Saturday, August 31, 2019

Book reviews with a giveaway: Middle grade books by Melody Carlson

About the Book

Book: Zoey: Meet the Misfits & Zoey: Odd Girl Out
Author: Melody Carlson
Genre: Middle grade fiction for girls
Release Date: April 15/ August 15, 2019

Zoey’s pretty sure her life is over when her wannabe-rockstar mother uproots her from from their home in Seattle and deposits her in Nowheresville, Oregon to live with her whackadoodle grandparents. Things start to look up, though, when she reconnects with Louisa, the girl from across the street. Maybe, just maybe, Louisa won’t mind that Zoey’s always been a bit of a misfit. Louisa’s ex-BFF, however, doesn’t seem too happy to welcome Zoey to the neighborhood. And when they all end up at church camp together, it’s not just a matter of whether or not Zoey can fit in…it becomes a firsthand lesson in what it really means to “love your enemy.”

When the school year begins, Zoey’s terrified to go without Louisa—who’s out with a nasty flu. The same enemies she made over the summer are there to haunt her, but she and another new girl stick together…and even seem to find a place among the in-crowd. But is this who Zoey wants to be? Are they really her friends? Who’s going to stick beside her when cyber bullying leaves her as the odd girl out?

Click here to grab your copy.

My Reviews

Meet the Misfits
The first book of the Being Zoey series, Meet the Misfits, was easy to enjoy.  For being a middle-grade novel, it was a pleasant read for this adult.  Why?  Because the first-person narrative worked.  It was especially important to get inside Zoey's head.  Secondly, Zoey was a believable character.  She was a pretty upbeat, down-to-earth girl, who appreciated beauty and authenticity, and was willing to try new things.  She reacted to good and bad events in a way that is expected of someone her age.  The final thing that I especially appreciated was that even in the midst of plenty of conflict, the story did not get too angsty.  The reactions of characters were always age-appropriate.

Author Melody Carlson gets her audience, and I highly recommend this book for tween readers.

Odd Girl Out
In this continuation of the Being Zoey series, Melody Carlson continues to write a story with its pulse on today's middle-school culture.  Events from the previous book were filled in, so it can be read as a stand-alone, but I enjoyed being able to read about Zoey's continued adjustments to her new town.

What I especially liked about Zoey in this novel was that she had a solid sense about herself:  "I'm good at sports."  "I'm not a techie!"  "I don't want to be a cheerleader."  That made it clear to the reader that something was wrong when her actions deviated from her true self.

There is a theme of bullying and cyber bullying in this book-how easily it can happen, and how damaging it is to a person.  This was done naturally over the course of the story.

I recommend this book to middle grade readers, especially girls.

I received e-ARCs of these books from the publisher, WhiteSpark Publishing, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.
About the Author

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books for teens, women, and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her young adult novels appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including RT’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.

More from Melody

Being a tween these days is more complicated than ever. With our culture’s fast pace, social networking, peer pressure . . . growing up is hard to do. So I wanted to create a relatable character with some tough challenges. And Zoey Petrizzo definitely gets more than her fair share. About to start middle-school, Zoey is forced to relocate her life with her less than conventional grandparents. And it’s not easy! My hope is that readers will either relate to Zoey, or develop more empathy for ‘misfit’ kids like her.

Blog Stops

A Baker’s Perspective, August 29
Blogging With Carol, August 29
Andrea Christenson, August 30
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, August 30
Where Crisis & Christ Collide, August 31
Christian Bookaholic , August 31
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, September 1
Remembrancy, September 1
Older & Smarter?, September 2
Artistic Nobody, September 2
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 3
Back Porch Reads , September 3
Through the Fire Blogs, September 4
Just the Write Escape, September 5
amandainpa , September 5
A Reader’s Brain, September 6
Patiently Waiting, September 6
Godly Book Reviews, September 7
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 7
Texas Book-aholic, September 8
For the Love of Books , September 8
Reader’s Cozy Corner, September 9
Vicky Sluiter, September 9
Hallie Reads, September 10
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 10
janicesbookreviews, September 11
Inklings and notions , September 11


To celebrate her tour, Melody is giving away a grand prize package of Meet the Misfits and Odd Girl Out, Sketching Pencils, and a Sketchbook!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Book review with a giveaway: The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

About the Book

Book: The Yellow Lantern
Author: Angie Dicken
Genre: Christian Historical/Suspense
Release Date: August, 2019

Josephine Is Forced to Spy for Grave Robbers

Step into True Colors—a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

In Massachusetts in 1824, Josephine Clayton awakes on the table of the doctor she’s assisted all these months. She was presumed dead by all and has become the doctor’s next corpse for his medical research. Frightened, the doctor tries to kill her, but Josephine begs to be spared. A deal is struck—Josie will leave her village and work at a distant cotton mill. All the while, she’ll await her true mission—posing as a mourner to help his body snatcher procure her replacement. At the mill, though, Josie is praised for her medical remedies among the mill girls, gaining attention from the handsome factory manager Braham Taylor. Yet, when Braham’s own loved one becomes the prey for the next grave robbing, Josie must make a choice that could put her dark past behind her or steal away the promise of any future at all.

