Better All the Time by Carre Armstrong Gardner

Book description:

Seraphina Darling has always struggled to stand out. With her weight issues at the forefront of her mind, Sephy prefers to place herself comfortably in the background. But when Sephy’s best friend and older brother announce their engagement, she vows to make a permanent change in her appearance and her life.

Meanwhile her younger sister, Amy, lands her dream job: coordinating the restoration of the community theater’s arts programs. As the deadline for the project’s completion approaches, Amy continues to run herself ragged, struggling to delegate and trust anyone but herself.

As the Darling sisters move through tragedy and triumph, between shadows and the limelight, each must find a path into the freedom of who God intended her to be.

My review:

I loved the first book in the Darling series by Gardner and this one was just as good.  It was wonderful to revisit the characters of Nick and Ivy and their adopted children to see how they are doing, and I loved getting to know more about Sephy and Amy.

Without a doubt, the best part of this book (and the series) is the characters.  Gardner does an excellent job in portraying a family and describing family dynamics in a normal family.  They don’t always get along, sometimes they downright dislike each other, but they always love each other.  It is a realistic look into life as a family; sometimes, despite being raised in the same atmosphere, by the same parents, children go off on their own and choose to not participate in the family’s life.  We see this in the character of Laura.  The other family members try to include her, but she is still working through her own choices.

The plot was interesting, but it seemed to jump around a lot.  I would have enjoyed more focus on Sephy’s story and less on Laura’s and Amy’s story.  In these kind of family series books, I think it is nice for readers to have each book focus on one story in the family, while we see glimpses of the other family members on the periphery.  There wasn’t enough information about Laura’s story and Amy’s story wasn’t finished.  I’m sure we will see them again in a future book, but it made this book a little scattered.

I feel obligated to mention some topics included in the book in the interest of a balanced review.  Gardner includes topics such as drug addiction, alcoholism, homosexuality, and smoking in the book.  For example, Amy hires a homosexual choreographer for her theater production.  I can imagine that some readers would take offense to that.  Also, there is some drinking at the family’s celebrations, which other readers might not agree with.  In my opinion, it doesn’t detract from the book and I don’t have a problem with it, but other readers of Christian fiction might.  Gardner treats all these subjects in a matter-of-fact manner, without promoting or attacking any view, but readers should be aware of the inclusion of the topics so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to read the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the next one to come out in the Fall of 2015!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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