Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Clear Winter Nights, by Trevin Wax

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I wanted to read this book because I was intrigued by the concept of “Theology in Story,”  as it says on the book’s cover. Clear Winter Nights largely consists of conversations about faith and life between a retired-pastor grandfather and his college-aged grandson. I think there is value in this book, but the writing style put me off. It is very simplistic and not “literary” at all. I felt like the author had a checklist of all the issues he wanted to insert into the story and was marking them off one-by-one as he wrote. There are just too many topics covered in rapid-fire succession over the course of 147 pages.

The book’s greatest strength is probably the extensive “Conversation Guide” in the back. I can see this book as providing material for discussion in a high school youth group or college-aged small group.

Disclosure: I received a free Advance Reading Copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Book Review: Quiet, by Susan Cain

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This book was fascinating and a pleasure to read. I am certain that I will re-read it again and again. It isn’t really a book about how introverts can act more extroverted; rather, it is a celebration of the unique characteristics and strengths of introverts. I found it to be extremely helpful and hopeful. Susan Cain possesses the ability to sort through complicated research and make it easy to understand and useful in everyday life. I particularly appreciated the many personal examples and case studies that give expression to the thoughts and experiences of introverts.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: The Air We Breathe, by Christa Parrish

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There was so much tragedy in the first few chapters of The Air We Breathe that I had to put it down for a couple of days, and I was a little afraid to pick it up again. But because I had read and appreciated Christa Parrish’s other novels (my reviews: Home Another Way, Watch Over Me), I trusted her enough as an author to know that it would be worth persevering through the hard stuff to get to hear what she wanted to say in this book. And I was not disappointed.

Christa’s books are not always easy to read, but they are honest. She accesses her characters’ deepest emotions and presents them in a way that is beautifully, startlingly raw and vulnerable. She always writes with warmth and compassion.

In this book, I thought she did a particularly good job of incorporating spiritual content in an appealing, unexpected manner. This is Christian fiction done right.

The Air We Breathe is, in my opinion, Christa’s best-written and most “literary” novel to date. She is a talented author, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Where Lilacs Still Bloom, by Jane Kirkpatrick

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Although Jane Kirkpatrick employs descriptive language and interesting dialogue, there is very little plot to this book. If you think of it as a biography, then you will be in the right mindset to read it. Where Lilacs Still Bloom is charming and inspiring, but it is not a riveting page-turner. However, it is a pleasant enough read, especially for those who enjoy gardening.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Over the Edge, by Mary Connealy

This is the third book in the Kincaid Brides series. Having read the previous books, I was excited to have the opportunity to read and review this one. Mary Connealy wraps up most of the loose ends from the other two books (leaving room open, however, for a fourth book). There is plenty of action, and the book is engaging and entertaining until the end, but I have to say that her writing in this book seems rushed and forced, more so than in the first two books of the series. It seems like she tried too hard to build romantic tension, and after a while, I got tired of reading how much Seth really, really wants to be intimate with his wife. Thanks, I understood it the first time and don’t need to be reminded on every other page.

I also felt like the character of Seth’s wife, Callie, was really underdeveloped. Connealy could have done so much more with her, but instead Callie is basically a one-dimensional spitfire and polecat who literally snarls and growls. Really? I have never heard a woman snarl and growl like a wild animal. There is one scene where Callie says she is ugly, and I thought Connealy was going to go deeper with that, maybe go more into why Callie felt ugly–not just on the outside, due to present circumstances, but on the inside, because of past hurts. I expected Callie to go through some change and healing, just as Seth must, but it doesn’t turn out that way.

If you have already read the first two books in this series, it is probably worthwhile to read this book as well. Overall, the Kincaid Brides books make up a fun series.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

A Wedding Invitation, by Alice J. Wisler

This book was disappointing for me. I never did figure out how the beginning of the story, when Samantha Bravencourt accidentally attends the wrong wedding, ties in with the rest of the book. The plot is extremely slow-paced. I wanted to like Samantha’s love interest, Carson, but I couldn’t. He was a wimp. In moments that called for him to pursue her, he backed off. Samantha and Carson are at odds with each other for most of the book, and not in a romantic tension/repressed passion sort of way where you know they’re really just aching to fall into each other’s arms and start smooching. Rather, they are cold and distant and bitter, because they are both lousy at communicating. The actual words of this book are written well enough, but the plot and characters did not hold my interest.

