book reviews

For as far back as I can remember, I have loved reading. Some of my best childhood memories were riding in our old station wagon down to Virginia or my Dad’s van heading up to Lake George. I would lay on the floor between the seats and read my Nancy Drew books for hours. In our station wagon, I laid in the small space behind the back bench seat. Yes if we were rear-ended I was pretty much as good as dead. Still, good memories and surprisingly, not illegal in the 80s. ;)

My reading goes in spurts. It just depends how much free time I have and how tired I am before bed. I wasn’t allowed to have a TV in my bedroom until I was in 9th grade. To this day, I *still* need to read before I close my eyes. I may only be able to keep my eyelids open for two pages but I’ll take it. Fortunately, I have passed my love of reading to my son. Unfortunately, its like pulling my oldest daughter’s teeth to get her to get lost in a book. I’m not giving up yet though.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, especially since Summer started. My kids want to swim in our pool all day so what’s a Mom to do? Take her book outside and read while she tans, all the while supervising the three little fish of course. I am brown as a berry this Summer and plowing through books daily. I am on GoodReads and its a great resource for keeping track of your books and sharing reviews with friends. I love to read the reviews before I pick out something new to read.

I’ve been meaning to Blog my recently read books for a while now because I thought it would be a nice to have a little record of them here, in my online journal of sorts. So here we go. I’ve been trying to add reviews to my GoodReads list with my last few books. I read a little bit of everything so hopefully these reviews will help someone looking for something new to read! If I starred the title, I would recommend the book.

*The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I really enjoyed this book. It made me realize that I enjoyed reading a memoir. The writing was easy to breeze through and I liked the layout of the book: small mini chapters within the larger chapters (the book only has 5 of them). Much of the story left me feeling sad. It was hard to believe children were actually raised in these conditions. I did wish the book went on a little longer. I felt I wanted to learn more about the author, how she ended up in her second marriage and so well-off, if she ever did speak to her youngest sister again, etc. All in all, a very quick read that I wish was just a touch bit meatier.

*Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielsen

As the book cover says, “An incredible story of hope, triumph and everyday joy.” This book was a pleasure to read. :) The Nielsen’s story is a heartwarming & uplifting. Stephanie’s faith in God and His plan for her life when everything looked so dark was inspirational. I find myself thinking about her and her story often.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

I can only give this book 3 1/2 stars at most. It started out interesting enough. We have two stories going on at once, both set in Paris: Sarah’s story taking place during the 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of the Jews and Julia’s story taking place in 2002. The stories finally reach a meeting point and that’s the last we hear of Sarah’s story from her own perspective.

I will say that while I did find it interesting (albeit heart-wrenching too) to read Sarah’s first-hand account of the Jewish camps from her point of view, I didn’t enjoy this author’s writing style at all. She repeats herself a lot. During the early chapters with Sarah, she (Sarah) would refer to herself in both the first and third person which didn’t read fluidly for me. As for present-day Julia’s story, it dragged on for a good while and most of it was fluff. I felt the author really wanted us to get invested in her characters but the connection between them was contrived and not as deep as she wanted it to come across. Julia seemed almost overly-invested in something she started out knowing nothing about.

Overall, a decent book. I did enjoy it for teaching me more about France’s (mostly hidden) role in the Holocaust. However, I wouldn’t race to recommend it to a friend as a must-read.

*Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Beautiful character development. Sweet childhood innocence. Best friends. First love. Grief so unbearable you could feel it seeping out through the pages until it hit just a little too close to home. The “what ifs” all mothers of growing children struggle with. This all equaled a phenomenal story. The last two or three chapters left me with tear-stained cheeks. I love a story that can move me like that. This book does not disappoint!

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Hm. Sitting down to write this review leaves me scratching my head. This book was good, don’t get me wrong, but I expected more. The beginning is slow. It does pick up but there was something about the mother’s (Anya) character that just got to me. I found the bulk of this book extremely sad. I didn’t understand how a woman, for decades, could be so cold to her children. And to be honest, I still don’t. Even after Anya’s story is revealed and we learn why she is “the way she is”, I still don’t understand. Yes, her past in Leningrad was awful but I still just felt heartbroken for the daughters. They had a terrible relationship with their mother through no fault of their own. There is healing now but for me, it’s too little too late. There’s a twist but you know what? It didn’t move me. Once again, I was left just feeling sad. I think the reason this book didn’t sit well with me is because I’m a big believer of cherishing every moment and I live my life knowing everything could be gone tomorrow. I try to live with no regrets. So much time has past in Anya’s life and I can’t see how she can ever be truly happy or forgive herself for treating her own daughters so poorly. She wasted so, so many moments with them and as a mother, it left me feeling awful.

All of that said, this book is not terrible. It was a nice way to learn a little bit about the tragedy that befell the people of Leningrad during WWII. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a book with warm, fuzzy characters you will connect with, they are not going to be found here.

If you’re in the market for your first Kristin Hannah book, I enjoyed Night Road much more so than Winter Garden.

