to be known as “Aerwiar.” Though none of the other names for people or places are really explained, and I did actually struggle a little muddling through so many when they came close together, this is a good example of the tone of this book.

Even with the whimsical nature, there is still some real peril. Fortunately, possibly because it’s meant for kids, for the most part, the good guys prevail and the bad guys are defeated, at least in some way. I’m not saying there aren’t some losses, but I won’t say more because of spoilers.

One of my favorite things about the book were the hints that the author dropped throughout the book, giving little nudges about a big secret revealed near the end. Two big secrets, really but they were tied together. While I suspected pretty early on, and then decided I was definitely right still a ways from the reveal, remember that this book is meant for kids. I could imagine kids near my daughter’s age, maybe a bit older, reading this and beginning to catch on, getting excited as they realized the truth.

It was fun and full of adventure, and I cannot wait to continue the series! I recommend this book for folks of all ages who enjoy clean, fun fantasy adventures. Also, you might see it labeled as Christian, and there are some references to a deity that many of the people believe in, but it is not overtly Christian. It may be a bit allegorical, again similar to the Narnia books.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2008, but a new hardcover edition will be released on March 10, 2020, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Stealth Power

Finished Reading: Stealth Power
Nanostealth #2
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Stealth Power

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Stealthy Steps.

Picking up immediately where the previous book left off, Gemma hides out in a safe house while planning to rescue Dr. Bickel, along with another monumental task that presents itself as the story goes on. The only trouble is…she’s still invisible. She must learn the best ways to navigate a visible world, while also learning to co-exist with the nanotechnology that she has so far fought against, if she’s going to accomplish her goals–and get her life back.

I definitely enjoyed this book more than the first. Most of the information is out there (being dumped into the first book), and we’re left with just the continuing story of Gemma and the mites (good band name, no?). The relationships that we were introduced to in the first book were continued enough to make me happy, with the addition of a new character who became one of my favorites. The writing style isn’t my favorite, but in the end, I was glad to have read this, and look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

Gemma herself bugged me during a lot of this book. I mentioned in my review of the first book that she came across like a petulant child, and that only got worse in this one. The sections from her POV (which is most of the book) was immature, and I didn’t always enjoy it. I know there was a lot of really unpleasant stuff happening to her, but even while she was growing stronger in many ways, boy, did she whine a lot. There were also a lot of verbal tics in this book that I don’t remember from the first one–a lot of “um”s in the dialog. It only led to a further frustration with Gemma, and there’s a reason most authors don’t write dialog that realistically. It’s annoying to read.

The associate pastor, Zander, was probably my favorite character from the first book. That took a small turn for me in this book, as his character came across as simply a vehicle for preaching Christ to the other characters, and to the reader. I’m not saying there aren’t people in real life who would have talked exactly as he did, but he became a bit confrontational when talking to Gemma’s evil twin sister, and I felt it was a bit much. My favorite character in this one, then, was the new guy in this book, an FBI agent.

My favorite thing about the first book was Gemma trying to communicate with the mites, and that really expanded in this book. Even while she groused at and about them, I really liked them. Maybe that’s the under-emotional side of me, to identify more with the computer than the human. My least-favorite thing about the first book was the exposition, and Gemma’s repeating of the exposition, and there was some of that in this one, but not nearly as much. The author did, however, have a tendency to recall back to a previous conversation later on, and she would pretty much always include twice as much of the original conversation as was needed.

In the end, I think it’s really the writing style that detracts the most from this series from me so far. The characters and plot I am enjoying more than enough to make up for that though. I need to try to put less time between this one and the next one than I did the first book and this one, though, because there was little in the way of reminders to what happened before. I started out really lost! Like with Stealthy Steps, I would recommend the book to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi.

Find out more about Stealth Power

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Gray Chamber

Finished Reading: The Gray Chamber
by Grace Hitchcock

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance, crime

In a time period where women are expected to marry well in order to secure their future, Edyth Foster is fortunate enough to be self-sufficient, due to an inheritance that her late parents left her. Unfortunately, it is left in her uncle’s care until she turns 25. Not long before that happens, he realizes that he can steal her money if he gets her declared insane and sends her off to a lunatic asylum–which is just what he does. Edyth must figure out a way to escape or prove her sanity before the asylum takes her mind for real.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. The characters were mostly interesting, though this is the type of situation where I liked some of the side characters more than the main characters. The way the plot unfolded was fairly predictable, but there were enough surprises to keep it interesting.

