Thursday, December 29, 2016

My year (2016) in Books as told by Goodreads

I love breakdowns and charts. I enjoy when things are over analyzed and super beautiful. When I saw the button on Goodreads, I knew I just had to check it out. I can not believe I logged 117 books. In reality, I read 140, some of them can't be posted on the blog or Goodreads until 2017! The 117 books make up a crazy 20,733 pages. That just blows my mind.

In this section I figured on of the children's books would be the shortest book, then one of my school research books might be the longest. I enjoyed Apache wars. It is interesting that my average was just at 200 pages. Feels like I read more 300-400 page books than that!

I figured a different book would be the most popular. Brandon L Jackson's poetry book From A Sky's View deserves more love than it gets!

I read a ton of beautiful books this year, so I had a pretty high average rating. I don't believe all the nonsense that goes on in the reviewing community about how #theydonttakeyouseriously if you have a rating above a 4.5. Honestly, if you choose only to read amazing books, or love every book you read, that is awesome! I wish I could be that great at picking out books. This community needs more love and less hate.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review : Runs with Courage

This book couldn't be more timely. I know this has little to do with the actual book, no actually it has a lot to do with it. If you have not heard about the standing rock pipeline protest, I encourage you to read about it here, if this book upset you, the treatment of the protesters by the officers will enrage you.  Click here to sign a petition to bring an end to all the madness

Runs with Courage by Joan M. Wolf follows a little girl named Four Winds. She is a young Lakota girl that has never seen a white person before, her family was moved to a reservation which is slowly killing her tribe. She will soon meet white people when she is taken against her will to keep her tribe from starving to death. She will make great sacrifices, endure endless abuse to ensure her people are safe. 

This is the gripping, fascinating story for resistance and culture, a book eager at sharing the truth. An essential read for all American children today about the horrible boarding schools that Native children were forced into. The Federal Government began sending Native children to boarding schools in the 1870s. This was a time when the government was at war with indigenous people, in the end, a war ended up becoming a genocide that nearly wiped entire cultures from the map. 

While this is a great story and I know children endure horrific abuse inside of these boarding schools I am unsure of how accurate this story is. I didn't find any white washing or stereotyping in this book. I found for such a dense read this book was relatively quick to get through. 

This is a middle school book that doesn't shy away from the tough topics. It shows the rough and dark spot of American history from the perspective of a young girl that could have gone through it. Her story is just one of countless stories that actually happened. It is a great book for children to learn history, face their struggles, and ultimately learn to use the past to help change the future. 

I received this book for review from Sleeping Bear Press in exchange for my honest but completely unbiased review. All thoughts, opinions are my own. 

Goodreads Description: 

Ten-year-old Four Winds is a young Lakota girl caught up in the changes brought about by her people's forced move to the reservation. 

Set in the Dakota Territory, it is the year 1880. Four Winds has been taken away from her family and brought to a boarding school run by whites.

 It is here she is taught English and learns how to assimilate into white culture. But soon she discovers that the teachers at this school are not interested in assimilation but rather in erasing her culture. On the reservation, 

Four Winds had to fight against starvation. Now she must fight to hold on to who she is. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Book Review: The Prayer God Loves to Answer

An excellent new book by Daniel HendersonThe Prayer God Loves to Answer: Accessing Christ's Wisdom for Your Greatest Needs provides a great view of prayer for Christians in every stage of like. Anyone who is struggling to live in a chaotic, broken, world. He uses his pastoral wisdom to help those of us that feel we are stuck in our prayer life. 

What I love most about this wonderful little book is that Henderson does an incredible job of making a difficult topic, easy to understand. He is down to earth, simple to understand, and doesn't feel preachy or condescending. The book reads very well and the flow will keep you engaged.

This book will force you examine yourself and look into areas that many need to work on. In my opinion, the biggest thing that was emphasized in this book is how important wisdom from God and his word is. This book is filled with scripture that will have you diving deep into your bible and putting some of that knowledge to work.

