Book Review: This Little Dark Place

This Little Dark Place
by A.S. Hatch

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Psychological thriller

In the wake of the death of his mother, while his long-term relationship seems to be going nowhere good, Daniel writes a short, drunken letter to an unknown convict through a prison pen-pal organization. This is the beginning of his deep connection with Ruby, the inmate who he’s paired with. But when Ruby comes to find Daniel, things become too real…or maybe unreal.

If you’re looking for a dark, psychological read that will leave you feeling a little unsettled, this is it. If you’re looking for a thriller with twisty goodness…maybe not so much.

The book is fully in epistolary format, with the main character Daniel writing letters to someone named Lucy. From early in the book, I had some theories about how the story might unfold. Though things happened along the way that led me to other theories and the anticipation of one or more surprise twists near the end, it turned out that only my first ideas were correct. And there were no real twists. As I read the final pages, I felt let down.

The writing style is easy to follow, and I did at times feel invested in the story. Overall, though, there is no happiness in this book. Nothing uplifting whatsoever, not that I necessarily expect that from a psychological thriller. But it just all felt so hollow and empty. I was depressed for everyone in the book. And Daniel made such stupid decisions all throughout the book, it made it hard for me to care what happened to him in the end.

What this book really made me feel is happy to be a Christian. Grateful to have the hope that comes from knowing that God is real and that He loves me. That He is in control. It’s not that Christians are all perfect, always-happy people–far from it. But there is something nice in knowing that tragedy doesn’t have to destroy me and that I don’t have to try to fill the void in my life by myself.

A note about the story format–it’s broken into 3 long chapters, which did not bother me as it did others. There are scene breaks if you need a more definite spot to step away for a while. And at times, Daniel’s re-telling of events from years past are broken up by observations of what’s going on around him as he’s writing. This also bothered other readers, due to not being formatted well enough to be able to follow the jumping back and forth. I fear this was an issue with the ARC digital copy, which is a shame, because that shouldn’t come into play in a review. But it can, if it makes the book hard to read (I’ve been there). I read a physical release copy, and I had no issues with scene breaks or the jumping around.

Thank you to Netgalley and Serpent’s Tail for providing me a copy of this book to review.  

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Book Review: The Hobbit

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Classic fantasy

This is not going to be a structured review with a recommendation or warning to stay away. It’s really just going to be my musings on my first foray into written Tolkien. First, let me give a reference point–as I said, I’ve never read any Tolkien before this. I have seen all of the movies, though. I love the LoTR movies, though have only watched the Hobbit movies once. Going into each of these 6 movies as they came out, I knew absolutely nothing about the stories. I know that having seen the movies, though, and fallen in love with some of the characters will taint the reading of the books for the first time. I’m okay with that.

So now, about this book. I decided some time last year to start with The Hobbit, because it’s written for a younger audience. I figured it’d give me an idea of what the LoTR books were like and of whether I even thought I’d be able to read them. Besides, The Hobbit precedes the other books, even if the movies came out in the opposite order. I am so very glad I did it this way. I enjoyed reading The Hobbit, even as I felt that the story meandered more than I would normally prefer. It was really interesting to get more depth on the story, on the world, on some of the characters.

I knew about some of the things that had been made up for the movie, like the female elf and her romance with one of the dwarves (Kili, I think?) or the fact that Legolas was there at all. But I had thought that the Necromancer was created by the movie makers as well, and it was interesting to see that Sauron was, in fact, a background menace in the book after all. No, we don’t follow Gandalf to see him, but he does speak of ousting him from Mirkwood.

I was surprised by how long the party tended to stay places. Days or even weeks on end, before they moved on. And I’ll tell you, Elrond does not seem to be portrayed well in the movies. I like Hugo Weaving, but I remember his Elrond as aloof, even haughty. He’s so much warmer in The Hobbit. But to be fair, I haven’t watched any of the movies for a few years now, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out I’m remembering many things wrong.

