Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Product Details

Congrats to Jan for winning The Choice. It's a great book, and I know you'll love it.
Today, I am giving away Beyond Summer by Lisa Wingate. I haven't read it yet but realized I have it on my kindle and a physcial copy, so I decided to share the "real" book.

To enter to win, leave a comment telling me something fun about your summer. In summer news, today marks one month since I've had a Diet Coke. I never thought I would make it a month without my favorite drink or any other caffeinated drink. I have to say I don't miss it any more. The first two weeks were rough, but it's been fine since. :)

I can only ship to the US. Be sure to leave an email address. I will pick a winner next Tuesday.

The Choice: A Review

The Choice

Every time we make a choice, it impacts not only us but those around us and even some we never meet. An unwanted pregnancy is no exception. Seventeen year old Sandy is blindsided by her unwanted and unexpected pregnancy. Popular cheerleader and girlfriend to a star football player, Sandy has everything to lose. With the newly passed Roe vs. Wade, Sandy’s boyfriend promises her a life of love if she’ll just abort the baby. Her parents want her to leave town to give the baby up for adoption. Sandy’s decision will impact many lives. Will she be able to live with the results?
Split into two sections: Sandy’s life at age 17 when she makes the choice and 30 plus years later as she sees the results of her actions, this novel may be my favorite by Robert Whitlow. It’s hard to talk about the book without giving away the plot too much, but I will say that readers will love Sandy. She’s the typical teen who cares about boys and friends, and watching her grow into a caring woman who puts others before herself makes her one of the best characters I’ve read in a while. 
Whitlow does a great job capturing the emotion of a unexpected pregnancy, and this is a tale that will capture reader’s hearts and leave them thinking about life and its choices long after they close the book.
I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Unbreak My Heart: A Review

The only thing I didn't like about this book was that it ended too early.

One mistake cost Clem everything: her best friend, her reputation, and her happiness. Now, she's stuck on a boat with her family for three months, unable to contact anyone or hide her sadness from her family. When she meets Red, she's forced to hang out with him and finds that his positive outlook and easy personality may be just what she needs to heal.

What makes this book stand out is the pacing that seems to follow the slow and steady boat ride. The author allows the reader to get to know exactly what happened to Clem through flashbacks here and there. Only through the flashbacks do we learn what a treasure Clem lost in her best friend Amanda when she fell for Ethan, Amanda's boyfriend.

There's plenty of typical teen angst and drama, but what stands out is the beautiful friendship of two girls who grew up together. The characters surrounding Clem are great too. I love Olive, her quirky little sister, and I felt the writer did an exceptional job with Clem's parents--portraying them as parents who care but aren't sure what to do. Each character is authentic, which makes it a poignant read for teen girls (and those of us who love YA).

I will definitely checkout other books by the author.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Classroom: A Review

Middle grades often get stuck between children's books and YA, but this book bridges that gap. Witty writing and frequent pictures will make this a popular title with both reluctant and avid readers.

Trevor has studied all summer to prepare for 7th grade, but he knows he can't survive without his best friend and defender Libby's help. When she announces that he has to find new friends and a date for the first dance by the end of the day, he is left on his own to face the bullies and social games. Trevor is a  likable character, and his bumblings make for an entertaining read. The minor characters are fun and add to the overall humor of the book--like the teacher who loves his red Skittles and the AP who is convinced the kids need to eat only veggies.

The format of the book with the stage being set as a documentary and the characters giving journal entries of sorts will appeal to kids, especially those reluctant readers who are intimidated by a lot of text.

The topics in the book--bullying, crushes, friendships, and confidence--are discussed through action and character reactions instead of long dialogue where the reader becomes bored.

I enjoyed this book and plan to share it with my students in the library.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Favorite Authors Question

Here's one of my bookshelves with some of my favorite authors.

I know I have my favorite authors: Dee Henderson, Erynn Mangum, Kristin Billerbeck, Ally Carter, Mary Higgins Clark. I could go on and on.

