Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.
All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.
Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.
The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go.
Alice was definitely a jog away from some of Sara Ella’s characters in the past. Some of the past heroines have had more stereotypical “girly” interests, and I had a hard time relating sometimes. Alice is a smart, strong girl with her own goals and her own ways of getting around to them.
Each of her teammates had unique personalities and vibes as well, and I was constantly wondering who was good and who was bad. She created strong dynamics for each of them, and it was neat to watch those all play out with other characters.
I would also like to take this moment to note that Chess Shire is AMAZING. In real life, he’d probably annoy the heck out of me, but on the page, perfection. I’m not normally into the romantic interests very much, so points are due here.
For context, I actually hated Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Still do. I thought it was the dumbest creepiest thing I’d ever seen as a kid. The author did a great job of putting a special new spin on the story. I mean, a dystopian London? How cool is that? The trials had a neat “escape room” feel that I haven’t seen very often in books. And really, there’s just not that many Alice in Wonderland retellings out there.
As a very logical girl myself, it was a good reminder that sometimes the best things in life can’t be explained.
None. Oh, wait, I can think of one, um . . . WHERE IS BOOK TWO? WHEN IS IT COMING OUT? Inquiring minds would like to know.
The Wonderland Trials passed my trial and lived up to all the hype I’d imagined for it before it released. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to plunge down that nearby rabbit hole in search of the second book.
Two handsome brothers. An age-old Appalachian feud. And a love that may tear the Norgaard family apart.
After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.
But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.
As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?
A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.
This book did an excellent job portraying issues rarely well represented in Christian fiction. I loved the thoughtful representation of Thor’s deafness, as well as sensitively handling his alcoholism. And she sensitively portrayed the struggles of a black family in this time period as well! Oh, and also addressed a character dealing with a close family member’s suicide. For real, how does she do it?
The book nailed the relationships between the three brothers. Each brother had their own unique personality, and it was neat seeing what brought them closer together and what annoyed them. Honestly, that was enough to make me keep reading.
And somebody just give Thor a cookie or maybe some coffee, okay? He went through so much.
On the subject of Haakon. I get where he was coming from, but Thor said he was sorry, okay? And proved it a million times over. And then Haakon goes and tries to do that big spoiler thing near the end? As an antagonist, he was spot-on—I understood where he was coming on but was also overwhelmingly frustrated with him.
Just reading the back cover copy, I steeled myself for another stereotypical love triangle, but the unique personalities of each brother really helped pull this one off.
While the brothers were super unique, I struggled a bit with Aven. She fell just a little on the stereotypical emotional woman side for me. I would have loved to have her share some of the uniqueness the other characters had.
This is not the fastest paced book I’ve ever read in my life, and there were a couple points where I had trouble getting into the story just because not much seemed to be happening. Her other novel I’ve read, The Gold in These Hills, was better paced in my opinion.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain sports unique characters, a diverse cast, and a twist on the love triangle for those ready for a slower pace.
Inspired by “The Little Mermaid,” Coral explores what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.
Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. She fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease said to be carried by humans: emotions. Her sister had the Disease, and Red Tide took her away. Will it come for Coral next?
Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at a new group-therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?
Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?
When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?
This is an odd book to try and review.
I had been considering reading this book for a good long while, but honestly got scared away by its trigger warning on Amazon. Years passed, and suddenly, I realized I was an adult who could stop reading if it gave me bad vibes. Story Embers also conveniently ran a book study on it right about that time.
With that in mind, I checked it out from my local library and dove in.
It’s a lot. I do not have triggers related to the subject matter in the book (which sounds very cold to say, but there it is), and there were a couple times I had to take some time to process after reading it. It doesn’t pull any punches. It is both tactful and frank about mental health and suicide, which is honestly refreshing.
