Welcome to another installment of First Line Friday. First Line Friday is hosted by Hoarding Books.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Euginedes
“On the morning that the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide – it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese – the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.”
Today’s review is on Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter.
Denise Hunter has become one of my favorite Christian romance authors. This is the fifth book I’ve read by her and it was alright. I honestly expected to like it a lot more than I did but that honestly could have been due to my mood while I was reading it (feeling very stressed about stuff that was going on in my life at the time).
Driftwood Lane follows Meredith who lives a pretty mundane life, until she finds out that her estranged father has died. Not only does she inherit his inn on Nantucket, but she also gains custody of her three younger half-siblings. However, and instant family is not what she has in mind for her life. She intends to hand over guardianship to the children’s uncle, but no one can get a hold of him, so Meredith goes to take care of them and fix up the inn.
Meanwhile, the elusive uncles gets hired on as the contractor to fix up the inn, however he keeps his identity a secret in order to get a better idea of how Meredith treats the children.
Okay, let me be the first to say that was not super crazy about the plot of this novel. I get why, but it still doesn’t make deception right. Two, I also didn’t like how this was a romance, but yet Meredith is engaged for the majority of it. I get that yes, engagements are broken, and Meredith’s fiance is kind of a jerk, but still her “love” for Jake isn’t real love, it seems to be mainly based on infatuation. But you know what, I could be wrong, there could have been something I forgot about.
I found Meredith to be a bit flat as a character, and I felt like there should have been more said about her childhood, especially since that is the main reason why Jake does what he does.
Then there was Jake, who I felt like the author tried too hard to make swoon-worthy, but I honestly found him irritating. Plus there’s his whole charade of keeping his identity hidden from Meredith and to bug her unnecessarily.
While I liked the overall message of forgiveness, especially towards the end, I also felt like the romance was forced and in a way promotes a false kind of love that is harmful. Love is so much deeper than warm fuzzies which will eventually fade away.
Yes, there is a lot about this book that I didn’t like, but it was still decent and I recommend it to those who are looking for a Hallmark-esque read. 2.5/5 Stars.
Today’s review is on Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Also a quick note: I wrote this review several years ago and it kind of got lost in a bunch of files. Even though my thoughts would be similar, there are probably a few more things that I disagree with the author about, but I would need to reread it.
I had been a huge fan of Lies Young Women Believe ever since I read it nine years ago. I decided that since I am a woman I should try reading Lies Women Believe. I knew it would be different because it is targeted at older women, however I thought I would love it…nothing could be further from the truth. I didn’t really like this at all and I almost put it down several times because there were several things I didn’t agree with the author about.
For those of you who don’t know Lies Women Believe is about 40 lies that Christian women tend to believe, in various areas of our lives, and the Truth from the Bible that should replace these lies that we believe. The author breaks down each lies and shows what God’s Word has to say about it. The lies a grouped into chapters in which the are applicable such as Lies about God, Lies about Sin, Lies about Marriage, Lies about Motherhood, Lies about Emotions, Lies about Circumstances, etc. This book also includes some study questions at the end of each chapter in order to make it applicable.
This book was very disappointing and I want to state that I don’t know everything, so I could be wrong on the things that I disagreed with, but there were a lot of things that I disagreed with that are pretty basic things.
Firstly, at the beginning of each chapter was a section from “Eve’s diary”, I honestly found this distracting and it just didn’t need to be in the book at all. Secondly, the author says that the first sin committed was overeating, I think this a little bit too far-fetched because it was disobedience to God that led to the Fall not overeating. I would like to note though that I do believe that overeating can be a sin issue, but to say that it was the first sin is assuming a lot.
Thirdly, there isn’t a whole lot of Scripture used to back up her statements until the end of each chapter. Fourthly, the truths that are meant to counter each lie are not stated clearly until the end of each chapter in the section entitled “Countering Lies with Truth” – which lists lies and then the truths under each lie, along with scripture references that supports these truths.