This is the second book I have read in the True Colors series, and like the other one, despite being written by a different author, this one was far more focused on the romance than on the true crime plot line. Edyth’s plight to escape the asylum and her uncle’s grasp wasn’t just a vehicle for the romance, fortunately, but I still felt that the crime part of this book could have been stronger. I think this is further reflected in the fact that Edyth was not at the asylum long enough for her to be quite how she was later in the book (trying to be vague to avoid spoilers). This particular issue really may have just been my own opinion, and I am not saying that what she did suffer in the asylum would have been easy to handle. It just didn’t seem to be as severe as it was portrayed later.

I enjoy a good romance, especially if it’s clean and sweet. I prefer subtle, but with a romance-genre book, I rarely get that. This, however, is barely billed as a romance, yet was so far the opposite of a subtle romance plot, I got to a point where I didn’t care that much about the relationship between Edyth and Bane. It was so over-the-top sappy sweet, and just about all either of them seemed to ever think about was each other…it was just too much for me.

The official synopsis mentions a woman that Edyth meets in the asylum and her true identity, which frankly, I think was a mistake to explain in the synopsis. Her true identity is revealed so late in the story that it made little sense to me that I knew it the entire time, simply because of the synopsis. I realized by the end that she was based on a real person who reported on the state of this asylum, but I’m sure I won’t be the only person who has never heard of her, and thus it seems like a bad addition to the synopsis.

As I said at the beginning of the review, the book wasn’t bad. I ended up scanning through some of the repetitive declarations of feelings between the to lead characters and didn’t feel like I missed much. The ending did drag on a bit, but I enjoyed it enough to say that I can recommend it for fans of Christian romance (heavy on the romance), but I wouldn’t recommend it too strongly for fans of crime novels.

Thank you to Netgalley and Barbour Publishing, Inc. for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about The Gray Chamber

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus

Finished Reading: I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus
by Sherri Lynn

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Humor, Christian

I want to punch you.png

Radio show producer Sherri Lynn breaks the cultural taboo to not only discuss PMS, but to help women understand that they are not alone. Rather than pretend it doesn’t happen, or act like it’s not that big of a deal, or even accept that we women just need to handle it on our own, Sherri assures us that what is happening is real, it is a physical strain on our bodies, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.

I have been looking forward to reading this ever since I first heard about it, and it did not disappoint. Sherri Lynn is so funny even when she’s not talking about something that I relate so well to. The book is also filled with plenty of interesting insight as Sherri covers the basic topics associated with PMS like anger, tears, and cravings.

She speculates about PMS-influenced actions in the Bible, which I would love to know the truth about some day, because she makes some very good point. And there’s even a chapter about the men in our lives and how they don’t get it (but it’s not their fault) and often just want to help.

I really loved this book and while I didn’t relate to everything (I don’t lose control quite as badly as she does, for example), it was still on point. I have a feeling I will re-read it many times, and I will definitely pass it on to my female family members and friends. I recommend this to every woman, and honestly would suggest is be read by any man who wishes he could understand just a bit more and wants to know how he can help the woman in his life.

Find out more about I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Releases

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020.” As I’ve just gotten back into reading very heavily and am just getting used to keeping a TBR and learning what modern authors are even out there, not to mention whose writing I enjoy, I’m not really tuned into what is coming out soon. But that doesn’t mean I’m not anticipating reading some new releases, mostly as ARCs. So this list (of 7, not 10) will include mostly ARCs that I’ve been approved for, or some that I have recently requested and am still waiting on approval for, that come out within the next few months. It will also include 1 book that I’m just looking forward to releasing, and 1 special entry at the bottom that comes out this week.

1. The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock
This actually came out on January 1, but that’s still the first half of 2020. I’m about 25% into this and enjoying it so far.

2. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
I’m not very proud to admit that this has been on my TBR since fall, and I keep putting it near the top of the list, then pushing it back for others. It releases (technically re-releases) on March 10, so I guess it never felt that urgent before. I really need to get to it, especially since book #2 in the series is going to be re-released soon as well.

3. This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda
This is my third “old” ARC, having been on my list since mid-October. It releases today! I haven’t started it yet, but based on the synopsis and reviews, I’m looking forward to it.

4. The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear
This is the first book on the list that I have requested as an ARC recently, but haven’t been approved yet. If I am, it will be the 3rd book in this series I’ll have read (all by different authors). It’s been an interesting series, and I will probably be going back to some of the earlier books at some point in the future (they’re all stand-alones). It releases on March 1.

5. The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin
I just requested this ARC yesterday. I will absolutely read it one way or the other, as it sounds right up my alley in so many way! It releases on February 4.

