Book Review: Sadie

Sadie
by Courtney Summers

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA suspense, drama

Sadie’s life was already an unhappy one, her main bright spot being her little sister Mattie, whom she practically raised. But then Mattie dies, and some time later, Sadie decides to do what the police can’t–track down Mattie’s killer. This leads Sadie on a road trip to find the man she knows is responsible. Three months later, a radio personality is asked by Sadie’s surrogate grandmother to find the missing Sadie. He follows her trail and turns the investigation into a podcast.

It was really difficult to rate this book in the end, because it was dark and disturbing, but also unique and interesting. Sadie’s perspective is shown in first-person, present tense as she travels from town to town looking for her sister’s killer. The podcast is shown in a script format–West McCray (the radio personality) explaining to us what he finds, and also interviewing people along the way.

Before I get any further with my review, I feel a content warning is in order. There are certain things that are treated very carefully–pedophilia, drug abuse, and murder. There is also a lot of language. I started out listening to the audiobook, because it was highly recommended, given that the podcast sections are presented like a real podcast. However, I had to switch to a format where I read Sadie’s portions myself and listened to the “podcast” parts, because Sadie’s portions are so heavy with language, I couldn’t stand listening to it. I can handle it in text better, because apparently I tend to mentally bleep out those words. But I also didn’t care for the person who read Sadie’s part, because she sounded angry all the time, no matter what she said. Simply describing a room, she was angry. It was a bit much. So the joint format worked well for me.

One of my favorite things about the book, which I started out thinking would make it boring or repetitive, was McCray’s follow-up on things we’d already seen Sadie do. Because he trailed her 3 months later, we were able to see the aftermath of some of her actions. And the way McCray got caught up in her story added a comforting human element the rest of the story seemed to be lacking–not because other characters were heartless or didn’t care, but because the circumstances just didn’t lend to them being very kind, compassionate, etc.

The book being YA leads me to warn that if you’re thinking of allowing your teenager to read it, read it first. The language alone may put off a lot of people. However, I do think the book is worth reading–I just know I wouldn’t let my daughter read it as a teenager.

Find out more about Sadie

See what I’m reading next.

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

Book Review: Armada

Armada
by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Science fiction

When Zack Lightman sees an alien ship from his favorite video game flying around outside the window at school, he’s sure he’s going crazy. He’d just be following in the footsteps of his dad, who’d died when Zack was a baby. Zack had found notes his dad had kept about a massive conspiracy that involved just about every alien-related movie, TV show, and video game ever made being used to prepare the world for a real alien invasion. But when he finds out that it’s all real, and so is that ship he saw out the window, and that he and other gamers are going to be called upon to save the world, will he be up to the task?

As someone who isn’t a huge fan of this type of sci-fi, I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I am aware of the similarities to The Last Starfighter, but don’t really remember that movie. Still, even I felt like this whole story had been done before, and that there wasn’t enough of a new twist on it in this book to make it fresh. In the end, I was left feeling like the slow build-up didn’t have enough of a pay off.

My husband thought I’d like it more than Ready Player One, though couldn’t explain why. I think it might be due to the fact that the heavy amount of 80s references in RPO were lost on me, and perhaps he thought references in Armada to Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. might hit closer to home. Unfortunately, they didn’t. This was partly because the references to things I actually know more were lighter than those to movies and games I don’t have much, if any, knowledge of. But it’s also partly because the references saturated the story so much. Characters quoted movies or games with no context, events or situations were likened to movies, etc. that I wasn’t as versed in as they were, and thus, I couldn’t get into the story like I was probably meant to. And in the end, if you strip away all of these sci-fi pop culture references, what do you have? Just a simple invasion story that’s mostly been done before.

Yes, there was a bit of a twist at the end, but it wasn’t that shocking or interesting to me. By that point, the events and narration had led me to a point where I didn’t feel like I could trust anything that anyone said, anything that happened. The truth that was revealed was even speculated by Zack earlier in the book, which made the reveal that much less exciting.

The only time I really remember feeling all that interested in what was going on was at the very end, after the reveal. The falling action and the epilogue…that’s what I wanted to know more about. But if a sequel to this book ever came out, I don’t know if I would care enough to read it.

Find out more about Armada

See what I’m reading next.

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

Book Review: The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow

The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow
by Kim Vogel Sawyer

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian historical fiction

While the nation struggles to recover during the Great Depression, Addie must leave college just before the end of her junior year and find a job. At the same time, Emmett has just received a degree, but is learning that not many positions are open for a man with his education. Both end up in the small village of Boone’s Hollow–Emmett to look for any work he can get in or near the village where he grew up, and Addie to start a job as a packhorse librarian for a program that aims both to give people jobs during this difficult time and to get books into the hands of poor families in the hills. Though they both have grand plans for their future, both must take whatever work they can find. The people who live in the area, though, hold a lot of prejudices that turn into trouble for both Addie and Emmett. Will bigotry and sabotage ruin both of their chances at making their own way?

