Book Review: There I Go Again

There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others
by William Daniels

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Autobiography

I don’t normally put GIFs in my reviews, but it had to be done.

The long sub-title sums up what this book is about quite nicely. The way Mr. Daniels describes it, he sort of “fell” into show business, starting with the insistence of his mother, and just never could find his way out of it, not that he tried very hard. Eventually he came to realize that it was what he wanted to be doing. In this book, he tells the story of his most iconic roles, and everything in between–how he came to have them, and even what it was like to play them.

My interest in this book initially came from my love for Boy Meets World. I was 11 when that show first aired, which pretty much made me the same age as the main characters. My husband and I have quoted certain lines from the show to each other for so many years that our kids do it now too (and have both watched at least some of the show themselves, and my daughter loves Girl Meets World). Anyway, all that to say, Mr. Feeny is near and dear to my heart. Now I know that the man who plays Mr. Feeny (yes, present tense, because he’ll always be Mr. Feeny to me) is a real person and has faced some real struggles in his life, which has only deepened my appreciation of William Daniels.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about the rest of the roles he has played. I’ve never seen Knight Rider, 1776, or St. Elsewhere. And I did wonder if I would be lost or uninterested while reading most of this book. I wasn’t. Maybe a little, when he talked about other actors and actresses he worked with at different times, producers, directors, etc. But not enough to cause a lack of enjoyment in or understanding of the book.

My only difficulty in reading the book was due to the writing itself; a couple of times the stories left me confused because it seemed like it was missing just another line or two of explanation before moving on. The book wasn’t published by a big-name company (which surprises me, but kind of goes right along with how Daniels describes himself as never being a “big star,” while being recognizable as the characters he’s played), and I wonder if most of the people who edited or proofread it were close to Daniels, knew his stories or life well enough to not be confused by a slight lack of explanation. Or maybe it’s just me.

I am so glad that I read this book. And the chapter about Boy Meets World was pretty much what I would have wanted it to be and made me tear up just a little. I would suggest that if you know William Daniels from any of his roles, or are simply interested in memoirs of celebrities, you check out this autobiography.

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Book Review: Anne of Ingleside

Anne of Ingleside
Book #6
by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s/YA classic

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

After watching Anne grow up and become a wife and mother, this book chronicles several years of motherhood, with an eventual six children. Like many of the other books in this series, there’s not exactly a single plot to the book, more a series of vignettes about the children’s antics and some of Anne’s own activities. Some of her children are a lot like her, fanciful and whimsical, and in some ways, it was like seeing Anne as a child again.

It was interesting, and I’m not entirely sure how realistic, that so many of her children’s scrapes led them to be outside on their own at night. I really felt for some of them, considering the ways they tended to let their imaginations run away with them. I can remember being a kid and not fully understanding what was going on, and that leading me to be scared, unhappy, sad, etc. when I probably didn’t need to be.

I did not care at all for Aunt Mary Maria, which I’m sure was intentional, but she when had the audacity to tell one of the kids, as they were about to leave home for 2 weeks, that if he was naughty, a man would grab him up in a big, black bag, I couldn’t believe it! And this after scoffing at one of the other kids for still believing in Santa, which is such hypocrisy. I don’t care what generation you’re from, you wouldn’t get away with scaring my kids like that.

I liked seeing some of the characters back from previous books, and overall, I didn’t mind that Anne had grown up so much. It wasn’t my favorite of the sequels (that honor goes to the previous, Anne’s House of Dreams), but I still liked it a lot. It’s the last book in the series proper, and I may someday read the final two books, but for now, I think I’ll stop here. When I re-read Anne of Green Gables in the future, I may skip past the next few and only re-read books 5 & 6. I’m just not a huge fan of the rest.

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Book Review: Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders
A Woman of WWII Mystery #1
by Tessa Arlen

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical cozy mystery

Newly trained Air Raid Warden Poppy Redfern takes up her post in the small English village of Little Buffenden, where an American Air Force airfield is about to open. The airfield could make this otherwise quiet hamlet a target for an air raid, but the Germans aren’t the only danger to Little Buffenden; trouble is much closer to home when two women are murdered only days apart. When suspicion is cast upon the Americans at the airfield, distrust for the “friendly invaders” surges in Little Buffenden. Poppy begins to investigate while continuing her duties as warden and trying not to end up as the next victim.

