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.

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Book Review: Stealth Power

Finished Reading: Stealth Power
Nanostealth #2
by Vikki Kestell

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

Stealth Power.png

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.

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.

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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 makes little sense to me that I knew it the entire time, simply because of the synopsis. This kind of thing always bugs me, but maybe it’s just a pet peeve.

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.

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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.

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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.

Book Review: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Finished Reading: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor
Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #1
by Michelle Griep

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian historical mystery, romance, Christmas fiction

12 Days.png

With Christmas 2 days away, this will be my last Christmas review for the year! So sad, and yet, I had so much fun focusing on holiday-related fiction and will definitely do it again next year! Now, onto the review!

When seven people are invited to spent the 12 days of Christmas at Bleakly Manor and offered some sort of reward for staying the entire time, the clash of personalities, not to mention the lack of food and heat, provide the backdrop for the re-igniting of a relationship. Clara Chapman is offered enough money to save her from the poor house. Her ex-fiance Ben Lane is offered his freedom from a prison sentence that he doesn’t deserve. They’ll have the chance to discover the truth behind what broke them up, but only if they can survive the other guests–especially after the revelation that only one of the guests can get the prize.

This is a nice Christmas-adjacent mystery with some romance, set in 1850. I enjoyed the way the guests interacted, for the most part, and while the mystery elements were fairly predictable, I still liked the way it all came together at the end. I liked the atmosphere that was built both with the descriptions and in the writing itself.

One of my biggest disappointments with this book was the way both Ben & Clara were so quick to assume the worst of each other. Even when they began to understand their misconceptions, they still took longer to let go of them than I thought they should. I know that 9 months of believing the worst of someone else can sour the mind, but…in the end, 9 months isn’t really all that long. And even later, without spoiling anything, both of them had opportunity to trust in the other after they have had a chance to get past their issues, and both failed, at least to some degree. It’s not the most solid basis for a relationship.

There was one particular guest that I really didn’t like–both his personality and how he acted, but also how he was described and portrayed in the text. And in the end, he was barely involved in much and left without making much of an impact. There were a few other things here or there that never ended up making much sense for the story, but they were mostly minor things.

Overall, it was a fun read, short and sweet. I liked the old-fashioned traditions involving Christmas that were shown, and there was one particular thing that was revealed at the end that I felt like I should have guessed, and think many would, but I didn’t, which made it better for me. It definitely has some Christian elements scattered throughout, and the romance is clean (there are some physical desires brought up, but not acted upon). I recommend this book for anyone looking for a quick Christmas read, for a historical book with mystery elements, or for a Christian romance.

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Book Review: A Plain and Simple Christmas

Finished Reading: A Plain and Simple Christmas
by Amy Clipston

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Christmas drama

Amish Christmas Collection

Anna Mae has been out of the Amish community for 3 years, shunned by her family for marrying an “Englisher” (non-Amish). Expecting her first child at Christmas time, she reaches out to her sister-in-law Kathryn in the hopes that she might be able to return home for Christmas. Though it won’t be easy, Anna Mae and Kathryn hatch a plot that ends in a way neither of them expected.

A quick read, this novella left me with a lot of problems. I didn’t care for most of the characters, felt that very little happened overall, and found the plot to be all too predictable.

I’ll start with that last one first, because the synopsis for this book literally says that this story is “an inspiring page-turner that will keep you guessing what happens next…right to the very last page.” That is a tall order for any story, be it book, movie, or television show. Christmas stories especially tend to be a bit more predictable, generally speaking, because we expect them to end on a good note. And this book in particular…well, I can’t really think of anything that happened that I couldn’t predict. Maybe one thing:

Though Anna Mae is the one wishing for a family Christmas, I’d say Kathryn really becomes the main character, as she was Anna Mae’s contact in the Amish community, and her partner-in-crime, so to speak. Not that there was anything criminal about it. And in fact, I have to go on a tangent here and explain that I know little to nothing about Amish ways, but this book eventually explained that those who are shunned were, indeed, allowed to visit, but simply had to stay apart from the others during meals and church services. Yet Anna Mae’s dad, bishop of the community, treated her as if shunning meant she didn’t exist at all. It was harsh and yet explained and dissolved all too easily.

Now back to Kathryn…she grated on my nerves. For one thing, the narration tells us that she’s not a proud person, but we sure do see a lot of her thinking how Anna Mae’s family will have her to thank for their reunion. Plus, her husband–Anna Mae’s brother–insists that she not bring Anna Mae there for Christmas for various legitimate reasons, but she does it anyway, betraying his trust and involving other family members, including her own daughter. For a Christian family, and moreso, one where it’s clear the man is usually the head of the household, it really bugged me that in the end, she was seen to be right, and there were no real consequences to their relationship. I also disliked Anna Mae’s father and strongly disagreed with some of his beliefs and traditions.

