Books reviewed prior on this site prior to March 2019 were provided to me, at no charge, by the publisher, or by the author, in exchange for an honest review. I have received no further compensation for these reviews. Reviews beginning March 2019 come from a variety of sources: advanced copies, library loans, and my own purchases. All reviews are my honest opinions.

May 31, 2015

Channing O'Banning {Tommy Nelson Kids}

channing o'banning
Channing O'Banning and the Rainforest Rescue
When Channing O’Banning’s BFF goes gaga over new boy Marco, Channing wishes she could send him back to where he came from. Her wish turns into her worst nightmare when Marco tags along on her family’s dream trip to Marco’s home country of Costa Rica.

With her secret sketchbook in tow, a colored pencil stuck in her ponytail, and adorable pot-bellied pig, Teeny, by her side, Channing embarks on a high-flying adventure through the Costa Rican rainforest. But when the feisty fourth-grade artist makes a few wrong turns and gets lost in the jungle, she discovers that maybe Marco isn’t so bad after all.

Through her wild escapades, Channing learns just how important it is to keep the earth—and friendships—healthy.

channing o'banning
Channing O'Banning and the Turquoise Trail
When fourth-grade artist Channing O’Banning unearths something very weird on the school playground, she’s sure it’s going to be the biggest thing ever to happen at Greenville Elementary. But things take a rocky turn, and Channing never wants to show her face at school again.

Thankfully, Channing finds lots of rocks to hide under when her family visits the American West. With her signature colored pencil stuck in her ponytail and Teeny, the coolest pig on the planet, by her side,

Channing discovers that art comes in many different forms—and that God is the greatest artist of all.

Our Thoughts:
I think it is awesome that my daughter is learning to read and constantly looking for more books to expand her reading. Channing O'Banning has been a fun character for us to read at our house, and she has given us plenty of laughs.

Channing's adventures seem to be full of obstacles and mishaps. They are full of twists and turns, and stories to keep my daughter asking questions and wishing for her own adventures.

But with each adventure comes a great lesson that God is always there for us. No matter what situation Channing seems to find herself in, she gets reminded that God has her back and is always there to watch over her and her friends.

These lessons are the kind of lessons I want my kids to get out of everything they do in life, and I'm happy to have Channing O'Banning in our house to remind my kids of God's grace and love.

Author Angela Spady is an award-winning educator, curriculum author, and mother to two daughters. Her innovative teaching techniques have been featured on PBS, KY Teacher Magazine, and in various print media around the country. She is a noted advocate for encouraging art and self-expression among elementary school children and is often sought out by both parents and teachers on this critical topic. She and her family live in Kentucky.

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May 28, 2015

Married 'til Monday {Denise Hunter}

married til monday denise hunter
With a big anniversary party in the works for her parents, Ryan will pretend to be Abby's husband for just one last weekend.

Ryan McKinley has tried to move on from his ex-wife, Abby. He’s sulked, he’s gotten angry, and ultimately he bought her dream house. Big mistake. Living alone in the massive 2-story has only made him miss her more. When her parents call him out of the blue about their anniversary party in Summer Harbor, Maine, Ryan believes God has dropped a golden opportunity straight in his lap.

Abby McKinley never exactly told her parents about the divorce. A strained relationship with her dad has culminated in a distant relationship with her parents, but she’s finally succumbed to her mom’s pressure to make the drive for their 35th-anniversary party.

Then Ryan shows up on her doorstep, looking as devastatingly handsome as ever. When he insists he’s going to Seabrook, with or without her, Abby knows she can’t say no. Her parents still think they’re married and now Ryan knows it too. Besides, he only wants to check in with his best friend from college—her cousin Beau, who just lost his dad. It’s just a one-week road-trip with the man who broke her heart. What could possibly go wrong?

My Thoughts:
I love the McKinley family so much, and I was so excited to finally get to Ryan's story. All through this series we have seen bits and pieces of Ryan. His divorce to the love of his life has been weaved into all the previous books in the series, and in Married 'til Monday we get to see more of him and the events surrounding the end of his marriage.

In this story, Ryan tags along with his ex-wife to attend her parents' anniversary celebration. Throughout this trip we really get to learn more about Ryan. Ryan has held on to his love for Abby through all these years, and he is determined to win her back. His determination is what makes him such a lovable character.

