Tag: reading

Book Review: #murdertrending, by Gretchen McNeil

Image belongs to Disney/Freeform.

Title:  #murdertrending
Author:  Gretchen McNeil
Genre:   YA/horror
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In a near-future where society is obsessed with social media, followers, and apps, The Postman app is the newest big thing. Alcatraz 2.0 takes convicted killers and puts them in a suburbia setting on Alcatraz, where serial killers hunt them down and kill them in graphic, theatrical detail for those watching on the app.

Dee’s sister, Monica, was obsessed with the app, so when Dee wakes up in a deserted warehouse, she knows immediately she’s been sent to Alcatraz 2.0 for the murder of her sister. With social media buzzing with bets on the quickness of her demise, Dee decides she’s not going to just roll over and die.

Instead, Dee takes on the notorious serial killers, determined that this princess is going to rescue herself—and prove her innocence. She just has to survive the worst the island has to offer.

#murdertrending was, to me, a scary look at a future that wouldn’t surprise me at all if it came true, considering how our culture is changing. The characters were a bit underdeveloped, and the identity of The Postman didn’t surprise me at all—the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed—but it was a quick, easy read. If you’re squeamish, you might want to give this a pass, as it’s pretty graphic.

Gretchen McNeil is a trained opera singer, former circus performer and voice over artist, and current author. Her newest novel is #murdertrending.

(Galley provided by Disney/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)


Book Review: How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All Your Life, by Darryl Dash

how to grow
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life
Author:   Darryl Dash
Genre:   Christian
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

I want to call you to do ordinary things that will make an extraordinary difference, not just in your life but in the lives of others.

This quotation sums up the entire book in one simple sentence. This isn’t a complex book, full of convoluted to-do lists. Instead, the author offers simple, basic tenets of faith—praying, reading the Bible, involvement in a church—to build a foundation on, followed by “extra” things that can be added on after the basics are mastered. (Hint:  the basics are never completely mastered.) The conversational tone and examples from the author’s life make this easy to read and apply. I highly recommend it.

Darryl Dash is an author, pastor, and church planter in Toronto. How to Grow is his new book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice, by Amelinda Berube

the dark beneath the ice
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:  The Dark Beneath the Ice
Author:   Amelinda Berube
Genre:   YA, thriller
Rating:   3 out of 5

Marianne’s parents have split up—she doesn’t know why—and her mother won’t stop crying before dropping her off to stay with her aunt. Her aunt won’t say, either. So, Marianne tries to make sense of the world, which hasn’t felt right since she stopped dancing.

But Marianne’s losing time. She does things but doesn’t remember doing them. Her mom is in the hospital because of something that happened on a night Marianna can’t remember. Things break around her, and she’s drawn to the cold, dark, icy river that threatens to overflow its banks.

Something is after her, and now she has its full attention—and its rage. It wants back what she stole from it, but Marianna has no idea what that is.

This book creeped me out a bit—in a bad-horror-movie-way (Why yes, I know something is chasing me, but I think I’ll go out into the night all alone!)—but that was its strong point. I wasn’t too invested in any of the characters, or what was going on. It was a decent read, but not something I’d pick up again. (I don’t really read horror much anymore, though, so my reaction could have been linked to that.)

Amelinda Berube lives and writes in Canada. The Dark Beneath the Ice is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Impossibility of Us, by Katy Upperman

the impossibility of us
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   The Impossibility of Us
Author:   Katy Upperman
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elise doesn’t want to leave the city and start over in a new town, but since the death of her brother in Afghanistan, her mom has checked out, and her sister-in-law and niece need help. So, they move to a small coastal town, but Elise just longs to get back to the city.

Until she meets Mati on the beach one day. He’s Afghan, and Elise must put that aside and get to know him. She discovers a kind, quiet, caring boy who she has so much in common with.

But his religion and culture—and both their families—are huge obstacles. Not to mention the looming date of Mati’s return home. Is there any way to make things work out?

Katy Upperman is a YA author. The Impossibility of Us is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club, by Louise Miller

Image belongs to Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books.

Title:   The Late Bloomers’ Club
Author:   Louise Miller
Genre:   Fictions
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Nora owns the Miss Guthrie Diner and is happy with serving up tasty food and knowing her regulars’ orders. But when she and her rebellious sister Kit, an aspiring filmmaker, inherit Peggy the Cake Lady’s home and land unexpectedly, the diner isn’t the only thing on her plate.

Kit is happy when she finds out Peggy was in talks to sell to a big developer, but Nora’s not so sure, and the small town is divided over the issues, voicing their opinions to Nora everywhere she goes. The developer’s representative, Elliot, isn’t what she expected either, and soon Nora is torn between the good of the town, Peggy’s hidden secrets, and her own wishes. Finding Freckles, Peggy’s missing dog, is the one thing she can solve.

