Top Ten Tuesday: Bargains of Unknown Value

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “Books I Bought/Borrowed Because…” Last July, recent changes in my life had left me with more time than I’d had for the past few years. I realized then how much I really wanted to get back to reading regularly, which had dropped off some time after my first child was born, 18 years ago. As tends to be the way with me, once I decided to do this, I dove headlong into it, adding book reviews to my blog, building a to-be-read on Goodreads, and of course keeping my eye out for books to add to that list.

Suddenly I had a new purpose when I went with my husband to thrift stores, garage sales, and bargain stores. Even my husband started bringing home books for me that he thought I might be interested in, when he went to these kinds of places without me. I’ve since had to slow way down on buying physical books that I know nothing about, no matter the deal. But for today, my list will include books that I (or my husband) bought simply because they were super cheap (anywhere from $0.25 to $2, or even free), without really knowing much, if anything, about them.

At the time of making this list, I have not read any of these books except the first one, so the value of the bargain I got on each of them is still completely a mystery to me. Some I plan to read soon, others will likely take a while to get to.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
This was the very first book I bought with no knowledge of it but the blurb on the jacket. But it was a good deal at a bargain store, so I had to get it! After reading reviews for it later, I was concerned I wouldn’t like it, but I just finished it recently and felt it was worth the buy. See my review here.

Mrs. Murphy series books by Rita Mae Brown
At a local thrift store which tragically has very few books, I found 2 books from this series for 25¢ each. All I really know about these books is that they’re cozy mysteries and involve a cat. And my parents named their dog after the cat. I now own books #2 & #8 in the series, but will start at #1 if I can.
Shown here: Rest in Pieces

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
This is one my husband picked up at a thrift store for maybe $1 when I wasn’t with him. We’re big fans of Jim Gaffigan, ever since seeing him on That ’70s Show years ago. Plus, he’s from Indiana, where we live. And he’s hilarious.

I, Q series by Roland Smith
My husband came home with the first 3 books in this 6-book series at the same time as he bought the previous book. It’s a YA spy series that I’d never heard of, but does sound interesting.
Shown here: Independence Hall

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I actually got this book completely free when buying books for my sister on eBay. I took advantage of a buy 2, get 1 free offer from one seller, buying 2 for her, and when I didn’t see anything else in the eligible books list that she’d like, I grabbed this for myself. I watched some of the 1st (or maybe the 2nd?) movie at a hotel once years ago, and since then have been curious to read the series.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
This was already on my TBR list, as my husband had strongly recommended it, and then he shared with me an offer he found to get the e-book for free. As a Star Trek-franchise fan, I’m looking forward to reading this.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
This is another one my husband brought home from a thrift store recently (he tends to stop by Good Will and other local used stores when he’s out by himself to look for the odd board game gem, and now he looks for books he thinks I might like too ❤️). I don’t know anything about it except what the blurb on the back says.

Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn
Another of my husband’s suggestions, though at least I was present for this one. We found this in our library’s used book sale section, and my husband figured at least this way I’d read a book by the author of some Star Wars books my husband likes (I have no desire to read Star Wars books). I’m starting to amass too many books that start a series in the middle grade or YA age groups. There are 3 just on this list!

20200331_142441

Great Illustrated Classics books by various authors
A few months ago, I read the GIC version of Little Women to my 9-year-old daughter, and then not long after that, the version for Anne of Green Gables. We both agreed that it was a nice way to read old classics. And we both quickly agreed we really wanted to read Pride and Prejudice next. But our library only had a few of these, and not that one. After searching for it to buy and not really wanting to spend upwards of $7, I found this lot of 40 GIC books on eBay for what came out to about $3.50 per book. I took a few days to think about it, and then my husband pulled the trigger. My daughter has already started reading one on her own, and after we finish the book we’re currently reading together (Anne of Avonlea), we’ll start on Pride and Prejudice.

Scores of free Kindle books by various authors!
Thanks to this blog (check out her Friday Reads posts) and daily emails from this site, just in the last couple of weeks I’ve acquired 9+ free Kindle books. I’m not going to list them all here by name, but below (and above) are the covers (some of them are probably still free on Amazon if you’re interested). For these, I do actually do a little research before I acquire them, even though they’re free, and only pick ones that seem interesting and don’t have reviews that scare me off.

Have you read any of these, or are any on your own TBR? Link your TTT post so I can see what you did with today’s topic!