But on the other hand, while we’re dealing with deep darkness, we also have this floofy beach romance going on. That’s the best way to describe it. I don’t normally fawn over romance, so after a while, I was ready for Coral and Merrick to just explain their feelings to each other. But it also illustrated really well what living with someone with mental illness is like.
Also, the pinkie promise scene is possibly the best romantic scene I’ve ever read. So.
A couple times, when it veered into floofy territory, I feared losing interest. I was still struggling to figure out what these three characters had to do with each other at all, and felt like I was trying to read three stories at once. But about halfway through the book, some clues get dropped that everything wasn’t as it seemed. It had me racing for theories and waiting to see the payoff. Yeah, none of my theories were right. Those twists alone would make me read it again. The ending doesn't go as anyone had planned, and forces the characters to acknowledge the hard places.
Plus, the settings are gorgeous. Crystal clear, the kind of read that immediately transports you into summer.
The trigger warning is not a joke. This is some deep, heavy stuff. I, as a reader who am ordinarily not triggered by any of the ones described, still needed to process some of the harder scenes.
(A couple that spring to mind off the top of my head was one where the protagonist walks in on the *non-graphic* aftermath of a suicide attempt, as well as a scene where a mentally ill character who has been generally encouraging is revealed to have gone back and committed suicide.)
So if you are triggered by anything of the type, you might want to find someone who can read it with you or just avoid the title for now.
Coral is a perfect beach read, as long as you’re looking for a book to dive into and not just dip your toes in, and as long as those trigger warnings aren’t a concern to you.
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.
Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
You might want to grab a coffee or chai or something and find a comfy seat. This is going to be a long one.
People had been telling me for years that I really ought to read the Wingfeather Saga, but I had never gotten around to it. Lo and behold, LifeWay had the complete collection on sale, and my momma asked me if I would pre-read them for my siblings.
This was my chance! And now I understand why so many people said I should read it.
First off, can we appreciate that INCREDIBLE cover art? My brother pestered me for weeks asking if I was done yet because he wanted to read the book because the cover art was so cool. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but really, look at it. And all four covers look that good!
With that properly appreciated, next up, the narrator! This is such a quirky story. If you don’t believe me, just read both the prefaces to book one. Or just the title of book one, really. That’s not to say the story wasn’t ever serious. It really is, especially the further you go into the story. But the quirky descriptions of the world via the footnotes add that extra charm that pulls you into the story world.
On that note, the footnotes were perfect! (Pun intended.) That way, if someone found the narrator’s commentary annoying, they could just read on without being interrupted. Or, if they were like me and found it utterly hilarious, they could read every single one.
The quirky humor gives way to creative, beautiful imagery at just the right moment. I could see everything so vividly in my head. Those images had the power to make me laugh, breathe in deep, or cringe, depending on the vibe. It gave a very poetic feel to the narrative.
The Wingfeather Saga moved from the twists being fairly easy(ish) to predict in book one to twists that slapped me out of nowhere in book four. This is a story that’s not afraid to take the hard, unexpected route.
My favorite character, hands down, was Nugget. (Not what you were expecting?) Okay, but if I have to choose someone other than the dog, I’d choose Janner right away. I related to him from the first chapters. Janner captures the struggle of an oldest child, torn between his duty to protect his siblings and his desire to discovering himself and the world around him. Add to that all the wild feelings of adolescence, and he has his hands full.
Speaking of Janner . . . THE ENDING. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, Andrew Peterson stabbed my soul multiple times. And then had the nerve to leave the ending to my imagination! How much do I have to pay to get that final chapter? In all seriousness, the ending was unexpected and shocking, but bittersweet and beautiful all at once.
Going into The Wingfeather Saga, I thought I knew exactly what it was going to be. Let’s face it, after a while, many Christian fantasy allegories start to look alike. But the further I got, the less this seemed to be an allegory, and the more it seemed to be just a good story. And, as all good stories should, it nodded to a few things in real life, too. It left a lot of food for thought and a new perspective.