There’s a lot to try to put into the synopsis for this book, and I always prefer to keep it to one paragraph, so my blurb above doesn’t do the book justice. And while for some books, having so much going on can lead to a convoluted story, it all worked together so well in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the plots that threaded together, the characters, and the ending to all of those different storylines.

One of the the things that I loved most about this book was that every victory was hard-fought. Nothing just happened because the author said so, characters and their reactions were real, and the outcomes were believable. I also liked that, though there was a romance sub-plot, everything didn’t hinge around it, and obvious, over-done cliches weren’t forced into the plot in order to make the romance “interesting.” It was exact kind of subtle, sweet, clean romance that I love.

When I first realized that the story was going to be told from so many perspectives (4 total, if I’m remembering correctly), I thought it would start to bother me. But it never did, and the author did a great job of making each character’s narration feel like that person. Yes, some were similar to each other, but I was never confused, and really, it was interesting to get the little extra perspective from a few of the smaller characters (comparatively).

By the end of this book, I was really caught up in the stories. The themes presented throughout culminated in one really touching scene that made my eyes a little misty. The faith portrayed was the perfect balance of being woven throughout the story without being so in-your-face. It’s shown most in both of the main characters’ mothers, as witnessed by their children, and I loved that. “Look for the blessings,” “kill them with kindness,” using love and kindness to drive away hatred, all of these things were infused in the words, and it’s a lesson I learned right along with the characters. In case it’s not obvious, I highly recommend this book to any fans of Christian and/or historical fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow

See what I’m reading next.

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

August in Review

I read 7 books last month, and considering that 3 of them were very short children’s books, apparently I read quite a bit less last month than the previous months. I may or may not have read those 3 kids books to boost my number for the Goodreads challenge.

Here are the books I read in August:

Forsaking All Others by Kari Trumbo (2 / 5)
Don’t Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard (2.5 / 5)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (4 / 5)
The Black Midnight by Kathleen Y’Barbo (3 / 5)
A Gathering Place by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (3.5 / 5)
Shoelaces and Brussels Sprouts by Nancy S. Levene (5 / 5)
Peanut Butter and Jelly Secrets by Nancy S. Levene (5 / 5)
Grapefruit Basket Upset by Nancy S. Levene (5 / 5)

This list includes 2 ARCs and 2 re-reads. My favorite book from August was The Maze Runner. I finished 0 series, continued 1 series, and started 1 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. 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.

Book Review: Alex book series (3 books)

Shoelaces and Brussels Sprouts
Peanut Butter and Jelly Secrets
Grapefruit Basket Upset
Alex series books #1, 4, & 10
by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Lucia Monfried

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children, Christian

Alex is a young girl (starts at around 8 years old and ages a bit through the series) who just can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Seemingly innocuous decisions have a tendency to snowball out of her control, despite her best intentions to get things back on track. Her patient parents help her to see what she could have done differently and what she should learn from her mistakes.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Secrets survived my childhood with me, and I read it so many times. I remember having such a sense of camaraderie with Alex back then. The dark places and heart-pounding situations that she got into felt very real. I could easily imagine myself having the same struggles trying to correct my bad choices on my own. There are scenes during which she snuck around and hid in dark places that have really stuck with me over the years.

My mom owned Shoelaces and Brussels Sprouts when I was younger, and while I don’t remember reading it as many times as my book, I still remember identifying with Alex. As an adult, I can see where it would have made her whole life easier by simply telling her mom about the incident that prompted her to tell the First Lie, which then snowballed into more lies. But as a kid, I know I made plenty of my own similar bad choices to try to save myself.

This was my first time reading Grapefruit Basket Upset, so I don’t know whether my view of it would have been different if I’d read it back then as I did the other two. However, the circumstance in which Alex finds herself in this book is also not one that I think I would have connected as much with back then. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so competitive as she is, and I definitely would not have made the one final, terrible choice she made (at least, I can certainly hope not). However, the story itself, and the lesson learned, is on par with the other two books.

This book series is pretty old, and I don’t think they’re in print anymore (first one came out in 1987). At some point, they came out with different cover versions, too, though I’m a fan of the originals. If you have an opportunity to pick up any of the Alex series books, I recommend them. They’re short, quick reads that children will be able to connect to.

Find out more about the Alex books

See what’s coming up.

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

Book Review: A Gathering Place

A Gathering Place
Cape Light
#3
by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian drama

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the series, Cape Light & Home Song.

