Book Review: Becoming Me by Melody Carlson

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Becoming Me by Melody Carlson.

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I’ll be honest, I had no intention of picking up this book, it was not on any of my TBRs. But a few weeks ago, I was at a library for a few hours, and while perusing the Teen section I came across Becoming Me by Melody Carlson. I was immediately transported to when I was a teen and was really into the Christy and Todd books by Robin Jones Gunn. I was also into a lot of Melody Carlson’s other books for teens, but I never got to pick up her Diary of a Teenage Girl series . Since I had time to kill, and I knew it would be short, I decided to pick it up and read it, just to see what it was like.

Before I launch into my thoughts on the book, here is what Becoming Me is about. We follow 16 year old Chloe, who is just an average high schooler, who goes to youth group at her church. She hangs out sometimes with the kids from there, but she desires to become popular even if it means ditching her best friend, Beanie. She gets her chance and is suddenly hanging out with the cool kids. But after a series of mistakes, Chloe finds herself not only heartbroken, but kicked out of her new friend group. Her home life is also falling to pieces. She then encounters God and becomes a true beleiver, but still has to fight against various desires in order to live in obedience to HIm.

Alright, so this book was okay. It had good intentions, but it is hard not to see that it is a product of it’s time, back when purity was a huge topic in Christian circles (it was published in 2000). I’ll admit, though, that 15 year old me would have gushed ver this. however, today, at 26 , I found myself eyerolling at certain parts, for example the fill-in the blank purity pledge at the end of the book. Yup. You read that right I think as someone who is still trying to work through and overcome some of the not-so-good ideologies of purity culture and those ideologies had had a negative impact on me, I do cringe when I read stuff that seems to be promoting it. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that sex should be saved for marriage, however it’s al the other things that were tacked onto this principle (belief?) that made it harmful. As well as the fact that purity culture 1)does not prepare individuals for sex in marriage; 2) it tends to show very little grace to those who either have been sexually active , as well as victims of sexual abuse; 3) it promotes the idea that women are objects and that it is only their job to ensure that men aren’t tempted by them – i.e. objectifying them; 4) it also promotes the idea that se is going to be perfect all the time; etc. I digress. For a good and balanced perspective of some of the harmfull teachings of purity culture, I highly recommend Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Joy Welcher. I’m not an expert on this topic, and I like I said before, I’m still working through what is good way to think through this topic. Anyway back to the actual review, I apologize for the tangent.

While Becoming Me did promote purity culture, I do appreciate how the author made it a personal conviction that Chloe had, and not an outright rule that everyone should do. I even like how in conversation with other people she states that she didn’t do it to be better than everyone else, but that she personally felt a conviction from God to do so and that even her dating pledge is for her personally.

I do like how the author also tackles difficult, but pertinent, subject matters, such as sex, being pressured to go further physically, teen pregnancy, teen drinking, death, etc. However, I do think she tries to cover way too much in one book, or at least to me it felt like too much. Let me explain. First, we have Chloe break the rules, hang out with the popular kids, then get kicked out from the popular kids group. She finds out her dad is having an affair, he moves out, her parents repair their relationship, he moves back in. Her dad’s hypocrisy. Josh’s hypocrisy Beanie and Zack sleep together, resulting in Beanie being pregnant. Chloe struggles with her desire to go further with Josh than she should. Breaks up with Josh, makes a pledge to not date and keep herself pure. There is a school shooting at a neighboring school, in which the youth group leader is killed. Like I said, it was a lot and while I can understand why, it still was too much.

Overall, this was okay. I am probably never going to pick up the rest of the series. It was interesting to read Becoming Me, but again, it is very much a product of its time. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Six Degrees of Separation – Second Edition

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my second attempt at the Six Degrees of Separation Tag hosted by Kate W. at booksaremyfavoriteandbest.

