March 2015 Book Reviews

Looking over my reading journal I see I finished a lot of books this month!! A few had been hanging around a while and just needed to be finished though. I do get a lot of audio books in during my 80+ mile commute (each way) and I tend to pick audio books that are about a “week long.” Starting the week fresh with a new book is always nice. Now, where to begin to tell about all these interesting books!

Both Anita Diamant’s writing and Linda Lavin’s reading made the audio version of this book wonderful! Historical fiction today suffers badly from having current day PC attitudes put into characters, so it was with trepidation
that I started in on this book. I shouldn’t have worried–after all I loved her book the Red Tent. Boston Girl features nothing overtly too modern or too pc. The characters were real and believable. And added bonus is that no one gets raped, molested, murdered, etc, but it is not “sickeningly sweet.” It’s believable. Highly recommended. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.


I fell in love with Anne Tyler’s writing way back. I’ve slowly but surely been getting thru all of her wonderful books. Like all of her books, A Spool of Blue Thread has “real” people for characters–flesh and blood folks you can reach out and touch, people who make you cringe, people you want to marry and people who make you say “Well bless their heart.” There are so many juicy layers and nearly hidden secrets that this is truly nonlinear storytelling at its best. My only tiny, tiny regrets in this book were that there was no year given on any of the chapters so starting out it was confusing. And, though I’ve come to accept that Baltimore, like Charleston, is a place with odd first names, the whole “Stem” thing got old. This was more than counteracted though by, for once, a story in which a charcter left their birth family behind without a regret and with becoming a serial killer or being crippled by guilt or bitterness or whatever. She just got on with life and made the life she needed and wanted. That was fabulous. I also liked the grit and determination shown in the early Depression era chapters–something young adults today could seriously learn from if they’d allow themselves to take it seriously. Highly recommended. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.

Shut. The. Front. Door. Yes, I’ve included a CHRISTIAN novel in my “best of” for this month. I don’t often find Christian fiction that is written in a manner that I find engaging enough to continue past the first few pages. Lynn Austin is a GREAT exception to that rule and now I’m happy to find that Jody Hedlund is as well. This book was a bargain for Kindle and would be well worth it at the full price. This book, which draws on the life and later marriage of Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan tells of a fascinating time in struggle THE struggle of Puritan Christians to maintain their freedom of worship after the end of Cromwell’s rule. I read over a hundred pages in one sitting–it drew me in that quickly and kept me raptly focused. I was only disappointed to learn that the series in which this book is published is not a second book on this couple. That’s a shame. Their story was engrossing. I thought the title could have been better as well–too ‘cheap’ for such an excellent story. The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund.

I do wish the idea of “Young Adult” fiction would go away. Fiction is fiction and a well written book is something to be savored regardless of labels. I enjoyed the book and, surprisingly, also the movie of Green’s The Fault in Our Stars so much I knew I’d read the rest of his books in time. This one was also on sale for Kindle so I grabbed it. Boarding School has always fascinated me, but this one really hit home. The characters were the quirky academic and artistic kids I hung out with in high school so I could fully relate to this story. The dialogue is believable, the actions and thought processes were true to the characters ages and personality types. There was so much here that rang true for me that I’m very sure I will reread it annually for a long time to come. Looking for Alaska by John Green.

Get out of here! Yes, you are seeing things correctly! I’m highly recommending BOTH a Christian novel AND a book of short stories! But wait, THERE’S MORE! It’s an Oprah-recommended book, too! Those are usually too depressing for me. But, back to the point– I never read short stories–they’re either too long or not long enough. I’m doing one of those popular “Reading Challenges” this year and one item was something from a genre I don’t usually read. Well, I took on two such this month. This collection is a collection of stories about unusual women–to say more would spoil the joy of reading the stories for yourself. All are excellent, though some of the stories may be offensive to more conservative readers. I read them in one day, they were that compelling. “The Siege of Whale Cay,” was my favorite for all of its quirks. Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

The Rest of March


Fantasy was the other genre I don’t like well. I also chose this title to meet a personal challenge–reading the Ambleside Online curriculum. I have a personal blog that keeps track of my reading from this list called A Lifelong Learner in Ambleside
where I track my progress–many of the books were read aloud years back
when my kids were homeschooled for two years. So The Book of Three is a
fantasy adventure–sort of a young person’s Lord of the Rings Meets the
Once and Future King Within a Castle Video Game, if that makes sense.
If you are into this type book then you will enjoy it. Suitable for a
read aloud or for mid elementary and up to read alone. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander.