March in Review

I read 11 books last month, which is a tie for the most books I’ve read in a month since I started reading regularly back in July. The other time I read that many was August, so before homeschool started back up. I honestly don’t know how I did it this month. Well, maybe I do. I’ve been staying up way too late a lot lately. Thanks to Goodreads tracking my books per month & pages per month, I can see that I read over 400 pages more this last month than I did back in August. That has a lot to do with reading the longest Harry Potter book in March…stupid bulky book… Overall, I’m pretty impressed by my reading volume last month.

Here are the books I read in March:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (5 / 5)
Home Song by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (4 / 5)
Stealth Retribution by Vikki Kestell (3.5 / 5)
North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (3 / 5)
Hope Is a Dangerous Place by Jim Baton (3.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun (4 / 5)
The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep (3 / 5)
The Dandelion Killer by Wanda Luttrell (4 / 5)
The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess (4 / 5)

This list includes 2 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from March was North! or Be Eaten (by a slim margin). I finished 0 series, continued 4 series, and started 2 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: The House at the End of the Moor

Finished Reading: The House at the End of the Moor
by Michelle Griep

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

House Moor

An opera singer in hiding and a wrongly convicted jewel thief collide on the moors when she finds him half-dead and nurses him back to health. When the necklace Oliver is meant to have stolen are found in Maggie’s possession, together they embark on a journey to clear his name and fix some wrongs in her life too. All the while they must stay just one step ahead of the brutish officer who is intent on returning Oliver to prison.

I was right there in this book for the first half or so. There were some narrow escapes and Oliver in a dress was pretty funny. I had my ups and downs with the characters. And then by the second half, things began to get a bit repetitive. It felt like it took longer than it should have for things and relationships to move forward. The plan to catch the real bad guys always felt flimsy at best. And the ending was a little strange.

I liked Maggie well enough, but I didn’t really care for Oliver. He was violent and usually seemed to chalk it up to the victim deserving it. I didn’t agree with him most of the time. I really liked Cassius, though, though I won’t say who he was exactly, so I don’t spoil anything. I even liked Nora, for all she was in the story. And then there was Barrow, the officer trying to return Oliver to prison. And I’m sure we’re supposed to dislike him, but violence and wholly inappropriate behavior, alongside a self-righteous attitude was a bit too much for me. Even the pay-off for him, which I began to suspect and frankly would have been really disappointed if the build-up led to nothing, didn’t satisfy me.

This book is rife with coincidences. Besides the fact that Oliver happens to end up in the house of the woman who ended up with the necklace he was accused of stealing, he was at her last performance before she went into hiding. They both want to bring down the same man. And then near the end of the book, there’s this huge, out of nowhere coincidence that I do not understand why it was even written into the story.

I also don’t understand the perspective and tense choices the author made for this book. From Maggie’s POV, it’s 1st-person and present tense. For the other POVs (Oliver’s & Barrow’s are the only ones I can remember), it’s 3rd-person and past tense. At times, changing from one to the other left me feeling a bit disoriented. I have never understood the decision to do something like this.

There was an interesting focus on father-child relationships that I liked. I appreciated the atmosphere presented especially while on the moor. Once the story moved to the city, I missed the moor. The Christianity in this book was a bit muddled. Besides Barrow and his warped sense of God, I’m not sure where Oliver ended up at the end. It almost seemed like his redemption came from the love of the woman, the fact that she was willing to marry him, not from God.

Overall, I did enjoy the book to a degree, but was kinda glad when it was over. I was excited to read this book, because I’d read a Christmas novella by the author last December and really liked it. I’m not giving up on Michelle Griep yet and have my eye on a few of her other books. I would recommend this book for fans of Christian romance, especially the historical variety, and judging from other reviews, I’m in the minority again anyway. So if you like this kind of book, please read those other reviews too!

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

Find out more about The House at the End of the Moor
Publication date: April 1, 2020

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!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Escape Into

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is listed as “Genre Freebie,” which means we give our own spin to the list, with the broad theme of “genre.” I haven’t been reading seriously for long enough to be able to make 1 entire list with only 1 genre present, so I decided to let the current state of affairs inspire my list.

With dominoes continuing to fall as schools, businesses, and entire states close down in the US, it seems like a great time to escape into books. So my list today contains my recommendations for the best books (or series) to escape into. Simply put, I chose my single-favorite book from 10 different genres, so maybe there will be something for everyone, except for those who don’t read any of these 10 genres.