6. The Truth about Us by Brant Hansen
Brant Hansen is my favorite radio personality. If you’re in the mood for a fun, clean, often random podcast that makes you think, check out the Brant & Sherri Oddcast. He also writes some books that combine faith and humor and make some interesting points. This book isn’t on Netgalley, though his two previous ones were, so I’ll keep checking; I’ll read it either way though. It releases on April 21.

7. Pithea by Kristi Drillien
In case it wasn’t clear from the top and side bar of my blog page, this is my book! It releases this coming Friday, and you’d better believe I’m excited about it! The Kindle version can be pre-ordered here, and on January 10th, a paperback version will also be available.

What new releases are you looking forward to in the next few months? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!

2019 in Books

To make a long story short, in July of 2019, I made a commitment to read more. And by more, I mean at all. I posted more in depth about this at the time, and won’t re-hash it here, but looking back at what I read in 2019 really means the 2nd half of 2019, since the beginning of July is really when all of this started.

From my Goodreads 2019 in bookspage:

2019 year in books

My total is more accurately 47 books for the year, because one of them is my own soon-to-be-published book, and the other is this super short thing that I read in two minutes.

Below are the books I read in 2019, starting with July. The link is to my review for that book, and a link to the book on Goodreads is at the bottom of each review.

July


Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren (3.5 / 5)
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (3.5 / 5)
The Oath** by Frank Peretti (5 / 5)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (3.5 / 5)
The Novice by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
The Trials of Lance Eliot by M.L. Brown, a.k.a. Adam Stück (no rating given)

August


The Curious Conspiracy on Gamma Ceti* by Nemo West (2.5 / 5)
Light from Distant Stars* by Shawn Smucker (1.5 / 5)
Thr3e** by Ted Dekker (4.5 / 5)
Things You Save in a Fire* by Katherine Center (4 / 5)
Tilly by Frank E. Peretti (3.5 / 5)
Lock In by John Scalzi (4.5 / 5)
#NotReadyToDie* by Cate Carlyle (2.5 / 5)
The Inquisition
by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
Lost and Found* by Orson Scott Card (2.5 / 5)
Illusion by Frank E. Peretti (5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (3.5 / 5)

September


Strands of Truth* by Colleen Coble (2 / 5)
The Yellow Lantern* by Angie Dicken (3.5 / 5)
Swipe by Evan Angler (3 / 5)
Fatal Strike* by DiAnn Mills (4 / 5)
Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell (3.5 / 5)
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (3.5 / 5)
Synapse* by Steven James (3.5 / 5)
Cilka’s Journey* by Heather Morris (4 / 5)
Holes** by Louis Sachar (4.5 / 5)

October

Smoke Screen* by Terri Blackstock (4 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
Mother Knows Best* by Kira Peikoff (3 / 5)
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu (4 / 5)
The Dinner Party* by R.J. Parker (2 / 5)
Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone (4.5 / 5)
The Butterfly Recluse* by Therese Heckenkamp (3 / 5)

November

The Martian by Andy Weir (4.5 / 5)
The Passengers* by John Marrs (3 / 5)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (5 / 5)
The Dead Girls Club* by Damien Angelica Walters (2 / 5)
The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal (4.5 / 5)

December

The End of the Magi* by Patrick W. Carr (4 / 5)
Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock (2 / 5)
Skipping Christmas by John Grishom (3.5 / 5)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Lucia Monfried (4.5 / 5)
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (3.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3.5 / 5)
A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston (2 / 5)
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep (4 / 5)
Cape Light by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (3 / 5)

This list includes 16 ARCs (marked with a *) and 3 re-reads (marked with a **). My favorite book from 2019 was Illusion by Frank Peretti. I started 10 series and finished 1 of those within the year. I also DNF’d 2 books (not listed anywhere in this post).

I’ve noticed that I seem to give out a lower ratio of 5-stars compared to other book reviewers. I don’t know if I’m too critical, too picky, or what. I do suspect, though, that being a writer has seriously hampered my ability to just enjoy a book and not dwell on plot holes, characterization issues, bad dialog, or even bad grammar, more than others might do.

Here is a break-down of the ratings I gave
1.5 stars: 1
2 stars: 5
2.5 stars: 3
3 stars: 5
3.5 stars: 12
4 stars: 10
4.5 stars: 7
5 stars: 3
Average rating: 3.5

Looking ahead, I’m excited to start a full year of reading. I’ve set my goal for the year on Goodreads at a lofty 100 books. Just based on how last year went, I’ll probably have to push for extra in the summer to make up for the rest of the year, but I’ll give it a try. I also plan to seriously cut down on the amount of ARCs I request, because it got to be really stressful, and I felt like I could never read anything else. I’m looking forward to the ones I have left on my shelf though.