Leading up to and going through the Christmas season, mother and daughter Emily and Sara have to figure out how they fit into each others’ lives, while both also trying to work out a burgeoning relationship. Meanwhile, Reverend Ben and his family deal with some family crises, and local diner owner Charlie and his wife struggle to keep their marriage happy.

Continuing shortly after the previous book ended, book 3 continues the saga of the residents of Cape Light. The drama ramps up, and multiple characters attempt to define their romantic relationships. I found this third book to be somewhere in between the first and second, in terms of how much I enjoyed it. I was still interested in seeing where story threads that were set up in the first book would go, but less interested in some of the storylines that were focused on in this book.

One of my biggest issues is that the official blurb for this book focuses on Mayor Emily Warwick and her relationships with her newly found daughter and with newspaperman Dan Forbes. However, the book really focused a lot more on her daughter Sara and her new job at the newspaper, as well as her own romance. I found that storyline less interesting, which understandably detracted from the overall book for me. And there were 2 romantic culminations at the end of the book, which left me feeling less caught up in the one that came second.

The religion that many of the residents of Cape Light follow is more highlighted in this book, but frankly, it made me sad. It was very shallow and consisted more of passionate pleas that God would spare loved ones lives than any kind of understanding that as Christians, we shouldn’t cling so tightly to this life, because we have the hope of eternity. Don’t get me wrong–I am not against praying for healing in this life, not at all. However, if we let the idea that our Christian loved ones might die cripple us, we are not trusting God at all. And this is not a very good testimony to present to readers.

I did, however, like the way the reverend himself was presented in his personal life. He was shown in his humanness, not as some kind of saint, as he dealt with his family issues and regretted his actions and attitude after certain interactions.

From the very first book, unraveling the lives of the different people in this town was what made me want to continue the series. Some of those arcs have played out, but there are some others that are still ongoing, which is enough to make me want to read the next one. After that, the series becomes all specifically Christmas novels, but at this point, I don’t think I’ll want to stick with it if the 4th book is a less than 4-star read for me.

Find out more about A Gathering Place

See what I’m reading next.

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

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
Book #1
by James Dashner

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA dystopian

I’ve not read any of the big-name YA dystopian series that have been popular over the years, so this is my first foray into those books. I liked this story–both the plot in this book, and the larger story that it sets up. While there were some things that I felt could have been done better, they were not enough to detract from my overall enjoyment.

I found the immediate world-building–the Glade and maze around it–interesting and fun to explore (if “fun” is the right word, given the situation). It felt a lot like a community a bunch of teenage boys would create. And Thomas himself I found to be an engaging main character. Others have seen him as a Gary Stu-type (too good at everything), I didn’t see it that way at all. Yes, he had his areas of innate ability, but I didn’t find it to be overly done, and there were legitimate reasons for all of it.

One thing that bugged me the most was the fake cussing. I get the reason Dashner included it (or at least, my assumption of his reason), but in the context of the story, it really didn’t make sense. The boys remembered the world overall, just had no personal memories, so why did they feel the need to make up their own swear words? And speaking of those memories, the progression of life as we know it to the dystopian world these people inhabit seems a little off in conjunction with the things they remember. Especially adding in some other factors that would be a spoiler to mention.

While there were plenty of predictable things that happened, the danger was real, and it kept me moving quickly through the entire book. My husband started listening to the audiobook at the same time, which is not something we’ve ever done before. I’m also looking forward to continuing the series, and hope we’ll do so together.

Find out more about The Maze Runner

See what I’m reading next.

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

Book Review: The Black Midnight

The Black Midnight
by Kathleen Y’Barbo

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Historical romance, crime

Pinkerton detective Alice Anne, great-granddaughter to Queen Victoria, investigated a series of murders in Austin, Texas in 1884, along with her partner Isaiah Joplin. The perpetrator was never caught, but the pair team up four years later to try to solve a similar series of murder in the Whitechapel district of London. Are the killers the same, and will a culprit be caught for either case?

I think the biggest issue with this book was in the subject matter. Each of the books in the True Colors series focuses on a different true crime from history, with real historical facts melded with fictional characters and situations. The difficulty, though, is in making an interesting, fulfilling story out of a crime that was never solved, as is the case with the real murders this book is set around. While I understand the author’s desire not to make up a conclusion that didn’t really happen, I think I would have preferred fictionalized closure to the “we really don’t know anything,” hemming & hawing mess this book devolved into.

As the detectives investigate, we are constantly presented with theories followed by, “But maybe not.” Over and over, this is all that happens in the case. It made the story feel slow and pointless, and as if the entire investigation was just a wash (which I realize might have been how the real investigators felt back then, but it doesn’t make for interesting fiction). My favorite example of this is said by the queen herself: “‘The truth always has its day,’ Granny said with a shrug. ‘Until it does not.'” What is even the point of making a statement like that?