Here's my question, and I think it's an important one as I review books here on my blog, on Amazon, on Goodreads, and on Extantmagazine.com. Do I hold my favorite authors to a higher standard?

I think sometimes I do. Think about it. We wait so long--sometimes a year--for a new book from our favorite authors. We are so excited that we build that book up in our mind that it's just going to be amazing. Then, sometimes it disappoints because it is not as good as what we imagined or the author is switching up from their normal style. So, does the book deserve a lower rating because of our high expectations?

Anyone have any suggestions on how to avoid judging a new book by a favorite author harder because our expectations are higher? Maybe I'm the only one who does that.

The Scent of Rain: A Review

Daphne Sweeten lost everything in one moment: her wedding day. She gave her dream job working with perfume in Paris to marry the man she loves, who stands her up at the altar and takes her job. As if it couldn’t get any worse, she loses her sense of smell the same day. Forced to move to Dayton, Ohio, where she and her fiancĂ© had planned to live, Daphne will have to figure out a way to work without her sense of smell.

Kristin Billerbeck is the queen of Christian chick lit, and this one won’t disappoint fans or be their favorite. Daphne is a little weaker than most of Billerbeck’s heroines, but the girl has had a lot of major drama piled on at one time, so I have to give her a break there. I like who she becomes though by the end of the novel as she finds her niche.  But, she’s not a standout character by any means.

Jesse, the hero, is wonderful. He is still grieving the loss of his wife. I love that he struggles between being a dad and doing well at his job. I think most men do struggle with long work hours and not enough quality time with their kids even when they have a wife, but in most books with a single dad, the father seems to juggle the job and kids perfectly. Kudos to Billerbeck for addressing it.

The minor characters are fabulous. I love the annoying Kensie and the sweet Anne. In fact, I would love for Kensie to have her own book as she still has a lot of story to tell.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Because Daphne seemed a little bland for a chick lit novel, I can’t say this is a book I will reread. But, it’s a good lazy summer day read.

I was given this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Trinity: A Review

Green Beret Heath Daniels’ feels his life is over after he suffers a head injury and is discharged from the military. When he is offered a chance to train other military dogs and their handlers, he jumps at the chance to prove himself and to perhaps be allowed back in the military. Will he and his dog Trinity be able to save the captured Darci Kintz before she’s killed or Heath suffers another blackout from his brain injury?

Fans of fast paced military thrillers will love this new series by Ronie Kendig, and animal lovers will enjoy it even more. From the first page to the last, there is one adventure and twist and turn of the plot after the other.  What Kendig does well is that action scenes aren’t for entertainment purposes only—each event or catastrophe adds a layer to the development of the characters.  For example, Darci annoyed me at first, but as she endured being captured and tortured, her character developed into one that I enjoyed.

At the beginning of the book, I was a little overwhelmed with the number of characters. It was too many too soon and they had nicknames to keep up with too. Once the introductions were over and the plot began to develop, I enjoyed the characters, especially Trinity, Heath’s dog. Her loyalty and strength made her my favorite character.  

Another thing I enjoyed about the book was its ending. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I was happy it wasn’t the typical happily ever after. It was realistic and sweet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The Choice

Congrats to LAWonder for winning Promise Me This. :)
This week, I'm giving away The Choice by Robert Whitlow. I haven't read it yet because I let my sister read the books first since I'm always behind, but it's next on my to-read pile. I love Whitlow's books.
To enter to win, leave a comment about a choice you once had to make. Of course, I think the most important choice I ever made was to accept Jesus as my personal savior. Another choice that I think was important for me in the last year was to move back in with my mom. I am trying hard to get out of debt, and moving in with her has helped me tackle that debt.I was moving like a sloth (my favorite animal) when I was living alone, but even with paying her some rent money, I am now moving like a gazelle. (If you've done Dave Ramsey, you'll get the gazelle reference.) Plus, my mom was a little lonely living alone after my dad's death, so now she has me for company. It's a win-win.

I can only ship to the US. Get a second entry by following the blog (leave a comment that you follow). Also, be sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you.

Past winners: I know I've been slow to mail, but I'm mailing books today!