What price will Josie pay for love when her secrets begin to unravel?

Click here to grab your copy.

My Review

This author really knows how to get a reader's attention!  Without sharing any spoilers, I will say that the opening scene was really, really weird!  And totally not the kind of thing that I am used to reading.  Once the book got going, it normalled out for me, and became very readable.  But, being that it was about crime, there were plenty of other scenes that creeped me out and were quite exciting, in an icky sort of way.   All this to say that the author did a good job of giving me a story that I could read, but certainly made a point about the heinousness of the crime.

The darkness of the criminal activity was pervasive throughout the novel, but Josie and Braham's characters were points of light.  Josie used her knowledge of herbal remedies to heal the sick, and Braham was a wonderful factory manager who cared for the well-being of his workers more than profits.  The other characters were well-written, and sometimes it was difficult to know who was good and who was bad, until the end.

Many readers will consider the crime scenes trivial, compared to other books they have read.  Other readers (like me) may be a little more squeamish.  This book is an interesting read, and I recommend it, especially for those who like historical romance with some criminal activity thrown in.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher, Barbour, through Celebrate Lit, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author

Angie Dicken credits her love of story to reading British literature during life as a military kid in England. Now living in the U.S. heartland, she’s a member of ACFW, sharing about author life with her fellow Alley Cats on The Writer’s Alley blog and Facebook page. Besides writing, she is a busy mom of four and works in Adult Ministry. Angie enjoys eclectic new restaurants, authentic conversation with friends, and date nights with her Texas Aggie husband. Connect with her online at

More from Angie

Barbour’s True Colors Crime concept intrigued me from the very beginning. Being the daughter of a doctor and discovering the ties of grave robbing to the early medical profession, I was excited to dive deep into 19th century Massachusetts. Grave robbing around Boston and New York was often employed by doctors desperate for medical advancement. Men and women were both involved in the procuring of bodies for doctors. Finding these accounts led me to take took a look at the current medical remedies of the time—tinctures, elixirs, and herbal concoctions. My heroine was created in the tension of a desire to heal and the desperation of medical pursuits.

Amidst these medical ties to the historical moment of 1824, something was also shifting among women in rural areas of New England. Many women were employed by newly built cotton mills (Lowell Mill was my inspiration for the fictional Gloughton Mill in The Yellow Lantern). These working opportunities for women offered an escape from their home-bound lives and the rare chance for independence. Of course, with such industrial environments, injuries, and sometimes death, would occur. Noting the accounts of these kind of fatalities in historical articles, my research came full circle.

I found three strong threads to weave into my grave-robbing story—desperate doctors in need of research, a doctor’s assistant needing an escape from her village, and a mill, not only offering that escape, but the chance at bodies for the desperate medical community.

My heroine, Josie Clay, found life in the tangle of these threads of mills, medicine, and grave robbing—all playing out within the pages of The Yellow Lantern.

Blog Stops

Genesis 5020, August 15
Seasons of Opportunities, August 15
All-of-a-kind Mom, August 15
Bigreadersite, August 16
Emily Yager, August 16
Inspired by fiction, August 16
The Christian Fiction Girl, August 17
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 17
Daysong Reflections, August 17
Retrospective Spines, August 18
Spoken from the Heart, August 18
Kathleen Denly, August 19
Through the Fire Blogs, August 19
Christian Bookaholic, August 19
Maureen’s Musings, August 20
For the Love of Literature, August 20
Simple Harvest Reads, August 21 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Godly Book Reviews, August 21
A Reader’s Brain, August 21
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 22
Betti Mace, August 22
Locks, Hooks and Books, August 22
Hallie Reads, August 23
Mary Hake, August 23
Inklings and notions, August 23
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 24
For Him and My Family, August 24
Stephanie’s Life of Determination, August 24
Connie’s History Classroom, August 25
Pause for Tales, August 25
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 25
Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 26
Tell Tale Book Reviews, August 26
amandainpa, August 26
Blossoms and Blessings, August 27
Texas Book-aholic, August 27
janicesbookreviews, August 27
Back Porch Reads, August 28
Just the Write Escape, August 28


To celebrate her tour, Angie is giving away a grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a paperback copy of each of the books in the series!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Book review: Core 52 by Mark E. Moore

About the Book

Build your Bible IQ and Christian worldview in just fifteen minutes a day! Over the course of a year, Core 52 will help you master the 52 most important passages in the Bible.