My format for reviewing changed a bit throughout last year, and going forward, I’m going to try to simplify my reviews a bit. I spent way too much time on some of them, and the more I disliked a book, the longer the review tended to be. There’s just no reason to spend so much time detailing every fault I found, so I want to learn to summarize more.

My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here. I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that.

What did you read last year? Let me know in the comments, and even feel free to link to your own summary post!

Book Review: Cape Light

Finished Reading: Cape Light
Book #1
by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Christian romance, drama

Cape Light

Cape Light is a small, very connected, and generally religious New England village. In this first book of 20 (so far), we are introduced to some of the inhabitants of the village–the mayor and her family, who are still somewhat reeling from a scandal in the past; the local diner owner who is very set in his ways and has designs on unseating the mayor in the next election; the reverend and his wife, whose joyful news is overshadowed by a wayward family member. Characters are established and at least one romance blooms, in this book that covers a summer in Cape Light.

Though there are a lot of characters to keep straight, I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I had a few moments that needed clarity, but I followed it well enough. And for the first half of the book, I was interested in the lives and backstories of these people. In fact, I never stopped being interested in that. But what seriously detracted from it was the plight of the main character and her romantic entanglement.

Jessica Warwick, the mayor’s sister, has recently moved back from not-too-far-away Boston, and she intends to return as soon as she can. She’s only in town to help her ailing mother, who is starting to recover well. She has a life back in Boston, and a sort-of boyfriend. Enter Sam Morgan, whom she is immediately taken by, though she refuses to acknowledge it for a long time. But when her boyfriend conveniently gets really busy, she starts dating Sam, even while making it clear that she’s moving back to Boston at the end of the summer. What follows is a ridiculously drama-filled mess that could have easily been solved in multiple ways. I don’t know which of these two irritated me more–the woman who dated a guy in town while knowing that she wasn’t done with the previous boyfriend yet and continued a relationship with a man who was clearly falling hard for her, despite her warning about there being no future, or the man who ignored her warning about there being no future because he held out hope that he could change her mind. Actually, I can safely say it was Jessica who irritated me more, because she was a pretty terrible person in general, and it was clear that her attraction to Sam was mostly physical for a while.

While romance novels are always pretty obvious, in that the two leads are going to end up together, I prefer those that are more in the backdrop to an interesting plot. There was little in the way of plot involving Jessica and Sam that wasn’t directly related to their relationship. The situations that occurred just to make them fall in love and/or add drama to their relationship were so much more obviously contrived than I prefer. By the end, I just wanted the book to be done already, which makes me sad, because I did enjoy unraveling the lives of the others in town.

The Christianity in the book was weirdly both shallow and heavily permeating. Apparently a large amount of the village’s inhabitants go to the same church, and many of them have a strong faith. Several others are seeking, and a lot of the same advice is given by different people. The series starts with 4 not-specifically-holiday books, but apparently by book 5, it continued as a Christmas series, which is what brought it to my attention at this time of year in the first place.

The writing was a bit pedestrian, but it only bothered me at times. I am going to give the series another chance, because just about every plot arc that was started in this book was left hanging, and I really do want to see what happens. Since the main thing that bothered me about this book should take a back seat in the future, I am hopeful about continuing. With proper planning, I can be ready for the first of the Christmas books by November or December.

Find out more about Cape Light

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

 

December in Review

I read 9 books last month (10 if you count the super, super short one). To be fair, several of them were pretty short books; apparently it’s a bit of a trend amongst Christmas books. Still, I’m happy to have picked up the pace since such a slow November (thanks mostly to NaNoWriMo), even with the holidays eating up my reading time.

I’m also going to do a look back at the past year of reading, which is more like the past 6 months, since I started reading and writing reviews in July.

Here are the books I read in December:
The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr (4 / 5)
Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock (2 / 5)
Skipping Christmas by John Grishom (3.5 / 5)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Lucia Monfried (4.5 / 5)
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (3.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (3.5 / 5)
A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston (2 / 5)
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep (4 / 5)
Cape Light by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (review pending) (3 / 5)

This list includes 1 ARC and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from December was The End of the Magi (not counting Little Women, which I read with my daughter, so the rating was partially influenced by her). I finished 0 series, continued 1 series, and started 3 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.