I enjoyed The Late Bloomers’ Club quite a bit. It’s not a face-paced novel, but the gradually unfolding storyline is so fitting for this small-town drama. The setting is very well-done and felt like small towns I’ve known. Nora and Kit are great characters, and the contrast between them is vibrant and vivid. This is a lovely read. Oh, and maybe don’t read it while you’re hungry or cake-less.

Louise Miller loves baking and writing and is an art school dropout. The Late Bloomers’ Club is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in July (2018)

Books Read in July: 17

Books Read for the Year: 98/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Without Rival, by Lisa Bevere (spiritual book). I didn’t get as much out of this as I’d hoped, but there were some gems.

The Tenth Island, by Diana Marcum (cultural book). I actually really enjoyed this narrative non-fiction about a journalist who visits the Azores and discovers beauty and love. The descriptions of the people, the islands, and the culture were wonderful, and I would now love to visit.

Many Waters, by Madeline L’Engle (classic book). Loved this one! The whole Noah’s Ark world was so interesting.

Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (from the TBR pile). The Civil War with zombies!!! This was a fantastic read with a great MC. I did not enjoy the racist aspects, but the story was riveting and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

For Review


The Melody, by Jim Crace. To be honest, this book disappointed me. It’s set up to include the main character getting attacked in the night by a strange creature/Neanderthal…and that’s pretty much the end of that plot point. Very slow-paced and lyrical.

the museum of us

The Museum of Us, by Tara Wilson Redd. This was quite an intriguing read. The main character, a teenager, has a friend that she goes on extraordinary adventures with…except he’s imaginary and she knows it. When she’s in a car wreck and ends up in a psych ward, she has to decide which reality to embrace. I thought this was a wonderful book, and I enjoyed it a lot.

all we ever wanted

All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Griffin. This is about a wealthy couple whose teenage son is accused of taking a compromising picture of a female classmate and putting it on social media without her knowledge. The mother is horrified and reminded of her own experiences, the father just wants to sweep it under the rug, but when the girl’s father lodges a complaint, the entire school gets involved. This was a great book that explores a weighty topic.


Olympian Challenger, by Astrid Arditi. About a girl picked to compete in front if the gods on Mount Olympus. I got really tired of seeing comments that this was similar to The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson. Yes, there are some similarities, but…”There’s nothing new under the sun.” This was a light, enjoyable read. Yes, there are aspects of other books here, but it’s its own book. Please judge it by that, not by how different or similar it is to others.


The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen. This slow-paced tale of a cruise that goes wrong was languorous, but the low-level dread built with every chapter. Quirky characters made it very intriguing, although I wasn’t a fan of the ending.

baby teeth

Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage. This is about a 7-year-old girl who adores her father, but hates her mother and wants her dead. Like, for real. Hanna is a perfect angel who doesn’t speak in front of her doting father. With her mother, it’s threats, obscenities, and a pretended possession as she schemes on how to get rid of her mother forever, so she can have her father all to herself. This was a little bit disturbing, but engrossing all the same.


Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes. The title caught my attention, and I was vaguely familiar with the history surrounding Guy Fawkes. This is about his son, Thomas, who has the Stone Plague that’s ravaging England and who gets kicked out of the place he’s studying color magic because his father doesn’t show up to give him his mask. So, he goes to London and ends up embroiled in a plot to kill the king with his father. Two different color magic classes are at play, and I thought the concept was very unique.

cottage by the sea

Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber. This is maybe the only romance writer I read consistently. It’s just not my favorite genre. I really enjoyed this tale of Annie, who is trying to heal from her grief and moves to the ocean in search of space. I want to move to Oceanside! The secondary characters are fantastic here.

do something beautiful

Do Something Beautiful, by R. York Moore. I really enjoyed this read about finding the beautiful things from God in the midst of the everyday.

fruit of the drunken tree

Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras This started out a bit slow, but I ended up really enjoying the story, set in 1990s-era Bogota, about two girls and the maid their mother hires. The youngest becomes friends with the maid, who’s hiding secrets amid the dangerous city, plagued by drugs and guerillas.

Darkwater Secrets, by Robin Caroll (review forthcoming). Set in a hotel in New Orleans, so of course I wanted to read the murder mystery that brings a man from her past into Adelaide Fountaine’s present as the police search for a killer.

The Late Bloomer’s Club, by Lousie Miller (review forthcoming). Loved this! Nora is content to work in a diner until she and her sister are named in a neighbor’s will. Now she has to make a decision that affects the entire town. This community was so believable to me, and I really wanted to visit and see the fall leaves…and I don’t even like fall.