It’s one of those stories that reminds me what it was like to be a child. Makes me believe I can be one again. It rekindles wonder.
This would be a fabulous family read-aloud. Also, much to my excitement, I discovered there is a short film available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. There’s also a soundtrack. And there’s also a show slated for seven (seven) seasons that begins in December of this year.
(First off, a faith-based show with quality animation and story work? Based on an amazing book series? Sign me up. And second off, did I mention this show also has the head of story from How to Train Your Dragon 2 behind it? Meep!)
Yeah, I might have joined the fandom.
The Wingfeather Saga has earned a special spot in my heart and reawakened a sense of wonder and excitement in me. Highly recommend to all families.
One wild and mysterious ghost town. Two second-chance love stories. And the century-old legacy that binds them together.
Upon arriving in Kenworthy, California, mail-order bride Juniper Cohen is met by the pounding of the gold mine, an untamable landscape, and her greatest surprise of all: the kind and loving man who awaits her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper’s husband, John, vanishes, Juniper is left to fend for herself and her young daughter in the dwindling boomtown that is now her home.
Juniper pens letters to her husband but fears she is waiting on a ghost. Perhaps worse, rumors abound claiming the man she loves could be an outlaw. Surviving in a ghost town requires trusting the kindness of a few remaining souls, including the one who can unlock the mystery of her husband’s disappearance—and Juniper’s survival depends not only upon these friends but also the strength of heart she must fight to maintain.
Present day. Trying to escape the heartache of his failed marriage, Johnny Sutherland throws himself into raising his children and restoring a hundred-year-old abandoned farmhouse in what was once known as Kenworthy, California, in the San Jacinto Mountains. While exploring its secrets he uncovers Juniper’s letters and is moved by the handwritten accounts that bear his name—and as a love story from the past touches his own world, Johnny might discover yet that hope and resilience go hand in hand.
Generally, I’m not into the Wild West gold miner kind of novels. For whatever reasons, my historical fancies prefer urban settings. But so many ladies at our church library, along with students on YWW who would ordinarily never read this book either swore by it that I gave it a try.
It really is a beautiful book. First off, I appreciated that it realistically represented divorce. Divorce is a taboo topic in Christian fiction (unless of course, they get back together in the end). It was nice to see all the emotions that divorce brings represented. We saw how it hurts the person involved. Instead of simply labeling Johnny an adulterer because he was divorced, the author showed how he had to make a hard choice for the good of his family overall. And it was a noble choice.
I felt like Johnny was a good character who broke a lot of the male stereotypes. While he liked the rock climbing and everything, he wasn’t constantly athletic. While he definitely wasn’t intelligent, he wasn’t like the brilliant genius. He struggled with big things and small things, but also was extremely capable. His voice was interesting to read.
As for Juniper’s side of the story, I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen. The first chapter opens along the same lines of about a dozen other women’s historicals. But then she turns those expectations on their head and takes the story in her own direction. Her journey to forgiveness was real as well—showing that it’s often a jumbled confused mess and it can take a while to get where you need to be.
Sonoma was a good addition to the story. I loved how she represented her heritage and brought a new sort of joy into Johnny’s life. She was a beautiful character who greatly enhanced the story, even as a side character.
I learned a lot about the culture of gold mining towns and ghost towns as well. The world was very well immersed in the history, and it was very intriguing. California doesn’t seem to play a part in a lot of historicals, and the unique setting enriched the story.
Honestly, the only thing I was unhappy with was one scene with Sonoma. And it’s such a little thing. But seriously? Sonoma wasn’t smart enough to tell that it was a pine branch clunking underneath her car like that? Based on how intelligent her character was, I felt like that was really insulting to her and a surprising play into female stereotypes.
I also would have liked to see more of Oliver Conrad in Juniper’s story. He was played up to be really important at the beginning, and I loved that he represented people with speech impediments. But after the first five chapters, he kind of just dropped off the face of the earth and I wondered why we’d had all that set up with him.