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I Didn't Say: A Review

Jake has had a crush on Samantha for a long time but has never been able to tell her....until one night after getting drunk at a party. On his way to tell her how he feels, he and his friends are in a car accident, an accident that takes Jake's voice. Now he won't ever be able to tell her that he loves her. Will Samantha be able to hear what Jake can't say?

This is an amazing book. There are so many things that make this book great.
*I love the characters of Jake and Samantha. Their relationship is sweet and I like that the author kept it fairly innocent...let the reader know that while they were physically attracted to each other, their love was built on more than just sex.
*I also loved Jake's family. I think their dynamics and closeness explains why Jake could react the way he did.
*The topics in this book are tough: teenage drinking, homelessness, loss of loved ones, but they are handled perfectly by honest writing without lecture.
* The little details in this book say a lot: the silence that speaks volumes, the small island town and its dynamics, and the notebooks that hold Jake and Samantha's words.

In addition to Jake and Samantha, the minor characters were great as well and have their own stories to tell. Jordan, Jake's younger sister, and Kali, the guy from Haiti who moves in with Jake's family, have their own stories to tell, and I would love to see the author write about them.

Although it's a YA book, What I Didn't Say is a book for all ages.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Stubborn Heart: A Review

Feeling burned out with her career as a social worker, Kate jumps at the chance to help restore her grandmother’s childhood home in Redbud, Pennsylvania.  She hopes to spend some time making something beautiful again and recharging her batteries, but she’ll get more than she hoped for when she meets Matt, the former hockey star and current home repairman.  

What makes this such a great debut novel is Wade’s voice. The plot is nothing standout although it’s solid: Matt has anger at God since his wife’s death and holds everyone at arm’s length until Kate gets under his skin. That plot has been done before, but I haven’t read it done this well in a long time. I don’t know if it’s the characters or just Wade’s ability to capture a moment and its feelings in just the right way or just her funny voice.

Not only are Kate and Matt well developed and unique, the supporting characters (all elderly, unique hoots) are strong and their stories are fun, especially Velma and Morty. Morty’s affection for Velma could merit his own book. I identified with Kate and loved her spitfire personality and determination. I also loved that Wade made her a little older than many Christian romance’s heroines and unwilling to settle.

My favorite line from the book comes from the demanding Velma, who tells Kate, “Women who have made peace with living alone and women who have a healthy self-confidence can always, but always, afford to be picky.” That line has stayed with me even after I finished the novel. It’s food for thought.

Fans of Christian fiction will love Wade’s first novel and eager anticipate her second one.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Congrats to Liz for winning Under the Cajun Moon. I felt a little bad when I read Melanie's comment because it was obvious she REALLY wanted to win this book, but I have to go with what random.org tells me. :) So, I emailed the gracious Liz, and she agreed to take another book so that Melanie could get Under the Cajun Moon! Isn't that sweet.
So, Liz gets Flame of Resistance, and Melanie gets Under the Cajun Moon.
We'll see what happens this week.

I'm going to give away Promise Me This. I enjoyed this book, and I hope you will too.
To enter to win, leave me a comment about something nice someone has done for you...it doesn't have to be big. Could just be someone accepting another book so that you could get the one you really want.

Be sure to leave your email address. Follow the blog for a second entry.

I'll pick a winner next week.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ten Girls to Watch: A Review

Dawn West is having a hard time after college: she can't break free from her ex, she can't find a job, and her roommate is a bit weird. When she lands a gig tracking down the former Charm magazine's Girls to Watch from the last 50 years, she finds out a little more about herself as she interviews these fascinating women.

At first, I was a little leery of how the author would balance telling Dawn's story while giving the readers tidbits of the women who won the contest. However, I shouldn't have given it a thought. The past winners' stories are woven in seamlessly in Dawn's own story and help develop Dawn as a character almost as much as her own experiences.

