Winter Tales Book Reviews

Looking for reading inspiration? Check out these book reviews submitted as part of our Winter Tales winter reading program.

Winter Tales



*Reviews are published as submitted by the author. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of East Central Regional Library. In the spirit of community, ECRL reserves the right to not post reviews that contain: profanity or hate speech, advertisements or solicitation, deceptive or misleading, specific endorsement or non-endorsement of candidates or issues or partisan statements. Thank you.


1) Book Title: The Unhoneymooners

Author: Christina Lauren

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: Minnesota based story. Fun and lighthearted read. Great Characters.


2) Book Title: Defy

Author: Sara Larson

Rating: 4 – Fresh Lingonberry Jam

Review: Good read. Looking forward to reading next book in series.


3) Book Title: Without a Trace

Author: Colleen Coble

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: How long would you look for a husband and child, if you knew they crashed in the mountains? Would you let others tell you to stop looking? A young mother of a 3 year old uses her K-9 tracking skills to find her son & husband. Great read.


4) Book Title: Fair Play

Author: Eve Rodsky

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: Nonfiction book on the “fair” division of household chores and responsibilities. Great book that outlines how to organize your home life so both you and your partner are less stressed and more organized. As I read thru the book I kept thinking things like, “This is my life! This is exactly why I’m stressed! She is speaking directly about my life!”

Witty, funny, engaging with practical applications to improve your life, especially when you are busy with children, jobs and life activities. Look forward to implementing her “rules.”


5) Book Title: Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off my Parents

Author: Zac Bissonnette

Rating: 3 – Tolerable (like a trip to IKEA)

Review: I went back and forth on what rating I should give this book. Zac Bissonnette writes well and explained his opinions in a very readable and thorough way. I did not, however, agree with all of his opinions. His belief that all colleges are equal in the education they provide is absurd. Overlooking that, I was able to enjoy the other aspects of his book that focused on real and practical advice for keeping the cost of college manageable.


6) Book Title: Candide

Author: Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire

Rating: 4 – Fresh Lingonberry Jam

Review: I thought Candide was a very enjoyable book; I wonder why it took me so long to read it. When thinking about classics, “funny” and “quick read” don’t often come to mind, but both were true for Candide. I read the Easton Press edition with illustrations by Sylvain Sauvage. They fit the book perfectly. I’ll be recommending this book to others, especially those who want to start reading classics.


7) Book Title: Rules of a Godly Life

Author: Anonymous

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: I really love this book. I don’t recall how it came into my life, but I’m so glad it did. It was written in the early 18th century as a guide for Christian living. Today, it is mainly used by the Amish. I wish more people would read and use it, though. The 47 proverbs that make up this book are just as important for Christians today as they were 300 years ago.


8) Book Title: Unspeakable Things

Author: Jess Lourey

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: The Jacob Wetterling story was the inspiration for this book, so I was uncomfortable with starting it. But, I love Jess Lourey books and it was free from Amazon Prime, so I gave it a try. I’m glad I did. It’s a compelling story from the eyes of a pre-teen girl in a small town where boys seemed to be getting abused. Finding adults that would believe the kids and the events around them made it an interesting read.


9) Book Title: One of Us is Next

Author: Karen M. McManus

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: “One of us is Next” is the brand new sequel to “One of us is Lying.” Both novels are murder mysteries that will keep you guessing right up until the very end.

The premise of murder is edgy enough to keep you quickly page turning through the novel but is grounded enough to be very believable and relatable, which just makes “One of us is Next” that much more engaging.

Summary from Goodreads:
A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

I recommend this novel to fans of “Truly Devious” by Maureen Johnson.


10) Book Title: The Lager Queen of Minnesota

Author: J. Ryan Stradal

Rating: 2 – Cardboard Lefse

Review: **Spoilers**This book was the January selection for my book club. I generously gave it 2 out of 5 stars. The writing needed work. There were several problems with the story I felt a better writer would not have had. For example, one of the main characters states she knew her husband liked her new boss because he always remembered her name (despite his having Alzheimer’s). Anyone who has witnessed someone they know deal with Alzheimer’s knows their problems with recall have nothing to do with whether or not they like someone. Many problems also stood out in the storyline dealing with a teenage girl’s experiences with theft. She chooses to steal high-end power tools with no explanation of how, exactly, a teenage girl would know which brands of power tools were high end. She also flees her burglaries on foot, storing the items in a backpack with a hard hat. Power tools are heavy and can be big. This girl would only be able to steal one or two power tools at a time and yet was able to make thousands of dollars selling them in just a few months. When she was caught by a future boyfriend’s mother, the mother failed to recognize her just a short time later. This episode also had a Minnesota woman warming up her car in a closed garage (something a woman in Minnesota would never do because it would cause the house to fill with carbon monoxide). The entire book set-up a reunion which fell flat when it finally commenced. My conclusion: the story needs work; you can skip this one.


11) Book Title: The Map Thief

Author: Michael Blanding

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: This is a fascinating look at the rarified world of map collectors and map dealers. While chronicling the rise and fall of a well-respected dealer who succumbed to stealing and defacing maps to support his expensive lifestyle, we are also treated to the history of maps and the explorers/artists who admired and created them. In addition, the writer explores how maps helped fuel the past five centuries of discovery.


12) Book Title: You, Me, and the Sea

Author: Meg Donahue

Rating: 3 – Tolerable (like a trip to IKEA)

Review: Touted as a “modern take on Wuthering Heights,” I would have to say Wuthering Heights Lite, at best. It’s a romance novel best suited for a read on the beach, a some what pleasant tale, unrealistic but it has its place as a love story for those who like the idea of soul mates and the attraction of the ocean-side setting of northern California.


13) Book Title: After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: Post-apocalyptic story that grabs you by the throat and does NOT let go until the surprising conclusion.

Mother and daughter (on a boat in a watery world) search for the eldest daughter who was taken many years earlier by her father. Action, adventure, realistic-can totally imagine this happening!!!!

Do not start before bedtime unless you do not want to sleep because you are reading this book!


14) Book Title: To Obama, With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope

Author: Jeanne Marie Laskas

Rating: 4 – Fresh Lingonberry Jam

Review: I am so glad I read this book. Reading letters various Americans sent President Obama during his 8 years in office was a powerful reminder of the troubles our nation faced during that time. It was also a powerful reminder of the amazing man we had guiding us through it all. His thoughtfulness, kindness, and unending desire to serve was displayed again and again in the letters he wrote in response to praise, criticism, and cries for help.


15) Book Title: The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wilde

Rating: 5 – Swedish Meatballs

Review: After reading this play for her Honors English class, my daughter insisted I read it as well. It was intelligent and hilariously funny. A very quick read, but none-the-less charming in its wit. This would be a great choice of play for anyone to read, but especially those who don’t consider plays their type of reading material.


16) Book Title: The Guardians

Author: John Grisham

Rating: 4 – Fresh Lingonberry Jam

Review: This was one of Grisham’s best, involving a non-profit group (Guardian Ministries) that works to free innocent prisoners. The underpaid lawyers work hard and sometimes in life-threatening situations to find evidence that rule in favor of the wrongly accused. It was heartwarming to read of innocent people finally being freed after many years serving time in prison. Good characterization and well-written. Loosely based on a real story.