The Gold in These Hills is gold of its own kind—a novel that addresses hard topics and emotions realistically and sympathetically, while also shattering stereotypes along the way.
Lillian’s city is dying. Slowly. Strangled by dust, drought, and oppressive laws that cut down commoner and noble alike. Even Lillian, as daughter-in-law to the Governor, can’t help them.
When a stranger climbs through Lillian’s window with the mythical knowledge needed to spin heat into rain, it seems too good to be true.
But the first real storm in months hardly means the drought is over. With the demand for more rain on one side, and threats from encroaching enemies on the other, Lillian’s choices are limited.
Except maybe the stranger is more than he appears. And maybe the city needs more aid than simply a change of weather.
A Rumpelstiltskin retelling, The Stormbringer’s Name blends timeless elements of unspoken names and bitter sacrifice with clouds of treason, betrayal, and a fine-spun gold thread of courage.
The fifth novella in the Legends of the Light series, this short novel is a stand-alone story and contains a handful of allegorical themes.
I have been so excited for this book to come out! It was one of my handful of most anticipated releases for 2022 and it did not disappoint.
Oh my goodness, all the characters were so well-developed. I didn’t feel like there was one that I was rolling my eyes going, “Ugh, I have to read their chapter before I can go back and figure out what so-and-so’s doing.”
Lillian’s dynamic of being part of the nobility, but feeling as if she didn’t have a voice to speak, resonated deeply with me and drew me into her struggle. Royce’s remorse was presented so deeply and his internal struggle made me love him even more.
Each of the characters, both main and side, had their own motivations and goals. It didn’t resort to the normal “I’m an evil bad guy ha ha ha” tropes; the villain’s motivation was very unique and not what I would have guessed.
While you technically don’t have to read the rest of the series to understand this book, it will be a lot more fun if you have. Cameos from previous books pop up everywhere—one of the amazing plot twists revolved around one of my favorite characters from an earlier Legends of Light, which made the twist all the more excruciating. In the best way possible, I mean.
Did I mention the amazing plot twists? Nothing played out quite as I thought.
The theme and message is so dang deep. I can definitely see that a lot of thought and life experience went into it. It dug deep into my own mind and made me think and wonder long after I finished the book.
The prose is gorgeous. The imagery was spot-on and so unique to the world. Even the sentence lengths seemed used to their very fullest potential. (Coming from a writer who struggles to remember to vary her sentences at all. That would be me.)
Did I get to all the things I wanted to rave about in this post? I think so.
Due to my general inexperience with fantasy of this type, I did struggle occasionally to keep up with what was happening. (I honestly hesitated to put this under the negatives section because it’s not really the book’s fault.)
You absolutely CANNOT miss this book, especially if you’re a fan of fantasy. Even if you’re not a fan of fantasy, I think you should give it a try. All around solid and well-developed, from the characters to the plot to the worldbuilding to the theme. But it doesn’t stop there. It keeps pushing deeper.
Lives depend on the truth she uncovers.
She can't give up her search.
A birthday excursion turns deadly when the SS Eastland capsizes with Olive Pierce and her best friend on board. Hundreds perish during the accident, and it's only when Olive herself barely escapes that she discovers her friend is among the victims.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Olive returns to her work at a Chicago insurance agency and is immersed in the countless investigations related to the accident. But with so many missing, there are few open-and-shut cases, and she tries to balance her grief with the hard work of finding the truth.
While someone sabotages her progress, Olive accepts the help of newspaper photographer Erik Magnussen. As they unravel secrets, the truths they discover impact those closest to Olive. How long will the disaster haunt her--and how can she help the others find the peace they deserve?
I couldn’t put this book down! I had to keep turning “just a couple more pages” to figure out the answer to all the clues they’d found—but then that answer would open up more questions that I had to keep reading to discover! At some points, it’s pretty mindbending. Who knew insurance agents had such interesting lives?