So now that I’ve read this book, I have decided that I must move on to the LoTR books. I know they’ll be longer and probably harder to read, which is why I’m listening to audiobooks instead of reading physical copies (as I did with The Hobbit). I won’t become a lifelong Tolkien fan, I’m sure, but I’m already glad I’ve embarked on this quest.

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Book Review: Imagine… The Great Flood

Imagine… The Great Flood
Imagine series book #1
by Matt Koceich

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Children’s Biblical fiction

While lamenting an imminent move to another state, ten-year-old Corey is suddenly transported to Old Testament times–right before the flood of Noah’s day!

I read this book (audiobook) in an attempt to make some sense of the most recent book in this series to come out (

As mentioned above, this series is up to 6 books, each focusing on a different Biblical account. After reading 2 of them, I don’t believe I’ll continue with this series, or recommend it to my 10-year-old daughter.

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Book Review: Imagine… The Tower Rising

Imagine… The Tower Rising
Imagine series book #6
by Matt Koceich

My rating: ? / 5
Genre: Children’s Biblical fantasy-ish?

While on the observation deck of the Willis Tower in Chicago with her family, Bella is suddenly transported to Shinar in 2300 B.C. There she sees the Tower of Babel mid-construction and becomes caught up in a dark plot to lead the people astray.

I am not completely sure what I just read. I expected an adventure similar to Superbook or Adventures in Odyssey, but there is definitely something else going on here. The tower being built, the reasons behind it, and Bella’s attempt to stop the people and explain why what they’re doing is wrong is a small part of the book (which is quite short anyway). But then there are some strange and unexpected fantasy elements going on, with a boy and a woman who are sort of like her guides through this experience, while also at times seeming to not know anything outside of what they should know if they were just regular people from that time period.

Then there are a couple of chapters that are “outside” of the adventure, involving people who are never properly introduced, and it’s never explained who they are or why they’re involved. One of them can communicate with the “bad guy” involved in the tower building, and gives him instructions. It’s clear from this that there is a whole over-arcing plot going on throughout this series, and I jumped in at book 6. My mistake, but there was nothing in the synopsis at all that would give any indication that these stories are so very connected. Out of curiosity, I have now read the first book in the series, and it was nothing like this book; no over-arcing plot line was set up either, so I can only guess it came up later in the series.

So…I don’t know how to rate this book. It was like reading someone’s account of a dream. I don’t want to down-rate it due to being so completely lost about the series-long story, but it would have been a lot better if I’d known I was being thrust into this ongoing, apparently supernatural battle between good and evil (for as much as I could tell from those sections).

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

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Publication date: November 1, 2020

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Book Review: The Lost Lieutenant

The Lost Lieutenant
Serendipity & Secrets #1
by Erica Vetsch

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Christian historical romance

As Evan Eldridge recovers from an injury sustained in the war against Napoleon, he wants nothing more than to get back to the fighting. Instead, the Prince Regent (who later became King George IV) makes him an earl, due to Evan saving the life of the prince’s godson in the same event where Evan was injured, not that Evan can remember much of anything about that day. The Prince Regent then insists that Evan marry his goddaughter Diana, whose father is looking forward to marrying her off to someone of his choosing, for his own gain. Diana and Evan both bring secrets into this marriage, and real lives are at stake.

This book hit so many right buttons with me. The characters are well-crafted, historical details are immersive, and the stakes are high in so many ways. I really liked the story that unfolded regarding Evan’s trauma and forgotten memory–his PTSD was real, and the mystery and intrigue culminated in an exciting climax.

Evan and Diana were both characters that I really connected with in some way, and together, they had a beautiful romance that was one of my favorite kinds in fiction. I wouldn’t classify it as actual “marriage of convenience,” but it’s similar, and I love that trope, especially in Christian fiction. Diana has some trauma of her own, in the form of an abusive father and brother. Together, they have a lot to overcome as husband and wife. I loved several of the supporting characters in this book as well and am especially excited to read the second book in this series, which focuses on one of those side characters.