Dawn is a likable but kind of weak character at the beginning, but I think most women (me included) can relate to the "can't quite let go of the ex-boyfriend" storyline. Despite a few bumps on the road, she grows into a strong women sure of herself and her career choice.  I loved the twist of her becoming friends with her ex-boyfriend's current girl. Their "friendship" was a fun subplot.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. The plot is fast-paced, the idea interesting, and the characters are well-developed. Charity Shumway's debut novel puts her on the Ten Writers to Watch list.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinons are my own.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Promise Me This: A Review

Many books have been written about the Titanic, and I have devoured them all. This book stands out because the focus is not on the sinking of the ship but on the lives of those affected by the loss of life that day. When Owen Allen sets sail on the unsinkable vessel, he leaves behind his beloved sister Annie and finds himself caring for the young Michael, who sneaked onto the ship. When Owen sacrifices his life for Michael’s, Michael carries out Owen’s dreams of creating a gardening business, and over time, Annie and Michael begin a friendship through letters. When WWI breaks out in Europe, Michael risks everything to save the girl he promised to protect.

I loved that this book didn’t stop at the sinking but continued into WWI. It gave time for Annie and Michael, both young at the beginning of the book, time to mature as characters. Annie is somewhat annoying at first, but she grows into a strong, resilient woman, which I suspect was typical of socially elite girls who were thrust into war in the early 1900s.  Michael is a scrappy young boy, and I instantly liked him. He too grows up quickly and becomes a man worth of being the hero in a novel.

The book is long—400 pages—and spans several years in time, so it’s hard to talk about it all in a short review. There are so many twists and turns as Annie and Michael both endure hardships continents apart, but each one is grounded in historical events and engage the reader enough to forget how long they have been reading.

Fans of Christian historical fiction will enjoy this story of love, loss, and hope.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Flame of Resistance: A Review

When Tom Jaeger’s plane is shot down in Normandy in the spring of 1944, he becomes part of the Resistance’s plan to fight the Nazis because of his German looks. Tom is to visit prostitute Brigitte, who will find out secrets from her customers and relay them to Tom to take back to the Resistance leaders.  Knowing an invasion draws near, the two have little time to uncover the enemy’s secrets. Will it be enough?

I love the idea for this book: an American flyer and a prostitute working together as spies. There’s a lot of room to explore the character’s motivations and to weave an action-packed novel. Instead, there are so many characters and cover names that it took me a good 1/3 of the book to figure everyone out. While I liked the characters of Tom and Brigitte, especially Brigitte, they sometimes seemed lost in the muddle of figuring out who is who. Cutting out some of the excess characters would have strengthened the plot’s pacing and made for a less-confusing read.

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this book, perhaps a little more if they make notes of who everyone is. Once you get halfway through, it becomes a beautiful story of courage and loyalty, much like a WWII version of the Biblical story of Rahab.

I was given this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Congrats to Michelle for winning A Sound Among the Trees. I'll ship the book soon.
This week, I'm giving away Under a Cajun Moon. I loved this book. I'm originally from Louisiana and loved the culture in the book.

To enter to win, leave a comment about a culture you love or would like to know more about. To get a second entry, follow the blog (and let me know you do). Be sure to leave your email address so that I can get in touch with you.
I'll pick a winner next week.
I can only ship to the US.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Starring Me: A Review

Kara McKormick didn't win the competition in First Date, but she's back for another chance at fulfilling her dreams when she is chosen to compete for job on a TV show where she could showcase her singing and acting skills.

Chad Beacon is a star but wants to do more than just singing, so he is eager to be on a new teen variety show. Adamant that Chad be surrounded by Christians, his parents ask his long time family friend Flora to choose the girl to be Chad’s costar and to surprise him with revealing her name right before the show started.

When a tragedy strikes, will Kara turn to the Jesus Addy and Flora have shown her?

Kara was my favorite character in First Date, and I was excited to read her story. She is funny, energetic, and full of life. McGee makes her personality spark from the first page to the last, and the readers are taken on a fun ride as she learns to balance being herself and working in show business. Flora was my second favorite character in the book. Her quirky love for Austen and all things literature combined with her love for Chad and his family made her a great support for Kara.

