July in Review

I read 7 books last month, coming back a bit more from my unexpected reading slump. I’m still staying a little ahead of my reading challenge goal on Goodreads, and isn’t that really all that matters?

Here are the books I read in July:

A Bride of Convenience by Jody Hedlund (3.5 / 5)
The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman (posting review on Aug. 7th as part of blog tour) (3.5 / 5)
What You Wish For by Katherine Center (4 / 5)
Loving a Rebel by Linda Ford (4 / 5)
Final Chance by E.B. Roshan (3.5 / 5)
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart (4 / 5)

This list includes 5 ARCs. My favorite book from July was The Warden and the Wolf King. I finished 1 series, continued 0 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: What You Wish For

What You Wish For
by Katherine Center

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Women’s fiction, romance

Wish

Sam Casey, librarian at a private elementary school, is one of many left to pick up the pieces when the school’s beloved principal and founder dies unexpectedly over the summer. But when she hears that Max’s replacement will be none other than an old crush that she remembers being an awful lot like Max, she’s partially excited for him to come, but mostly terrified that her old crush, which is really more like a full-blown obsession, for Duncan Carpenter will rear its ugly head and destroy the nice life she’s made in Galveston. So it’s kind of a blessing when Duncan turns out to have drastically changed since she saw him. A blessing that becomes a curse when he starts changing everything she loves about the school–everything Max built and stood for.

There was a lot about this book that I wasn’t able to connect with, like the hidden pasts of both of the MCs and Sam’s life-altering obsession with Duncan. However, I think it’s saying something that, even still, I enjoyed the overall story. The burdens and joys the characters went through felt real. Things didn’t fall into place easily–they were really worked for.

I strongly suspected Duncan’s secret based on the way he was acting; in fact, I’d imagine most would. But that didn’t make it any less heart-breaking when it was revealed. Sam’s secret seemed to pale in comparison to his, but I don’t think that’s really fair to her. However, considering the way she spoke and acted throughout the book, she greatly annoyed me near the end. I think that part may have been a bit overdone, but at the same time, I can’t say a real person wouldn’t have acted just like that. Trauma can affect people in a lot of ways.

Like with the previous book of this author’s that I read, Things You Save in a Fire, I liked the slow burn to the romance and the fact that it wasn’t so in-your-face as it so often is in these types of books. It was maybe a little bit anticlimactic at the end, but it didn’t leave me disappointed. For those who want to know about how clean a book is before reading–it’s light on language (but with a couple of f-words), and there is more physical interaction and description than I prefer, but not enough to make me too uncomfortable. (Not even to the detail of what I remember from Things You Save in a Fire.)

The overall theme in this book, as many others have mentioned, is the idea of choosing joy. While that theme didn’t really come up until the second half or so of the book, it is heavily focused on in that latter half (not in a bad way). Of course that is always easier said than done, as Sam herself makes clear. I have found that following and trusting God, the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), is the only way I’ve ever had true and lasting peace and joy. I appreciated the message here, though as a Christian, I found it a bit empty. This did not factor into my rating, though, and I do recommend this book for anyone looking for a sweet, goofy, mostly uplifting romance (I only say “mostly” because there is definitely some darkness along the way).

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

Find out more about What You Wish For

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!

TBR Book Tag

I saw this tag over on A Rambling Reviewer and quickly decided I wanted to play along. Since starting to post reviews on my blog back in July and soon after starting to build an official TBR list, I actually take a lot of joy in organizing it. So answering questions about it and the books on it, was right up my alley. Diving right in:

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
For starters, I keep a list on Goodreads. I feel a little weird sharing this, but I actually go a step further and have a spreadsheet with my TBR as well. This is so that I can manipulate it a lot more than I can on Goodreads–make notes about how I can get ahold of the book (library, borrow from someone, I own it, etc.), who recommended the book to me, keep track of series I’m in the middle of, things like that.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-books?
I generally read print books when I can, and the majority of the books on my TBR will be borrowed from the library as print books.