There was one thing that happened, which I won’t explain in detail, that I felt was more of an obvious contrivance–something to keep the couple from being too happy too soon in the book. It bothered me, especially, when there was a clear opportunity for this thing to be addressed later, but it wasn’t, and I think that was a further contrivance for the plot. I only wish the author had chosen something less important, something the climax wouldn’t have hinged upon, if she wanted to throw a new wedge between the married couple.

One other thing, and this isn’t a fault with the book, is that the synopsis, in my opinion, gives away too much. I won’t say more, though, because it might be subtle enough if I don’t point out details. Small gripes aside, I loved this book and definitely recommend it to fans of Christian romance, historical or otherwise, and fans of Regency romance.

I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback.

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Book Review: The Sky Above Us

The Sky Above Us
Sunrise at Normandy #2
by Sarah Sundin

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

As D-Day approaches, fighter pilot Adler Paxton is determined to “make ace” (which means shooting down 5 enemy planes), but first has to learn how to be a wingman. While struggling with this lesson and memories of a tragic last day at home, he meets American Red Cross worker Violet Lindstrom. All Violet wants to do is be a missionary overseas, but England isn’t what she had in mind. She’d rather go somewhere that she can make a difference, not serve the Air Force men who aren’t in need. Both Violet and Adler have a lot to learn about themselves and each other, as long as they can survive the war.

This is the second book in a series of three, following three brothers who were separated by a very unfortunate series of events that led to three years of estrangement. I’ve read books #1 (The Sea Before Us) & #3 (The Land Beneath Us), so this was the last of the series for me. I really enjoyed this book, both as its own story and as part of the greater story. I am continually amazed by the level of detail that Sundin has put into these historical books, making me feel like I’ve stepped back in time. And the characters in this book felt very real to me. Adler’s path from the darkness he feels regarding his role in the tragedy that pushed him away from home is one of my favorite things about this book.

Violet’s process through this book is a lot more subtle, but no less important. She learns something about herself and how she views others that might not seem like a big deal to many people, but I think a lot of us actually could see the same concerns in ourselves if we looked very hard. (And on a side note, the woman on the cover is not how I pictured Violet at all. That woman looks way too petite.)

I liked this one a little more than book #1, and not quite as much as #3 , but it’s still a 5-star read for me. After I finished this book, I had to go back and read parts of the third book to get the full resolution of the Paxton brothers’ story. Though the majority of each of these three books is a standalone story, I would highly recommend reading them in order. I know for sure that I will go back through this series in the future and read them the way they were meant to be read. It’s a great series full of pain and sin, grace and forgiveness. I recommend this book and series to all who enjoy Christian romance and Christian historical novels.

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Book Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
by Tom Stoppard

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic farce, play

I remember enjoying this when I read it in high school, assigned by our English teacher on the heels of reading, analyzing, and discussing Hamlet. I haven’t read Hamlet since then, but still enjoyed the re-read of this farcical play. A few times I wished I’d better remembered some of the details of what it is set around, but it didn’t detract from my reading too much.

These two bit characters who were sent to spy on Hamlet are now the focal point, while Hamlet, the king, queen, and others of that ilk merely intrude upon Rosencrantz & Guildenstern’s musings. The quick wit, back and forth, and the foreshadowing of the event that the very title lends knowledge to, make this a fun, snappy read. It’s also very meta from time to time, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m sure some of it went over my head, and if I’d read Hamlet more recently, I may have gotten more out of it. But I am still glad I read it again and refreshed my memory of why I think of this book fondly.

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Book Review: The Door in the Dragon’s Throat

The Door in the Dragon’s Throat
The Cooper Kids Adventure Series book #1
by Frank Peretti

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian adventure

Archaeologist Dr. Cooper and his kids, Jay and Lila, travel to a small country in the Middle East at the behest of the country’s president. Dr. Cooper is tasked with getting past the door in the Dragon’s Throat, a cave that has proved deadly during past expeditions. The president is hoping to find a fabled treasure, but what is really behind the door?