I know this book was a modern retelling of Isaac/Rebecca from the Bible, but I like that McGee had Chad and Kara meet before it was revealed who won the competition. Knowing they both felt sparks but were clueless that the other was involved in the show added to the buildup and the final reveal at the end of the book.

Fans of Christian YA will enjoy this second novel (read First Date first). Parents can also trust this book with their tween readers.

I was given this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Perfectly Ridiculous: A Review

In the third installment of the Universally Misunderstood series, Daisy finds herself in Argentina for what should have been a vacation with her wealthy best friend and a chance to see where things stand with Max. Instead, Daisy has to go help out at a mission for underprivileged kids in the slums of Argentina so that she can secure her scholarship to Pepperdine. At the mission, things go from bad to worse as Max dumps her and J.C., the cute guy working with her and future classmate at Pepperdine, is bitten by a scorpion and beaten up when he tries to help out an abused kid. Kicked out of the mission, Daisy is fearful of her scholarship and her feelings for Max and J.C. Will Daisy learn to embrace God’s Grace, or will she continue to fear His Rules?

This is my favorite of the three books in the series. I’ve long been a fan of Billerbeck’s adult books, and I felt a little disappointed with her YA books so far. In this book, she hits her stride and delivers a fun read full of funny encounters, sharp wit, and a little bit of food for thought.

In the first two books, Daisy got on my nerves with her back-and-forth feelings for Max, and I feared the third book would be more of the same…just a different country. Adding the character of J.C. mixed things up and brought out a stronger Daisy. I found I liked her a lot better when she was forced to think for herself and when she was around J.C. I also loved the change in her relationship with her overbearing parents, who truly love her despite their awkward dance routines and homemade clothes. Another pleasant surprise was Claire. For two books, she tried fad after fad, searching for a place to belong, and she found it in Argentina. I would love to read about her next adventure. (Hint, hint, K.B.)

Fans of the Daisy series will enjoy this third book, and I do recommend that new fans read them in order. I’m hoping there’s a fourth book so we can see what happens next.

Under the Cajun Moon: A Review

Etiquette expert Chloe Leget thought she had escaped her parents and their French Quarter restaurant and built a life for herself. When her father is shot, she is called back down to New Orleans. Instead of rushing to the hospital, her father's lawyer requests her signature on some documents. When she awakes the next morning, she finds herself framed for murder and just a "follow the recipe" clue. Joined by Travis, a quirky Cajun guy, Chloe must put together the ingredients of her father's recipe to find out who wants her father dead.

I enjoyed this book. I loved the characters of Chloe and Travis, and since I'm originally from Louisiana, I enjoyed the location references, the Cajun history, and the French phrases. In addition to Chloe's tale, readers get to meet Jacques, a French guy back in the 1700s, who is in the middle of a conspiracy by the government to get settlers to the New Orleans area.

What makes this book such a great read is the steady pace of the book. Each chapter is full of action (and character development) and ends on a cliff hanger. I kept thinking I would read one more chapter and then do something else, but I got sucked in each time, wanting to know what happened next.

Fans of Christian fiction, especially suspense with a dash of romance, will love this book.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter: A Review

This book is so good, I find it hard to believe it is Ganshert’s debut novel. The characters are well-developed, the plot well-planned, and the writing well-executed.

When Bethany fled her trailer park past to become an architect in Chicago, she never planned to go back to her past and its memories. However, when her grandfather dies and she is laid off, Bethany is called back to the world she so desperately tried to leave behind. Now heir to her grandfather’s farm, Bethany is stuck since Evan, the brother-in-law of her childhood best friend, owns the farmhouse and animals, making it difficult for Bethany to sell the land. Will being stuck in the middle of nowhere for a cold winter sprout wildflowers in her own life?

Bethany is a cold character. Childhood troubles taught her to bury her emotions deep, yet Ganshert makes her likeable by slowly revealing why she is the way she is. Because the book takes place over almost a year’s time, Bethany’s “thawing” is authentic and profound. Evan is also a great character. Who doesn’t like the farm guy who works with his hands? J

What I think makes this book great is the author’s slow reveals….emotions, feelings, and revelations of the past come at a steady pace, allowing the reader to feel with the characters. The writing style draws the readers in and makes Ganshert a Christian fiction author to watch.   