There were some strange inconsistencies throughout the book too–for example, early in the book it says that Alice Anne (known as Annie for most of the book) was using an American accent, I assume to blend in, since she was keeping her identity a secret. But later in the book, a reporter muses about the oddity of this Pinkerton detective with the British accent. This is one example of a few things that made me stop and look back to see if I’d missed or mis-remembered something.

Overall, the book was a quick read, but not a very satisfying one for me. The ending was muddled and felt very rushed, after a climax that I don’t even get the purpose of. I think a majority of what I disliked about the book was due to the unsolved crime it was based around, but like with a previous True Colors book I read, perhaps this was simply a bad choice for the subject of a fictional romance book. I found it difficult to care about the relationship, and especially the culmination of the romantic storyline, because the rest of the book was so confusing and underwhelming.

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

Find out more about The Black Midnight

See what I’m reading next.

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

Book Review: Forsaking All Others

Forsaking All Others
Western Vows #1
by Kari Trumbo

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

Escaping the Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska in 1881, Rose and Pete travel to Kansas to start a new life. Life outside of the reservation is different, and as Rose quickly learns, so is Pete. Unable to agree about who to trust and how to move forward, their friendship is put to the test. Pete has always been there for Rose in the past, and she doesn’t understand what has changed. All she knows is that she can’t go back to the reservation.

Sadly, I had a very difficult time finding much of value in this short story. As a male romantic lead, Pete has some serious issues. And while that alone isn’t a problem, for me to care about the relationship between these two, he really needs to have some kind of redeeming qualities. He doesn’t–at least, not in my opinion. He’s stubborn and hot-headed, treats Rose like dirt, and essentially feels that the simple fact that he loves her and has helped her a lot in the past should be all that matters. Even when he has a change in attitude, all Rose has seen from him since they left the reservation is his sulky, jealous attitude, so frankly…the romantic climax just fell flat for me.

Morgan is probably the character with the most depth, but he’s treated badly–both by the characters and by the author. I feel like a decent attempt was made with Rose, but the relationship stuff she had to deal with just made her seem weak and cliche. Overall, I think the story suffered a lot from being so short. The heart and attitude changes that Pete went through, had they been fleshed out far more, and had he really been given the chance to show Rose that he’d changed, would have made the story so much better.

The writing style was easy to follow, but the dialog was way too modern at times. And in the second half of the novel, the editing seemed to just fall apart. I noticed a lot of grammatical errors, and that really detracted from the story.

The story is the beginning of a series, the books of which (all stand-alones, from the looks of it) get longer as the series goes. This one is Kindle-only, and looks like it came out after the rest of the series. The title doesn’t really fit the book, in my opinion, which may have just been an attempt to keep it in the theme of “wedding vows” that the series has going for it. And this is yet another time where I feel like I read a different book from everyone else, because most of the other reviews are 4-5 stars. Please be sure to check some of them out if the book interests you. As for me, I don’t plan to continue this series.

Learn more about Forsaking All Others

See what I’m reading next.

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

Blog Tour & Book Review: Paris Never Leaves You

Paris Never Leaves You
by Ellen Feldman

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Historical fiction

Feldman - Cover Art

A story of survival at all costs and the aftermath of war and trauma, Paris Never Leaves You is told in alternating timelines. Charlotte survived occupied Paris and moved to America to start a new life, but the past is never quite in the past. One letter is all it takes to bring back a flood of memories and unravel Charlotte’s life.

There’s plenty to appreciate about this book, from the descriptions of life in occupied Paris to the very real trauma involved in later years. Charlotte’s daughter deals with prejudice and strives to learn more about the heritage that has people hating her for no reason. I had no issues with the dual time periods, and appreciated seeing a different part of WWII than I’ve most often read about in books.

You may read some reviews where it mentions the romances in this book–one in each time period. Let’s not kid ourselves–none of this is “romance.” Charlotte’s decisions in Paris are the kind where you can’t really say what you’d do unless you’re in the situation yourself. Her decisions in New York nearly ruined the book for me. There was no need for the relationship to happen the way it did (or at all, really), and I’m just not a fan of infidelity romance. Her reason for not getting off his lap when he gave her the wheelchair ride was a cop-out, plain and simple, and it went downhill from there, for me.

All that said, I am glad I read the book. It brings up a lot of moral quandaries, from start to finish. It can really make you think, questioning how you would act in that situation, both in Charlotte’s shoes, but also in many other characters’. I do think that fans of historical fiction, especially WWII/Holocaust related fiction, will like this book. But steer clear if you don’t like your heroines getting involved with married men. Also be aware, there is at least one slightly graphic physical encounter in the book, though fortunately not very much of it.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Paris Never Leaves You

See what I’m reading next.

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