Basically each month a book is picked, and then it is up to participants to pick a book that is related to it. For example, it is by the same author, has a similar title, is about a similar subject matter, or even something like you got it at the same bookstore, etc. And you’re going to do it five times, and the goal is to have fun, but also to see how different your first book is from your sixth book, and see how you ended up with the last book. I know I probably haven’t done a great job with explaining this, if you would like a more thorough explanation, I encourage you to check out Kate’s post explaining the “rules.”

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To start us off is Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher. I have not read this one yet, but I do want to get to it eventually since it seems like a great book following a character struggling with mental health. It is also based off of some of Carrie Fisher’s own mental health struggles over the years.

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The next book is Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. This is a novel that follows a teen creator of a web comic who also struggles with anxiety and depression (mental health). When her identity is leaked to the public we see her deal with the negative ramifications, as well as how that further impacts her mental health.

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Based on the word “monsters” in the title, I decided to pick Frankenstein by Mary Shelley next. Although the only connection is the word monsters, this classic gothic horror story follows Victor Frankenstein as he seeks noteriety when he creates his famous monster, who then goes on the rampage. Although not dealing with mental health per se, we do get insights into the mind of the monster and how he just wants to be accepted by people in general, although all they ever see him as is Frankenstein’s monster.

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Next is Dracula by Bram Stoker, another classic gothic horror story featuring the infamous vampire, Dracula. This was written in the same time period as Frankenstein and it is also a famous piece of gothic literature.

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Fourthly, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. This is a modern gothic novel that features the daughters of characters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It also features a lot of other Victorian gothic literature characters such as Dr. Frankenstein, and there is even an appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I have not read this one yet, but I really want to and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.

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Since the previous book features the daughter of the characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde created by Robert Louis Stevenson, I decided to pick one of his other works next. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is a classic adventure novel, that I am sorry to say I have yet to read, but have watched multiple adaptations of it (including the highly underrated Treasure Planet!).

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The last book is Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. It is a very different book from Treasure Island, but I picked it simply because of the word “island” in the title. This is the third book in the beloved Anne of Green Gables series, and it is one of my favorites too.

And those are my Six Degrees of Separation selections for this month.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy.

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I know…I know, another thriller – who is she? I am discovering that I do enjoy certain kinds of thrillers, and there are some I don’t like, i.e. A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell. I picked up The Perfect Mother because it was recommended as a read-a-like for those how enjoyed The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani. However, I need to stop expecting books to be exactly the same, because they’re not. Also, as with my reviews for other thriller, I will be talking about mild spoilers.

The Perfect Mother follows a group of new moms who refer to themselves as the May Mothers, having been brought together by having their babies born in the same month. About two months later, they decide to go out and have some fun, and to get single mom, Winne to join them by hiring a babysitter to babysit her son, Midas. However, tragedy strikes when Midas is kidnapped, and soon the hunt is on to find out what happened to him. As several of the May Mothers find themselves involved in the investigation, they soon find their friendships being changed, as well as secrets from their past being exposed in the media, and it starts to consume their lives.

So I liked The Perfect Mother, I do feel like it did ramble in places, but it was still enjoyable. I liked how we got the perspective of Winnie’s friends: Nelle, Colette and Francie, and how they each feel responsible for Midas’ disappearance, as well as the urge to find him. In some ways their maternal instincts kick in, and they feel empathy because it is as if they have lost a child of their own. It is also interesting how because of their association with Winnie – who turns out to be a former child star – their lives are put on display, especially the dark secrets from their past that they had though had long been buried. Along with this they all still adjusting to the changes that come with new motherhood.

I also liked how the author toys with the readers with the sections that are told in first person. I don’t know about anyone else, but at the beginning I though they were from Winnie’s perspective, however, they are not and it makes it even more creepier trying to figure out who it is and how it ties into Midas’ disappearance.

I also liked how throughout the book we also see how different traumas can impact people differently, especially the person responsible for Midas’ kidnapping. it also explores how people who have been used by people in power for their own personal gain – often sexual gratification – try to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives.