Some of these books can fit into more than 1 genre, of course, so I’ll mention that as well. I’m not going to say much about each book, though, because just the fact that they’re on this list says that I loved (or at least really liked) them, and I don’t want to go on at length today.

Sci-fi: Lock In by John Scalzi
Also a mystery, kind of a police-procedural. There is also a sequel, Head On, which I still liked, but not quite as much. See my review for the first book here.

wingfeather

Fantasy: The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
I have only read the first 2 of this 4-book series so far, but I highly recommend it.
See my review for book #1 here and my review for book #2 here.
The author, Andrew Peterson, has been reading the series on Facebook Live for the last 4 nights, and will continue to do so, I’m guessing at least through the first book, as a way to help people combat listlessness and to raise spirits during all of this virus business. He does voices and laughs at his own funny parts. It’s so much fun to listen to! If you want to check it out, the first day’s reading is still on his site, but due to licensing reasons, he said he can’t keep it up much longer.

Romance: The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin
Also historical fiction (WWII time period) & Christian fiction. It’s the third in a series, but they’re disconnected enough that you don’t have to have read the first 2 before you read this one. Though if you’re in the position to binge read, you might as well read them all in order. See my review here.

Historical: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
WWII time period, a stand-alone story. It’s been made into a Netflix movie, though I’m afraid to watch it. See my review here.

Mystery: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Also could be classified as a thriller, and has a touch of fantasy. See my review for this book here.

Classic: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
It may be written for kids, but adults will love it too. This is a series of 9 books. See my review for this book here.

Non-fiction: Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
I couldn’t decide between this and I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn. Both are funny and insightful. I only chose the one I did because, even though I firmly believe men should read Sherri Lynn’s book too, Brant’s book is a little less exclusive. See my review for this book here.

Thriller: The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
Also could fit the mystery genre and is labeled as horror, though I didn’t find it all that frightening. See my review for this book here.

Christian: Illusion by Frank E. Peretti
Could also be classified as a mystery or thriller with a touch of fantasy/sci-fi. See my review for this book here.

Comic: West of Bathurst and It Never Rains by Kari Maaren
This one will take a bit more of an explanation. West of Bathurst is a book only in the technical sense. It’s actually a webcomic, and when the 7-year-long storyline and comic came to an end, Kari compiled it into a book. A big, heavy book. I do own this book, but I’m sure she does not have any more to sell (it was crowdsourced and not an easy endeavor for her). But the comic in its entirety can be read online, and it’s good for many hours of binge-reading. Though it’s a web comic, and some of what happens in it is specific to the setting (a residence hall at University of Toronto), even someone like me who is completely lost in that setting can get caught up in the story and find the jokes along the way funny.

It Never Rains is Kari’s currently on-going comic, with 6 years of story. This one has more of an actual story feel, and it’s really gotten good recently.

The links in the bold above for both of these lead to the first comic in each series.

What are your favorite books to escape into? Link your TTT post so I can see what you did with today’s freebie!

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is my spring TBR. I don’t choose books based on the season (except at Christmas time), but I do keep a short list of the next 5-10 books I want to read out of the longer TBR. In the 3 months since posting my winter TBR, the way that I choose my next few books has become more structured. I didn’t want to leave any books on the list too long, or leave a series sitting too long before going on to the next book. And I’m not a mood reader. So I decided that whenever my short list gets down to 5 books, I’d add 5 more to it based on specific criteria. Each addition of 5 will include:

1 book recommended to me by family/close friends OR a book that was self-published
1 book I own
1 book to continue a series
1 book that’s oldest on my full TBR list
1 book that’s an ARC, if needed (and it always is)

Based on past experience, the below list of my next 10 planned books should be approximately half of what I read during spring. (I don’t think the social distancing will affect how much I read by a lot, since I tend to stay home a lot anyway, and I already work from home, so don’t see a lot of extra time to read in my future. Note: I’m not complaining.) The actual order in which I read these will probably change as I go (plus more will probably be added in amongst some of these):

1. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
I read a bit of the Cat Who… series when I was a teenager and really liked them. Straight mystery was my favorite genre back then, but I’ve barely read any since coming back to reading. I’ve picked up 1/3 of the 29 books in the series over the years, from garage sales and bargain bins. It’s finally time to get back to my mystery roots, start at #1 (which I own), and go through the whole series.