*The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

“Perhaps only when human effort had done its best and failed, would God’s power alone be free to work”. – Corrie ten Boom

The Hiding Place reveals Corrie ten Boom’s experiences in German-occupied Holland during WWII. Sadly, this included time in prisons and concentration camps. While many Holocaust-era memoirs are written by Jewish survivors, Corrie was not Jewish. Rather, she was a Dutch Christian who, along with her amazing, close-knit family, freely sacrificed her own life by opening her home to the Jewish and spreading the word of God.

I have never highlighted so many excerpts from anything I’ve read (I shared one above). If you’re looking for a story filled with history, inspiration and hope, look no further. I loved Corrie’s writing style and I could definitely see myself pulling this one out to read over again. The entire family was pretty spectacular but I specifically enjoyed reading about Corrie, sister Betsie and their father.

Funny thing about this book: I originally gave it a 4 star rating (while really thinking 4 1/2) and yet, I came back here today to add my review and I am standing firm at 5 stars. I have been thinking about this book since I finished it a few nights ago. I feel a warm connection to the story as a whole (sad as it may be) and the ten Boom family. The fact that Ms. ten Boom has left me thinking about her life’s story and the messages of hope long after I turned the last page made this worthy of 5 stars.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Eh, this book could have been so much more. I initially was excited about it because the chapters were quick and short and I felt like I was pulled into the story right from the first page. The ironic part is that those same quick, short chapters ended up fluffing over much of the story later on. This was a decent story with no meat on it’s bones.

*Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder #1) by Linda Castillo

Sworn To Silence was a book I picked up at the library on a whim and I am so glad I did! It’s got a little of everything you would expect from a chilling page turner: mystery, suspense, action, a bit of romance and that “I don’t want to turn out the light and put this down!” It is sprinkled with a bit of predictability, as most suspense novels are (I find myself waiting, looking, searching for the ‘twist’). Linda Castillo didn’t go re-inventing the wheel here, but her book is worth checking out.

I read two of Kate Morton’s novels before I started writing my reviews but they’re worth adding because I would recommend both. I still plan to read another of her books (The Distant Hours). I started with The House At Riverton and then read The Forgotten Garden. I know many people said they enjoyed TFG a little more so than THAR but I have to say, I loved them equally as much. I can’t pick between the two and don’t think you will go wrong with either.

Right now, I am in the middle of two books, something I don’t usually do but it’s Summer and like I said, I’ve got lots of reading time on my hands! I am reading Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo (Kate Burkholder #2) and will most likely finish that by tomorrow night. If you like thrillers, I would definitely check out this series. I’m enjoying it a lot! I am also in the second half of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. If I could use one word to describe this book, I would say that it is charming.

I have two more books waiting for me at the library. I am sure I’ll have a Blogged book list #2 to share in another few weeks!

If you’ve read what you would consider a 5 star book lately, feel free to share. I am always bookmarking new stuff to read. :)

6 Comments

  • I love it when you share your book reviews G! As an avid reader myself, I’m always looking for more books to lose myself in. Your childhood reading memories reminds me a lot of mine. I used to remember going to the library during the summer and checking out the maximum number of books they would allow and hualing it all home to read it all in a few days..:) Judy Blume…Sweet Valley High…Sweet Dreams (Do you remember those first love stories? :) To this day I HAVE to read while I’m sitting down eating…whether it’s a book or newspaper or magazine…SOMETHING…lol. And my husband can’t understand how I can’t hear him when I’m reading…SOOOOORRRRYYYYY…got lost in my story. :) I’ve always been more of a fiction…romance novels…but perhaps with your help/suggestions…I will delve into some of the more non-fiction type. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • I loved Sweet Valley High! :D I had the board game too. lol

      OMG! I do the same thing with eating & reading! It’s a very weird habit. lol I don’t even care if its a receipt.. I just have to read something!!! I try not to if its us 5 but if its just me or me and the kids, the magazines come out!

      I liked the memoirs I read. There’s something cool about knowing its a true story. And since I always hated history in school, I figure books are a good way to learn a little (and it’s sinking in more now that I am “older”). I’ve taught myself more about the Holocaust in a few short books than what ever stuck with me from school (squat!) =P Definitely try Stephanie Nielsen’s (AKA NieNie, the ‘famous’ Blogger) book. I really enjoyed it!

      Happy day to you. :D

  • This came at a right time. I can’t sleep and I was just going to check Kobo for something new to read. I go through books so quickly that I’m always looking for something new to read. Thanks for the reviews. Have you read The Book Thief yet? It’s a five star book, for sure. Even though it was WWII book, it was so beautifully written and the characters were awesome. I have some book reviews in my blog too.

  • I really like Linda Castillo’s books. My mom grew up Amish so I picked it up thinking it might be somewhat interesting… and really enjoyed it. The 3rd one in the series is disturbing, but the 4th one just came out in June and I really liked it.

    I’m thinking I might give Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn a try. It’s on the best seller list right now and all the reviews are very positive. I love a good thriller!

    • Let me know if you read Gone Girl. I have it bookmarked to read!

      Did your Mom grow up in Lancaster County? We always visited there as kids. Cool place.

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