This is the first book in a Christian adventure series for kids and teenagers. I expected more of a straight adventure with a Christian message. Instead, it had quite the supernatural element to it, but I don’t want to say more and spoil anything. I should not have been surprised by how the story turned out, given the kind of books the author is most known for. It wasn’t bad, but it was surprising. I’m curious to see how if the rest of the series is similar in that regard.

One thing that I think was strange about the book is that the dad is really the focal point, at least in the first half of the book. I expected the kids to be doing their own investigating and discovering, but that didn’t happen for most of the story.

I’ve read others say that this is not their favorite book in the series, so I’ll be interested to see how the others are.

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September in Review

I read 10 books last month, which I’d say means I’m officially past my reading slump of recent months. Though according to Goodreads, the total page count was fairly low for 10 books, and yes, some of these books are a bit on the short side, but it wasn’t intentional, unlike last month. (Update: 3 of the books I read didn’t have a page count for the Kindle version, which is why the total page count was so low. I had to reluctantly change my reviews to the paperbacks for those to get the correct page total for the month, which was quite a bit higher then. Yes, I am picky about the book I mark as read being the version I actually read. To a fault, almost.)

Here are the books I read in September:

Armada by Ernest Cline (2 / 5)
The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer (5 / 5)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (4 / 5)
Time and Again by Deborah Heal (3.5 / 5)
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery (3.5 / 5)
The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Elwell Hunt (5 / 5)
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun (4 / 5)
Jubilee Manor by Bethany Hagen (4 / 5)
The Door in the Dragon’s Throat by Frank Peretti (review pending)
before i knew you by Beth Steury (review pending)

This list includes 2 ARCs. My favorite book from September was The Shepherd’s Wife. I finished 1 series, continued 2 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: Anne of Windy Poplars

Anne of Windy Poplars
Book #4
by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s/YA classic, coming of age

See my review for book #1, Anne of Green Gables.

This book felt like a way station on the way to the rest of Anne’s life. Maybe that was intentional, but I didn’t feel very present with the story or the characters. And much of the book felt very repetitive, both to itself and to the rest of the series so far, like a rinse and repeat with only the names and locations changed.

I really liked Anne’s home for these three years–Windy Poplars, and the three women that came with it. Rebecca Dew was so much fun, especially in regards to poor Dusty Miller. And the situation with the poor, neglected Elizabeth was just about the sweetest, most heart-warming conclusion to a terrible story arc ever.

However, we get a lot of the same two basic storylines: A) Someone(s) is/are grumpy, unhappy, crabby, etc., whether in general or to Anne specifically. In some due course of time (either quickly or longer-term), Anne basically turns them happier or nicer, simply by being herself. B) Anne meets a woman who is a busybody or simply very chatty, who dominates all conversation for several pages, and something may or may not actually come of the entire situation. Any of these things on their own would not have been bad, and a few of these situations I liked more than the rest. But I feel like there could have been a lot more variety in the overall book and the three years Anne spent at Windy Poplars.

Most of the book is written in epistolary form, letters from Anne to Gilbert as they spend these 3 years apart. I’m not sure there was much reason for that, though, and even though some was written in normal 3rd-person narration, we barely got to see much of Anne’s time back at home. This meant missing out on seeing much of the characters we got to know earlier in the series. But we did see enough to see poor Dora slighted even further. Seriously, Montgomery seems to only have created Dora to give young Davy a target for his mischievousness, and she’s just this after-thought even now, 2 books later.

The series has lost a little of its charm for me, but I think this book was a bit of a departure from the rest of the series. I know it was written after books #5 & 6, so perhaps Montgomery was boxed-in, knowing she couldn’t change the later books, so not much could happen? But it just felt dry compared to the rest of the series so far. Here’s hoping that the next book regains the lovely Anne charm.

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