Throughout this series, I have had bad feelings about Abby for leaving Ryan. But in this book we really get to meet Abby and learn about her past. Her childhood was not a happy one, and as we travel along with her and Ryan on this road trip, we learn so much about her past. The stories that she finally shares with Ryan brought me to tears and made me feel so much sympathy for her. I found myself changing my opinion of her, and suddenly hoping she would find the happiness she completely deserves.

I can't tell you how this story ends, but I can tell you it's good! After so many bumps along the road, these two characters both end up in a good place that I could accept and be happy about. I'm definitely going to miss visiting the McKinley family in this series.

Denise Hunter is the award-winning author of 20 novels, including Dancing with Fireflies and Convenient Groom

Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

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May 25, 2015

Picture Perfect Love {Melissa McClone}

picture perfect love book
When image becomes everything, it’s up to love to refocus the heart.

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to look picture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren't always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God's plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture of put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton's heart still hasn't recovered.

It was me. His younger sister's three words turn Ashton's world upside down. He must ask Jenna’s forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

My Thoughts:
Have I said how much I love this series? Every time I read another Year of Weddings 2 installment I am sure that it is my favorite.

In this book we get to meet Jenna and Ash. Once engaged, these two are now single and trying to do life on their own.

We realize pretty quickly that Jenna has continued to carry around the hurt of being dumped at the alter. She is struggling to get herself out of wedding debt, and doing her best to be happy with the life she has. She is involved with her church, and enjoying her career as a photographer.

Ash is the political lawyer type. He's attached to his work and his family, and seems to not really take the time to realize how his actions and decisions affect anyone other than himself. It's his spoiled baby sister who brings Jenna and Ash back together for this book.

Throughout this story, Jenna and Ash continue to run into each other and their lives continue to intertwine. I enjoyed watching them become friends, and felt very proud of Jenna when she stood up for herself when Ash once again did her wrong.

Even more awesome was watching God work through Ash's life. You can almost see the light go off when he finally consults God on where his life should be going and who should be in it. This is a story of letting God have his way, and the happiness that comes from following His directions.

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May 24, 2015

Brave Queen Esther {I Can Read}

i can read brave queen esther
There is little I enjoy more than listening to my daughter read to me. As an avid reader, it makes me so happy that she is developing a love for reading. One of our favorite series to read at night is the 'I Can Read' readers. These short stories are written on various reading levels to make learning to read fun for early and advanced readers.

Our most recent story is Brave Queen Esther from the Adventure Bible series. The story of Esther is a story of bravery and courage. Esther was a Jewish woman who was chosen to be the Queen. Her King was tricked by Haman, and convinced that all the Jews should be destroyed. Queen Esther exhibited an immense amount of courage when she informed the King of the trickery and convinced him to save the Jews.

Queen Esther is a great example for girls of how to be brave and to have the courage needed to stand up for themselves and those around them.

Brave Queen Esther is a Level 2 reader in the 'I Can Read' series, and can be purchased anywhere 'I Can Read' books are sold.

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May 21, 2015

Who's the New Kid? {Heidi Bond}

whos the new kid book
At nine years old, Breanna Bond weighed a whopping 186 pounds. Just walking up the stairs to her room was a challenge. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with taunts of “Hey, Fatty!” Breanna’s mom, Heidi, was devastated and wondered, "How can I get my daughter healthy again?"

Who’s the New Kid? shows readers how Heidi helped her daughter lose weight without the aid of fad diets, medication, or surgery and how other parents can do the same with their kids.

In just over a year, Heidi’s plan worked! Breanna dropped 40 percent of her body weight and was transformed from a morbidly obese child who spent her days in front of the TV eating chips and chocolate to a vibrant, healthy, energetic little girl.

Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who’s the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally but also introduce them to simple, yet effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

My Thoughts:
Ever have one of those books that comes out of nowhere and has a life-changing impact on you? That is this book.

I have been struggling with my own weight for some time now, and have done little to no exercise in years. I am also the mother of a daughter who could really benefit from better eating habits and exercise. This book pretty much summed up everything that I feel.

I felt like Heidi wrote this book just for me. The fears that she expressed are exactly what stay in the back of my mind each and every day. Her excuses and habits pretty much sum up what has been going on in our family, and her desire to just "wait and see" is exactly how we have been handling things with our child.

