Category Archives: book review

Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterWhen you write a book as successful as The Girl on the Train, expectations for your second novel are going to be through the roof. Paula Hawkins crafted one of the most page-turning novels of the year with Girl.

For her sophomore effort, Hawkins presents another shifting viewpoint mystery/thriller, but this time around readers are given more than three characters viewpoints to follow. With Into the Water, Hawkins attempts to go a bit deeper into the mystery of two drowning in a small town and the impact the crime has on the community. Like many of today’s better mystery writers, Hawkins’ story is not just interested in revealing the solution to the crime but also at the factors that led to the crime being committed and what that means for the characters that inhabit her world. Continue reading

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Review: Stepping on Cheerios by Betsy Singleston Snyder

Stepping on Cheerios: Finding God in the Chaos and Clutter of LifeFull disclosure: I’m probably not the intended audience for this book.

Betsy Singleton Snyder is a Methodist pastor with four children, including a set of triplets. Stepping on Cheerios is reflections on finding time for God and the divine even when your deep in the midst of parenting.

And while I’ll admit there were some observations that Snyder makes that are specific to women and mothers, there are also some universal themes of parenting and the chaos that can come with it here. With easy-to-relate-to stories, insights and Biblical tie-ins, this book was a nice devotional for my wife and I. And while we only have one toddler at this point in our lives, it’s easy to recognize ourselves in the stories related by Snyder.

As a parent, I found this book to be a nice reminder that we’re not the only parents who have our highs and lows. And it’s nice to be reminded that even in the midst of a Cheerios, Legos and other bits of childhood, we need to find time for God and that we’ve been given a great responsibility and joy in raising our daughter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

Coming Up for AirEver since she dipped her toe into a pool, Maggie has been obsessed with being the water. Driven to be one of the best swimmers in her state and country, Maggie is training hard for her final year of high school and her college career as well as a shot at the United States Olympic team.

But in between keeping her grades up and swimming laps, Maggie can’t help but wonder if she’s missing out on something. Namely, dating, guys, relationships and the logistics of making out. As Maggie ponders this situation, she begins to see her best friend and fellow swimmer, Levi in a new light. So Maggie proposes that Levi teach her the basics of making out before she graduates from high school.

What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

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Review: Lockdown by Laurie R. King

Lockdown: A Novel of SuspensePrincipal Linda MacDonald wants Career Day at Gaudalupe Middle School to be memorable. But as she frets over the language of her introductory speech, little does she know what will unfold on this day and how truly memorable it will be for herself, the students and the participants.

Laurie R. King’s Lockdown bills itself as a novel of suspense. And like a film by Alfred Hitchcock, King gets us to invest in her characters to help build and ratchet up the tension until it finally reaches a boiling point. And when it does, King not only earns the payoff, but has a few well foreshadowed surprises for readers as well.

Alternating between multiple viewpoints and characters, King invests the world of Gaudalupe Middle School with several potential scenarios, slowly building to the (seemingly) inevitable outcome and the lockdown of the title. Leading up to an event that is taken from today’s headlines, King gives readers multiple options of who and what might be the trigger for the events of Career Day. Continue reading

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Review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Gwendy's Button Box

Gwendy’s Button Box feels like an homage to Richard Matheson’s superlative short-story “The Box” (which if you haven’t read yet, please add it to your summer reading list!).

Young Gwendy Patterson is running the town’s Suicide Stairs in the summer of 1974 in an attempt to leave her derogatory nickname behind when she enters middle school that fall. She meets a mysterious man in black who offers her a box with buttons. One button will give her a chocolate treat that will help curb her appetite. Another dispenses silver dollars and the others come with warnings that they shouldn’t be pushed except under extreme circumstances. Continue reading

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Review: High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American ClassicGood films are a product of their time. And sometimes understanding not only what went into making a film but also the time in which it was made can lead to a deeper and richer viewing. That’s the case with one of the greatest films ever committed to celluloid as examined by Glenn Frankel in his latest book High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.

Frankel brings together many of the threads that led to the making of the film — from the events leading up to the infamous Blacklist and naming names to the casting decisions for the film. Walking away from the book, you’ll marvel at how many times things could have gone wrong for one of the iconic films of American cinema, but how they all lined up to produce a film that is as taut, entertaining and fascinating today as it was upon its initial release.

Picking up this book will give you a new respect for High Noon and also leave you wanting to view the film again with the new insights gained from Frankel’s thorough account about the making of this celebrated classic.

The story of Will Kaine, a man deserted by his supposed friends in his hour of need, becomes even more gripping knowing what the screenwriter and many of those behind the scenes were putting on the line to make this movie.

Frankel moves easily back and forth between giving us the micro and macro view of events unfolding to create this classic Western. If you’re a fan of cinema, this is an absolute must read. Think of it as a printed version of the best DVD extra features you’ve ever seen.

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Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (The Magicians #1)For most of his life, Quentin Coldwater has used the Fillory (think Narnia) books to escape the doldrums of his everyday life. Now at the age of seventeen, Quentin has been given a chance he never dreamed he had — magic is real and he can become a magician.

Instead of heading to a mundane, normal college, he enlists at Brakebills, a university of magic and begins training. The one thing the books never included was that becoming a Magician is difficult, tedious work and nowhere nearly as exciting as depicted in the novels.

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians follows Quentin and a group of students during the course of their studies at Brakebill’s. Rather than having one book equal one year of Quentin’s life, we’re treated to the highlights of his magical training — from the semester spent in Antartica to the rather odd magical game played among his school and others. The episodic nature of Grossman’s novel ensures that Quentin and the reader never get entirely comfortable with how things are going, including when Quentin and his love interest Alice test out of some of the first year and are moved up to second year early. Continue reading

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