“You will gain the tools you need for living the life God has called you to.”—Kyle Idleman, pastor and author of Not a Fan

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8

Most of us want to know the Bible better, but few reach our goal, often because we’re too busy or we don’t know where to start. Core 52 removes both barriers, offering a common-sense solution that fits into our busy lives. Respected Bible professor and teaching pastor Mark E. Moore developed this proven process from thirty-five years of helping people grow deeper in God’s Word.

Each week features a brief essay, memory verse, Bible story, trajectory verses, and practical ways to put what you’ve learned into practice. An optional “Overachiever Challenge” offers the chance to memorize the top 100 Bible verses by year’s end.

This simple approach allows you to become familiar with the big ideas of the Bible in less time and with less effort than other reading plans. In one year, you can master the core of the Bible—focusing on topics from God’s will to worry, happiness to holiness, and leadership to love. These fifty-two core passages are lenses through which you can read the rest of the Bible with clarity and confidence.

My Review

I appreciated the concept behind the book-that there are fifty-two core verses in the Bible that form a foundation for what the entire Bible teaches.  That could be overwhelming-to tackle that in one year, but I found this book to be very user-friendly.  It's set up to explore each topic for five days, but in easily "digestible" bits and pieces.

It works for me.  The essays are interesting to read, and the Scripture reading is appropriate.  One of the assignments each week is to memorize the key verse, and I have embraced that challenge as I work through the book.  For those who struggle with memorizing Scripture, following this plan and reviewing often makes it doable.

Full disclosure:  I have not read through the whole book yet, but from what I have worked through, I recommend it.  I've found the content to be theologically sound and applicable.  This book is good for individual use, and would be a great tool to use in a small group, Sunday School class, discipleship, or for an entire church.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, WaterBrook, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

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About the Author

Mark E. Moore is an acclaimed author and teaching pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona. He previously spent two decades as a New Testament professor at Ozark Christian College. Whether by helping people make sense of Christianity or teaching students to understand the Bible, Mark’s life passion is to make Jesus famous. Mark and his wife, Barbara, reside in Phoenix, Arizona.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Book review: Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof

About the Book

Book: Daughters of Northern Shores
Author: Joanne Bischof
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: March 12, 2019

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the Norgaard orchard after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade, where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s—which is already imperiled due to a grave illness brought to him at the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

Click here to grab your copy!

My Review

There is just something about Joanne Bischof's writing that just gets down to your soul.  Whether it's the simple joys of love, life, and family, the uncertainty of future conflict, or trust that has been broken, Bischof's books touch the deepest part of your heart.  The second installment of the Blackbird Mountain series, Daughters of Northern Shores does not disappoint.  It continues the story from Sons of Blackbird Mountain, yet it can read as a stand-alone.  This story was paced well, and easy to read. 

Aven, the new girl in the previous novel, embodies contentment, even as the people and situations around her are unsettled.  She was my rock as I read.  My respect for the other characters increased as they faced challenges from within and without.

Understanding the setting is crucial to the plot, and the author transports the reader to the Virginia hills following the Civil War.  I have loved all of the books I have read by this author, and I highly recommend this one.  Readers of historical fiction and fans of Bischof's work will want to pick up this book.

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through Celebrate Lit, for review purposes.  The thoughts expressed here are my own.

About the Author

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children. Visit her online at; Facebook: Author, JoanneBischof; Instagram: @JoanneBischof.

More from Joanne
One of the questions I receive most often is “How do you get it all done?” As a single, homeschooling mom, I’ve long-since learned that there would be easier ways to have a day job than being an author, but God has been gracious in providing abundantly in so many areas. Here are four that I am most thankful for as I look back over the last few years, including this season of writing Sons of Blackbird Mountain and Daughters of Northern Shores.