A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I put this on 4 years ago when I first joined Goodreads, but back then, I wasn’t reading regularly. My husband has been recommending it for a long time, and I’m finally planning to read it within the next month.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
What You Wish For by Katherine Center – Releasing in July, I was recently invited to read the ARC for this book because I had read and enjoyed her previous book, Things You Save in a Fire.

A book in your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The synopsis is interesting enough, but it was an impulse-add because of the cover.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
There are no books on my TBR that I don’t plan to ever read. Some I know will be there a while, but to avoid anxiety over feeling like I’ll never read all the books I want to, I don’t add a book if I’m not sure, at least at the time, that I want to read it. If I realize later that I don’t really care about it anymore, I’ll remove it.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman – This book releases in June, and I’m part of the blog tour for it at that time. It’ll be the first time I’ve done something like that, which is fun!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone’s read but you?
Harry Potter books – I’ve actually finished the first 4 books now, so I have 3 more to go now. Before last July, I hadn’t read or watched any Harry Potter, even though it’s…everywhere even now. (And by the way, now that I have some context, it is impossible to avoid spoilers. They’re everywhere!)

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
I don’t get a lot of direct recommendations, though my mom and sister have been very excited about some they’ve recommended. However, I think one that fits this bill better would be The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. After I put it on my TBR, it won the Goodreads Choice Award in the mystery & thriller category, which presumably means that a lot of readers recommend it.

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
It’s strange to look for a book for this question in my TBR, because logically I think that if I was dying to read it, I’ve already have read it. But realistically, I have all sorts of reasons to hold off on even books I’m really excited about. So I’ll go with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve seen the mini-series several times and love it, so I have a feeling I will get swept up in the book.

How many books are on your Goodreads shelf?
It depends on which one you mean, so I’ll just say I have 66 books on my TBR, with 22 in my “maybe add later” list on my spreadsheet, which includes books that my library doesn’t have and I’m not ready to buy, or just books that I’m not 100% sold on (so I guess I sort of have books I don’t intend to read, but not on the official TBR, and I’m not certain I won’t read them).

How does your TBR look? Answer these questions on your own blog and feel free to link your post in the comments!

Book Review: August Review

In my second month of reading with more intention, I picked up the pace at first, and then seemed to slow back down at the end of the month. Now that school has started (I homeschool), it remains to be seen how much time I have to read, but I will definitely make as much time for it as I can.

Here are the books I read in 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) (review pending)
Illusion by Frank E. Peretti (5 / 5) (review pending)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (review & rating pending)

This list includes 5 ARCs, my first ever, and 1 re-read. My favorite book from August was Illusion. The rest of reviews from last month will go up in the next week and a half. My ever-changing 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. (Note: The list of books I have read overall is not remotely complete there. When I created my Goodreads page 4 years ago, I added some of my favorite books over the years, but to add everything I’ve ever read would be very time-consuming, not to mention impossible to remember it all.)

Despite my almost too-long list of TBRs, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire

Things You Save in a Fire
by Katherine Center

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Women’s fiction, romance

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Multiple events conspire together to cause Cassie Hanwell to move away from the city in which she’s just received an award for her service as a firefighter to a new city where, she’s told, they don’t even think women should be firefighters. But Cassie has taught herself how to overcome almost anything–by keeping emotions and feelings at bay and always following a schedule and a plan. This method serves her well, but also poorly, in her new life. A very strained relationship with her sick mother and a crush on the rookie at her new fire station both lead to changes she could never have expected.

This book was a fun read for me, and I think it is interesting that it isn’t quite as much of a pure romance as I thought it would be. The romance is a key factor, but it’s not the only factor. Other important elements include recovering from past trauma (or lack thereof), mother-daughter relationship (focusing on abandonment of the daughter), surviving in a not-entirely-friendly workplace, and most of all, forgiveness.