This book was all sorts of great! The descriptions made the story come to life, and though there were quite a few characters from the village and neighboring airfield involved, the author did a great job of helping me keep them all straight as I got used to them. Poppy had a wonderful mixture of spunk, loyalty, compassion, and intelligence, with a little quirk thrown in (it’s not that strange to have the main character of the novel you’re writing pop into your head with observations or admonitions now and then…or so I’ve heard).

I really liked the feel of this small town in 1942 England, where they’ve been at war for much longer than their American allies, not to mention more directly affected. The things the Air Force men take for granted, like having sugar and beef readily available, were luxuries to the locals. The attempts made by Poppy and her grandparents to help their fellow villagers see the Americans in a different light showed the great wisdom of this family. And though there are some bumps along the way that were a little frustrating, the American pilot that works with Poppy, Griff, was one of my favorite characters. Also, I’m not a dog person and don’t normally care much about dogs in fiction, but Bess was pretty great.

I would classify this as a cozy mystery–it has all of the earmarks. I had guessed who the murderer was much earlier than I normally do, but I wasn’t quite certain, and the reveal was still done really well. However, the book does probably have a little more description of violence and disturbing images than you’d normally find in a classic cozy mystery. That’s not to say that it’s very much–it didn’t bother me at all, and I don’t have a very high tolerance for some of that kind of thing–but enough that I thought it was worth mentioning if I’m classifying it as “cozy.” All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience this book provided and would recommend you give it a try if either of the genres interest you. There’s a second book in the series so far, which I’m looking forward to reading.

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Book Review: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line
Veronica Mars #1
by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Mystery

Picking up soon after the Veronica Mars movie, which in turn is set about 10 years after the same-name television show, we have a brand new, stand-alone mystery. During Spring Break in Neptune, two young women go missing from the same house, on different nights. Veronica is hired to look for them, but she doesn’t expect to be confronted with a face from the past. With the help of some old friends, Veronica is determined to find the missing women. But will she be too late?

As one who has seen the show several times, this is just about everything I’d want from a book continuation. The only real downside is that a book can’t span as long of a time as an episodic show does, and so the mystery, characters involved, and side plots can’t be developed like they were in the show, which is what made each larger mystery (i.e. each season) have such a big punch at the end. However, the rest of what I love about the show is here–Veronica’s wit and sass, Keith’s very existence, a twisty plot with a dangerous conclusion, and a whole cast of friends and frenemies to help or hinder Veronica.

For Veronica Mars fans, I would say this is definitely worth a read. And I highly recommend the audiobook, as it is narrated by Kristen Bell herself, which notches the whole thing up to as close to a life-action show/movie as you can get, especially considering that the show is narrated by Veronica along the way too (though this is in 3rd-person, a minor detail). And Kristen Bell does a spectacular job with the voices of her once-co-workers. For one who has seen the show a lot, it’s so easy to hear Wallace, Keith, Mac, even Cliff coming out of the “pages.”

If you haven’t watched any Veronica Mars but are interested in this book, I would first ask why you’re not just starting with the show. But as for whether or not you’d enjoy this book or if you’d be lost, it’s hard to say from my perspective. Things that happened in the movie months before that affect the book are explained well enough, I think, but that also means the movie is spoiled in some parts. I do think that some of the larger characters are represented well enough for a newbie to get a feel for them, but smaller ones, like Weevil, definitely shine more if you already know them. That’s not a fault with the book, though, because he’s simply a smaller character in this story. So if you’re interested at all, I’d recommend the show first (the first 3 seasons), then the movie, then this book and its follow-up, which I haven’t read yet but will. And then maybe the 4th season…maybe.

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Book Review: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus
by Jaime Jo Wright

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Historical suspense

Pippa, 1928 – Daughter of circus workers, abandoned and raised by the owner’s family, Pippa is now considered “circus royalty,” above the grit and grime of the circus, yet still feels like she belongs down in the community. Pippa has felt a presence nearby all of her life, watching her, protecting her, calling to her. When The Watchman, as she calls him, begins to step out of the shadows, Pippa will have to decide who to trust.
Chandler, present day – Niece of the new owner of the old circus train depot, Chandler is tasked with determining if the building is a candidate for renovation or if it should simply be demolished.
When the ghosts of the circus’s dark and foreboding past threaten Chandler in the present, she finds herself digging into the story of a serial killer who preyed on the circus in the past. But even in the present day, there’s a very real danger that leads Chandler to be uncertain of who she can turn to.