I rather enjoyed learning about the various characters in the Bible, they all had struggles and obstacles they faced just like you and I. However God did answer their prayers and was able to use them in ways that were compelling and life changing. The Bible shows us that he can do the same for each and every one of us. 

Overall this book is ideal for any Christian who wants to grow in their relationship with God. Anyone who wants to become stronger in prayer. Anyone who is seeking wisdom as well as guidance. This isn't a book you will read in a day. This is a book that you will slowly digest and take in.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Links to buy: Amazon // Barnes and Noble 

Goodreads Description:

Should I take that new job? How can I be a better parent? Who should I marry? How can I make ends meet? We all face challenging questions that keep us up at night, and we don't know who to turn to for answers, or even if there's anyone at all who can help. It turns out there is--the very God who created you. 
Everyone needs God's wisdom to navigate the complexities of life and manage responsibilities, difficulties, and relationships. Jesus Christ, the source of all wisdom and knowledge, has not called us to figure these things out for ourselves--he is ready to give us his perfect wisdom as we seek him in prayer. 

In this book, Daniel Henderson shares a Gospel-centered approach to living wisely in a broken world. He gives you practical steps for praying to receive answers in the midst of our confusion and uncertainty as well as questions for group discussion. There is no question you can ask that God can't answer. He's just waiting for you to ask. 

Includes practical prayer guide and questions for group discussion

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Blog Tour : Pray A to Z

Praying is something I have always struggled with as a Christian. When I say this book I figured it would really help me out with how to pray. It is a wonderful book about who to pray over your town and right in your community. How to be purposeful and inspired in your prayer. How to share your burdens with the Heavenly Father. 

Recently I have struggled with some medical issues. I haven't been feeling the best so I decided to pick up this book. I have been working on my prayers and I have to say this book has helped, inspired, and ultimately blessed me in numerous ways. 
The author breaks down your fears of praying, teaches you how to organize your thoughts. She also creates a realistic guide for you. So that you can be genuine and pray deeply for the people you care about and the area that you live. 
I believe that regardless if you are a seasoned prayer warrior, new Christian, or just starting to talk to God this book will be a blessing in your life. It will bring a new meaning to your prayers. Written in a profound way. This book teaches you the simplicity of prayer. This will be a book you will cherish along on your journey with God. 
**Disclosure** This book was sent to me free of charge for my honest review from Life House Publicity for a blog tour. All opinions are my own

Goodreads Description: 
Pray A to Z: Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community (Worthy, November 2016)
Change the world one prayer at a time.
How would our community change if instead of absently saying, “I’ll pray for you,” we actually did pray–deeply, intensely, and purposefully?
Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Praying for Your Community will help you topically organize your prayer requests and lay the burdens of your community at the feet of our Heavenly Father.
With compassion and encouragement, Amelia Rhodes offers Bible verses and prayer prompts, organized topically for every letter of the alphabet. There are five topics per letter–three prayers of petition asking God to work in a certain area of need, and two more prayers of praise to reflect gratitude for God’s presence in the daily issues and relationships of life. Through petition and praise, your specific, focused communion with God will lighten your heart as you place the heaviness of those prayer requests where they belong–on His strong shoulders.
Whether you are praying for a friend’s adoption journey, a neighbor’s bankruptcy, or a family member’s cancer, this book will give you Bible verses, prayer prompts, and prayer starts to guide you through praying for even the most difficult issues that affect the people you know and love. Perfect for either individual or group prayer, Pray A to Z will help you experience the peace that comes from communicating with God.
Author Information: 
Amelia Rhodes is a speaker and author of "Isn't It Time for a Coffee Break: Doing Life Together in an All-About-Me Kind of World." 
Amelia's writing has also been featured in four "Chicken Soup for the Soul" titles, devotionals for the OneHope blog Undeterred and the international devotional "Upper Room." 
Amelia has a growing speaking ministry and speaks regularly to women's groups on topics of spiritual growth, friendship, and community, offering practical tools for living our faith in the everyday. She lives in Lowell, Michigan.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Review: The Sun is Also a Star

I recently read everything everything, and it was unbelievable. When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it also. Once again my heart aches after reading this book, but ultimately I really enjoyed this book. The author is basically a pro at that feeling. How does she do it? The world may never know. This was such a stunning novel. 