I really liked the fact that the book had that last angle in it, because I think it’s something that many people don’t really take the time and effort to try to do. The book may have taken a fairly simplistic approach, but for what it was, I appreciated it.

There are a lot of tropes wrapped up in Cassie, but at the same time, she had some traits that I really connected with. For example, I watched as she pushed another character away, and then was truly disappointed that the other character left. She wanted this person to push harder to reach her, help her, get her to open up, whatever, even while at the same time knowing that she would never let that person in. I am like that as well, especially with my husband, though with his help, I’ve identified it and am working on it.

One thing that bugged me throughout the book was Cassie’s mother. I had a really hard time sympathizing with her, for reasons that I won’t explain, because it would broach spoiler territory. But in the end, I decided that I didn’t have to agree with Cassie’s assessment of her mother or the situation. It wasn’t my mother, so I just let it be.

The ending had a few wrap-ups that were a little strange to me, but I enjoyed the book overall. I recommend it to fans of romance, especially those where the romance isn’t quite so in-your-face.

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

Find out more about Things You Save in a Fire

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: Thr3e

Thr3e
by Ted Dekker

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense

Thr3e

Equal parts thriller and philosophical, this book starts with a discussion about the nature of man and by the end of the first chapter, has the main character nearly blown up. Kevin is tormented by a man who demands he confess his sin or his attacks will only get worse. Aided by a caring FBI agent whose brother was killed in a similar fashion only a few months previous and Kevin’s best friend since childhood, he struggles to understand what the madman wants from him. All of this leads up to an unexpected confrontation that I did not see coming.

The book is billed as a thriller, but I think where it tends to trip some people up is that it’s also very philosophical. Unlike Peretti, whom many people compare Dekker to, I don’t know that I’d classify Ted Dekker as a Christian author exactly. The books of his that I have read contain religion or spirituality, but not exactly Christianity. There is a fairly strong moral message in this book, though, and it can slow down the action. It doesn’t bother me much, but it might others.

I first read this book in the early 2000s. I’ve considered it one of my favorite books ever since then, but unlike my long-time favorite book, I have never re-read this one before now. It has the type of ending that led me to think that it wouldn’t really be worth re-reading. Now that it’s 15ish years later and I find myself enjoying books again, I decided it was time. I did enjoy it this time through, but not quite as much as the first time, because of the knowledge I had. However, knowing the Big Twist, I was able to see the build-up to it, spot the signs and hints. I appreciated the way that Dekker spun the story.

I did still enjoy the book, particularly the characterization of the main character, Kevin, and his childhood. That was one big thing I didn’t quite remember from when I first read it–the book hinted at him having a more difficult childhood than what was even shown up front, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I enjoyed unraveling the story again, even though I knew what it was leading up to. I also very much enjoyed Kevin’s relationship with his professor, and the role the professor played in the latter part of the book.

One gripe that I have is in the symbolism regarding the Big Twist. To use an example, when watching Sixth Sense for the first time, you may not even know that the color red is always involved in the Big Twist (not spoiling, though by now, if you don’t know the twist in that movie, where have you been living?) throughout the movie unless you are told about it by someone else. It’s there, but it’s subtle. In this book, the number 3 is a huge part of the bad guy’s psyche, and it’s not even remotely subtle. The bad guy himself says how much he likes the number 3 more than once. I think I would have liked to see it as a more subtle element.

I would recommend this book for fans of Christian thrillers and philosophy.

Find out more about Ted Dekker and Thr3e

This book was made into a movie that came out in 2006. I watched it in the theater, but I don’t actually remember much about it (except that the main character was played by Marc Blucas).  I remember having a terrible migraine, so I don’t think my forgetfulness is completely indicative of how good the movie was. However, I also never felt the need to watch it again in all this time, and that’s considering I’ve had a DVD copy for years. I do plan to watch the movie now though, and will likely post about the comparison like I did with Ready Player One.

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!