Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

The state of Maine plans to shut down her island's schoolhouse, which would force Tess's family to move to the mainland--and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own--and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess's wish come true or will her luck run out?

Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord offers a warm-hearted, humorous, and thoughtful look at what it means to belong--and how lucky we feel when we do. Touch Blue, sure as certain, will touch your heart.


Book three for Battle of the Books! This is really more juvenile fiction than YA, but I thought it was a sweet story. Even though it deals with foster-care, don't expect a hard-hitting look at the issue, because you won't get it. This book deals with a lot of grown up issues - family dynamics, expectations, luck, bullying, foster care, change - but in an age appropriate way. It's billed as realistic fiction, but things are just a little too perfect, a little too sugar coated for it to be truly reality, but that could just be my jaded, adult-self talking. Overall, it's a sweet story with a happy ending.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book with a color in the title

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.


There are so many things to love about this book. It's funny, the characters are endearing, it's sweet, it's heartbreaking, it's set in the 80's. I loved it. Eleanor and Park aren't your typical Romeo and Juliet. She's a little overweight, wears the wrong clothes, and comes from a broken home. He's half Asian, keeps to himself, and doesn't quite fit in. Their love story is teenage angst at its finest, but it's also real. Both characters have to deal with figuring out who they are, what they want, and both make mistakes along the way. 

This novel will have you laughing, crying, and wanting to watch your favorite "Brat Pack" movie. Although this book is billed as YA, it does deal with some heavy subject matter and does have some language that might be offensive to some. I was slightly concerned at the end of the book that the author was going to leave the story in a place that would have caused me to throw the book across the room in anger, but I'm happy to report that she worked it all out in the end. Although, the ending was not entirely satisfying and I am still dying to know what happens next to Eleanor and Park. 

2015 Reading Challenge: A book set in high school

Airborn (Matt Cruse #1) by Kenneth Oppel

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.


This is book two off the Battle of the Books TR list, and it is by far my favorite so far. It is a cross between Treasure Island and A Journey to the Center of the Earth, told amongst the clouds. This book has a little bit of everything - adventure, mystery, romance, humor, pirates - and it makes for an immensely entertaining read. The characters are great and the fast paced plot makes for a page turner. There are a couple of sequels to this book, which I will definitely be checking out. This fantastic little adventure story totally worth your time.

First Light by Rebecca Stead

Peter is thrilled to join his parents on an expedition to Greenland, where his father studies global warming. Peter will get to skip school, drive a dogsled, and–finally–share in his dad’s adventures. But on the ice cap, Peter struggles to understand a series of visions that both frighten and entice him.

Thea has never seen the sun. Her extraordinary people, suspected of witchcraft and nearly driven to extinction, have retreated to a secret world they’ve built deep inside the arctic ice. As Thea dreams of a path to Earth’s surface, Peter’s search for answers brings him ever closer to her hidden home.

Rebecca Stead’s fascinating debut novel is a dazzling tale of mystery, science and adventure at the top of the world.


I am going to be participating in my school's upcoming Battle of the Books competition and have been tasked (with my fellow teacher teammates) with reading ten books chosen by our librarian. We will compete in a trivia-style competition in early May. First Light was the first book of the list for me. I liked the story, but I confess that I wasn't blown away by it. It's billed as a "science fiction" story, I think mostly because Peter's mother and father are both scientists and they are on a scientific expedition. There is a touch of magic in that some of the characters have special abilities, but it lacks many of the characteristics that I have come to associate with the science fiction genre. I did like how Stead brought the two parallel stories of Thea and Peter together in an interesting plot twist. There were a few things about Thea's underground society that were never fully explained, which probably wouldn't bother a younger reader, but stood out to me. Overall, I think it was a fun little adventure story.


Bright Side (Bright Side #1) by Kim Holden

Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you ...
And some will end you.

Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.

They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.

And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.