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms: A Review

The tale of young love separated by family loyalty is as old as Shakespeare, yet it remains a well-used plot in today's novels. In This Amish tale by Cindy Woodsmall, Annie and Aden find themselves falling in love as they work together in his family's restaurant. While both are believers, she is Mennonite and he Amish. Their relationship could not only separate them from their families but also ruin his family's livelihood, which is in part run by Annie's grandfather. Will the strength of their love be enough to bring the two families and communities together?

I'm not a huge fan of Amish fiction just because I feel the plots start to all seem the same, but I felt Woodsmall branched out in her plot...but she added so many plots that the story became diluted in their development and therefore less poignant. In addition to Aden and Annie, readers were introduced to Annie's family--her parents are separated (they can't divorce), and Annie and her family are at odds. Aden has a stuttering problem, and his twin Roman is stuck in a wheel-chair after an accident. Roman is dealing with feeling like less of a man because he depends on Aden's strength. He meets a fiery girl who is a verbal match for him. On top of all that, you have the Mennonite/Amish conflict.

While I enjoyed the story of Aden and Annie, I felt it was boggled down with too many side plots that were wrapped up way too quickly. However, fans of sweet romance will enjoy Aden and Annie's story. I loved their meetings in the cherry blossoms (and the story behind how they were planted), and I love the tree symbolism at the end of the book. Instead of telling both brothers' romances, I would have liked to see better development of Aden and Annie as characters themselves, with each other, and with those around them.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read. Fans of Amish fiction will enjoy it, more so than those who are casual readers of Amish tales.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, July 2, 2012


This week I'm giving away A Sound Among the Trees. I love trees (check out my post below about Boston to see some of my favorite). 

To enter to win, leave a comment telling me about your favorite sound. I love when I have a group of kids in the library and I hear them all reading to themselves. It's even cooler when it's kinder or first grade kids who didn't know how to read at the beginning of the year and then you hear them reading.

To get a second entry, follow the blog and leave a second comment letting me know that.
I will pick a winner next Monday, the 9th. I can only ship to the US.

Happy 4th of July!


Boston is my favorite city. I went once back in 2004 in the winter and fell in love with the history and beauty of the city. I went back last week and had so  much fun. My mom was presenting a workshop for teachers, so I toured on my own. In my last visit, I did the trolley tour and visited all the historic spots, so this time, I wanted to just walk and absorb the city.

I didn't take a whole lot of pictures, but I had to take some tree pictures. :)

I also had to visit the public library. It's beautiful!

One last set: the churches are so beautiful. It kinda makes me sad that people don't build buildings like this any more.

Last few random shots


Sweet, a cupcake shop in Boston but not as good as the ones here

A bridge by Barking Crab, a restaurant with amazing crab cakes

 John F. Kennedy's birth home

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Angel Eyes: A Review

Brielle left her small hometown in search of fulfilling her dreams, but when tragedy strikes, she returns home broken. She finds herself constantly bumping into Jake, a new guy, whose warmth draws her in despite her best efforts to ignore it. When a spiritual battle breaks loose in their small town as evil threatens the lives of innocent children, the two are drawn into a world where the supernatural and natural meet and choices that determine forever are made.

For fans of Christian fiction, picture Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and mix with a teen romance and dab of a girl's journey to find herself. That's what Angel Eyes is. The beginning of the book is a little slow, but by the middle it had picked up to a speed that kept me up until after one in the morning to finish the novel. Brielle is a flawed but well-developed character and teen readers will identify with her. Jake is the typical hero, goofy but sensitive. Girl readers will love him.

The spiritual/paranormal plot fits what is popular with teens right now, and I think teen readers will love the romance aspect of the story. I hope they walk away thinking a little more about the spiritual world and the eternal ramifications of the choices they make.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to book two.

I received this book in exchange for my review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.