Category Archives: Book Review

Guest Review – Belong to Me

Belong to Me book coverBelong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Reviewed by Kendra Nicole (https://kendranicole.net/)

Cornelia and her husband, Teo, are relatively newlywed urbanites who have recently settled down in suburban Philadelphia, where they hope to start a family. As a former city dweller, Cornelia finds herself out of place in her sorority-like neighborhood and has particular trouble with her overbearing and judgmental neighbor, Piper. Cornelia finds a solitary friend in Lake, another newcomer to town whose secret past keeps the two women from establishing the intimacy Cornelia desires.

As the story continues, the focus shifts away from Cornelia (whose chapters are written in first person) to those of two other characters: Lake’s precocious teen son, Dev, and Piper, the neighbor who seems determined to make Cornelia’s life miserable. We learn that, while Piper seems shallow and vicious, she is experiencing trials of her own, neglecting her own husband as she cares for the family of her best friend who is dying of cancer. We also gain insight into Lake’s past as Dev embarks on a hunt for the father who left his mom before he was born. These three main characters—Piper, Dev, and Cornelia—are all searching for the one person to whom they belong, but along their journeys, they stumble into the messiness of relationship and discover that connection and belonging are hard to come by and are often found in the least expected places.

I was surprised by the depth of this book that I thought would be breezy chick-lit. The writing is strong and the characters are multidimensional and intriguing, as are their stories and relationships. There’s quite a bit going on in this book and though I didn’t care for the three different storylines at first, I liked seeing the ways in which they intersected and eventually came together. The novel raises a few interesting ethical issues and sheds light on personality traits/disorders (always an area of interest for me), and for the most part, these weightier aspects simply move the story forward rather than dragging it down.

I hadn’t realized until after reading the book that this is actually a sequel to Love Walks In, so I’m looking forward to reading that one in the future.

My Rating: 4 stars.

Guest Review – The Great Spiritual Migration

The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way To Be Christian by Brian D. McLaren
Reviewed by Rev. Matthew J. Seargeant

As a former Christian conservative pastor, Brian McLaren has some perspective and insight into the mindset of that tradition. Yet, some of his recent publications have set him at odds with past allies, many of whom have branded him a heretic. In The Great Spiritual Migration, McLaren points out some troubling aspects of modern Christianity, while contending (accurately, I believe) that these are often the result of poor scholarship and bad theology. Perhaps most importantly, he reminds us that while this faith has traditionally been about movement (a journey), as well as evolution of thought and action, the Church is designed for self-preservation, institutionalization, and stagnation. This has led to a migration away from the Church, toward a more organic [my word] spirituality. McLaren believes the Church can and should find a way to step into this void. He continually suggests that following Jesus requires us to act in love and inclusivity. And, while he doesn’t offer easy solutions, I believe his hope is to open the eyes of the reader to the reality facing Christianity, and to help lead toward intentional work toward solutions for the future.

Guest Review – The First Law Trilogy

The First Law Trilogy book coversThe First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Reviewed by Pili Pili

I wrote two reviews for the series, after book 1 and then after book 3. As I put them together now it is interesting to see how my view on the series changed over time.

The Blade Itself  (book 1 of the First Law trilogy)

3.5 stars, out of five. The book’s writing is strong (definitely doesn’t detract). Its best qualities are its pacing and length. I didn’t get bored reading it. That said, I’ve not fallen entirely for any of the characters. They are all flawed in a way that doesn’t quite resonate with me. I can’t see their flaws in myself in a way that would make me endeared to them, but there is intriguing room for growth. The role of women is pretty bad, though.

I’d recommend it for fantasy fans. It isn’t young adult. I’m already reading the next one.

—-

Before They Are Hanged & Last Arguments of Kings (books 2 & 3 of the “First Law” trilogy)

Having trouble separating books 2 and 3 in my head as I write this review. Truth be told, they didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t drawn in by the darkness the ways others were. Especially in the characters. As I wrote in my review of book 1, no one’s struggles resonated with me. They just seemed like below average human beings. The room-for-growth thing did not materialize as hoped.

Leads include torturer, sibling abuser, serial killer, spoiled/petulant noble teenager, arrogant mage… The women were just terrible too, all portrayed in some victim light (repeatedly violated demon? self-sabotaging, beaten younger sister? lesbian prick? some dude’s daughter who is introduced as a love interest and then killed?). I just had trouble getting behind the characters.

Anyway, if others like it, great. Pace was great. Writing was strong. Action was good.

Book Review – About Last Summer

About Last Summer book coverAbout Last Summer by Patricia B. Tighe

When Gabby Vega’s best friend, Kenzie, accuses her of failing to follow through on anything and challenges her to work on her acting by pretending to be from Spain for one week, Gabby decides to prove she’s not a quitter. After all, it’s only one week of vacation with Kenzie’s cousins. But, that was before she knew that Noah Jernigan would be joining. Noah, the boy from drama camp last summer who she had to dump when summer was over. Now he’s the only other person who knows who she really is and seems to be taking revenge for his broken heart by seeing how uncomfortable he can make Gabby’s week-long challenge. Overall, Patricia B. Tighe’s latest novel has all the hallmarks of a good summer beach read, an easy, relaxing read with a happy, satisfying ending. My one complaint would be that both Gabby’s and Noah’s character felt a little flat. I was confused as to why Gabby was actually putting up with some of Noah’s sometimes cruel antics and why they were okay with the whole charade. However, the secondary characters were engaging and made up for the flaws in Gabby and Noah and the story kept me interested until the end.

*Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review.*

Book Review – Talking as Fast as I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can book coverTalking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

If this book is even a modicum of what it’s like inside Lauren Graham’s mind, I want to live there. Charming, fast-paced, interesting, crazy, funny, smart, and honest. I would recommend Lauren Graham’s memoir to fans of Gilmore Girls, fans of Parenthood, and fans of fun.

Book Review – Alex, Approximately

Alex Approximately book coverAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Bailey “Mink” Rydell is pretty sure her soul mate is a fellow film geek she only knows online as “Alex.” When she moves across the country to live with her dad, it just happens to be the same town where Alex resides, but since they agreed to keep the personal stuff to a minimum, she doesn’t know how to find him. But, she does find the annoying, yet charming, Porter Roth. As Bailey and Porter grow closer, she begins to wonder if finding Alex is still a priority. She just doesn’t know she’s already found him. Jenn Bennett creates a delightful YA take on You’ve Got Mail with Bailey and Porter. Their quips back and forth create an undeniable chemistry as does the snippets of their online conversations that intertwine with the story. That chemistry is what pulls the whole story together and kept me reading when I should have been sleeping.

The Waterfall Traveler Blog Tour

The Waterfall Traveler book coverThe Waterfall Traveler by S.J. Lem

When Ri ventures out into the forest to find some food for her adoptive father, she never imagines that she will be saved by a charming boy and swept up in a battle against an evil that threatens humanity. Filled with adventure, drama, provocative characters and fantasy lore, The Waterfall Traveler is the tale of a girl willing to risk it all to save those she cares about. This novel is a good fantasy read. It moves along at an expeditious pace with an original story and satisfying ending. The writing is above average with descriptive scenery and good word selection. If anything was lacking, I wanted more character growth from the main protagonist, Ri. At times, she felt a little wishy-washy and I think she should have been learning more from the admittedly extraordinary situations she into which she was continually thrust.

*Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review.*

You can enter to win a signed copy of this book here or purchase a copy here.