2. The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep
This is a Netgalley ARC. I read my first Michelle Griep book back at Christmas time and really liked it, so I’m looking forward to reading a non-holiday book of hers.

3. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
When I first started to get back into reading seriously, before I built my TBR list up to even what it is now, I found this book at Half Price Books and decided to buy it, with no knowledge of it whatsoever. So this book is currently the oldest one on my TBR list.

4. The Outcast by Taran Matharu
This book qualifies as one that continues a series. It’s technically a prequel to a trilogy, but I’ve read the trilogy and don’t feel like it’s complete until I read this. So not only will this book continue a series, it will actually end a series for me, and let’s be honest–how often do we actually finish series we start?

5. The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess
This self-published novelette is apparently a Christmas book, but I probably won’t have Kindle Unlimited for much longer, so I want to read it while I can do so with that service.

6. The Dandelion Killer by Wanda Luttrell
I’ve had this book since probably not long after it came out (2003) and read it a couple of times back then. Along with the criteria mentioned above, I also want to re-read at least 1 book a month, because I do have a lot of books I haven’t read in years that I want to read again and write reviews for and will ignore them if I’m not intentional about it.

7. Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith
This is also a Netgalley ARC, the story of Esther, who saved her people from extermination in Persia in around 486 BC. I’m pretty excited to read it.

8. Storm by Evan Angler
This is book #3 in the Swipe series. I wasn’t terribly excited with the series at first, but it really picked up with book #2, so I’m anxious to see what happens next.

9. The Wounded Spirit by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had this book for a long time, but haven’t read it yet, even though it’s written by my favorite author. That’s probably just because it’s non-fiction, which I’m not usually very interested in. But I do plan to read it soon, checking off another book that’s been on my TBR for a while.

10. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
I’ve enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables series so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing with book #3.

Have you read any of these? What do you plan to read over the next few months?

Book Review: North! or Be Eaten

Finished Reading: North! or Be Eaten
The Wingfeather Saga
#2
by Andrew Peterson

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

North

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

The danger is real as the Igibys escape the clutches of the Fangs of Dang and head north toward the Ice Prairies. The Lost Jewels of Anniera begin to realize their full potential along the way, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Surviving Fangs, the Stranders, and even the wilds of Skree itself, the Igiby family gets separated, and that’s when things really get bad for young Janner, the Throne Warden of Anneira. Worse yet is when he loses his little brother, the High King of Anneira, whom he is meant to protect. Surprises await around every corner in this action-packed, heart-filled fantasy!

I don’t know if I can adequately express how much I enjoyed this book. The imagination that went into the characters, the creatures, and the plot itself is vast and enviable. I was swept up in the horrors, the betrayal, and the victories right along with the characters. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down and plunged back in with voracity every chance I got.

As in the first book, the main character really is Janner, the oldest of the Igiby children, and in this book it was even more clear why that was the best choice. He grew up so much in this book, even though only a short time passed (I don’t know how much for sure…months, maybe?). Leeli really blossomed in this book as well, even though we didn’t get to see her as much. She’s courageous and has a beautiful spirit, and I love her! Tink, who is know more and more as Kalmar, has a rough time of it in this book, but boy was that ending incredible.

At times, I felt like the action didn’t slow down enough for me to catch my own breath, but looking back at it, I don’t think it was a bad thing. There were some pretty dark moments, so I wonder about the age range it’s meant for, considering that my daughter falls into the middle grade range. I don’t think it would scare her, necessarily, but I wonder if she would still be bothered by some of it, though she is on the low end of that range.

I highly recommend this book, and the series so far, 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. I have a feeling I’m going to love the rest of this series and want to re-read many times. There’s no way I’m waiting for the new versions of the last 2 books to come out before I read them.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2009, but a new hardcover edition will be released tomorrow, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about North! or Be Eaten

See what’s coming up.

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

February in Review

I read 9 books last month. I’m really surprised by that amount, especially considering that it’s a slightly shorter month. It’s only 2 books less than how many I read last August before school started and I started working a lot more. What a fun and productive month!