I also found several things I disagreed with on motherhood, and found some of the statements that the author made to be irresponsible. For example, one of the lies is that a couple has is planning how many children they want, the author says that to do this is to reject God’s blessing of children and that couples should just trust God. First off, yes we are to trust God, but I think it is good to talk about as a couple before having kids to talk about how many you want, especially where finances are concerned. I believe it is responsible to talk about these things, but I also believe that God can give a couple less or more children than they planned for if it is His will, but I don’t think it is wrong to have a plan.
Even though this review has been mainly negative, I would like to point out a few of the positive things about this book. I really enjoyed the chapters on emotions and circumstances and there were several quotes in these chapters that were really good, for example concerning suffering, “True joy is not the absence of pain but the sanctifying, sustaining presence of the Lord Jesus in the midst of pain.” (p.223) and there were several others that I wrote down that were really good. I also liked the last chapter “The Truth that Sets Us Free” in which the author lists 22 truths that are applicable to all women and that as believers we should remember, along with Scripture to back up these truths. I feel like these three chapters were the redeeming chapters of this book.
While Lies Women Believe was a disappointment compared to Lies Young Women Believe, it did have several things towards the end that can be seen as redeeming qualities of this book. I would also like to point out that even though I disagreed with the author on a few things I believe she had good intentions and she doesn’t say anything that is theologically wrong, it is mainly things that I believe are somewhat liberty issues that I disagree with her on. Therefore because of these things I am giving it 3/5 Stars.
Today’s review is on Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Earlier last year I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid , and I liked it – I could see why there was so much hype surrounding it. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the format which was told in a series of interviews. When I heard that Taylor Jenkins Reid was coming out with another book told in a similar format set during the 1970s, I knew I had to add it to my to-be-read list. However, it took me a while to pick it up.
One of the main reasons why I was hesitant to pick it up was that it had been really hyped up when it was released. However, when I did finally read it, it was good. It wasn’t stellar…it was just good.
Daisy Jones & the Six follows a fictitious band on their rise to fame and the height of their success and what led to their downfall, all during the ’70s when drugs were rampant and rock ‘n roll was the dream of many musicians. No one really knows what led to the band’s break up, but now through a series of interviews the story of Daisy Jones & the Six is being told.
I did enjoy this book, as I mentioned before, the format appealed t me a lot. I also enjoyed getting to know about the ’70s and the kind of seedy underbelly of the music industry and how drugs was a part of many a musician’s life. Whether this is accurate or not, I don’t know, but I would be interested to find out more about this time period.
While this novel does have a plot, it is also very character-driven, especially since each character is interviewed. Almost each member of the band is interviewed, as well as several people behind the scenes. One thing for certain is that each and everyone of these characters is flawed and I think that is for the best because it makes the novel seem more realistic. There are times I wanted to grab each of the characters and shake them for the mistakes they made, and again I think that is the point.
While I do recommend Daisy Jones & the Six, I do so with caution know that there are certain things, such as swearing that some people might not be comfortable with. 3.5/5 Stars.
Today is kind of a different post than my typical book reviews. I had planned on doing a review for this particular book, but I couldn’t – it got to the point where I had to put it down.
These are the five reasons why I did not finish A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury.
Before I jump into the reasons why I did not finish A Baxter Family Christmas, let me just say I didn’t start out wanting to dislike this book. I knew it wouldn’t be fantastic, but I also didn’t think it would be so bad I had to put it down. I honestly expected it be better than the previous book in this series, Coming Home, but it was worse! However, it should be stated that readers will probably enjoy this book if they had not read any of the previous books in the series, but since I had read the previous books in the series, several times, and had some previous knowledge of the Baxter family, the inconsistencies that appear in this book bugged me so much. In fact, this post could probably be entitled, “5 Inconsistencies Drove Me Crazy and Made Me Put Down A Baxter Family Christmas.”