The Sun is also a star is a multiple- POV love story. I generally hate love stories in this type of perspective, but this one was with everyone involved not just the main characters. Which was interesting. At the same time, this got a little crazy. 

The story follows Natasha, who is an American-Jamaican girl who believes in science. Things that can be proved. She is facing the worst right now. Her parents are being deported. She only has twelve hours to keep her family apart. The second main character is named Daniel, who is an American-Korean boy who is equal parts romantic, and dreamer. The are brought together in a twist of fate. They are both eager to prove each other wrong. 

The insta-love made me want to roll my eyes. This is sort of different than other YA novels because the premise revolves around the ability to have a romantic connection instantly. 

It was predictable. 

Disclaimer this was kindly provided by the publisher and blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

Ultimately I rated this book a fair 3.5/5 stars. Give it a go. 

Goodreads Description: 

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Book Review: Winter

I want to start this review by expressing just how much I love this cover.  This book is interesting and extremely gripping. Winter, held my interest until the very last pages.

Zimmery Mac, is such a lively character, from town in Pennsylvania.

Goodreads Description:

Ex-marine, Zimmery Mac returns to his loving family in Pennsylvania, just in time before the season of winter. He reunites with his wife, his two sons and his little daughter Lane. But things go horribly wrong when Lane turns up missing. Zimmery embarks on a journey to save her. The only drawback is, every winter, the snow comes to life and devours all who disturb it. Zimmery must find a way to watch his step and watch his back in this exciting but bone-chilling novel

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Audiobook Review: Junie B. Jones

I loved this. This brought back so many childhood memories. I can't begin to describe how incredible experiencing Junie B. Jones again. This is so fun. I am so thankful she finally has made it to first grade.

I really enjoyed the audio and the songs. They mostly have a catchy beat. I can imagine myself being as excited as I would have if I read this back when my life revolved around this little girl. I felt so much nostalgia while listening to this lovely audiobook.

This audio book is perfect for young ones and adults that remember how much they loved this little girls story.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All thoughts,  opinions, and such are my opinion.

Description and More Info: 

Junie B. Jones The Musical is a hit! Listen to the full cast album and the audiobook of Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at last!).
Being in first grade means having to get used to a whole new classroom. And a whole new teacher. And a whole new bunch of strange children. But here's the worst thing of all: When Junie B. tries to read words on the chalkboard…she can’t! Is it possible that Junie B. needs glasses?
This special audiobook edition of Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at last!)contains all the songs from Junie B. Jones The Musical. The musical is adapted from the books Junie B. Jones, First Grader (at Last!)Junie B. Jones, Boss of LunchJunie B. Jones, One-Man Band; and Top Secret Personal Beeswax, A Journal by Junie B. (and Me), by Barbara Park. © 2001, 2001, 2002, 2002, 2003 by Barbara Park.
Song list:
1. Top Secret Personal Beeswax
2. Lucille, Camille, Chenille
3. You Can Be My Friend
4. Time to Make a Drawing
5. You Need Glasses
6. Show and Tell
7. Now I See
8. Lunch Box
9. Gladys Gutzman, Queen of Snacks
10. Kickball Tournament
11. Sheldon Potts’ Halftime Show
12. When Life Gives You Lemons
13. Kickball Tournament (Reprise)
14. When Life Gives You Lemons (Reprise)
15. Writing Down the Story of My Life
Music from JUNIE B. JONES THE MUSICAL – CAST ALBUM, Lyrics by Marcy Heisler and Music by Zina Goldrich
(p) 2016 Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, Administered by Next Decade Entertainment, Inc.; 
Copyright © 2005 Marcyworks (ASCAP) and Zinaworks (ASCAP) Administered by Next Decade Entertainment, Inc. Junie B. Jones® The Musical was originally produced by Theatreworks/USA.
All Rights Reserved Used by Permission
Executive Producer: Monica Corton
Co-Executive Producers:  Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler
Produced by Dan Rudin
Recorded and Mixed by Dan Rudin
Assistant Engineer: Jarad Clements
Ensemble Vocal Contractor: Lori Casteel
Orchestra Contractor: Chris McDonald
Orchestrator: David Weinstein
Copyist: Casteel Music Services
Recorded at Dan Rudin Recording & Production, Nashville TN
Junie B. Jones: Lori Casteel
Lucille/Bobby Jean: Erica Aubrey
Herb: Scott Baker
Lenny/Camille: Galen Fott
May: Sarah Bailey
Mommy: Shelean Newman
Sheldon: David Wise
Jose/Chenille: Chris Lee
Grace: Emily Webb
Daddy: Garris Wimmer
Mr. Scary: Shane McConnell
David Weinstein – conductor
Steve Kummer - piano, keyboards
Craig Nelson/Duncan Mullins - bass
Paul Brannon - guitars
Scott Williamson - drum set
Steve Patrick - trumpet
Jeff Bailey/Mike Haynes - trumpet
Barry Green - trombone
Mark Douthit - tenor and baritone sax
David Davidson, David Angell -violin
Anthony LaMarchina – cello