Rosie Dunne I want to just shake you. Ok? I love Cecelia Ahern’s writing, though this one is gimmicky–its all told thru e-mails, instant messages, notes and cards. That gets a bit tricky to keep straight in heavy traffic on audio! A good little book. Rosie Dunne [Also known as Love, Rosie] by Cecelia Ahern.


When the audio books I request from the library on cd don’t come in in time and I’m left facing a commute with the radio for company, I trawl through the e-audio collection. Other than classics, most such books have been disappointing. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. While there was one scene (sexual but meant to be funny) that some WILL find shocking, it is all adds up to a fun story. I think “buzz-kill” was used twice which could end up “dating” the dialogue, but that’s a tiny thing. I look forward to more from this author. When in Doubt Add Butter by Beth Harbison.


This one I also picked for the Reading Challenge–a book chosen for its cover. There’s a lot to puzzle over in it. Parts are the Bible parts are crap on par with Love Story’s famed “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Not sure if “Love” [seems like it is a being in this case] is Christ or just a being known as “Love”. Near then end if mentions the need of an invisible sword to “fight the demons of intolerance” still thinking about that line, too. Most was very enjoyable and it was very readable–but not at all what I expected when I liked the cover. I was expecting a traditional novel and this it is not. Manuscript Found in Accra by Paul Coelho.
Another desperation e-audio, but this time one that left me feeling uneasy. It’s actually another Christian novel as well–this may be a first! Two Christian novels in one month.

I didn’t finish the first book of this series, but it all gets explained. I still find Kat annoying and too full if herself. And she hasn’t the brains to keep seriously hunting for a fall teaching job, either.

Good things: Ms Jackson writes of a vibrant community of believers. She has them turn to the Bible in the manner of all committed Christians. She presents the church as a good thing and shows other churches doing good things as well. The believers portrayed have different levels of education and different careers and are of different ages. I also love that the story is set in Rogers Park, the Chicago neighborhood I know best.

Some observations: Never have I heard of 20 somethings living like this–making each other breakfast? Always having super expensive salads for dinner–all on part-time jobs? Really? They “rent” a very old “video” and no one uses their cell phone much. They always go to a computer to look things up. They never just order pizza or make a sandwich and always set the table and make nice. No one ever gets annoyed at Rochelle’s son always forcing himself on Nick.

And who, when talking to fellow church members, says “[Church Name]’? The keep saying “at Souled Out” instead of “At Church…” Weird. And then there is “Bree” who is only ever heard of if she’s leaving for work or coming home from work tho she does get one small gripe about Rochelle’s son. The dialogue given to the children is atrocious. Also does anyone use the term “Hunk” anymore? And, honestly, I’ve not heard anyone be so worried about either HIV or AIDS since the 80s. Pretty odd for a former med student. Does anyone under 50 know the term “wash and wear?”

Microagressions: A white man “knuckles” the top of an African-American child’s head? Seriously? That’s the verb–“knuckled.” There are others, but this one is the worst. All kinds of stereotypical “Girlfriend-” type slang. Stereo-typical names etc for some African American characters–LaToya and Florida are mentioned.

I really liked the whole >Yada Yada Prayer Group Series and those characters seemed much more real. Come to the Table by Neta Jackson.

Don’t Bother

Lots of stupid errors that don’t affect the story’s truth, but that do chip away at the credibility of the storyteller as an historian. Anyone who can read a family tree can tell that FDR had FIVE children in 1945–the sixth died in infancy. Ditto the Churchill family–five children born, but one died as a small child. Churchill’s mother’s name was Jennie Jerome, not Jennie Jerome Randolph. She became Lady Randolph Churchill upon her marriage. There are more of this type error. Again, they do no harm to the story, they just should not be there. It shows this is not a serious book. There are at least 3 other books with almost the exact same title.

For long stretches I forgot that this was not a general book on World War II–there is so much “filler” that distracts from the supposed murder of Patton. So far there is absolutely nothing new unless you count something trivial like embalmers not being able to get a needle into FDR’s veins due to his arterial scoliosis.

Too bad Beatrice Patton didn’t wale on her husband the first time he stepped out of line like she supposedly did on one officer who criticized her “Georgie.”
O’Reilly is NOT an audio book reader. No emotion, speaks way too fast–he does not draw the listener into the story at all. And could he please learn to pronounce German words and names?? Or, for that matter, decide if Mrs. Patton is “Bee-atrice” or “Bee-AY-trice”? His tone is so disrespectful its as though he knows his book is not to be taken seriously.

Leave me a comment with the books you’ve enjoyed this month.

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