I had a very difficult time reviewing this book. The idea of an old-fashioned circus as the setting/backdrop, solving a bit of a mystery in the past that connects to the present, it all sounded really intriguing. And though the title certainly doesn’t scream Christian fiction, it’s billed as such. However, there is so much about this book that I struggled with, and in the end, I just don’t understand how it was released like this. I’m going to try to sort out my thoughts in sections below, to at least attempt to keep this review coherent.

Story – The past storyline on its own was decent, if a little muddled. The question of who The Watchman was and what he wanted from Pippa definitely kept me going throughout the book. There was not nearly as much exploration of circus life as I expected, as much of the story takes place in Pippa’s family’s house or in the elephant house, where Pippa is helping to care for an injured baby elephant. But that story on its own was pretty good, from beginning to end.

However, I found the present-day storyline completely pointless. I thought that, as the reader, some of the answers of the past mystery wouldn’t be revealed there in the past, but would come to light when discoveries were made almost 100 years later. I was wrong. It was basically an entire story in itself, with the past storyline a somewhat unnecessary background. And I didn’t like the present-day storyline at all. Seriously, Chandler just needed to put surveillance cameras in the buildings and that would’ve solved an awful lot of her trouble.

Characters – There’s an interesting dynamic between the two main characters. Chandler is fiercely independent, and Pippa is fiercely subordinate to all of the men in her life, even the one in the shadows, obeying his every secretive whim. And this is something the book did mostly well with, as both of these women found their way to a more neutral stance, allowing themselves to breathe a bit and have a bit more freedom. Overall, though, Chandler just drove me crazy. She had some issues that weren’t necessarily unrealistic, but man was she hard to like. In some ways, I felt like the only reason the author included her part of the story at all was so that she could create Chandler, who was perhaps a reflection of the author herself.

One glaring coincidence that I’m surprised more people aren’t bothered by is that both storylines have practically the exact same male romantic interest. They were both large, well-muscled, gruff, brooding men with long hair/beard, and even had the same basic goal driving them. Their names were even similar (Jake & Hank). The author even set up a really easy explanation for this coincidence, but then quickly shoved it aside and let it be just that–pure coincidence.

Writing – I don’t know who edited this book, but it needed a little more work. There were some strange inconsistencies here and there. For example, right from the first chapter, I got the feeling that Pippa was already accepted within the circus and its workers. It mentioned her dear friends in the circus, even listed them by name. Then we proceed through the story to find that most of these people she barely knows. Barely has met. Some of them barely acknowledge her or don’t like her (she’s “above” them, after all). If this was simply meant to show us that Pippa is delusional, imagining these people as her friends because she’s lonely, that never came across to me. Instead, I found myself wondering if the story was written out of order.

Additionally, Linda Pike is said to have disappeared when she was 12. Then later it says she went missing at 18. And I noticed an observation that Pippa made about Jake regarding how good he looked smoking a cigar that was then repeated, almost word-for-word, a few chapters later. There are others, and these aren’t tiny typos, but fairly noticeable mistakes, so many that it took me out of the story quite a bit.

Genre – Now for the thing that bothered me the most throughout the book. It’s listed as Christian fiction, and I’m not sure who decided that was a good idea. I get that for Christian authors, it can be difficult to find a good middle ground sometimes. You don’t necessarily always want to write a book where there’s a solid Christian message, but if you include any Christian talk, it’s deemed too religious to be secular. But wow, the characters were so incredibly confused about their own faith that it could easily leave a reader confused too. I think that if you’re going to write a book where there’s a hint that ghosts and hauntings might be real, and call it Christian, you should definitely come down on one side or the other about whether or not it was a real haunting. At least that way Christians who read the book can agree or disagree. But the “supernatural” events in the present day were really never explained, more just “hand-waved” away at the end. I was left feeling incredibly unsettled (not because it spooked me, but because it was so unpleasant), and I don’t think I’ll read another book by this author.

I don’t read only Christian books, and I don’t necessarily expect every book by a Christian author or in the Christian genre to have a solid Christian lesson or message. But to call it Christian and have one of your main characters this confused over what the Bible even says about what’s going on, or whether or not she should let a psychic contact the spirit world on her behalf, because maybe the psychic was sent by God and Chandler was wasting the opportunity because of a Sunday school lesson (wow!)…to me, this is not a good message anyone should be reading.