Now, most authors would agree that “togetherness” isn’t exactly conducive to quality writing time – especially when kids are involved! And while I do need quiet focus to be able to work through a scene or chapter, what I’ve been thankful for is the chance to share story and research discoveries with my children. It’s created more unity around the stories. Instead of needing to usher the kids away, isolating them from the novels I’m writing, I’m able to invite them into them. For the Blackbird Mountain series, I walked them through the Pinterest boards, showing them the different characters. Then we did a history unit on Vikings since that’s the Norgaard Family’s background. We had a blast and it helped make “the story that Mom was working on”, something that they were more aware of and interested in. For my current work-in-progress, we just recently finished an all new history unit including visits to a few local museums and stories that the kids wrote on their own!


I used to want to write, write, write all the time. And often, that’s what I did! Well, I still would love to write as often as I can, but God has been teaching me something oh-so-important: patience. As part of this, I set aside certain parts of the week for writing office hours. These slots of writing time typically occur on Tuesday evenings, and include a few additional 1 ½ hours slots during the week, once homeschooling is done. In this manner, I am able to carve out some quiet writing time while still making sure the kids are having a great and productive day. But for any writer or working mom, we can agree . . . that’s not a lot of time when added up! In God’s wonderful provision, though, He seems to extend much richness to those little snatches of time. They might not be many, but they are mighty! It’s been a prayer of mine for several years now, that by keeping my writing below these other priorities, that God would help me fill in the cracks of time and energy—and He has been so faithful to supply. I still have my moments when I feel frazzled, especially when deadlines are near, and that’s why I am thankful for this next lesson that God has been teaching me . . .


The thing about living with a writer, is that you often find them staring at a computer screen. That doesn’t look all that productive, does it? But what we’re doing on the other side of that screen is weaving a story-world of plot, characters, purpose, and heart. Typing words onto the page that we hope will touch lives, digging through old articles for research, or jotting down messy plotting notes that we pray will somehow amount to a story one day. By communicating with my kids (like sharing with them about the story and characters) I’m able to help them see what I’m doing and why. And since kids can be rambunctious and full of life (and questions, and needs for snacking, and ideas, and messes . . . *wink*) and since this writer works well with quiet, I have a little chalkboard that I hang on my doorknob when it’s one of my “office hour” slots. I jot down my start time and end time for that 1 ½ hour block, add a heart or smiley face, and often make note of what our next task will be like preparing a meal or doing an activity together. Then I shut my door and the little sign dangling from the knob outside helps the kids remember what I’m up to. It reminds them that I won’t be tucked away for long, but that I do need to focus for a little while. They’re always allowed to come knocking if a need arises, but for the most part, they’re happy on these afternoons with their own projects. When the hour or so is up, we reconvene and go back about our day, usually slipping into something fun that we do together. By having these slots of time in the week, and by communicating carefully with them in a way they can understand, it helps to bring us all what we need.


There are days when I blow it, and days when I need a lot of grace. Maybe I’ve spilled iced tea on one of the research books (don’t worry, this is a hypothetical example 😉 ) or maybe I didn’t save a scene properly, or just feel stuck and exhausted with a plot thread. These days can certainly tamper with the harmony, which begins with my heart and the need to remember the reason for why I write these stories: for God’s glory. When I begin to lose my calm, or grow frustrated or weary with the challenges afoot, I know it’s time to circle back to what it’s all for. It’s for the readers, it’s for my children, it’s for my joy, and most of all, it’s for God’s glory. By me being harried or stressed, very little of this is being accomplished! God has used the writing process to speak to my heart in ways that have reminded me of what I can surrender, and more and more of the ways that I can look to HIM for guidance. The lessons aren’t always easy, but through each season, and through each book, I have come to see more and more all the ways to be thankful.

Blog Stops

Retrospective Spines, August 6
Just the Write Escape, August 6
KarenSueHadley , August 7
Batya’s Bits, August 7
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 8
By The Book, August 8
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 9
Adventures of a travelers wife, August 9
Christian Chick’s Thoughts, August 10
Betti Mace, August 10
Connie’s History Classroom, August 11
Christian Author, J.E. Grace, August 11
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 12
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 12
Moments, August 12
Simple Harvest Reads, August 13
Connect in Fiction , August 13
For the Love of Literature, August 13
Aryn The Libraryan 📚 , August 14
Through the Fire Blogs, August 14
Bigreadersite , August 15
Stephanie’s Life of Determination, August 15
Daysong Reflections, August 16
Living Life Free In christ, August 16
A Reader’s Brain, August 17
Texas Book-aholic, August 17
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 17
Inklings and notions , August 18
janicesbookreviews, August 18
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, August 19
LifeofLiterature, August 19
As He Leads is Joy, August 19