Here are the books I read in February:


Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope (3 / 5)
Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman (2.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (4.5 / 5)
Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen (5 / 5)
This Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda (3.5 / 5)
Heaven’s Open Book by Sheldon Peart (2.5 / 5)
Sneak by Evan Angler (4 / 5)
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (4 / 5)
The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear (3.5 / 5)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from February was Blessed Are the Misfits. I finished 0 series, continued 3 series, and started 0 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: The Blue Cloak

Finished Reading: The Blue Cloak
by Shannon McNear

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

Blue Cloak

In the wilds of Tennessee and Kentucky in the late 1700s, Rachel’s newly married close friend gets caught up in a nightmare. Sally’s groom and his cousin, Big and Little Harpe, become outlaws and leave a trail of destruction, dragging their family along with them. Rachel is worried for her friend, as well as for her new acquaintance Ben Langford. Ben came to the frontier to keep his cousin out of danger, but sadly discovered that Thomas was one of the Harpes’ first known victims. Now he only wants justice for his cousin, and Rachel wants to see her friend freed from her murderous husband’s grasp.

This is the third book in the True Colors series that I have read. For the first half of this book, I felt that it was a bit better than the other two (The Yellow Lantern & The Gray Chamber). The main characters were relatable, my heart broke along with Sally’s as things went from bad to worse, and the romance was sweet, if not a little weird given the backdrop.

The book was well-researched. An author’s note at the beginning even made it clear that McNear knew this was a difficult subject, and there is a real question of “how dark is too dark for Christian fiction?” I think the answer is…this. This story of the Harpes and what they did to potentially 50 men, women, and children in their time might just have proven too dark to use as a setting for a Christian romance. I’m not one who was all that put off by what was in the book, though a bit of it was definitely more disturbing than the rest, however, because the author understandably couldn’t go too in-depth in these matters, the story just came off very shallow. I think that is an indication that this bit of history just should have been passed on for this series.

However, I was planning to give this book 4 stars until just after the halfway point, when a really confusing scene happened that made me feel like an entire other scene had been deleted from the book, and the author forgot to re-write a callback to it. And then, by the end of the book, I became weary by the repetitiveness of the characters’ thoughts and prayers (that feels so bad to say, but honestly, at times it just felt like it was copied & pasted from earlier). Overall, though, the book was well-written, with just a few gripes.

So this is the part where I normally sum up my thoughts and then make recommendations for who should read the book. As I said above, the book has some more graphic spots, but overall tends to gloss over the details of the crime and depravity of the Harpes. Still, it’s not for the faint of heart, and many Christians would likewise find it too much. But if it sounds like something you’re interested in, especially if you’re a fan of Christian romance, I’d definitely say give it a try.

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

Find out more about The Blue Cloak

See what’s coming up.

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

Book Review: This Light Between Us

Finished Reading: This Light Between Us
by Andrew Fukuda

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: YA historical fiction

This Light

As a Japanese American during WWII, teenage Alex Maki’s life begins to deteriorate until his family is sent to a detainment camp. Up to and during this time, he is pen pals with a Jewish girl in France, who is seeing the growing persecution of Jews around her. This friendship is his one bright spot in an otherwise scary, unpleasant time. They share their hopes, dreams, fears, and ideas about acceptance vs. revolt through their many letters back and forth. As the war rages on, both of their lives change in ways they can’t imagine, and their strong friendship might not be enough to keep hope alive.

This book was incredible in some ways, and problematic in others. I really liked the history that was presented in this book, as well as the relationships. However, I had a difficult time with the style of writing and with the pacing.

I’ll start with what I liked, which is plenty. I loved the juxtaposition of the two teenage pen pals, who most readers will understand going in are being set up for intensely difficult times ahead. While I have seen and read many books about the Jewish side of this, the Japanese American side was a fresh topic for me. It’s easy to see the Nazis as evil because of what they did, but it’s also easy to forget that America put their own citizens into camps (though not heinous as the Nazi camps, as is clearly recognized in this book).

There was a pivotal scene not far from the end that I was curious enough about to look up and found that it was historically accurate, which was really neat to me. And the author’s notes at the end said it was one of 2 sources of inspiration for this book! Overall, I appreciated the history in this book.

I think my favorite parts of the book were the letters between Alex and his pen pal Charley. I would have been okay if more of the story had been told through those letters. I also liked the way a few other relationships developed throughout the story, particularly those between Alex and his brother Frank, and Alex and Mutt. Thinking of these, though, make me realize how light the book is on deep characters. Overall, those 4 are the only characters with any real depth, and none of them are particularly deep, besides maybe Alex and his brother.