Audiobook Production Credits:
Junie B. Jones First Ever MUSICAL Edition!
Executive Producer: Orli Moscowitz
Junie B. Jones First Grader (at last!)
Executive Producer: Laura Wilson
Producer and Director: Louis Milgrom
Original Music: Louis Milgrom

Monday, December 12, 2016

2016 : Blog Survey

I wanted to put together a blog survey for you my readers to fill out.  It will allow me hear from you guys about what you like/don't like about this blog. There are only 8 required questions, and it's completely anonymous. I would really appreciate it if you took a minute and filled this out! It should be embedded below, but if not, you can go here.

Blogging is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work. 

The survey is totally anonymous, so feel free to also leave constructive critique or feedback for me if there's something you think I could get better at. The survey responses will involve pie charts if that's any incentive for you (it should be).

Thank you in advance for filling this out!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Review: A Squiggly Story (Children's Series)

This is a series I will be running for a little while, highlighting some excellent children's literature. During the coming months, there will be many children's books. Stay tuned to learn more about it. Read previous posts in this series here. 

A cute and fun loving little boy wants to grow up faster. He wants to learn how to write and read just like his big sister can do. Unfortunately, he is just a little fella still. She tries and works with him. Explaining to him, in words, the little guy can understand, start with learning letters.

Little defeated but still eager to learn. He quickly choices the letter "I." He is making squiggle letters, and he turns them into meaningful words in his mind. He shares his story with everyone, his sister, and his whole class, although he can't seem to figure out how to end this masterpiece.

The little girl is a sweetheart. She encourages her brother in ways beyond her years. She tells him that he can do whatever he wants. She is eager to bring out his creative side. Boy, does this little guy have an imagination. He can complete his story.

This little book will inspire your little ones to be writers and attempt to make stories even if they can't write just yet. The book is packed full of cute little illustrations,  adorable conversations that take place in dialogue bubbles. It makes it feel much more like a comic book over a picture book per se.

This book has a powerful message of imagination, self-discovery, and expression. It gives you a great glimpse into the mind of blossoming children. I believe this is a must read for all family and children of all ages. I highly recommend this book.

I received this book via Netgalley from Kids Can Press for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Goodreads Description: 

A young boy wants to write a story, just like his big sister. But there's a problem, he tells her. Though he knows his letters, he doesn't know many words. “Every story starts with a single word and every word starts with a single letter,” his sister explains patiently. “Why don't you start there, with a letter?” So the boy tries. He writes a letter. An easy letter. The letter I. And from that one skinny letter, the story grows, and the little boy discovers that all of us, including him, have what we need to write our own perfect story.