This book...I don't even know where to start with it, other than to say, read it. Don't be fooled by it's plain and innocuous cover. This book will both restore your faith in humanity, while simultaneously ripping out your heart and stomping all over it. Kate is one of those characters that only comes around once in awhile. The kind that grabs a hold of your heart and buries themselves in it. She is both ordinary and extraordinary. She's "one of those people." You know the ones - who always see the bright side, the silver lining; who inspire you to be better, to have confidence in yourself; who are selfless, giving; who you secretly want to punch sometimes because you can't believe that anyone can be that optimistic, but at the same time you love them for their ability to see past their current circumstance. That's Kate, and you cannot help but love her from the very first page.

Nor can you help loving the band of misfits that she takes under her wing. She truly one of those people that makes your life better simply because she is in it. She's not perfect, nor is she a saint, but she is a genuinely good person. People like that deserve a happy ending, but this story does not have a happy ending. But it is a beautiful story, nonetheless. Life isn't perfect, and we don't always get happy endings, but that doesn't make our stories any less wonderful. This book is epic on so many levels.

To say that this book made me cry is an understatement. It definitely made me ugly cry, verging on sobbing uncontrollably. It is not a book you want to read in public, unless you are comfortable with losing it emotionally in front of strangers. Whatever is beyond a book hangover, that is what I was left with after reading this book. I would liken it to the desire to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth. This story is so beautifully tragic and special that it is not a book that you will soon forget.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book that made you cry (ugly cry, is more like it)

Confess by Colleen Hoover

Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin…


Colleen Hoover delivers another fantastic, book hugging story with Confess. This time, Colleen creates a unique reading experience by incorporating the art work of Danny O'Connor (check him out on FaceBook) and anonymous confessions from readers. The artwork and the confessions (and trust me, some of the confessions are not happy ones) added another dimension to the story. They were real and tangible, taking the story beyond words printed on a page. Combine this with her beautifully crafted characters, and there is no escaping the hold of this book. After finishing it, I both loved and hated her for my emotional state, but this has become my expectation when I open the pages of a Colleen Hoover novel. It can be read as a stand-alone and is well worth the read. 

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

In Sun Stand Still, Pastor Furtick uses the story of Joshua and the battle against the Amorites (Joshua 10:1-15) to illustrate and define the idea of "audacious faith," or the boldness to dare to ask God for the impossible. In the story, Joshua prays that God will keep the sun from setting over the battlefield so that the Israelite army can defeat the Amorite army once and for all. In response to Joshua's prayer, God makes the sun stand still in the sky.

Many would argue that making the sun stand still is an impossible feat, but believers in God know that He is all powerful and that nothing is impossible for Him. Furtick argues that God has a plan for all of us, and that if we are bold enough to ask, and faithful enough to follow, that God will use us to accomplish impossible things for His glory.

I enjoyed the book, and I think that there is a lot that can be taken away from it. The biggest thing that spoke to me is Furtick's "formula" for a "Sun Stand Still" prayer. Basically there are five steps:

1. Activate Your Audacious Faith

Furtick says that activating your audacious faith starts with designing a "Page 23" vision for your life. This involves accepting two basic truths: God is good and God is strong. He has called each of us to a purpose and step one is all about discovering what the calling on our lives is and trusting in God to fulfill that purpose.

2. Approach God with Boldness

In this step, Furtick says to "build a case" for your Page 23 vision. This means that you make your request of God based on his proven character, promises in the Word, and his actions in the past. I found this step to be rather interesting, because it is directly tied to two areas of my faith that I struggle with: prayer and trust. 

Confession 1: I'm not a big prayer, by which I mean it is not my "go to" in times of need. Don't get me wrong, I pray, but not as often as I should and probably not in the way I should either. As I thought about it, I realized that the majority of my prayers where really just generalized requests for blessings. Not that there is anything wrong with these types of prayers, but when I read this section of the book, I felt challenged to reconsider how I pray. In times of crisis, my first thought is to compile the evidence and make a list of possible solutions with their pros and cons. I don't usually turn to prayer (a.k.a. God) first. I'm too used to trying to go my own way and not relaying on others to fix my problems. When I do pray, I also don't often back my prayers up with scripture or examples. I like the idea of this, because when you stop to consider who God is, what He has promised, and what He has done for you or others in the past, it makes my current prayer seem a lot less impossible.

