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My “Red Letter Reads” Book Reviews

August 11, 2013

Red Letter Reads

I write for another site that matches my love of reading with my love of writing and spouting off my opinions.  Red Letter Reads is a fantastic new book review site that just got off the ground last year.  I met the owner of RLR, Jessica, at the 2012 BlogHer conference in New York and I’m so glad we ended up sipping our coffee in the hotel lobby next to each other!

The site has new galleys being reviewed before they’re published all the time.  Every genre and category under the sun.  I’ve found some excellent titles here and just couldn’t keep them to myself any longer.  Hop on over to Red Letter Reads to check them out!

My Reviews on Red Letter Reads
orders-from-berlinOrders From Berlin by Simon Tolkien (yes, the author is the nephew of THAT Tolkien who penned The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller


I did not enjoy this book. I love WWII military fiction — it is one of my favorite genres. But that didn’t translate here. I found Tolkien’s characters one-dimensional and the plot too far-fetched, and not thoroughly researched enough to be believable. If reading a spy novel, I’d like to read more detail about spy craft, which was totally absent here. If reading military fiction, I’d like to read more details about strategy, planning and execution. Again, this was missing. The history was shallow, and the plot did not move. If it weren’t for the commitment to review it, I would have abandoned it mid-read. I did, however, slough through it, hoping it would get better. It didn’t.

Grade: F

Read Instead: Anything else. But if truly interested in WWII military spy fiction, consider W.E.B. Griffin’s The Corps series. If more interested in WWII historical fiction, grab Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Just don’t grab Orders from Berlin.

All the Summer GirlsAll The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

Genre:  Chick Lit


All the Summer Girls is a fun, quick beach read. You’ll follow the story of three Philadelphia girls who grow up together spending their summers in Avalon, NJ. The story takes you through how one mysterious event in their early twenties shapes each of them differently into adulthood. This is a great read for those who want a light read about girlfriends with a hint of romance and mystery wrapped together in a coming of age tale. The writing is simple with unique characters, and is a good book for a weekend getaway to pass the time between the tides.

Grade: B-

What Happens In ScotlandWhat Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston

Genre:  Romance, Historical Fiction


I am a sucker for a romance set in historical Scotland.  What Happens in Scotland is right up my alley. While this story was nothing earth-shattering or unpredictable, it was still a pleasant little quick read with all of the elements a good romance should have.  A heart-throb hero who is misunderstood, but whose heart is in the right place.  A misplaced heroine, fighting the restrictions placed on her by society, and chemistry that begins as hate, gets fuels as lust, and turns into love.


“What Happens in Scotland” doesn’t re-create the wheel, but it tells a cute tale.  The beginning was the most original part of the novel, with both characters suffering from drink-induced memory loss. Author Jennifer McQuiston does a great job rounding out the characters and leading us through the plot, however, I wish she had given Scotland its due.  This novel could have been set in any 19th century hamlet.  Scotland as a setting has more magic to offer than McQuiston described. I would prefer more background, more descriptive detail, and a deeper story, but I still enjoyed this light romance.


Grade: B


Read Instead:  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for a deeper, steamier, more magical journey toward Scottish historical romance.


End of Your Life Book clubThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Genre: Memoir



The End of Your Life Book Club is a touching memoir of a mother and son bonding over books, as they face her terminal cancer diagnosis.  Schwalbe did an excellent job threading an impressive book list into the story of his mother’s last years.  There are plenty of dog-ear worthy insights that make the reader love and appreciate his mother.  However, beside these snippets, his development of characters (both of his mother and himself) fell short.

Schwalbe’s writing style is just a bit too dry and event-based to do justice to such a heart-wrenching experience.  Read this book for the excellent reading list, plus the reality of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.  But if you’re after a more emotional reading connection (and if you love a good tear-jerker as much as I do), there are others that do a better job of making you reach for your tissues.

Grade: B-

Read instead:  The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe


More New Reviews to come!

I just finished a bunch of new titles for Red Letter Reads over the past few months, so I’ll be sure to add those reviews here, too.  And fear not, I did award one of the newest titles an “A,” so there is hope!  I enjoy reading and reviewing so much, I hope you’ll join me in discovering lots of great new titles!!


Head on over to my GREAT READS page to check out lots of other excellent titles for yourself and your book club!

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