Heidi had a life-changing moment when a neighbor invited her on a walk. Mine was when I read this book. I've completely changed my way of thinking, and I'm now motivated to make a better life for us. The running shoes have been on, and my daughter and I have been walking/running, and watching our diet a little better.

My overall thoughts on this book are two words: Thank You

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May 16, 2015

A Love Like Ours {Becky Wade}

love like ours
Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

My Thoughts:
This book was completely amazing. A tell of friendship and love, I was hooked from the very beginning and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

Lyndie and Jake were the best of friends as kids but lost touch after a family move separated the two of them. As soon as Lyndie returned to Texas she was determined to seek Jake out and rekindle their friendship. Turns out things weren't that easy.

Lyndie is a woman with a huge heart. She cares for her family, her friends, and her animals. She sees the good in people and truly believes that God can help everyone - no matter what is going on. Her ability to stick with Jake through most of the events of this book made her a hero in my eyes. Her persistence to get Jake to come back to God just shows how big her heart really is. She was willing to give up on her dream for him. In most cases I would have been upset about this, but the situation in this book made it come off as a act of pure love.

Jake is hurt - badly. He has given up on life, friends, God, and everything around him. He just wants to work and be left alone. But as soon as Lyndie walks back into his life everything changes. There were things about Jake that really irritated me, but I have never been around someone with PTSD so I'm sure that his actions were typical of those who suffer from this disease. Every time he would insult Lyndie, my heart would ache for Jake and for him to find his way back to God.

And then he does. And I can't really tell you what happen without spoiling this story - but it's good! This story just shows that God can release us of all our demons and bring us right to the people who are right for us, and those who are meant to be in our lives.

This was my first book from Becky Wade, but I am a true fan.

During her childhood in California, Becky frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins. These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending. She's been a fan of all things romantic ever since.

Becky and her husband lived overseas in the Caribbean and Australia before settling in Dallas, Texas. It was during her years abroad that Becky's passion for reading turned into a passion for writing. She published three historical romances with Avon Books, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her three kids, then recently returned to writing sheerly for the love of it. She felt led to move to the genre of contemporary Christian romance and couldn't be more thrilled with it. 

These days Becky can be found failing but trying to keep up with her housework, sweating at the gym, carting her kids around town, playing tennis, hunched over her computer, eating chocolate, or collapsed on the sofa watching TV with her husband.

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May 12, 2015

Love Arrives in Pieces {Betsy St. Amant}

love arrives in pieces book
For so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn't trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to her brokenness so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but always falls short. So she keeps her passion for her secret art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn't get another job soon, she ll be stuck living with her parents.

Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancee in a car crash. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town s old theater, and is shocked to learn former flame Stella is the designer for the project.

Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and their pasts as they struggle to compromise and come together on a vision for the theater. Chase doesn't understand why Stella is such a subdued version of herself, while Stella doesn't get Chase s constant need for productivity and speed. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness and their unresolved feelings for each other until Chase breaks through Stella s walls and convinces her to enter her mosaic tile art in a contest.

A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force both Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from the broken.

My Thoughts:
I'll be honest - when I realized that this book is the follow-up to All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes I was a little disappointed. The first book wasn't my favorite, so I was expecting the same experience with this book. I was wrong!

In Love Arrives in Pieces, we get to venture around in Stella's life. Once the beauty queen of the town, Stella now suffers from a horribly broken heart, a bout of embarrassment, and a very low self esteem with a guarded personality. Her mom gets her a job at the restoration of the local movie theater, and she discovers a "not so blast from the past" is working the same job.

We got a little bit of information about Chase in the first book, but we really get to know him this time around. He also has a broken heart and a broken past, and is also guarded about working with Stella after all they have been through. We get to see him struggle with the emotions of losing someone he loves, yet falling in love with someone else. We get to see him worry about his past and his future, while trying to make the right moves with everything he does.

I loved watching Stella grow in this book. She is really making an effort to get back to a life of love and happiness, but her past continues to haunt her at every move. It's only when she truly lets go and lets God work that things begin to fall in place for her.

I loved how this story came to a close at the theater opening. Of course, I'm not going to tell you how it ended, but I can tell you it was a perfect ending for a perfect couple. I'm so glad I didn't toss this book aside and actually gave it a chance. It was a great book and I definitely recommend it.