This might be largely related to one of my biggest dislikes with the book. The story, which is presented as a personal narrative, has some strange inconsistencies in writing style. It fluctuates often between 3rd person limited and 3rd person omniscient (especially in the last third), which can at times make me feel like I have mental whiplash. Some of these sections easily could have been shown from the limited POV of Alex, rather than the broad POV of everyone involved. The story is also written in present tense, which, to me, is a strange choice for the omniscient POV. This caused the book to not flow as well as it could have.

Similarly, during the omniscient sections, there’s a lot of telling, instead of showing. I’m really not a big stickler for the “show, don’t tell” adage, but even I have my limits. I also would have preferred some translation for the French in some parts. This is a small gripe, because it didn’t come up often, and most of the time I could guess what was being said from context. But during a pivotal scene near the end, I had to use Google to translate some phrases to make sure I knew what was being said, and I’d rather not have to leave the book in a moment like that. (There was also something said in German that the reader is led to believe was some kind of German curse, and it’s not translated or even hinted at otherwise. I know enough German to know it was not a German curse, and was really quite emotional.)

So, overall, I did enjoy the book. It wasn’t a favorite, but I also think that most of what bothered me was more personal preference than normal. I think most people will not be bothered by the writing style, especially. It is listed as YA, but I’m not sure how much it works for that crowd. Though I will say that the dialog at times is pretty immature, so that might work out well (it’s also a little too modern, in my opinion, but I’m no expert). If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially related to WWII, you will probably like it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Teen for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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Book Review: Seconds to Live

Finished Reading: Seconds to Live
Homeland Heroes #1
by Susan Sleeman

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense, romance

Seconds

When the WITSEC database is hacked and the lives of federal witnesses are put in jeopardy, U.S. Marshal Taylor Mills works with FBI Agent Sean Nichols and his team to find the hacker, recover the witness information, and keep an already-exposed witness safe. Mills & Nichols have a tenuous online friendship, which is put in turmoil when they meet for the first time to work on this case together.

Right off the bat, this book introduced a character in a way that painted her in a terrible light, and it never really recovered from there for me. The police procedural-type story was all right, but the romance was strained and the characters and dialog were wooden.

I never really did like the female MC. After she ignored calls from a witness in danger because she was too put-upon, I just couldn’t understand why she is touted as an amazing U.S. Marshal the rest of the book. (Honestly, if she’s so overworked that she needs an hour in the tub that badly, which she got into after missing 2 calls from a witness, who she knows could be in danger…maybe it’s time to find another job.) The male MC wasn’t too bad. As far as side characters went, I think that if the other FBI team members had been given more time in the spotlight, it would have helped. Instead, we got the ridiculous Dustee (the federal witness) and her childish attitude.

The federal agents searching for the hacker before thousands of witnesses were compromised could have been a decent story. Unfortunately, their emotions got in the way. Every. Step. Of. The. Way. Every other thought the two MCs had was about each other and how they felt about the other, how they just wanted to stare at the other, how they didn’t know how to proceed when neither of them really wanted a relationship. And how they both had such hardships in their past that they couldn’t really trust anyone. It permeates so much that it drags down the action & suspense side of the book.

Besides what I already mentioned about the romance, it was far too much about the physical for my taste, especially in a Christian novel. Don’t get me wrong–there is no sex, and not exactly a lot of touching. But there is a lot of gazing, staring, even (in my opinion) leering. Too much narration about watching hips and legs…and it all became so repetitive. And there was so much discussion at inappropriate times, in the middle of important parts of the investigation.

There was an interesting twist near the end, which I suspected only shortly before it was revealed. I liked the explanation for that twist and the real-life science behind it. I also did find myself wanting to know who the hacker was along the way, and what it would take to catch him. When the MCs weren’t coming across as incompetent because they spent more time thinking and talking about their non-relationship than they did working on the case, I liked the way the case was presented and solved. I expected a little more in the way of twists, but it’s not billed as a thriller, so that’s probably my own issue.

I don’t think the book was bad, exactly, I just had some irredeemable issues with it. If you’re a fan of drama-filled procedural stories, you very well may enjoy this. It’s clean overall–no language and light on the violence–and though the Christianity in it is a little light, it’s probably worth checking out if you aren’t bothered by the things I mentioned above. There are plenty of reviews in favor of it, so be sure to read some of those too.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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