I can also see why someone might not enjoy this book, because it is definitely on the tamer end of the thriller genre, and there are places where it seemed to drag.

Overall, I liked The Perfect Mother. While I can’t say that I loved it, it was gripping enough to keep me reading and I found myself anxiously anticipating finding out what happened to baby Midas, whether he would be found dead or alive, and if he would be reunited with his mother. I am looking forward to trying some of the author’s other works in the future. 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

The Scarlet Pen Blog Tour and Giveaway

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About the Book

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Book: The Scarlet Pen

Author: Jennifer Uhlarik

Genre: Christian Historical Suspense

Release date: July 2021

Engaged to a Monster

Book 12 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

Enjoy a tale of true but forgotten history of a 19th century serial killer whose silver-tongued ways almost trap a young woman into a nightmarish marriage.

In 1876, Emma Draycott is charmed into a quick engagement with childhood friend Stephen Dee Richards after reconnecting with him at a church event in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. But within the week, Stephen leaves to “make his fame and fortune.” The heartbroken Emma gives him a special pen to write to her, and he does with tales of grand adventures. Secret Service agent Clay Timmons arrives in Mount Pleasant to track purchases made with fake currency. Every trail leads back to Stephen—and therefore, Emma. Can he convince the naive woman she is engaged to a charlatan who is being linked a string of deaths in Nebraska?

Click here to get your copy!

My Thoughts

This is the second book I have read in the True Colors series, and I enjoyed it for the most part, but there were a couple of things that I didn’t like that did dampen my enjoyment of The Scarlet Pen a little. 

First, I did really enjoy the premise and that the novel is a fictionalized account of forgotten serial killer – Stephen Dee Richards. I have becoming increasingly more interested in true crime stories, especially ones that seem to have been forgotten by time. While the author does take quite a lot of artistic license, it still made for an interesting read, especially since we do get Stephen’s point-of-view in almost every chapter, and we get to see him descend into the murderer he becomes. 

I enjoyed getting to know most of the characters, however for a good portion of the novel, I found our heroine, Emma Draycott, to be quite insufferable with obstinate and headstrong ways, however I also understand why the author chose to write her this way. I think another reason I didn’t like her at first is that it was too much of a reminder of my own character, which is something I am trying to change. I also enjoyed getting to know Clay Timmons, although there is something that he does in about the last quarter of the book that made him lose a few points in my book, but it more based on my personal preference and a sort-of trope I am just not a fan of. 

My only other complain is that it seemed to take a while for the plot to get going, but I also understand that it needed t happen in order to set the story up. 

Overall, I really liked The Scarlet Pen, even though it had some things that I did not like. I am looking forward to checking out more of Jennifer Uhlarik’s work in the future, as well as some of the previous installments in the True Colors series. 3.75/5 Stars. 

About the Author

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Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a preteen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a BA in writing, she has won five writing competitions and was a finalist in two others. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenage son, and four fur children.

More from Jennifer

Hello, Readers! For all who might never have read one of my stories or come across me, it’s great to meet you! I’m a wife, a mom, a (young!) grandma, and an author—among many other things. My author tagline is “Where Grit Meets Grace.” If you’re familiar with my writing at all, you’ll know that most of my stories at least touch on a bit of the difficult side of life. Death, abandonment, war, addiction, or who knows what else you might find. The Scarlet Pen is no different.

Given that this novel is the final installment in Barbour’s True Colors series, the story revolves around a true crime from history—in this case, the murders of serial killer Stephen Dee Richards—AKA the Nebraska Fiend. Anytime you’re dealing with someone so depraved as he, you’ll find plenty of “grit” to write about. But that’s only half of my tagline. Remember, it’s “Where Grit Meets Grace.