This picture book from award-winning author Andrew Larsen playfully and imaginatively explores a young child's process of learning to express himself. It promotes the idea that stories are available for everyone to tell, whatever way we can, and will inspire pre-readers to try writing stories of their own. The lively, fun illustrations by Mike Lowery incorporate story panels with dialogue bubbles, adding visual texture. Also helpful, the boy's story is shown both as he actually writes it --- with just a few letters, some punctuation marks and typographical symbols --- and as he imagines it. Celebrating self-expression, self-discovery and imagination, this book would enhance an early language arts lesson on writing, particularly on the parts of a story. It beautifully highlights the exciting worlds that are opened up when children begin to read and write. In a sweet touch, the boy and his sister model a close and supportive sibling relationship.

Author Interview: Reece Ran

Today I have an author named Reece Ran, for an interview. The author of a great book called Winter


Reece Ran
Age 26.
Lives in Indiana.

I'm the only child and work four days a week, but write six.  I’ve been reading and telling stories my whole life. I have a soft spot for psychological thrillers, but I 
adore science fiction fantasy novels.

My favorite foods are chicken, mac and cheese, and strawberry cheesecake.

My favorite movie is The Lord of the Rings and my favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.

Best cartoon on earth is Dragon Ball Z.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Right after high school. I wanted to be a comic book writer/artist, but writing my stories out was easier and faster. Plus, it's nice to let the imagination of the reader take over the visual aspects of the story.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Typically around three to six months. This one in particular took over a year because I had a lot going on in my personal life. But once I got the ball rolling, the rest became cake.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Oh, let's see. After I get off of work around five or six, I head to the bookstore to write; the atmosphere is relaxing. On Friday mornings and Saturday afternoons, I write. I write and edit like six days a week; Sunday is my Sabbath.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Using energy drinks to trick my brain into typing faster. It's weird, but that's just how I roll.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I get my ideas by observing my surroundings, things that exist in the real world, combining those things, and morphing it into something fantastical.  For example, I live in the Midwest, so we get a lot of snow. I hate winter because it's so inconvenient. I remember looking outside my window one day after I watched this sci-fi horror movie called The Thing and said to myself, "The winter sucks; it'd suck even more if the snow came to life and started offing people." And that's how I came up with Winter. My twisted mindset, fused with annoyance, made this story. 

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

 I was 21. Four years from now.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Roller Skating to some good ol' fashion James Brown remixes in Chicago's rinks, also Youtubing. I watch Hodgetwins, Double Toasted, Honest Trailers, Team Four Star and whatever else keeps me entertained. I care for two Yorkie dogs-- Dart and Cody. I talk about Marvel Movies, too. I love the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). I can rant and rave about that all day. Most of my friends aren't nerdy like me, so I keep it to myself most of the time. I also do volunteer community work Saturday mornings, then after writing, watch Netflix, workout, and hang with friends when I can.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

It's amazing how your brain--when it has been creating stories for you your whole life--can work on a sub-conscious level for you. I wrote things that wasn't even premeditated, and it came out amazing. It was awesome. It's like working on a muscle over and over again; it gets stronger, faster, more agile. When you work on your imagination, it literally will take over the creating process for you, doing wonders.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

Well, the first book I ever read was Sandra Brown's Into Darkness. I didn't know how to write until I read that book. It had great character moments, kept you guessing, and hit you hard at the end. So far, it's the only novel I read into the dead of night.

What do you think makes a good story?

As with Into Darkness, keeping your readers guessing, having great character moments, and hitting your readers hard in the end. But on top of that is a great, original premise. Something that no one has read before. I love originality, and I try my best to take what's been done and not do it again.

Ex-marine Zimmery Mac returns to his loving family in Pennsylvania, just in time before the season of winter. He reunites with his wife, his two sons, and his little daughter Lane, but things go horribly wrong when Lane turns up missing. Zimmery embarks on a journey to save her. 

