Book reviews for March 2022

Written by Michelle Watson

March 24, 2022

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Here are my book reviews for March 2022. It was a BIG reading month for me because I knocked out a few super-short books.

A Drop of Hope book review

By Keith Calabrese

Middle-grade fantasy novel

Cliffs Donnelly, Ohio, is a depressed small town where we meet a handful of ordinary sixth-graders with everyday problems to deal with. Ho-hum…until the old Tomkins Well in the park begins to mysteriously grant wishes. For real? How? Are miracles actually happening?

I love when authors tell kids that there ARE supernatural powers at work in the world. This isn’t an overtly Christian message, but it points toward the divine, and I like that. This is a heartwarming book for kids ages 8 to 12, but older kids will like it, too.

A Lantern in Her Hand book review

By Bess Streeter Aldrich

Classic historical fiction

It’s 1845, and young Abbie Deal has high hopes for her future. She wants to sing, paint, write, and be grand. Instead, fate leads her to the Nebraska prairie, where she plants corn, raises children, and lives a life that outwardly seems narrow and confined. Yet Abbie’s inner life is rich and broad, filled with deep joys and sorrows.

Abbie’s life as a pioneer wife and mother is unbelievably hard, but we, as readers, get to see how sanctifying it is for her to devote herself to her family with reckless abandon. Could the same be true for we modern-day moms?

Tip: The book has a somewhat soggy middle, but I highly recommend pressing through to the end because that’s where I felt the most payoff.

The Sword in the Tree book review

by Clyde Robert Bulla

Children’s fantasy novel

This is a super-simple, bare-bones knight’s tale for grades 1 to 3. Set in a mythical Arthurian England, young Shan is the only son of the lord and lady of Weldon Castle. He dreams of being a knight and doing great deeds. Then, one day, a wounded man appears at the castle, and everything changes.

The book short and fast-paced, perfect for reluctant (or just antsy) readers. There’s a lot of action and intrigue. The plot has a nice cyclical quality that makes for a satisfying ending. It didn’t feel overly kiddie. It almost has a DiCamillo elegance to it, but not quite.

Tip: Don’t encourage your kids to read the synopsis on the back cover. It gives away half the book!

The Midnight Library book review

by Matt Haig

Contemporary adult fantasy novel

We all have regrets, wondering what life would’ve been like if we’d done X, Y, or Z differently. Nora Seed, our protagonist, gets a chance to find out. It was so much fun to watch Nora try on different possible lives and experience what it would’ve been like to have made different choices, see how life would’ve unfolded if she could remedy her biggest regrets.

I confess, a HUGE reason why I enjoyed the reading experience as much as I did is because I listened to the audiobook narrated by Carey Mulligan, and she is RAD. What a performance! I’m guessing I would not have enjoyed it as much if I’d read the book in print.

Having made my audiobook disclaimer, I must say that the premise was intriguing, the plot was fast-paced, and the writing was impeccable.

Ultimately, the book asserts that it’s NOT our life itself that disappoints us but rather our perception of it and its potential. We can be disappointed with even the most exquisite of circumstances if we are determined to be discontented. This I agree with. And it’s a blazing affirmation of life, which is fantastic.

I didn’t like the woo-woo spirituality of quantum physics and the notion that we can even hope to experience true joy without Jesus Christ. The only real relief we can find from regret is remission of sins, and that’s the truth.

The Maid book review

by Nita Prose

Contemporary mystery novel

On a normal day at work, cleaning rooms at a fancy hotel, Molly the maid finds a wealthy tycoon dead in his bed. Dun-dun-DUNN! Love me a whodunnit.

Molly is a great character. She is a maid in a fancy hotel. She also has a hard time in social situations. I’m not sure exactly what kind of ailment the author had in mind when crafting Molly, but she’s highly literal. She can only interpret what’s on the surface (a person’s words, for example) and not what’s under the surface (the subtext of those words). She is so loveable, and her cluelessness makes for some very funny, laugh-out-loud scenes. And I think we can all relate to Molly.

I like murder mysteries because the goal is to uncover truth. The pursuit of truth. What TRULY happened? This appeals to me. Sadly, this book isn’t particularly concerned with uncovering the truth. The book also reinforces the idea that sometimes you have to do a bad thing to make a good thing happen. I wasn’t fully on board with how this was presented. And there was quite a bit of social commentary that was too on the nose for my taste.

Tip: This was excellent on audio!

Loving the Little Years book review

by Rachel Jankovic

Christian motherhood

The trenches indeed! Any new mom will be able to see herself in this book. It’s part devotional, part practical parenting advice. The ultra-short chapters are Mom-approved. Jankovic does not waste your time. She gets straight to each bite-sized point. The overall theme: “One of the great things about having children is that you constantly convict yourself by teaching them.” So true!

Jankovic has a great sense of humor and the ability to connect with moms—”I see you,” she says, “And so does Jesus.” But she doesn’t offer only the sympathetic words of a commiserating friend, a fellow mom in arms. She offers some help. I was actually surprised by some of her straight talk—a pill with no sugar coating whatsoever. There were a few moments that rubbed like sandpaper, and I’m still turning them over in my mind, letting them compost, seeing what grows.

The Next Right Thing book review

by Rachel Jankovic

Christian self-help

I’ve always been indecisive. I remember standing in front of the prize counter at Chuck-E-Cheese agonizing over how I was going to spend my 34 tickets. Choices, choices! This book offers a refreshing perspective on godly decision-making, especially when we’re confronted with choices that weigh much more than 34 tickets.

This book offers helpful frameworks for thinking about decisions so that they don’t weigh so heavily and feel so fearsome. The chapters are short, the concepts are grounded in scripture, and Freeman even includes a little prayer and “next step” at the end of each chapter. You could totally read this like a daily devotional.

The Blue Castle book review

by L. M. Montgomery

Classic historical romance

This is a little-known romance by the author of Anne of Green Gables. It’s the Roaring 20s, and Valancy Stirling is turning 29. She’s depressed because she’s an old maid. She feels unattractive and unwanted. Well, Valancy gets some BIG news on her birthday, and it frees her from her prison. She decides to finally live according to her own principles and the dictates of her own conscience, even if everyone in her life disapproves.

This book is deeply romantic, but it’s actually more about Valancy’s personal growth and how she comes to life. It’s about becoming yourself, but not in a self-absorbed way. This is so uncanny and brilliantly done. L. M. Montgomery has a way of seeing through what society says is important, and peeling back those layers of fluff to uncover what’s TRULY important. And this is always so refreshing to me, and it’s such a gift when I’m confronted with it!

Tip: The first few chapters are Debbie Downers because Valancy’s life is so sad when the book opens. Push through those first chapters because things definitely perk up and get spicier and funnier!

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  1. Elena W

    I absolutely loved The Blue Castle! I read it twice last year and I rarely re-read books! It was witty, sweet, and just so well done. Linking my recent reads, if interested!

    • Michelle Watson

      I’m SO glad you commented, Elena! I love your recent reviews! Our reading tastes overlap quite a bit! I loved Once Upon a Wardrobe, too. I enjoyed A Fall of Marigolds, Lovely War, and I’m always up for something by Agatha Christie. I’ve had my eye on the Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Last Bookshop in London. I’ve never read any Charles Martin but I’ve wanted to. What book of his do you suggest I start with?


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