The Kingdom Come series by Cecelia Earl, reviewed 06.17.20
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, reviewed 06.03.20
The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer, reviewed 05.07.20
Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson, reviewed 04.08.20
Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.17.20
The Legend of Annie Murphy by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.16.20
The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.15.20
The Secret of the Desert Stone by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.11.20
Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.08.20
The Tombs of Anak by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.06.20
Escape From the Island of Aquarius by Frank Peretti, reviewed 02.03.20
The Main Dish by Victoria Kimble, reviewed 01.05.20
A Nancy Drew Christmas by Carolyn Keene, reviewed 12.31.19
Mele Kalikimaka by Taylor Bennett, reviewed 12.09.19
The Deception by Laura Gallier, reviewed 10.11.19
The Ripper of Monkshood Manor by Mary Gray, reviewed 10.04.19
Nightmare Academy by Frank Peretti, reviewed 08.23.19
The Delusion by Laura Gallier, reviewed 07.20.19
Trinity Row by Kelly Martin, reviewed 06.05.19
Sandcastle Dreams by Taylor Bennett, reviewed 05.31.19
Good Girls Stay Quiet by Jo Cassidy, reviewed 04.05.19
Sour Lemon Strikes Out by Julane Fisher, reviewed 03.28.19
Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett, reviewed 06.28.18
A Mixed Bag of God’s Grace by Sharon René, reviewed 06.22.18
Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker, reviewed 06.01.18
Sour Lemon and Sweet Tea by Julane Fisher, reviewed 04.24.18
A Flash of Romance by Sharon René, reviewed 01.11.18
Soprano Trouble by Victoria Kimble, reviewed 10.29.17
Tinsel in a Tangle by Laurie Germaine, reviewed 10.10.17
The Door in the Dragon’s Throat by Frank Peretti, reviewed 06.16.17
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt, reviewed 02.16.17

The Kingdom Come series

by: Cecelia Earl

Free books, y’all. Right now. Move fast because that’s in the budget. All three of Cecelia Earl’s Kingdom Come novels are listed for $0 through Amazon Kindle. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re not high quality.

The author weaves a tale about how Julia, a hard-working teenage girl who’s lost her father, ends up fighting against the evil in her community. She battles for the lives of her friends and family, all while trying to earn money to help her mom pay the bills. She’s also on a mission to find her father. The novels cast new light on heaven and hell, angels and demons. Be prepared for some serious spiritual warfare. I recommend the series for ages 14 and older.

Titles include (1) When Ash Rains Down, (2) When Smoke Rains Down, and (3) When Fire Rains Down.

Reviewed June 17, 2020

The Hate U Give

by: Angie Thomas

Tough book to read. Not because of the extreme profanity, but because of the slap in the face it gives us privileged white readers. My eyes are now wide open. During this time of racial unrest, I recommend this book to those who don’t understand the distrust the African American community has of law enforcement. This story can answer a lot of questions.

Thomas’ main character, 16-year-old Starr, describes in very plain language of how she witnessed a police officer shoot her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil. When his death makes national headlines, the protests launch. The local police and a drug lord soon begin to intimidate Starr, the only eyewitness to his murder, and her family. How she responds is what makes this book so powerful.

Reviewed June 3, 2020

The Story That Cannot Be Told

by: J. Kasper Kramer

Before beginning this book, I recommend you do a little research on Romania’s 1989 revolution. At least read the prologue. It’ll help set the stage for the true and fictional stories the main character, Ileana, shares with the reader.

She’s named after a character, cunning Ileana, in a Romanian folktale that her father begins each night at bedtime. She always fall asleep before the end. This tale is woven throughout the book from her perspective after her parents send her to her grandparents’ house for safety.

At first she hates the new environment, a farm in a small village, instead of her Bucharest apartment. Then, she makes a new friend, Gabi, and learns that the village may soon be overtaken by the Romanian Army. She and Gabi make a plan to save the townspeople’s property.

The book progresses into scary realism about that period in world history. Her uncle is captured and tortured. Her family is threatened. They must choose to fight or give up their property and belongings to the Communist regime. Ileana does her best to channel the main trait of the character for whom she was named.