The Impossibility of Us, by Katy Upperman (review forthcoming). Upperman is a good author who always brings characters I love and a big obstacle to the table. This is no exception. Elise, whose brother was killed in Afghanistan, meets Mati, who’s from Kabul. She manages to overcome her grief over her brother’s death, but as the two grow closer, both of their families stand in the way.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

Book Review: Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

fruit of the drunken tree
Image belongs to Doubleday Books.

Title:  Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Author:  Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In 1990s Columbia, Pablo Escobar, drug lord, reigns through violence and cleverness as the police struggle to apprehend him. Violence and drugs are everywhere, and the threat of kidnapping by guerrillas looms over daily life.

Seven-year-old Chula and her sister, Cassandra, lead a mostly-sheltered life in their gated community, but sometimes outside events encroach on their happiness. Then Petrona comes to be their live-in maid. Petrona is from the slums, where the guerillas are, and she’s desperate to provide for her family, willing to do anything to keep them safe.

Chula and Petrona form an unlikely bond, as Chula struggles to unravel Petrona’s secrets, while Petrona fights to keep the darkness in her life from destroying everything that’s beautiful.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is told in the alternating viewpoints of Chula and Petrona. It was a little bit slow to get going, but then I found myself engrossed in the vibrant culture of Bogota. The differences between Chula’s life and Petrona’s were startling, and sad, but the girls’ friendship was uplifting.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is an award-winning author and a teacher. Fruit of the Drunken Tree is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Do Something Beautiful, by R. York Moore


do something beautiful
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   Do Something Beautiful
Author:   R. York Moore
Genre:   Christian/Inspirational
Rating:   4 out of 5

As individuals, we are always searching for more; something bigger, better, more meaningful. No matter what we have, we want more. We want our lives to matter more, to be about more, to experience the grand, larger-than-life moments.

Do Something Beautiful shows you how to take the simple, everyday moments in your life and look at them differently, turning “ordinary” into “beautiful.”

The voice in the book is conversational, putting the reader at ease and making it feel like a chat with a friend—not an academic lecture. Anecdotes from the author’s life and stories from people he’s met bring his points to life, making this an engrossing and eye-opening read.

R. York Moore is an evangelist, a speaker, a revivalist, an abolitionist, and an author. Do Something Beautiful is his newest book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber

cottage by the sea
Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Title:   Cottage by the Sea
Author:   Debbie Macomber
Genre:   Romance, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

To recover from a horrible tragedy, Annie moves to Oceanside, the seaside town where her family vacationed when she was a teenager. She loves the small town and the people who live there.

Like Keaton, the gentle, almost-silent man who always helps her out. Mellie, her landlord and next-door-neighbor, who never sets foot outside her door and is cranky and angry. And Britt, the girl at the coffee shop who Annie suspects hides a terrible secret.

Annie feels at home in Oceanside and falls in love with Keaton, but when she’s offered the chance of a lifetime, she must choose between her dreams and her healing heart.

Debbie Macomber is a solid, consistent writer who always delivers a compelling plot, great characters, and interesting conflict. Cottage by the Sea is no exception. Annie suffered a horrific tragedy, and grief almost overwhelms her until she returns to the scene of her younger happiness. Keaton is a fascinating character, and I loved reading about him.

Debbie Macomber is an international best-selling author. Cottage by the Sea is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   Fawkes
Author:   Nadine Brandes
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

The Stone Plague has tormented England for years. There is no cure. In most cases, it means death. For a lucky few, it means a life of despair and being shunned and beaten. Thomas Fawkes has the plague, but it’s dormant, hidden behind his eye patch, and almost no one knows.

Except his father, the legendary Guy Fawkes, known for his bravery and courage. But he abandoned Thomas after his son got the plague, and all Thomas wants from him is his own mask—so he can graduate and make his way in the world using his color power as a Keeper, one who bonds with a single color power. Keepers are beaten and killed now that an Igniter king is on the throne, so Thomas trusts no one.

When his father doesn’t show up, Thomas is kicked out and abandoned. Angry, he makes his way to London, and finds his father embroiled in a plot to kill the king and Parliament, destroying Igniter power forever and putting a Keeper on the throne. But Thomas starts to see that things aren’t as his father believes, and with the help of a classmate, an Igniter girl with more power than he’s ever seen, he learns the truth. Now Thomas must decide between his father and the girl he loves—and his choice is a death sentence for one.

I found the magic system in Fawkes fascinating and unique. Thomas is a troubled character searching for the truth amid many obstacles. His relationship with his father—the notorious Guy Fawkes—is complex and nuanced, and the exploration of English culture is vivid and probably uncomfortably accurate. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure.

Nadine Brandes loves Harry Potter and Oreos. Fawkes is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)