Relevant Fiction Reviews: Troubled Childhoods

Relevant Fiction Reviews

Without intending to, I read a lot books in a short period of time in which the main characters either endured or were removed from traumatic childhoods. (Except in the case of The End of the World, in which the characters moved from bad to worse in moving from home to foster care.) I suspect fictional characters experience rough childhoods at a higher rate than the real-life populace. At least I hope so! After all, childhood trauma makes a great back story and provides the motivation needed for a strong character arc. The older I get, however, the more I see what profound effects a family origin has, even well into adulthood.

You may notice I removed the stars from my Goodreads ratings below. Truth be told, I hate star rating systems. I get that they’re a simple snapshot that indicates the reader’s satisfaction with a book, but, most of the time, I struggle with assigning stars. And looking at the books below, I don’t think my assigned stars correlated to how well the books were written when you look at these books side by side. (I had assigned them all four and five stars, but still . . . ) I’d rather let the written reviews stand on their own.

In looking over this list of books, I have to say, months later, the one that still makes my heart clench is The End of the World.

Her One and Only (Porter Family, #4)Her One and Only by Becky Wade

Despite the fact that Becky Wade sits atop my short list of must-read authors, I feared I wouldn’t love this book. At the outset, I didn’t particularly like either Gray or Dru, who is my diametric opposite in nearly every way. Overconfident, completely non-domestic, and beautiful, there are very few ways for me to relate to this gun-toting, risk-taking vet. I feared I could never buy a woman as a bodyguard for a burly NFL player. And (very minor, but . . .) the cover model doesn’t fit my image of gorgeous Dru.

In the end, this is probably my least favorite novel of the Porter Series being that I could actually put it down when I needed to. That said, I still sailed through and can happily give it 4 stars because despite all the aforementioned obstacles, Becky Wade made me care about these characters, especially Gray, who beneath his cocky superstar player veneer, is a solid, honorable guy with tremendous strength of character.

The chemistry and banter between “Revengeress” and “Big Football Player” was great. I liked that unlike a lot of books in this genre, it actually addressed (the struggle of) premarital chastity outright. The suspense aspect of the plot was well done and held my interest as well.

The secondary storyline involving Bo and Meg was a nice way to tie up the series. I very much enjoyed seeing how the other Porters were doing, although an early chapter felt a little too much like it should’ve been tagged, “Previously in the Porter Series . . .”

In sum, solid end to a great series. I’ll miss the Porters.

(I received a complimentary advance review copy from the publisher for my honest review.)

I'll Be YoursI’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones

I’ll Be Yours is so smooth and polished that I found it nearly impossible to put down. Sadly, the small people in my house expect food, clean clothes, fresh diapers, etc., so the reading dragged out for a whole day rather than a single sitting.

I don’t read a lot of young adult novels, but having never had a high school romance, I have a soft spot for this type of story. Every character is vivid and well-drawn. As always, Jenny B. Jones’s wry sense of humor shines through her main character, the strong but scarred Harper O’Malley.

Harper’s past trauma and present drama were skillfully interwoven with handsome football star Ridley’s scars and secrets.

In sum, a heart-warming pleasure to read filled with the hope that only love can create.

(I received an advance copy for my honest review.)

The Marshall PlanThe Marshall Plan by Olivia Folmar Ard

I enjoyed the second book in the Bennett series even more than the first! Olivia Folmar Ard delivers a hard-to-put-down follow-up to The Partition of Africa that would work as a standalone novel. Those who have read the first book, however, will enjoy following Hattie and seeing how her life has changed since Cameron’s (second) proposal.

This well-written story is essentially a portrait in self-centeredness and the ways in which it keeps us from loving fully and freely. With the exception of Hattie, every character exhibits an element of selfishness, but none more than Molly Marshall. Whether it’s her belief in that soulmate “hogwash” or her mistaken notion that love is a feeling rather than a decision, her life has become all about her. From her floundering career to her less-than-ambitious fiance, Molly’s attitudes are all about Molly – until she’s confronted with information that could change not only her life, but Hattie’s as well.

The Marshall Plan is the kind of book I wish I’d read as a young adult, when my sense of justice was impervious to mercy and when ambition tends to override empathy.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

(The author is a fellow member of 10 Minute Novelists, and I received a complimentary copy for my honest review.)

Broken Things to Mend (Power of the Matchmaker)Broken Things to Mend by Karey White

This book had the distinct disadvantage of being read in the shadow of a book that about ripped my heart out. That said, it was an enjoyable novel and a sweet romance. The innocent love story created a stark contrast – almost a dissonance – with the trauma in Celia’s past.

I liked the book and its gentle love story well enough. The author captured the essence of the small town well. I’d recommend it for a light read although it’s not shallow. The characters have depth, but not the kind of magnetism that would incline me to re-read.

The End of the WorldThe End of the World by Amy Matayo

If you’re looking for a light-hearted romp of a romance, keep moving. If, however, you’re looking for heart-wrenching emotion that splinters your heart into almost as many pieces as Cameron and Shaye’s damaged souls, look no further.

The love story you’ll find in End of the World is steadfast and etched in pain. With evocative imagery and vivid introspection, Amy Matayo draws rich characters that will evoke an empathetic ache deep in your chest. Dealing with the painful realities of abandonment and abuse, the story is bleak yet retains just enough hope, enough love, to pull you through to the end. (A satisfying, beautiful ending befitting the power of love and resilience of the human spirit.)

End of the World isn’t so much a story with a message as it is a portrait of love and healing. One that happens slowly, taking one step forward and two back over the span of more than a decade. Though it is a secular, mainstream novel, it brought to mind the verses in 1Cor 13:7-8: “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

(I received an advance copy for my honest review.)