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Two novels I finished in the last two weeks…

Welcome to my book update post where I share what books I finished recently + my honest thoughts and star ratings of them.

My Reading Goals for 2021

For 2021, I set a goal of reading 3 books per week —  1 fiction book, 1 non-fiction book, and 1 audiobook each week. I know this is an audacious goal, but reading is something I love and it’s a way I learn, challenge my mind, improve as a writer and communicator, and am refreshed and encouraged through inspiring stories.

I have a few shelves full of books (mostly that I’ve gotten free), so I decided to choose 52 books from off my shelf to read this year (see my list of 52 books I plan to read in 2021 here). I’ll also read other books that I find/am sent that pique my interest. Plus, I plan to go through a lot of audiobooks (I get mine free from the Libby app).

Each week, I plan to give an update on what I read/listened to + my honest reviews. We’ll see how I do with my reading goals. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to hit them, but it will be fun to try!

A Word on My Star Ratings

The star ratings I give the books I read are based on a 5-star rating system. I rarely will ever give a book a 1-star rating (maybe never?), because my philosophy is that if a book is only worthy of one star, I’m more than likely going to quit reading it. 🙂 In the same vein, you’ll also notice that I’ll rarely give a 5-star rating as I reserve those for only my very, very favorite books.

Want to see all of the books I’ve read so far this year? Check out my Good Reads page.


In the past two weeks, I finished two books and here are my reviews…

One of my hopes for 2021 was to read more fiction, because I usually find it easier to pick up non-fiction. Well, I’m happy to report that I actually finished two more fiction titles the last two weeks!

The War That Saved My Life

I had planned to read this book aloud to Kierstyn (mostly just because I wanted to read it because I’d heard a lot about it), but it became available to listen to on the Libby app, so I went ahead and downloaded it.

I’m struggling to review this book because I really enjoyed parts of it and found it to be an engaging story that I didn’t know exactly how it would end. It made me want to keep listening!

At the same time, though, I don’t know how I feel about it being a children’s book. It delves into topics of abuse and abandonment, there is a lot of bullying/abuse based one of the character’s disabilities, and there are a number of other topics that could be triggering to sensitive kids.

But I did love the foster care element of it and how it portrayed the need for people to come alongside and show compassion and care and kindness. I thought it also beautifully illustrated how deeply grief and loss can affect us.

Verdict: 3 stars

As Bright as Heaven

I don’t know what to think about this book, either. On the one hand, the story of Spanish Flu was fascinating in light of the current pandemic. The author talked about how it killed 50 million people worldwide and yet it’s not something that a lot of people are super familiar with. In addition, I appreciated the rawness of how grief and trauma impacts people… and how the loss of life from the Spanish Flu affected people for years and years to come.

At the same time, I felt like the middle section of the book seemed kind of to really sputter and struggle. I also thought there were some side plots that never seemed to develop enough and that the romances were kind of weird and I found myself really questioning the author’s decision to include one of the love stories in the book — especially with how it turned out. (Just because you love someone does not always mean that it’s the right thing to marry them… but I felt like the author kind of was saying that was the “happily ever after” road.)

Verdict: 3 stars

What have you been reading? I’d love to hear!

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  • April says:

    Oh,very intriguing. If author doesn’t mention lack of antibiotics for secondary infection, nutritional deficiencies, and overdosing on the drug aspirin, it’s not worth much in history. I enjoyed learning about that pandemic.

    I love these posts. TY.

  • Leah says:

    I’m currently reading As Bright As Heaven too, and was disappointed to hear you say that the middle is spluttering because to me, the beginning has been slow so far!

  • DarylAnn says:

    I really appreciate your book recommendations that are on the Libby app!

  • Clare says:

    “The War That Saved My Life” was excellent but I would read it as a read aloud and discuss it with your children. The abuse is awful, but children need to know that it is a reality for so many children. My youngest was 9 when we read it and I wouldn’t recommend for any younger than that. The story offered so much hope and healing. There is a sequel that is really good too.

    • I think that it is important to have these discussions (foster care has certainly led to a LOT of discussions on this at our house!), but I agree that it’s important to know your child and to lead them through these discussions together.

  • Elise says:

    Felt the same way about Bright as Heaven! I was fascinated with the historical period and what was happening, but felt frustrated with the ending for that relationship as well. I’ve really enjoyed several of this authors books, but this one left me disappointed.

  • Shauna says:

    It was my understanding that the author intended for Susan (I think that was the caretaker’s name) to be a lesbian. I believe that gets addressed more in the sequel. Does anyone know?

    • Amanda J. Boots says:

      I listened to these books with my 9 and 11 year old kids and did not get that vibe at all.

    • Yes, it’s not clear in the first novel, but I researched it and she said that it was her intent. I have heard that it is more clear in the second novel, but I haven’t read it.

    • Valpalmer says:

      I would say yes.. as an adult I certainly understood that about a Susan. In the other hand my 10 year old did not pick up on that fact. It is not stated at all and you have to see very subtle clues to pick up on it.

  • Lisa Miller says:

    Have you read Life In A Jar? It’s so good and I learned so much! It’s the story of Irena Sendler who rescued 2,500 children during the German occupation of Poland.

  • Jenn DelaCruz says:

    I just finished 43 Autumns and highly recommend it. It’s about a family separated by the Berlin wall.

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