While I love a story that delves into difficult topics and, in some cases, pushes the characters right to the edge of what they can handle, I also love a truly redemptive story. When I was asked to write for this series, the ideas that drew me the most were the ones that had something redeeming in the actual history. There were plenty of interesting historical killers I could’ve chosen where I could have manufactured a positive, even happy ending through the fictional characters in the book. In the case of Stephen Dee Richards, there was no manufacturing needed. The “grace” part was already written. The end of Stephen’s story is precisely why I chose to write about him. I hope you’ll find it as though-provoking and compelling as I did. Happy reading!

Blog Stops

lakesidelivingsite, July 29

Genesis 5020, July 29

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 29

For Him and My Family, July 30

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, July 30 (Author Interview)

Christian Bookaholic, July 30

Southern Gal Loves to Read, July 31

Inklings and notions, July 31

Britt Reads Fiction, July 31

Remembrancy, August 1

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 1

Betti Mace, August 2

Rebecca Tews, August 2

deb’s Book Review, August 2

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 3

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 3

Blogging With Carol , August 3

Older & Smarter?, August 4

Connie’s History Classroom, August 4

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, August 4

Tell Tale Book Reviews, August 5

Bigreadersite, August 5

Godly Book Reviews, August 6

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, August 6

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 6

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, August 7

Back Porch Reads, August 7

Mary Hake, August 7

Through the fire blogs, August 8

sodbuster living, August 8

Connect in Fiction, August 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 9

Texas Book-aholic, August 9

KarenSueHadley, August 9

Pause for Tales, August 10

For the Love of Literature, August 10

Blossoms and Blessings, August 10

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, August 11

Spoken from the Heart, August 11

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of The Scarlet Pen!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/110e0/the-scarlet-pen-celebration-tour-giveaway

Book Review: Promises Unbroken by Kristina Hall

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Promises Unbroken by Kristina Hall.

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Before I get started with my review, I would like to thank the author, Kristina Hall, for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Promises Unbroken is the first book in a trilogy set in the 1920s. In this installment we follow Mae Ashton who, after discovering a picture among her missing sister Hazel’s things, leaves everything she knows and loves in Georgia to find her. Mae’s spurned fiancé, Davis Everleigh follows her to New York City to make sure she’s safe, find out why she left, and help her. However, while they try to find Hazel, they find themselves on the bad side of shady businessman Vincenzo Rossi and his right-hand man, Alberto Moretti, but why are they so adamant to get rid of Mae? What are they hiding? And how does it concern Hazel?

I really liked Promises Unbroken. I found it to be intriguing at times, and there were certain characters that I wasn’t sure if they would still be alive at the end of the book. It also shows the main characters going through some very difficult things and how they each respond to their trials. I also appreciated how the author shows Mae struggling with her faith and her trust in the Lord, which is a very realistic response from someone who has experienced so much hardship. I also like how Davis serves as a foil to how others react – with remaining steadfast and trusting God, he also constantly reminds Mae of God’s faithfulness and how He answers prayer, sometimes just in a different way that we would like.

I really appreciated the message of the novel: God’s faithfulness and how He keeps His promises. It was a great reminder, however there were a few times that it seemed a little repetitive, but that’s just me.

I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters throughout the novel, however, I really wish we’d gotten more backstory on Mae and Davis, not just individually, but also their love story up until the beginning of the novel. We are given brief glimpses, but I would have liked more.

I really enjoyed watching the story unfold and I was held captive until the very last page and I am desperate to know what happens to the characters next. I hope that Mae and Davis make an appearance in the next book, even if they are not the main focus of the story.

I also enjoyed the backdrop of 1920s New York City and dealing with the seediness of the illegal speakeasies and the men that owned them. I appreciate that the author did not shy away from this grim reality that was prevalent during Prohibition, yet she does so against the back drop of hope and redemption.

Overall, I really liked Promises Unbroken: the setting, the plot, the characters, and the overarching message. I am looking forward to reading the next book when it comes out and finding out what happens to the characters next. 4/5 Stars.

If you are interested in learning more about Kristina Hall and some of her other works, you can visit her website at https://kristinahallauthor.wordpress.com

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.