Here are 5 major inconsistencies I picked up on (I’m sure there are others) in the first 60 pages of A Baxter Family Christmas:
1. In the previous book, Coming Home, which takes place two years before the events in this novel, one of the characters, Cole Blake, was said to have finished his sophomore year of high school, yet in this book he is said to be 15 years old, where in actuality he should be 17 or 18. Connected to this inconsistency, is his cousin Jessie, who is said to be 16 in this book, yet he was about 3 years old when she was born in the very first book featuring the Baxter Family, Redemption, which would make her only about 14 in this book.
2. Another age discrepancy is that of Bailey Flanigan Paul. When she is introduced in this book she is said to be 22 years old, however, at the start of Leaving (the first book in her own series) she was 21, and it takes place over about a year and a half to two years, therefore she would’ve been 22 or 23 years old in the last book, Loving, which also happens two and a half years before A Baxter Family Christmas, which means she would be 24/25 years old. That would also mean that her husband, Brandon, would be 26/27 years old, not 24 as it is stated in this book.
3. Two other characters that are mentioned in the second chapter, Andi Ellison and Cody Coleman, are described as having to started dating again, but in Coming Home it was mentioned that they got engaged, which means they should have gotten married already. Either than or something major happened to make them break up – even though it isn’t mentioned in the novel – which is a definite possibility given Cody’s track record of running away from the women he loves.
4. A Baxter Family Christmas introduces Maddie West, Brooke Baxter West’s daughter, as a main character, which is fine, but they make it out that neither her nor Connor Flanigan recognize each other. However, as far back as the previous book it is stated that the Flanigans’ were always at the Baxters’ annual Fourth of July picnic and Labor Day picnic, which means Connor would have seen Maddie there. Therefore, his not recognizing her is kind of ridiculous, because when they are having a discussion it even seems like their paths have never crossed and that the Flanigans don’t have much interaction with the Baxters, but yet, we were introduced to them because Connor’s father used to coach a high school football team with Maddie’s one uncle. And another one of her uncles’, Dayne Matthews and his wife, are mentors and really good friends with Bailey (Connor’s sister) and Brandon, and the whole Baxter clan went to their wedding.
5. Kendra Bryant and her husband were introduced in the last chapter of Coming Home and it was said that after the heart surgery Kendra had changed and started going to church and that their marriage was doing better than before…however in A Baxter Family Christmas they have marital issues, also it was previously mentioned that they had three kids and in this book they are non-existent.
I am planning on reading of some of the other Baxter Family books, however I think one thing I will need to do is to try and not examine for consistencies between books.
Today my review is on Back Home Again by Melody Carlson.
I’ve been intrigued by the Tales from Grace Chapel Inn series ever since I laid eyes on them many years ago at a church library. However, as time went on I kind of forgot about them until I scrolled through my library’s Overdrive selection and stumbled across the title again. I don’t know whether I was intrigued that there a lot of volumes in this series, and that it is written by several authors, or if the title of the series caught my eye, although I’ll admit that originally this was about a church, which I suppose it is a little bit since the name is taken from the church that is next door to the inn. It did end up being very different from how I thought it would be. It’s taken me a while to pick up the first book, Back Home Again, and I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t come across it at a library bookstore, it would probably still be a long while before I picked it up.
Back Home Again follows sisters Alice, Jane and Louise after the death of their father, Pastor Daniel Howard, dies unexpectedly, they find out that he left their childhood home to all three sisters. There is some debate about what to do with the old house, Jane is a chef and would love to turn it into a restaurant, Louise is former music teacher and would love to turn it into a conservatory, however Alice decides that the best compromise is to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, which has been a long-time dream of hears, and it would allow each of the sisters to do what they love while serving the guests that come to their inn. However, as renovations start to get under way the sisters face some backlash from the community and must figure out a way to convince the small town of Acorn Hill that an inn will be a great addition to the town.
When it comes to this book my feelings are neutral, while there were certain scenes that I liked and I was entertained, there was nothing that really grabbed my attention much. It was just okay, nothing bad, but nothing stellar about it either. It did serve as a good introduction to the series, but it also didn’t convince me to pick up the next book in the series…maybe someday I will, but it isn’t exactly high on my to-be-read pile either.