I learned a lot about the 40,000 displaced Romanians who fell into poverty and despair during this revolution. This web of stories also offers the reader a snapshot of Romanian life in winter, dozens of unique superstitions, and pretty leaf patterns on all the pages. I recommend this book to middle schoolers.

Reviewed May 7, 2020

Live Fearless

by: Sadie Robertson

This YA topic is timely during this freaky shelter-in-place coronavirus pandemic. For one so young, this Christian author is wise. She admits how much fear she’s bottled up over the years, from appearances on Duck Dynasty to the grand finale of Dancing with the Stars. Each chapter features a fear-filled experience she’s overcome. Then, she lists questions for readers to ask themselves, challenges for them to take, and short prayers to memorize.

I loved Chapter 4. She starts out, “At least you’re not a plankton.” Say what? She elaborates on how plankton are the lowest of the low food source. When ridiculed by her brother, she Googled plankton and discovered their importance. She learned that they rise to the ocean’s surface each day to receive the sun’s energy that, in turn, fuels the fish that eat them.

Then, she compares plankton to believers, urging them to rise to the light each day to absorb God’s energy and spread it to others. I like this philosophy, especially during this scary time of self-isolation. Instead of losing ourselves in endless Netflix series, we could be doing small acts of kindness to help others. We could sew face masks, create encouraging sidewalk chalk art, and help with online tutoring.

If you have an extra six minutes, I recommend you check out Sadie’s Crazy Train video on YouTube. She and a friend discuss how miscommunication can put you on a crazy train full of cars that build fear and anxiety. It’s pretty cute . . . and true.

Throughout the book, Sadie talks about “working the word.” This means that we should memorize scripture so that it’s already in our minds when we need it. She even provides pages of scripture addressing fear at the end of the book.

Reviewed April 8, 2020

Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred (Cooper Kids #8)

by: Frank Peretti

Originally published as Flying Blind, this story spotlights the worst day of Jay’s life. Very different from the first seven books, Mayday is set in one location—a small airplane, piloted by Jay’s Uncle Rex. Jay is his co-pilot and the only other person in the plane. Lila makes brief appearances via radio. When air turbulence from a low-flying 757 causes the plane to flip and knock Uncle Rex unconscious, Jay must take over the controls. But, there’s a problem, Jay is concussed and can’t see. The entire book follows Jay’s blind quest to return the plane to the ground with Dr. Cooper instructing him from a nearby plane. While full of exciting, heart-stopping moments, this book is my least favorite of the series. MG and teen guys with a love for adventure and anything aeronautical might disagree with me.

Reviewed February 17, 2020

The Legend of Annie Murphy (Cooper Kids #7)

by: Frank Peretti

If you like to read about ghosts, time travel and mysterious murders, this book’s for you. Set in the ruins of Bodine, Arizona, an old mining town, the story begins with four boys camping in a cemetery. After they see a gigantic woman in a cliff’s face AND a ghost, their parents prompt an investigation. The Coopers are summoned because of their experience with archaeology. They’re expected to uncover clues in the western town’s ruins. Within hours of exploring the ghost town with their professor friend, a slight earthquake slings Jay and Lila a hundred years into the past. At the same time, the town’s sheriff from 1885 appears in the present. And he’s trying to find Annie Murphy, who escaped from jail. This is my second favorite book in the series. Great for ghost hunters of all ages.

Reviewed February 16, 2020

The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey (Cooper Kids #6)

by: Frank Peretti

I’ll never look at dust the same again. In fact, after finishing the book, I vacuumed the entire house. And the freaky flying slugs ensured that I’ll never touch another snail. Where does Peretti come up with this stuff? Dr. Cooper is once again tasked with an archeological-based mission, this time to mine the treasure of the Toco-Rey ruins in Mexico. When he and his children arrive in the jungle, they learn their predecessors have perished from a deadly curse. It’s up to them to not only locate the treasure, but to determine how the deaths occurred. They’re faced with a mad scientist, angry villagers and a terrifying green man. Middle graders and teens will love this non-stop page turner.