The theme was very applicable and resonant. Olive’s struggle to find herself outside of what she does, outside of how she helped people reminded me of some situations in my own life and opened my eyes along with hers. Her struggle as a woman in a male-dominated field was also portrayed with sympathy for both sides and without being extreme feminist either.
I had never heard of the Eastland disaster, and the book was very informative without pulling away from the story. Olive didn’t just get over her grief and trauma in the snap of a finger, either. The author took the time to take her on a hard healing journey.
I loved that domestic abuse was given a realistic, but hopeful portrayal. It’s one of those topics that seems to be “off-limits” in Christian fiction, and I appreciated seeing that representation done with care and compassion.
Drawn by the Current does more than draw you in. You are fully immersed and splashing in it.
Lucy Claremont's family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it's Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she's discovered in her family home.
Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.
As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers--and the healing--they so desperately seek.
This book explores themes of hope so sweetly and poetically. It’s one of my favorite themes to see popping up in books. The romantic interests really prove their love for each other—they don’t just say it a couple times and kiss several more times and call it good. It also portrays verbal abuse realistically through one of its dual storylines—something sorely lacking in fiction as a whole.
Dash is literally the best. That’s all I have to say.
I’ve decided to include the point of view in the positives, even though it made it hard for me personally to get into the story. I adore first/third person deep point of view so I feel like I’m in a character’s head seeing the world the way they do.
Set the Stars Alight has more of a narrator-feel, like someone from the outside is watching Lucy and Dash and Frederick and Juliette, and telling us very poetically what’s going on. This is a neat addition. It makes us feel like we’re listening to one of Simon’s stories or Killian’s ballads.
But for me, this made it a little tricky for me to get into the character’s head. I didn’t feel like I understood what was driving them to make certain decisions. This isn’t because their motivations weren’t portrayed, I just had a hard time picking up on it because of the format. As a result, it was a little hard for me to get through the book. I also felt like some events were quickly glossed over or I was on the outside looking in for some important events. THIS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE AUTHOR. It was simply my reading style.
It was not as fast-paced as I was expecting. I was expecting more of a treasure hunt type feel. Which it does have. But it's really more about the characters discovering themselves and each other. And you know what, I don't even mind, because the emotional tension in this book is on point.
The climax, however, was what sold me. I would buy this book for the climax alone. (And I had lots of other things I loved about it!) Those scenes where Lucy and Dash are trapped in the cave together—perfection.
Also, look at that cover!!! It's gorgeous.
Set the Stars Alight is a unique book that might not be for everyone. But I think it would be a loss to not give it a read.
The New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind pens a captivating tale of suffering, seeking, and redemption set in Appalachia in the 1850s.
In the misty peaks and valleys of Appalachia roams the sin eater―a myth as much as a man, burdened with absolving the sins of villagers passing from this life to the next. But when a young girl uncovers the dark secret behind the tradition, she vows to show her village the truth.
All that matters for young Cadi Forbes is finding the one man who can set her free from the sin that plagues her, the sin that has stolen her mother’s love from her and made Cadi wish she could flee life and its terrible injustice. But Cadi doesn’t know that the sin eater is seeking as well. Before their journeys are over, Cadi and the sin eater must face themselves, each other, and the One who will demand everything from them in exchange for the answers they seek.
This book doesn’t shy away from the hard. Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Shame. Isolation. Murder. Grief and loss. It dives into it all and mostly keeps its head above water (one instance of the opposite stood out to me and I’ll detail it in Negatives). This would be why it made my Best Reads of 2021 list.
I honestly liked Fagan more than Cadi. That boy suffered. He lost the approval of his dad, which is painful enough. But then the fact that his dad beat him and tried to kill him on top of that? Fagan just seemed to sacrifice more than Cadi did for the sake of the story goal, and I wish he’d gotten more page time.