One thing that I didn’t like about the novel at first was that dialogue between the three sisters, and even some of the other characters, seemed to be clunky. I get that the age range of the sisters is 50 – mid 60s, but the dialogue seemed stilted. It did seem to improve a little bit throughout the rest of the novel, but it wasn’t a great start to the book.
It was nice to follow the sisters as they renovate their family home, and even some of the drama they face with some of the old fuddy-duddys in the community, including their own Aunt Ethel. However, some of the drama that was included was pretty predictable, especially the stuff that they run into with their contractor. Another source of conflict happens between Louise and Jane being so different from each other and having differing opinions on how the house should be decorated, however this is further exacerbated that the town catches wind of almost every fight that they have, and it is up to poor Alice to help mediate between the two of them, while also trying to quell the gossip going around.
Unlike some Christian fiction books, there is no guessing about whether or not this is Christian, there are many references to the Lord and Scripture, which is good. However, a lot of the spiritual references do tend to be on the more shallow side at times, but there is definitely a good theme woven throughout the book and that is grace. Through every conflict and piece of gossip that Alice and her sisters face, they are constantly reminded that it is best to respond with grace (although sometimes that is easier said than done). One particular scene that stands out in regards to the theme of grace (I apologize in advance for this slight spoiler) is when Alice overhears two of the town’s busybodies talking about how much the renovations cost and make the assumption that her late father must have embezzled money in order for the sisters to do what they’re doing, instead of responding with anger she realizes she needs to “cool off” before she comes up with a solution to the issue.
Overall, this was a good introduction to the series and I liked getting to know the Howard sisters. However, there wasn’t a whole lot about this book that was memorable our that stood-out. As of right now I have no plans to continue with the series, but maybe I’ll come across the second book in the series the same way I came across this one and maybe I will be compelled to pick it up. 3/5 Stars.
Janelle L. C.
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For those of you who read my review for Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury you might be wondering why I read another one of her books since I seemed to find a lot of fault with Unlocked. Well, I read Leaving for several reasons 1) it was a reread for me – I read this over 8 years ago and wanted to see if and how my thoughts had changed; 2) it is a part of the overarching Baxter Family series and I started rereading those last year; 3) Karen Kingsbury has written several new books following the Baxters and the Flanigans and I want to read them, but I also remember reading one of them and noticing that there were a few inconsistencies and wanted to reread the other books so I could make sure I wasn’t mis-remembering things; and 4)just because I didn’t like Unlocked (at least not the second time around) doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy some of Karen Kingsbury’s other books (or my rereads of them), especially since she used to be one of my favorite authors back in high school. And a fifth reason I just remembered, Leaving is the first book in the Bailey Flanigan series and she used to be one of my favorite characters and in some ways I looked up to her, although I definitely wouldn’t say she is a character I look up to any more.
Leaving follows Bailey Flanigan shortly after the close of the last series – Above the Line – in Baxter Family Saga. She is reeling from the loss of her first love, Cody Coleman, who just up and left her life for no given reason (readers know the reason, but he never tells her). She is also trying to figure out what to do with her life when she graduates from university in just over a year, her dream is to perform on Broadway, but the Lord also opened the doors previously by allowing her to star in a movie alongside heartthrob Brandon Paul. The novel starts with her pondering what to do, but then she gets a call to go audition for an ensemble part in a Broadway musical, she knows this is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that she has been praying for. Meanwhile, Cody Coleman has moved to Indianapolis to be closer to his mother who is imprison. He then hears about a coaching job at a school in the small town of Lyle and gets the job. There he gets tested and is forced to face his PTSD from his days in Iraq, he also keeps thinking of Bailey constantly, but just can’t bring himself to go back to her. There are also glimpses of Ashley Baxter Blake and her husband Landon as they watch their son Cole grow up and are faced with a difficult trial once more.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad read and I can see why 17 year old me really loved this book. However, as an adult I can also see some flaws in the story line. First off, there are a few inaccuracies in some of the information given about past events and where the fall on the timeline of the Baxter Family series, this might be nitpicking, I fully admit that, but I do think authors need to make sure that everything flows well from series to series if they do something similar to the Baxter Family saga, and I would like to note this isn’t an issue that only appears in this series, there are several authors I’ve read that make this mistake. One of the inaccuracies that stood out to me was when Ashley was thinking about her mother’s death (which happens at the end of the Redemption series) and it is stated that she died 4 years previously…however, if I remember correctly it would be more like 6 or 7 years because Ashley’s son Devin is about 4 and she had only just gotten married when her mother died. Again, there were probably others, but this is the one that stood out to me the most. This might not be a big deal for most readers, but for someone who does remember random little details and is trying hard to remember facts about these facts accurately it bugs me a little bit.