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

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Book Review: A Noble Masquerade

A Noble Masquerade
Hawthorne House #1
by Erica Vetsch

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian romance

Lady Miranda Hawthorne has never appreciated the “lady lessons” her mother has forced upon her since childhood. She copes with these frustrations by journaling in the guise of letters written to her elder brother’s school chum, a man whose antics, as told by her brother, make her think he’d be of a similar mind to her. She never mails the letters, keeping them locked up in a trunk. But when her brother’s new valet accidentally mails one and Miranda receives a reply from the Duke of Marshington, it sets off an unlikely, if tenuous, friendship. There’s just one problem–no one has seen the duke in 9 years…but on the other hand, maybe he’s actually right there at Hawthorne House.

So for the first half of this book, things were good. Maybe not 5-star good, but still good. Though Ryland (the duke) is a little manipulative, it really did start out innocent, and I think his motivations were sincere, if a bit flawed. But then around the halfway point, things went downhill for me. Miranda goes a bit batty, scenes are really confusing and plodding, and the whole angle of the duke as a spy is sort of shoved in the background, while also sort of being a big part of what’s happening.

Miranda, who is described in the synopsis as acting “every inch the lady” is never really shown to be acting like a lady. She’s always bucking against that role, barely able to keep her mother from chastising her, or doing whatever she wants when her mother isn’t there. But in the second half of the book, she throws all pretenses of being a lady out the window, threatening or attacking men in anger, sneaking out of the house to visit an unmarried man, and a host of bad decisions that only seem to be okay because they’re helping her to go against her mother’s lessons. I didn’t have an issue with her internal struggle with the slot she’s being forced into, but it did get a little ridiculous in that second half.

There is a purportedly tense game of whist played at one point that was just a long, confusing, pointless scene for me, because apparently a lot of unspoken communication hinges on the way the game is played, and…well, how many of us modern people know anything about the game of whist? Then Miranda’s family rehashes the game on the ride home and boy is Miranda’s brother shocked…but I have no idea why, nor what the implications are. Less time should have been spent on that and other less plot-driving endeavors, and more time on showing us both of the MCs’ anxieties about their places in life. Because they each had realizations near the end about how their life is better than they think it is or something, but both of these anxieties were not particularly founded in the earlier parts of the book.

The romance was clearly the driving force of the plot, which is certainly allowed in a romance story, but I prefer those where the rest of the plot, even without the culmination of the romance, stands on its own as a good story. This isn’t one of those. In fact, in the end, I’m not even completely certain if the suggested head “bad guy” was actually a bad guy, because that whole storyline was left behind in the build up to the climax, which, no, wasn’t even from the main plot.

This is the 2nd Regency romance I’ve read in less than a month where the male MC is a duke who is also a spy for England. I really liked the angle of the letters that Miranda had never meant to send being the catalyst to a relationship. Again, I liked the first half or so, though the more I think about it, the more I wish Ryland had been more sensitive to Miranda’s trust issues instead of using them against her. But back to the letters, I did love the culmination of that plot thread in the epilogue, though I won’t explain more due to spoilers. I just wish the rest of the book had held up to the good parts. It’s definitely not high on my list of favorite Regency romances, and I likely won’t read it again. I did like the novella that starts off this series, and the male MC in the next book intrigued me in this one, so I plan to go on to book #2 and see how that one goes.

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Book Review: Maus

Maus
Book #1
by Art Spiegelman

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical non-fiction graphic novel

The story of Polish Jew Vladek Spiegelman, as told to his son, is not an easy one. In this 1st volume of 2, we’re shown in images what Vladek’s life was in the time leading up to and in the early days of the Nazis’ suppression of Jews in Poland. In tandem, Art shows his research process with his father, as he tries to interview him about his past and get along with him at the same time. The 1st volume takes Vladek right up to the gates of Auschwitz, and takes Art to the brink of despair with his tormented father.

The horrific things that happened during the time leading up to the Holocaust (and some of the beginning) is difficult enough to read about, but to see it in this format can make it even more difficult. Spiegelman doesn’t pull any punches in his father’s account or his own. It’s a depressing story, yet I’ve always appreciated reading about the amazing ingenuity of survivors of the Holocaust. Even while we see the depths of human depravity, we also see a shining light as those who are basically safe (the Germans may not have been rounding up the average Polish citizen, but they weren’t exactly making life easy on them either) risk their own safety to help those who are being persecuted.