Reviewed February 15, 2020

The Secret of the Desert Stone (Cooper Kids #5)

by: Frank Peretti

When a sleek, rectangular stone appears in the desert, the Coopers are stumped by its mass. It’s more than two miles high and now divides two societies—one ruled by a brutal dictator and the other governed by a god-fearing chief. The Coopers soon figure out that the very-real stone is a metaphor for Jesus. But what is it trying to teach those living on either side of it? The siblings befriend the chief’s son, who has invented an alphabet that allows Jay to share the Bible with him. As in previous books, the family faces danger and witnesses God’s miracles. Older teens and adults will appreciate the theology in this story.

Reviewed February 11, 2020

Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea (Cooper Kids #4)

by: Frank Peretti

This story tugged on my heartstrings. Peretti delves into the death of Jay and Lila’s mother. He reveals Dr. Cooper’s deep sadness and how it has impacted his children. The book begins with a disagreement between Lila and him in Japan. It escalates, and she elects to return to America to live with her aunt. In an emotional twist, the plane crashes into the ocean. Lila may never see her family again. While she tries to escape and come to terms with her impending death, Dr. Cooper faces his own demons with help from a new character, Meaghan Flaherty, also widowed. I can’t wait to see if a romance blossoms! Perfect for middle grades and young teens.

Reviewed February 8, 2020

The Tombs of Anak (Cooper Kids #3)

by: Frank Peretti

Before opening this book, I recommend you access your favorite Bible app and search for Anak and Anakim. Then check out II Samuel 21:20 and learn about a huge man with six fingers and six toes. Interesting stuff. Fourteen-year-old Jay and 13-year-old Lila accompany their archaeologist father, Dr. Cooper, to a dig in Israel after a worker disappears into a mysterious pit. The site could be the ancient royal city of Gath, where treasure may be hidden. They soon find themselves ensnared in pagan rituals dating back to biblical times. And before long a false god becomes very, very real, and they’re running for their lives. A clean action-packed adventure for male and female middle schoolers and young adults. So far, this is my favorite Cooper Kids story.

Reviewed February 6, 2020

Escape from the Island of Aquarius (Cooper Kids #2)

by: Frank Peretti

When Jay and Lila Cooper agree to help their father track down the story behind a deceased missionary, they didn’t realize they’d put themselves in such extreme danger. As soon as they set foot on the shore of a South Sea island, they are confronted with a cult-like colony, a mysterious death, and eerie sounds. The author doesn’t give readers time to catch a breath with this fast-paced story. I sprinted from the beginning to end in one day with my heart in my throat. Middle schoolers and young adults will both love the Christian-based action and adventure.

Reviewed February 3, 2020

The Main Dish

by: Victoria Kimble

The author created two sisters who love each other dearly and want the best for each other. When both receive news that their dreams have been fulfilled, they’re thrilled . . . until they realize that one must make a heart-wrenching sacrifice to allow the other to shine. Their parents deliver the hard news, and the siblings spend the summer learning the importance of humility, good sportsmanship, and keeping secrets. The older sister, Scarlet, also gains an understanding of the makings of true friendship. This rollercoaster of a book had me wanting to shake sense into Scarlet in one chapter, then hug her in the next. I recommend this clean read for teenage girls. 

Reviewed January 5, 2020

A Nancy Drew Christmas (Nancy Drew Diaries #18)

by: Carolyn Keene

Who knew the much-beloved Nancy Drew stories had been continued? Certainly not me. Imagine my surprise this holiday season when I Googled “Christmas books” and up popped a promo for a new mystery starring the teen sleuth. My excitement mounted when I discovered A Nancy Drew Christmas was #18 in a fresh series published by Aladdin. I’ve never downloaded a book faster. It didn’t disappoint. Carolyn Keene’s current ghostwriter had put a modern twist on the classic mysteries. The tale included cell phones, modern language and near-death misses. Much edgier than the original series. Throw-back characters from the yellow books make guest appearances halfway through. Middle grade and young adult girls will love this twisting, turning there’s-no-way-you’ll-guess-the-culprit mystery.