The only drawback is that every winter the snow comes to life and devours all who disturb it. Zimmery must find a way to watch his step and watch his back in this exciting but bone chilling novel.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: Say A Little Prayer

Title: Say A Little Prayer
Author:  Giles O'Bryen
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publishing Date: October 25th 2016
Source: Amazon Kindle
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I won this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway. All thoughts  and opinions are my own and are 100% unbiased. 

This review has taken me a few months to complete. I was that conflicted. I may change my review as I process my feelings, or if I decide to re-read this book. 

I won't say this book as bad. It was just sort of boring in a lot of ways. It lis listed as some incredible thriller but honestly it dropped the ball. The brutality in the first few pages make your prep for some stomach churning drama. I expected this book to pack a real punch. After a while I didn't even want to finish it. It was boring and in parts horrific to read.  

The story start out during the war in Kosovo. James Palatine refuses to leave unless he can save a twelve year old girl. She is dying and he is trying to get her to some sanctuary that will keep her safe. Of course there is drama and questions of how safe she will be. He is sort of forced with the thought of leaving her to her fate. 

It turns out he dropped her off with sex trafficers. She is now stuck in a child prostitution ring. This makes his new mission, to rescue her from the hell he dropped her into. This was such a hard part of the book for me. This is truly a violent, graphic, and somewhat terrible story. 

Maybe I am too sensitive to read topics where children are being hurt or abused. Maybe this book isn't for a faint of heart person. I just felt like this book pushed the envelope a bit much. I just am unsure if the story needed quite so much violence. 

I won't say I don't recommend this book, just understand what your getting yourself into before diving head first. 

Goodreads Description: 

Kosovo, 1999. In the shadow of an impending NATO bombing campaign, James Palatine of the Army Intelligence Corps has joined an elite unit of the SAS for his first mission behind enemy lines.

A woman’s desperate cry for help draws them to a remote farmhouse, where Palatine makes a split-second decision that he bitterly regrets. Just hours later he sees a chance to redeem himself—in his own eyes, at least—when his unit finds a young girl close to death in the freezing woods. But rescuing the girl proves only to be the beginning of a new nightmare.

Against a backdrop of escalating violence, Palatine’s life spirals into an underworld of predatory gangsters and duplicitous spies—and takes him on a journey deep into the horrors of war and the darkness within his own soul.

Author Info: 

I was born in the village of Beaulieu, Hampshire, home to the National Motor Museum, where I got my first job - as a monorail driver. My three sisters and I were brought up in countryside surroundings that were utterly idyllic until we became teenagers, at which point we yearned to go to London.

I've spent most of my career in publishing - books, magazines, journals, web sites - most recently as MD of the political publisher Verso. I've edited everything from literary fiction to legals texts, but my real ambition was always to be a novelist. I started writing properly about five years ago. I love thrillers, adventures and crime, and I had in my mind a strong, intelligent and slightly obsessive character who is capable of great violence, but also feels deeply uneasy about it. This man became James Palatine, the hero of 'Little Sister'. To help differentiate James from other heroes, I decided early on that he wouldn't drink much, and that he would never swear (other characters in my books do - many of them are pretty bad people).

Thinking about James Palatine's character led me to read books about soldiery and violence, and in particular how people react to the experience of killing a fellow human being. This research fed into 'Say a Little Prayer', which I wrote immediately after 'Little Sister', although it is a prequel to that story.

I live with my wife in Tufnell Park, London, where we brought up our three children. For a hobby, I refurbish old steel bicycles from the 1950s and 60s, which I ride around on - rather gingerly, for fear of crashing their clunky old gears or taxing their rudimentary brakes. The Jack Taylor racing bike that features in 'Say a Little Prayer' is one I own, and is just as smooth and sprightly as described.

I have three things in common with my hero, James Palatine: we are both very tall; we both practise t'ai chi; and we both went to grim Catholic boarding schools.