Confession 2: I sometimes struggle with faith because it requires trust, and trust is not something that comes naturally to me. Basing your prayers on the character, promises, and actions of God, makes trusting that God will deliver easier. If He promised it, did it in the past, or did it for someone else, why wouldn't He, if it is part of His purpose, do it for me? For me, adding this element to a prayer gives it more weight, a foundation, and makes it feels less like just a shout into the void.

3. Ask Specifically for What is Humanly Impossible

This step also spoke to me strongly. Another confession: I consider myself an analytical thinker (probably too much at times). When I am faced with a challenge or problem, I take the time to think through all the information available to me. I consider the pros and cons of each option. I seek out the advise of others. I sometime agonize over choosing the right option. Decision making is hard for me, but once the decision is made, I generally have no trouble following through with it because I have done my due diligence. 

This is why I like this step. Being specific forces you to really think about what it is that you are praying for. It makes you consider what you really what and what your motives are behind the prayer. It also forces you to consider the consequences (both good and bad) of what you are praying for. What is considered "humanly impossible" will be different for each person, but taking the time to consider what we are praying for is important and not something that I really considered before reading this book.

4. Advance Toward the Answer

This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges when it comes to prayer, and I confess that I have been guilty of it too. We pray for something and then we sit there and wait for God to deliver. Pastor Furtick argues that having audacious faith is not a passive activity, instead you have to "push while you pray." In other words, at the same time you are praying for impossible things, you need to be taking steps toward your Page 23 vision. Just standing still is not enough. If you move forward, God will put opportunities in your path and remove obstacles, but only if you are willing to move. I found this to be an intriguing idea, especially since I have always been taught that prayer is "passive," that we should "wait on the Lord." I found it interesting that we can still "wait on the Lord" and be active at the same time. Joshua prays for God to make the sun stand still, but he also marches all night long with his troops to the top of the cliff. He was not passive while he waited for God to deliver on his promise.

5. Give God All the Glory

Perhaps the most important step is this one, but again, it's also one that is overlooked often, especially in our culture, which values the individual above all else. Pastor Furtick reminds us that it is important to praise God not only at the end of our journey, but along the way too. There is nothing that we can accomplish without God, because everything we are and everything we have comes from Him.

Overall, the message of this book is inspiring and Pastor Furtick lays out some practical steps that can be applied. I think it's worth the read, especially if you want a new perspective on prayer and faith.


Unbeautiful Series by Jessica Sorensen

The Unbeautiful series is another spin-off of The Coincidence series, telling the story of Emery and Ryler (Luke's (best friend of Kayden) cousin). On the outside, Emery is perfect. It was what she was raised to be. But on the inside, Emery hides many secrets. Desperate to escape her controlling parents, Emery leaves everything behind to move to Wyoming for school, or so she thinks.

On the outside, Ryler looks like nothing but trouble. His piercings, tattoos, and the fact that he doesn't talk mark him as different, dangerous. But Ryler only has one desire, to escape the hell that is his life and start over anew. Convinced by the FBI to work undercover and help bring down a powerful criminal in exchange for a new start, Ryler finds himself living a double life, his only focus his elusive future, until he meets Emery.

Both Ryler and Emery have secrets, dark secrets. The more time they spend together, the more they discover how intertwined their secrets are. When secrets and shadows abound, trust is a precarious thing, and Emery and Ryler face the decision about whether they will remain in the dark, or together reveal the truth.


Another fantastic read from Jessica. The story was exciting, suspenseful, and dramatic. I read both books in a day. I'm glad I waited to read them together, as Unbeautiful ends just as the story really gets going. There are plenty of plot twists and the relationship between Ryler and Emery is angsty perfection. Their story wraps up very nicely in Untamed, and overall I was extremely pleased with the story. 

These books can be read as stand-alones, but there is some crossover with characters from previous books in the series. 

