The Kill Order (The Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.


This book was not at all what I was expecting. I didn’t pay attention to its details when I first downloaded it and was expecting it to be a novella type book. I didn’t realize that it was a full on novel. The Kill Order gives us a fuller picture of what it was like to survive the deadly sun flares and how deadly disease began to decimate the world’s population. It is an action packed story that kept me guessing until the very end. I couldn’t figure out the connection between the characters in this book with the characters in the subsequent books until the surprise reveal at the end. My jaw may or may not have dropped open when I finally figured it out…

If you enjoyed The Maze Runner series, I encourage you to read this one as well.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book and its prequel


The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner

It’s the end of the line. WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test. Will anyone survive?

What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say. The truth will be terrifying. 

Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.The time for lies is over.


I was a little disappointed in the ending of this series. It started out strong, but in the end, there were several questions left unanswered. It wasn’t all bad. There was plenty of action, suspenseful moments, and gut wrenching losses, and I found myself just as wrapped up in the story as when reading the previous books. Nevertheless, as I reached the end of the book, it became clear that I wasn’t going to get all the answers to my questions. Some of the resolutions to different events and conflicts were somewhat anticlimactic and unsatisfying. All in all, I had hoped for a little bit more from this one.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book and its prequel


Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny by Christine Caine

Shame can take on many forms. It hides in the shadows of the most successful, confident and high-achieving woman who struggles with balancing her work and children, as well as in the heart of the broken, abused and downtrodden woman who has been told that she will never amount to anything. Shame hides in plain sight and can hold us back in ways we do not realize. But Christine Caine wants readers to know something: we can all be free.

In Unashamed, Christine reveals the often-hidden consequences of shame—in her own life and the lives of so many Christian women—and invites you to join her in moving from a shame-filled to a shame-free life.

In her passionate and candid style, Christine leads you into God’s Word where you will see for yourself how to believe that God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past, and your limitations. He is not only more powerful than anything you’ve done but also stronger than anything ever done to you. You can deal with your yesterday today, so that you can move on to what God has in store for you tomorrow—a powerful purpose and destiny he wants you to fulfill.

Join the journey. Lay ahold of the power of Jesus Christ today and step into the future—his future for you—a beautiful, full, life-giving future, where you can even become a shame-lifter to others. Live unashamed!


Christine Caine is perhaps one of the most powerful speakers I have ever seen in my life. My church partners with her A21 campaign, whose goal is to end human trafficking, and I recently had a chance to see her speak at church. She is an amazing woman, who has overcome many obstacles and turned her struggles into a powerful testimony.

In her new book, Unashamed, Christine takes on the giant, shame. Shame is something that we have all experienced. We experience shame because of things we have done, our shortcomings, and because of things that have been done to us. We live in a shame filled world. We are constantly criticized for how we look, what we do, what we don’t do, our race, our religion, etc. The comparison game and trying to “keep up with the Jones” is a never ending, exhausting battle. 

Living with shame can impact your entire life, your relationships and be passed down to future generations. In her new book, Christine talks about her experiences and her own battle with shame. She offers advice on how to change your thinking and begin to move towards living an unashamed life. I found the book to be a powerful testimony and an inspiring read.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book published in 2016


One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. 

Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages...maybe ever.


I found this narrative to be humorous, entertaining, and a prime example of serendipity. I loved how each character had their own story line and how Moyes weaved them together to create a well developed story. I found myself laughing, tearing up, and cheering several times throughout the book, and loved how it all came together in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from start to finish. Highly recommend this one.


The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety... until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim... and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?


The Scorch Trials hits the ground running and doesn’t let up! It is much more action packed than The Maze Runner and moves at a much faster pace, largely because the story and characters have been established and less explanation is needed to understand what is going on. Dashner delivers several plot and character twists that lead to some surprises. It is a well written second book - it answers just enough and introduces new questions to keep the story moving forward and keep the reader interested in what’s coming next. On to book three!

2016 Reading Challenge: A book and its prequel


Fresh Air: What Happens When You Discover the Powerful Secrets of a God-Breathed Life by Chris Hodges

We've all gone through times in our lives when we feel like we need a fresh breeze to breathe new life into us--in our work, in our marriages, with our kids, in our friendships, and maybe at church. We've all been drawn to people who exude a kind of positive, life-giving spirit. We've also seen the difference between environments that exude a fresh air-like atmosphere and those that don't. But what is it? What is that energy-giving, life-breathing force that draws you, inspires you, and empowers you to be all God made you to be? And how do we get it? How do we put the wind in our sails again, so we can get unstuck, reclaim our compass, and redirect our course? 

In Fresh Air, Chris Hodges, founder and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, reveals how breath--the breath of God--is the essence of life as it's meant to be. Fueled by the breath of God, we are not only refreshed in spirit ourselves; we have the power to create a life-giving environment of freedom and joyful purpose around us. Both practical and inspiring, Fresh Air offers "breathing lessons" for those who long for a cool breeze to resuscitate their spirit, bring them closer to God, and move them toward becoming the people He made them to be.


I have had the pleasure of seeing Pastor Chris Hodges, senior pastor of the Church of the Highlands, preach a few times when he visited my church. I like his style and his easy to understand messages, so I bought Fresh Air the last time he preached at my church. 

Any Christian understands the concept of seasons. Sometimes you experience a season of prosperity and sometimes you experience a season of hardship. Sometimes you experience a season of prosperity in one area of your life, but a season of hardship in another area simultaneously. In the book, Fresh Air, Pastor Chris Hodges, addresses several areas where you might experience what he refers to as the “doldrums,” or times of struggle or stagnation. He then goes on to provide practical steps to take to bring “fresh air” into that area of your life.

Pastor Hodges offers a free online study guide through his website, which I would encourage you to download if you read this book. I found the guided questions (there were about 2-3 for each chapter) to be thought provoking and good for reflection. Overall, I found the book to be encouraging and I came away with some new insights and tools to use in my own spiritual life. 

2016 Reading Challenge: A self-improvement book


On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.


This book is a study in the ridiculous. The characters were ridiculous and the plot line was labyrinthine and pointless. This book is similar to a train wreck - you should look away, but you can’t. The narrative made me laugh, but not necessarily because the situations were humorous. I think I laughed because I didn’t really know what else to do. At first, I hoped that maybe it would get better, but even a quarter of the way in, I knew it wouldn’t. In the end, I was left completing indifferent to the whole thing. I’m not sure why this book is considered a classic.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book about a road trip


Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining 

Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason and so are people's eyes. 

When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it's Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare, and it's Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow, but when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering -- kira-kira -- in the future.


I had high expectations for this book because it won a Newbery Medal, but I was really disappointed by this book. I thought it had tremendous potential, but the overall narrative fell short for me. It started out well and the relationship between the sisters was endearing and sweet. It became obvious very early that Lynn was sick and was going to die. I thought this would become the focus of the novel, but the illness almost became secondary, existing only in the background, even though it was the catalyst for the many changes the family went through. The characters and plot felt underdeveloped at times and in the end, I was left wanting.


Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents.

In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos.

This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.


Those who enjoy history will enjoy this book. It retells the story of the development of the atomic bomb and the spy networks that ultimately led to the secret project being leaked. This book reminded me of a YA version of an Erik Larson book. It takes the stories of all the various people involved and weaves them together to create an entertaining narrative, lacking all the dryness of a typical textbook. The book was well researched and I can see why it has won so many awards.