I’ve always been fascinated by stories like this, preferring real accounts to fictional ones, and it’s difficult not to imagine myself in that situation. While the characters in this book are depicted as animals, in a way, this adds another layer to the realism while also making it a little more palatable (though just a little). I would recommend this to be read by anyone interested in this part of history, even if you don’t normally read graphic novels. I don’t either, but this book, and it’s follow-up, have captivated me for years.

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Book Review: The Return of the King

The Return of the King
The Lord of the Rings #3
by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic fantasy

Like with my “review” of the other books in this series, this is going to be less of a real review and more just my thoughts on my experience with this book. This is my first time through the trilogy, and I’m listening to the audiobooks, because I don’t think I’d make it through if I was reading. Also to reiterate–I have watched the movies several times, though it’s now been a few years since I last did so. And keep in mind, there may be some slight spoilers ahead.

So first, let me just say that wow, was I surprised when the ring was destroyed so early in the book! Seriously, does anyone get away with pacing like that these days? I understand a lot more now why the film had so many “endings,” which never bothered me like it did some others. It’s not hard to see how such an epic tale is owed so much wrap-up. But to see that the movies actually toned down the amount of story that took place after the climax was a surprise. And while I could have done without the storyline with Eowyn and Faramir, overall, I didn’t hate all of that follow-up like I expected to. The story of the hobbits taking back the Shire was interesting and gave a culmination for a major character that, when last seen, had become weak and whiny. I’d say maybe Tolkien should have kept this story for another book or appendix, but to be honest, I may not have read it then. So I can’t really complain about the length of the book after the climax. It’s still strange, though.

And in a related note, the relationship between Aragorn and Arwen, which is a huge deal in the movies (maybe too huge) is mostly shown in an appendix, as I understand it. So without reading that, it’s pretty lacking for me. Maybe someday I will, but I’m going to let Middle Earth sit for a while right now.

One more thing–I know a lot of people see Eowyn as a great example of a strong female character. In some ways, yes, she’s strong and determined. But I think I would have admired her more if she had chosen to stay behind. She essentially states that she has sworn to rule Rohan in place of those who are going to war, but seems to simply decide she’s tired of doing so. And she assumes that she was left to do so only because she was a woman. Whether or not that last part is true, I think the important factor here is that she agreed to it, and then decided to leave her homeland anyway. To me, honesty and integrity are more important than showing that women can do as much as men can. But yes, good did come of the action she chose, and if nothing else, it shows her as a real, flawed character.

I find it interesting that the 2nd book in the series was my favorite of the 3, even while I’m pretty sure it was my least favorite of the movies (though I did still like it plenty). I don’t think I’ll ever appreciate these books or the author as much as the diehard Tolkien fans do. However, I do anticipate re-reading these books more than once in the future (probably still as audiobooks, but who knows) and picking up something new each time.

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2020 in Books

2020 was my first full year of reading and reviewing the books I read. I’ve really enjoyed this journey, ever since starting it in July 2019. I’ve had some ups and downs with my reading–months packed with books and months where I barely got through any. But I’m so glad I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading regularly, which I left behind when life took over! From my Goodreads “My Year in Books” page:

I miss the graphic that used be on the page, where books piled up as you read more throughout the year.

My total is more accurately 117 books for the year, because one of them is my own book that was published last month, and the other is a super short story taking place between 2 books I read.

Below are the books I read in 2020. The link is to my review for that book, and a link to the book on Goodreads is at the bottom of each review.

January

I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn (5 / 5)
The Gray Chamber* by Grace Hitchcock (3.5 / 5)
Stealth Power by Vikki Kestell (4 / 5)
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness* by Andrew Peterson (4.5 / 5)
His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac (3 / 5)
The Land Beneath Us* by Sarah Sundin (5 / 5)
Head On by John Scalzi (4 / 5)

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)

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)

April

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (3.5 / 5)
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness** by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
The Outcast by Taran Matharu (3.5 / 5)
Star of Persia* by Jill Eileen Smith (4 / 5)
Storm by Evan Angler (4 / 5)
The Wounded Spirit by Frank E. Peretti (5 / 5)
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery (4 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
Adorning the Dark* by Andrew Peterson (4 / 5)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (5 / 5)
The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin (4 / 5)
Fahrenheit 451** by Ray Bradbury (3.5 / 5)