The Princess of Prophecy: Heroes of the Trojan War, Volume II by Aria Cunningham

In Volume II of this saga, we follow the lovers as they make their escape from Mycenae to Troy. Desperate to make it there before Menelaus and Agamemnon can catch up with them, Paris and Helen find themselves in a precarious position when they are delayed in Egypt after attempting to stop for supplies. With the death of Pharaoh eminent, Paris and Helen find themselves caught up in battle for succession, local politics and traditions. Throw in a dash of sibling rivalry, a hired assassin, a power hungry king, and an empire on the brink of war, and you get the exciting tale that is The Princess of Prophecy.

After finishing The Princess of Sparta, I was excited for the next installment of this series, and Cunningham doesn't disappoint. This book was just as good as the first, if not better. Cunningham does an amazing job of weaving together historical events and giving them a human touch. While the narrative is based on historical facts, it does not possess a dry, scholarly feel. Her story lines have many moving parts that she artfully weaves together to keep it moving forward and keep the reader interested. Her characters are well developed and dynamic, and she has a talent for reinventing some of the most iconic historical figures, and humanizing them, turning them into relatable human beings.

I enjoyed the couple's foray into Ancient Egypt, one of the most fascinating civilizations in the history of our world. I think when we study these ancient cultures that it is easy to compartmentalize them and forget that they were real civilizations that existed at the same time and interacted with each other. I loved seeing iconic figures, such as Nefertiti, come to life within the pages of this novel. This is definitely a "middle" book, meaning that while Cunningham does a good job moving the story forward, readers should not expect any real resolution. According to end notes, we should expect the third installment, The Princess of Troy, sometime in Spring, 2016. I for one, will be looking forward to it.

One more final note, I have to say that the cover art for this installment is much better than the previous one, which looked a bit like a cheesy Harlequin romance novel you would find in the discount bin. I like this cover much more, and I think it is a much better representation of the quality story that is The Princess of Prophecy. Get your hands on this series. It is well worth the read.

*Note: I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick

My pastor always says, "You are what you read." This always gives me a moment of pause, since if you read my book blog, I read a lot of books that aren't exactly rated "G." So, one of my New Year's resolutions was to read a least one book a month that would be good for my soul. A book that would make me think, push me to explore my life, and inspire me to make some positive changes.

A while back, I had the privilege of seeing Steven Furtick preach. He came to help my church, LifePoint, launch our first permanent site in Fredericksburg, VA. I liked his style enough to go home and order some of his books. This is the first book by Pastor Furtick that I have read, and it is very similar to his live preaching style.

Pastor Furtick defines a chatterbox as "the lies we believe that keep us from accurately and actively hearing God's voice." Furtick also likens a chatterbox as -

logorrhea (n) 1. pathologically incoherent, repetitious speech. 2. incessant or compulsive talkativeness; wearisome volubility.

In other words, it is the voice in our heads that creeps up on us and replays every negative thought or feeling we have ever had, often stopping us from taking a chance or moving forward. We all have it, and I can think of several occasions where that voice has beaten me down and probably caused me to miss some opportunities.

What I appreciated the most about this book is Pastor Furtick's real approach to this issue. He is upfront from the beginning in saying that there is no magical cure that will make the chatterbox disappear for good. In fact, he says that fighting the chatterbox will be a lifelong battle. Not exactly the message that one expects when you pick up a book like this, but then again, the truth isn't always what we expect or want either. So, instead of giving us a "sure fire way" to make the chatterbox disappear for good, Pastor Furtick lays out four simple truths that can be used to "crash," or shutdown, our chatterbox:
  1. God says I am
  2. God says He will
  3. God says He has
  4. God says I can
These four statements are the whole of Furtick's message. I found some of the chapters to be incredibly empowering and the discussion questions at the end of each section helpful reflection tools. In almost seems too good to be true that four simple statements are the key to winning a never ending battle. However, when you take these four statements to heart, it makes it impossible for the chatterbox to get a hold on you. It will always be there, but when you throw these four truths at it, it quickly crashes and you are free from its destruction.

Easier said than done, but Furtick does give some practical advise on how to apply these truths. They all require diligence and persistence, but they are not complicated or overbearing. In the end, I found the message of this book to be simple and well written, thought provoking, and applicable.