Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Charles Dickens is well-known in London. People greatly anticipate his next story, until his latest book all but flops. His publishers are concerned, and push him to write a Christmas story in just a matter of weeks. But with the holiday so close, a new baby, and children too young to grasp the idea of money troubles, Dickens is in no mood for a Christmas story.

A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories. I try to read it every year. Dickens is also a favorite of mine. So, you can imagine how badly I wanted to enjoy this book. Sadly, I didn’t. I got just under page 60 before I stopped. It just wasn’t holding my interest. It was very slow-moving. His wife and kids were mildly irritating. And I just couldn’t imagine the rest of the story getting any better.

1) Overall Plot = 2.5
2) Characters = 3
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Vida Winter is a famous and loved author, but very little is known about her. Countless interviews turn out to be simple stories she uses to keep her past hidden. As her life is reaching it’s end, she decides to finally tell her story.

Vida chooses Margaret Lea, a young biographer who has yet to tell the story of a living person. She lives with her on troubled past, and one word piques her interest in Vida’s story: twins.

I’ve come to realize that as much as I love books… as much as I love reading them, and looking at them, and simply being among books… reading about someone doing the same does not hold my interest.

I stopped reading this one a little over 50 pages in. After dozens of pages of learning Margaret’s relationship to books and the bookstore she runs, the introduction of Vida was welcome, but not strong enough to keep me going forward. She was, maybe, just a little too eccentric for me.

I think the story itself had promise, but I would have preferred if the writing were more straightforward, and the discussion of books had been lessened at the beginning.

1) Overall Plot = 3.5
2) Characters = 3.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3.1 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

After Hamish DeLuca’s anxiety gets the better of him during his first real court case as a lawyer, he runs away to his cousin, Luca Valari. Luca was the only person who never focused on Hamish’s flaw, and treated him like everyone else.

Regina Van Buren comes from high-class society stock, but she flees when decision for her life are being made for her. She finds a job working for Luca Valari, as his secretary, and begins taking steps to be an independent woman and live on her own terms.

When a dead body is found at Luca’s new night club, The Flamingo, Hamish and Regina take it upon themselves to uncover the truth, but there are some who don’t want the truth discovered.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this one. I originally decided to read the book, because of the comparison to The Thin Man movies, which I love. Sadly, the only real comparison is that Regina and Hamish occasionally call each other Nick and Nora to boost each other’s confidence.

Let’s start with what’s good. McMillan does a great job of scene-setting and pulls the reader into the time period of 1930’s Boston. The characters are well-developed. Hamish, especially, is a breath of fresh air as a male lead with a struggle like anxiety and panic attacks.

Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues with the novel.

1) This novel is marketed as Christian fiction. While it is pretty clean reading, there is nothing decidedly Christian about it. There is no mention of faith or God in any way.  

2) The murder doesn’t occur until more than halfway though the story. The first half of the novel is really just setting the tone and getting to know the characters and city.

3) The writing was sometimes hard to follow. I had to go back and re-read lines or passages several times to figure out what was being described or discussed.

4) Regina has two love interests in this novel, and I was not happy with where it was left at the end. I’m sure this will be an ongoing arc as the series continues, but with all the build-up of connection with one of the love interests, I was very disappointed with the lack of resolution, and the turn Regina took as a character.

5) Hamish and Regina kind of stumble into the truth about the murder, and solve it with little evidence or struggle. People seem to suddenly open up to them.

6) There’s an added mystery surrounding Hamish’s cousin, Luca, who has a history of bad choices and sketchy practices. This new club is supposed to be a clean start for him. He puts his office in a poorer area of the city, and no one knows why. There seems to be a connection to that part of town, and how badly the tenants are treated, to the people Luca are involved with. Hamish and Regina stumble into the answer for this as well, and there is a very climactic scene that comes from it, but it left me feeling like nothing was actually answered.

Murder mysteries are supposed to leave you feeling like you don’t know everything, but this one left me feeling like I had almost no information. I felt like I was missing vital pieces of information. Like there was something even the main characters figured out that they hadn’t let me in on. I was able to get to the end of this one, but I probably won’t be reading the next in the series.

Content Warnings: It is a murder mystery, so there is violence. A lot of scenes take place at night clubs with heavy drinking and lots of unsavory characters. Regina is also on the receiving end of some unwanted advances.

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 3
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3.2 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for an honest review.