Now to the actual story line, in some ways while Bailey Flanigan is probably a good role model for young, Christian women, she also seems to complain(internally) about things meanwhile she leads a pretty privileged life. The worst hardship she’s gone through is not getting to the next round of auditions for Broadway, but let’s not forget that in the previous book series Above the Line, she starred in a movie opposite a famous actor. Yes, she is in that awkward phase of life of not knowing where to go once she graduates from college, but at the same time she’s only finishing up her junior year. She’s got plenty of time still for Broadway to come knocking at her door, she should at least finish her degree. And then there is her moping because she is alone on Valentine’s day, which I get before I met my fiance I used to be one of those women, but can I just add she has a great guy who is dying to date her but she is still hung up over Cody Coleman. I’ll admit when I first read this book I was team Cody, but now that I’m older and hopefully a little wiser than I was back in high school…he is so wrong for her, and in a lot of ways he has no right to pine for her.
I know that Cody “broke things off” with Bailey to protect her, but honestly he should of told her why, or at least tell her parents instead of just running of without a single word and breaking all ties with them. I also think that if he was still so desperately in love with her he should have gone to see her and not run away like a little boy when he saw another guy talking to her. I also think he needs to be being so closed off to people who try to help him. And he needs to be honest, for instance when his old army buddy’s mom tried to setup with another woman when he was still with Bailey in a previous book, he should have said he was seeing someone else. Although he claims to have an undying love for Bailey, he does not deserve her and he needs to get over himself…if he truly loved her he would be honest about why he moved away instead of leaving her with no closure.
And then there is Brandon Paul, yes he is a little forward when it comes to his relationship with Bailey, but at least he is honest with her and he also understands that she is not ready to move on from all her complicated emotions regarding Cody, and he is content with just being her friend. He is also a whole lot more supportive than Cody ever was. Sure, he’s not perfect, sometimes his persistence got annoying, but he does treat her a lot better than Cody ever did.
There is a lot more that could probably be said about Leaving, but I’ve probably said enough. I honestly did like rereading it, but I also noticed a lot of things that when I was younger wouldn’t have been issues, but now they are. And while I no longer love Karen Kingsbury’s books as much as I did almost 10 years ago, I will admit that in some ways they are guilty pleasure read for me. While there are things that bugged me, I still devoured it and had to force myself to put it down at times. It’s almost like it’s my personal drug even though some of it is ridiculous.
I apologize if this review was a little bit harsher than some of my other reviews, but I also feel a need to express my honest opinion.
It was interesting to see how my thoughts have changed over the years, and even my reading tastes. The story was okay and I do still plan on continuing my reread of this series and hopefully things will get better…or not. But you know, this is a good experiment to show how reading tastes are constantly changing with time. Whichever book is my favorite today will probably not necessarily be my favorite book 5-10 years from now and that’s okay! I am giving Leaving a new rating of 3/5 Stars…or maybe 2.5/5 Stars I can’t decide because although there were things that bugged me about this book, I did also enjoy reading it to a certain extent.
Janelle L. C.
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“If you get off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Jack Frost Ski Resort exit, turn left, and travel twenty-two and one quarter miles, you’ll see a sign that reads: Bright’s Pond, Home of the World’s Largest Blueberry Pie.”