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Betsy is multi-published through Steeple Hill and has been published in Christian Communicator magazine and Praise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories, ‘Kickboxing or Chocolate’, appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press. She has a BA in Christian Communications and regularly freelances for her local newspaper. Betsy is a fireman’s wife, a mommy to a busy toddler, a chocolate-loving author and an avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God’s grace through her stories.

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May 11, 2015

Willie Out West {Kids}

willie out west
Young Willie Walrus leaves his ice home to travel on an adventure to Big West, where the town’s citizens desperately need help. Arriving to cheers, he quickly runs into Old Walter, the One-Eyed Whale. Colorful illustrations and action in Willie Out West takes readers to an old West town where the citizens expect Willie to save them. Can he?

My Thoughts:
What a cute little book! Willie is a bored little fella and he gets to go on a fun adventure in his dream. He meets all kinds of new people and gets to be the hero when he saves the town from Old Walter. 

My kids enjoyed this book, and it was written that my daughter could read it as well. My son thought it was funny that a walrus was acting like the hero in such a funny story. There were laughs all around as we read this book.  A great addition to our book collection for sure.

May 7, 2015

What's In Our Box? {Scholastic Reading Club}

Who remembers the Scholastic Reading Club? I can remember bringing home the flyers and picking out what books I wanted, and then not-so-patiently waiting for them arrive to our classroom.

About a year ago something reminded me of the reading club, and I looked into seeing if we could have an account set up for our family. I talked to someone who I explained our very small school situation, and they graciously set us up with a home school account.

Every few months I browse the catalogs and place an order for my kids. In this space, you are going to start seeing what is in our box! So without further ado...

scholastic reading club ox

This order I was focused on finding books that Ting can read either alone or out loud to us. She's just finishing kindergarten, but reading on a 1st-2nd grade level. First out of the box was a set of Fancy Nancy 'I Can Read' readers. There are three in this set. Ting loves Fancy Nancy and all her adventures, so this has been a fun set for us.

fancy nancy i can read

Next up was Amelia Bedelia. Who doesn't love Amelia! These two books are longer books (around 60 pages each), so we are reading them about 20 pages at a time. Ting things Amelia is hilarious, and these are great books for learning to read dialogue between several characters.

amelia bedelia reader set

And then there is the Junie B. Jones set of six first-grader books. I can honestly say I had never heard of Junie B. before, but I thought the description of these books on the website looks like something Ting would enjoy. And they are beginner chapter books. I posted a picture of Ting reading one of these on Facebook, and the comments blew up with people talking about how much their daughters LOVE Junie B., and how great these books are. I guess Junie B. came after my childhood reading days. But the point, I made a great mistake! Ting loves these books, and she loves that she can sit on the couch next to me and read her own "grown up" book.

junie b first grader reader set

So there you have it - our Scholastic Reading Club shipment for the month. What are your kids reading these days?

May 4, 2015

When Grace Sings {Kim Vogel Sawyer|

when grace sings
Alexa Zimmerman wonders if the Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas will ever fully accept her. Her family roots here aren’t what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful that her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over. The bed-and-breakfast she’s operating needs to succeed so Alexa agrees to allow Briley Forrester, the hotshot reporter from Chicago, to stay as a long-term boarder not knowing his real motives for being amongst the Plain folk.

But when Alexa agrees to host her cousin Anna-Grace Braun, the presence of extended family brings out Alexa’s insecurities and sets Briley on the trail to uncovering a web of hidden truths. 

Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace have to face that their secrets are interconnected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. They must trust in a loving, heavenly Father and His plan for their futures.

My Thoughts:
I kind of don't feel like I can give this book a fair review without the other books in the series. This is the second, and I really feel like I missed a lot of character development by not reading the first book.

With that being said, this was still a good book. It is set modern times but in the plain country in Kansas. Steven and Anna Grace are engaged (or published to be married) and they both have big dreams for their future - only their dreams aren't exactly the same. As they both move (separately) to the town they will live in after marriage, their lives become intertwined with those around them. Each of those people that come into their lives have their own set of secrets and stories (again, I feel like I missed so much).

As Steven and Anna - Grace move closer to their wedding date, things seem to begin to unfold, and, in a way, unravel.

This book pretty much ended with every story line hanging unfinished. I can definitely see that the remaining books in this series are going to be great. There are so many stories to finish, and so much drama on the horizon.

I am putting the first book on my reading list, and setting my sights on the third book when it comes out.

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site at for more information.

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