Tethered by Brenda H. Cox

Henrietta Hall Shuck married at seventeen, then sailed to the other side of the world with her new husband as a missionary in China. Through disease, heartbreak, poverty, and war, the Shucks remain determined to follow God’s leading and remain in the country, sometimes against the wishes of the mission board, until Henrietta becomes the first female American missionary to set foot on China’s mainland.

There is no denying that Henrietta Shuck’s life is fascinating. She is an example of what it is like to follow God’s will, even when it would be easier (even life-saving) to turn back.

But as a novel, Tethered misses the mark. Very little of the book feels like a novel. The parts that do are quickly interrupted by time-jumps, tidbits of future information, or information dumps. The book was obviously well-researched. I think it would have been much better as a non-fiction piece with a narrative feel, but still non-fiction.

1) Overall Plot = 4
2) Characters = 3
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average of score 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe


At fourteen years old, Dita is trying to adjust to life in Auschwitz as a Nazi prisoner when she’s approached by Fredy Hirsch. He is in possession of eight books, smuggled into the camp. To have them is illegal, and he wants Dita to be in charge of taking care of them. It puts her life on the line, in a place where life already means so little to those in power.

I love literature set during events of World War II and the Holocaust. It’s a period of time that has always torn at my heart and pulled at my interest. This novel is based on actual events from the life of Dita Kraus. Then, the fact that it was about books, too… I bought this book without a second thought. I wanted so much to love it, but I was disappointed.

While the story was moving along, it wasn’t bad. It held my interest and I wanted to know where it was going. The first problem came with the writing style. The original novel was written in Spanish, so I’m not sure if it’s with author or a result of the translation, but the writing felt like it was geared toward a younger audience than it should have been. It’s listed as juvenile fiction, but due to some language and adult themes I wouldn’t suggest it for younger than fifteen, and if felt like it was written for a younger age group at times.

My second issue came with the discussion of books. Iturbe often interrupts the flow of the story to describe the content of the books in the library, or books that Dita read before being sent to the camps. In some instances there are actual passages from other books. It really takes you of Dita’s story, and makes the book longer than necessary.

Dita’s story is definitely an interesting one, but I only got to page 124 before I decided it was taking me too long to get through it. Iturbe’s postscript is interesting, and he lists the resources he used for research. So, I may read more about this through those sources another time.

1) Overall Plot = 4
2) Characters = 3.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average of score 3.3 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack


Fanny Appleton is a lady of privilege. At nineteen years old, she is touring Europe when she meets Henry Longfellow, a recently widowed poet and author. He is drawn to Fanny. While she likes dancing and the social life her father’s accomplishments provides, she also enjoys language and the written word.

Henry is quick to fall in love, but Fanny remains distant. He is ten years older than she is, and from a lower social class. Despite her worries, Henry remains hopeful she will be his. But how long can that hope survive?

I’m kind of middle of the road with this one. I enjoyed reading it, and wanted to know what would happen between Henry and Fanny, but I often found it slow. The novel is based on the real romance between poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Frances Appleton, so the time spanning the novel was necessary to stick to the timeline, but I sometimes felt it could have been just a bit shorter.

Other than that, the novel is enjoyable, and an interesting read. As part of the Proper Romance series, this is a clean, faith-filled story.

1) Overall Plot =3.5
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 3

Average of score 3.8 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll


U. S. Marshall Roark Holland is back on the job after a tragic loss. His assignment is to guard a donor heart being transported for a government witness who is comatose after being in the line of fire. When a blizzard causes the helicopter to crash, Brannon Callahan, a helicopter pilot who runs search-and-rescue missions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, must find him and help save him and the heart. If she doesn’t, the witness will die, and a child trafficking ring will continue its operations.

The writing is good. There’s no question about that. Caroll makes you want to see what happens next, and has created distinguishable characters. That being said, I only got through the first five chapters.

This isn’t a reflection on the author, but my ability to read the content. I have a hard time reading books (or watching movies) where children are being hurt. There are chapters that are from the point of view of a child stuck in the trafficking ring, and while they are not overly descriptive (some things are left to the imagination), it is vivid enough that my stomach turned.

Had the chapters with the child not been included, or possibly done a bit differently, I probably could have continued with no problem. The action was done so that I could see this would be an engaging thriller, but I couldn’t get past the child. And that would be my one content warning.

Since I feel like I read enough to get the feel of the writer’s style and where the book was headed, I’ll use my ratings system, which still leaves the book with a nice score. I may try another book from Caroll in the future, but this one wasn’t for me.

1) Overall Plot =3.5
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2

Average of score 3.6 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N