While I don’t recommend this book, I have read another of Alice J. Wisler’s books, Hatteras Girl, which I liked better than this.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.

More on Cindy Woodsmall’s Latest Book

Cindy Woodsmall is one of the best writers of Amish fiction. I love how she deals with the tension of being Amish in a 21st-century world. It’s always interesting to see how her characters face the challenges of being in the world, but not of it.

Cindy’s latest book, The Christmas Singing, is available now and would make a great Christmas gift for the person on your list who enjoys Amish fiction. Here is a book trailer:

And you can read the first chapter of the book here.

If you wish to purchase the book, you can receive 30% off by ordering here and using coupon code CHRISTMAS11. This code is good through December 20, 2011.

You can read my review of The Christmas Singing here.

Disclosure: For promoting this book, I will be receiving compensation in the form of a new book from Waterbrook.

 

 

An Amish Wedding, by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Long

This book is unique in that it contains three novellas, which are each written by a different author, but all are about characters in the same Amish community. Each of the novellas captures the courtship of a different couple. An Amish Wedding is a sweet, quick read, but none of the stories are particularly memorable or beautifully written. The novella format does not allow for much development of the characters, so they are all fairly one-dimensional. Especially in the middle novella, entitled “A Perfect Match,” the main characters are just too perfect. They have basically no flaws, which to me, makes them kind of boring. This book is all right, but there’s better Amish fiction available.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Love on the Line, by Deeanne Gist

Deeanne Gist has done it again in her latest unique, hilarious, riveting historical romance novel. In Love on the Line, Georgie Gail has a dream career for a young woman in the early 1900’s. By day, she operates the telephone switchboard for her community, and in her free time, she has plenty of time to indulge in her favorite past-time of bird-watching. When Luke Palmer is assigned to work undercover in Georgie’s office, she alternates between resenting his intrusion and finding him fascinatingly mysterious. Luke is attracted to Georgie, but he can’t even tell her who he really is, much less offer her a secure lifestyle, given the nature of his work as a Texas Ranger.

I have read all of Dee’s books, and let me just say, without exception, every time I start one, I end up staying up until the middle of the night to finish it. They’re just that engaging. Her characters are always colorful and memorable and perhaps a bit larger-than-life, and yet are somehow still completely relatable.

If you love historical romance, you will love this book.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

The Christmas Singing, by Cindy Woodsmall

I am a big fan of Cindy Woodsmall. I have read all of her books, receive her newsletter, “like” her on Facebook, etc., so I was super excited to have the opportunity to review her new novella, The Christmas Singing. The story centers on Mattie Eash, a creative and scatterbrained cake decorator who is trying to move on with her life after the man she loved dumped her with no explanation. I recognized some of the characters from Cindy Woodsmall’s earlier novella, The Sound of Sleigh Bells. The Christmas Singing can stand alone, but I recommend reading The Sound of Sleigh Bells first.

I was a little disappointed in The Christmas Singing, and here’s why: compared with the high standard of Cindy’s other novels, The Christmas Singing seemed predictable and formulaic. Some of the phrasing is awkward, and some of the dialogue is unrealistic. Considering that it is the book’s title, I thought that the Christmas Singing aspect should have been explained and played up a little more. And I know that a novella only has so many pages to work with, but I really thought there should have been more overall interaction and romantic tension (it is a romance novel, after all) between Mattie and Gideon.

All that aside, though, The Christmas Singing is a pleasant, cozy holiday read, and I do recommend it, even with its faults. Cindy Woodsmall is still one of my favorite authors, and I look forward to reading her novella, The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, when it comes out in February 2012.

You can read an excerpt of The Christmas Singing here.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.