But that’s not to say I didn’t like Cadi! She has a great narration voice and her pain was beautifully, heartbreakingly scrolled across each page. I liked that this book acknowledged that hard and horrible things happen to young people and that they feel the pain just as much as an adult would. And that they are as capable of standing up for a truth they believe in as anyone else.
The arc of how God changed a broken village from something ugly and twisted into something beautiful certainly shines. And even though the novel isn’t all that fast-paced, it kept me engaged to the very last page.
The conclusion with Cadi’s mother didn’t quite work for me. This woman has horrifically abused Cadi for years, to the point that this ten-year-old wished she was dead. And at the end, she was just like, “Oh, I never meant it, I always loved you.” That’s not how it works. In a situation of abuse (which I have researched for a story of my own), there needs to be a gradual building of trust back. It is often not healthy to return to an abuser until a very long time afterward, if at all. A simple apology can’t just erase years of abuse.
The book also makes use of excessively long passages of Scripture in the narrative. Most of the time this is done very well and it helps push the narrative forward. I’m definitely not against putting Bible verses in a story, please don’t hear me saying that. But when it literally spans four pages and the story comes to a complete stand still for someone to quote Scripture for those four pages? That’s a bit much. A Christian book does need to include explicit truths about Jesus. But if it’s going to go anywhere, it needs to be a great story first. If I randomly put four pages of quotes from another book in my novel, and the quotes didn't affect the scene at all, an editor would remove it immediately.
While The Last Sin Eater is marketed as the Gospel to those who wouldn’t hear it another way, it seems to be targeting already converted audiences to remind them of the Gospel. (Someone who isn’t interested in the Gospel isn’t going to read four pages of Scripture inserted into the narrative.) Which is absolutely fine! We need books like that. But the marketing was a little deceptive.
Another aside—I don’t remember reading in the story anywhere what year it was or where they were living. A little disorienting at first.
The Last Sin Eater has a bump or bruise or two along the way. But overall, this is a story that isn’t afraid to acknowledge the harsh realities of broken humans—and watch them grow past them.
From the bestselling author of If I Were You comes a nostalgic and endearing holiday story that reminds us that sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the ones we least expect and don’t deserve.
Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab―since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.
This is a really sweet story. Even though it’s not fast-paced, the story of a mom trying to teach her son that there’s more to Christmas and life resonates with a wide audience. It encouraged me to think of my own neighbors more, and how I could serve them and get to know them. To be willing to “meddle” in healthy ways. To be willing to give.
The way both Audrey and Eve wanted to be independent may have resonated with more deeply, though. Because we all know what it’s like to make a mistake, whether big or small, and feel like we have to pay it back somehow. We all know what it’s like to be treated as if we’re incapable and to want to show others that we have a place in the world.
Plus, the 1950's are just a time that isn't represented a lot in fiction.
This is a sequel to her novel If I Were You. However, nowhere on the book’s covers or title pages will you find this information. (As you can see in the blurb above, which came straight from the book’s back cover.) To get this, you have to read the author note and acknowledgements in the back.
As a result, I was a bit confused as to Eve and Audrey’s references to their backstory for easily two-thirds of the book. It also was hard to keep the characters straight especially at the beginning of the story—Eve and Audrey were both single parents, Bobby and Harry were both boys the same age, they both came from England, and otherwise were very similar. Once the story developed, some differences presented themselves and I was able to keep up.
If I had read If I Were You, I would already have all the character development I needed to actually care about these characters. (Although, to be clear, the author did a good job balancing the backstory with the current story going on.)
However, it wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the book that I saw that author’s note. So now I have a lot of spoilers for If I Were You that I wish I didn’t have.
To sum up, don’t read The Wish Book Christmas before If I Were You.
This is a sweet story with themes that will touch a few strings deep inside—a great year-round Christmas read. Just don’t read it before you read If I Were You.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!