May

4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace* by Johann Twiss (4.5 / 5)
Deep State Stealth by Vikki Kestell (3 / 5)
Time Benders: The Machine by J.B. Yanni (2 / 5)
Healing Her Heart by Laura Scott (3.5 / 5)
Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (5 / 5)
North! Or Be Eaten** by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
A Lady of Esteem by Kristi Ann Hunter (4 / 5)
Daughter of Cana* by Angela Hunt (4 / 5)
The Green Dress* by Liz Tolsma (4 / 5)

June

The Tech by Mark Ravine (3 / 5)
A Soldier’s Promise by Laura Scott (3.5 / 5)
The Monster in the Hollows* by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (4.5 / 5)
Eye of the Storm* by Ryan Stevenson (4 / 5)

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 (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)

August

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

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 (3.5 / 5)
before i knew you by Beth Steury (3.5 / 5)

October

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead** by Tom Stoppard (4 / 5)
The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin (5 / 5)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 / 5)
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (2.5 / 5)
The Lost Lieutenant* by
(2 / 5)
(2 / 5)

(3.5 / 5)

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery (5 / 5)
The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

November

The Monster in the Hollows** by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
A New Leaf by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (3.5 / 5)
To Steal a Heart* by Jen Turano (3 / 5)
The Death Cure by James Dashner (3 / 5)
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 / 5)
Obsessed** by Ted Dekker (4 / 5)
Unclaimed Legacy by Deborah Heal (2.5 / 5)
A Castaway in Cornwall* by Julie Klassen (4.5 / 5)
The Cat Who Turned on and Off by Lilian Jackson Braun (5 / 5)
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (4 / 5)
Prophet by Frank E. Peretti (4 / 5)
Escape from the Island of Aquarius by Frank E. Peretti (4 / 5)
A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep (2 / 5)

December

An Ivy Hill Christmas* by Julie Klassen (5 / 5)
The Tombs of Anak by Frank E. Peretti (4 / 5)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (5 / 5)
A Christmas Star by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (4 / 5)
The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch (4.5 / 5)
The Old Lace Shop by Michelle Griep (4 / 5)
Cupcakes for Christmas by Kate Hewitt (3.5 / 5)
Joy to the World* by Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, & Erica Vetsch (4 / 5)
All Through the Night* by Tara Johnson (4 / 5)
The End of the Magi** by Patrick W. Carr (4 / 5)

This list includes 32 ARCs (marked with a *) and 11 re-reads (marked with a **). I’m not going to try to pick my single favorite book from the year, but I did post about my top 10 favorites already. During the last year, I started 13 series and finished 10 series (some started in 2019). I currently have 10 series in progress. I also DNF’d 2 books (not listed anywhere in this post).

I’m really glad to see that I gave a much higher ratio of 5-star ratings this year than I did in 2019. Also a higher ratio of ratings 4 stars and above, which are all books I consider very good. I’ve started to find my preference in books, I think, while still trying to make sure I read outside of my preferred genres some, to keep things fresh and keep my mind open to new things.

Here is a break-down of the ratings I gave (there were a few books I read twice during the year, so I only counted them once each):
1 star: 1
1.5 stars: 0
2 stars: 7
2.5 stars: 5
3 stars: 9
3.5 stars: 21
4 stars: 39
4.5 stars: 7
5 stars: 24
Average rating: 3.85

Based on 2020’s results, I’ve set my 2021 reading goal on Goodreads at 125 books. I know I have a lot of short and/or middle-grade books I plan to read, so interspersing those will make 125 not too difficult to reach, barring unforeseen circumstances.

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!

December in Review

Happy New Year to all who see this post!!

I read 10 books last month, which surprises me, considering that it took me an entire week to read the last one, due to holidays slowing me down. I wrote my 150th review earlier this month, after starting to read more and put up reviews on my blog back in July 2019.

Also of note, I finished my Goodreads reading challenge back in November, though I forgot to mention it then.

Outcast cover, Kindle
Here are the books I read in December:

An Ivy Hill Christmas by Julie Klassen (5 / 5)
The Tombs of Anak by Frank E. Peretti (4 / 5)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (5 / 5)
A Christmas Star by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (4 / 5)
The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch (4.5 / 5)
The Old Lace Shop by Michelle Griep (4 / 5)
Cupcakes for Christmas by Kate Hewitt (3.5 / 5)
Joy to the World by Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, & Erica Vetsch (4 / 5)
All Through the Night by Tara Johnson (4 / 5)
The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr (4 / 5)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from December was Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. I finished 1 series, continued 2 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.