And finally, what made this short novel really drag on for me was that everything that happened in the book was basically repeated. By this I mean that we’d see something happen, and then the next scene would be a character recounting what had just happened for another character. But where most of us would condense that with a line like, “She explained the events to her mother,” we see the entire conversation rehashing the event we’d just seen happen. This happened multiple times, which led me to start scanning to get through it more quickly.

I know that Amish fiction is an entire sub-genre within the genre of Christian fiction, and I’ve wondered what the appeal is for a long time. I realize that this might not have been the example to base my opinion on, but there were some things that came up that weren’t part of what I didn’t like about this particular book that lead me to think it won’t be my cup of tea as a whole. I don’t really think I could recommend this book to readers of Amish fiction either though. It just didn’t have much substance.

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Finished Reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #3
by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

HP3

Continuing with my first ever reading of the Harry Potter books, I’ve now read #3. As a reminder, my reviews will likely contain spoilers, as I’m not too worried about avoiding that, with as long as these have been out, and as well known as they are.

It actually took me some time after finishing this book to decide how I felt about it. I realized that this was because it was not terribly exciting or cohesive throughout. I did find myself wanting to push to finish it, but that was as much because I wanted to find out if some of my theories were correct or not. Certain things that were going on seemed really obvious to me, and I wanted to know how they panned out.

I was not surprised to find out that Sirius Black was not evil like he was made out to be. I was, however, both surprised and disappointed to find out that Sirius Black, Harry’s dad, and a couple of other guys were the Fred & George Weasley of their time. I had not pictured Harry’s dad that way, and while I’m sure it’s not uncommon for “hooligans” to grow up and be respectable adults, it was strange to think of Harry’s dad as a bully, and to think of Snape as a victim.

Hermione’s arc was disappointing, as she was barely in this book except to anger Ron and then disappear for a while. And the reveal at the end about how she was going to so many classes at the same time was a bit unrealistic. Not because it’s time travel, but because I have a difficult time believing they’d let her time travel for school. And then later, there are some inconsistencies with the time travel that bugged me.

Harry himself was hit-or-miss for me. I know he’d done some things in the previous books that he wasn’t supposed to be doing, but when he snuck out to go to Hogsmeade in this book, it felt more outright defiant to me. I did enjoy the Quidditch scenes though, and laughed out loud at McGonagall’s reactions in the final match.

By some point in the 2nd half of the book, I realized how irritated all of the dashes in the book were making me, and to a lesser degree, ellipses. They were just so peppered throughout, for interrupted speech, faltering speech, and just…well, anything they’re normally used for. I use both of these punctuation types myself, and normally, it’s pretty innocuous. So for me to have noticed it so much, there must have been quite a lot of it.

Overall, I didn’t dislike the book, but didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the previous one. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.

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Book Review: The Christmas Box

Finished Reading: The Christmas Box
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christmas drama

Christmas Box.png

A young family of 3 move into a mansion to be companion and helper to an elderly widow named MaryAnne. As the Christmas season progresses, the narrator–husband & father Richard–uncovers MaryAnne’s painful secret, and in turn, is reminded of what is truly important in life, and what Christmas is really about.

I read this in about an hour and a half, and it was a decent read. The writing was clear and simple. The characters weren’t very fleshed-out, but for a story of this length, I wouldn’t expect them to be, so it didn’t bother me. The plot developed in a way that made it seem like I was meant to be surprised by some reveals near the end, but it all seemed pretty obvious to me.

The message about why it’s important to spend time with your loved one while you can was portrayed clearly, if not a little heavy-handedly. I must admit, though, that the Christmas box itself seemed like a much smaller element than I would have expected. There are also some pseudo-supernatural elements that weren’t explained.

The thing that confused me the most is that apparently the book is set in the late 1940s, but it’s almost like it was a secret. The only way I realized it is by doing some math from some passing comments and a date shown on a letter.

I think this book would be enjoyed by those who are looking for a poignant book about love, loss, and the importance of family. The book is the first in a trilogy, which are all included in the collection copy that I have. The later 2 books are apparently both prequels to the first one. And each installment basically doubles the size of the previous. I don’t think I’ll likely end up reading any more of this trilogy this season, but I will make sure to keep it on my list to remember to read at least book #2 next Christmas season.

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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!