Reviewed December 31, 2019

Mele Kalikimaka (Tradewinds #2.5)

by: Taylor Bennett

Olive and her best friend, Jazz, are faced with navigating their first Christmas without their mothers. Then, their other buddy, Brander, is called away on a Christian music tour. This beautiful story, set in Hawaii, weaves their bitter emotions into a heart-warming novella of acceptance and hope. There’s even a sweet recipe at the end.

Reviewed December 9, 2019

The Deception (The Delusion #2)

by: Laura Gallier

Owen’s quest for answers continues. Masonville High still isn’t safe. Abductions and disappearances are keeping the high school’s student body on edge. He realizes the forces upsetting his town are demonic, but is at loss on how to fight them. When a long-lost figurehead enters his life and offers guidance, he jumps at the chance for direction. He even snaps at his best friend, Ray Anne, when she suggests deceit. What a hard lesson Owen must learn about spiritual warfare. Darker than the first book, The Deception is a must read for older teens.

Reviewed October 11, 2019

The Ripper of Monkshood Manor

Book cover of The Ripper of Monkshood Manor

by: Mary Gray

Cate Hellstrom is clumsy, naive and somewhat stubborn. When she follows the hot guy of her dreams into his dilapidated old mansion, she has no idea that she’ll soon be running for her life. With each twist and turn of the plot, she learns whom she can trust and who is out to steal her soul. She encounters exploding aquariums, mysterious stains, and a bipolar dog. Terrific book for older teens with a quirky sense of humor.

Reviewed October 4, 2019

Nightmare Academy

by: Frank Perretti

I loved everything about this book, except for the Kindle formatting. It needs updating. The story, however, didn’t disappoint in this second book of The Veritas Project. The Christian twins are once more faced with a dilemma posed by non believers. This time, it’s about truth—many levels of it. They’re separated from their parents and must rely on their spiritual foundation to survive. They face bullies, deceitful adults and government cover-ups. I highly recommend this book (maybe the paperback version) to older young adults.

Reviewed August 23, 2019

The Delusion

by: Laura Gallier

This amazing work of Christian fiction—on par with Frank Peretti’s YA nail biters—stretches the imagination while painting a visual of burdened people. Owen Edmonds, a high school senior, receives a supernatural dose of reality after drinking a cup of well water. He now can see the emotional weight people carry and feels compelled to help them. After all, eleven students have already committed suicide. The story moves into an epic battle between angels and demons, leaving the reader with biblical lessons on trusting God, loving others and withholding judgement.

Reviewed July 20, 2019

Trinity Row

by: Kelly Martin

The artist who designed the creepy cover did a magnificent job capturing the eeriness inside. Ivy Black initially embraces the whole renovate-the-haunted-house challenge, but the more she spends time within Trinity Row, the more she questions her sanity. Who’s alive? Who isn’t? Who wants to kill her? Who doesn’t? I recommend this book to older teens who can handle the adroit plot twists and violence—who like to read with their hearts in their throats.

Reviewed June 5, 2019

Sandcastle Dreams (Tradewinds #2)

by: Taylor Bennett

Life sure is complicated if you’re a teen. Layer on a deceased mom, self home-schooling and a rambunctious puppy, and you have one overwhelmed girl. Olive does her best to stay strong for her little sister and for her new bestie, Jazz, but is frustrated at every turn, especially when she learns her friend is hiding a secret. When her other friend, Brander, is offered an opportunity on the other side of the country, she’s left with yet another loss. I can’t wait for the next book!

Reviewed May 31, 2019

Good Girls Stay Quiet

Good Girls Stay Quiet book cover

by: Jo Cassidy

Like so many children around the world, Cora is stuck in an abusive parental relationship that she thinks is normal. I’ve never been exposed to anyone in that type of situation, but Jo Cassidy made Cora’s character so credible that I wanted to jump into the pages and scream, “Help yourself!” I highly recommend it to all young adults.

Reviewed April 5, 2019

Sour Lemon Strikes Out

by: Julane Fisher

The story continues with the “sour lemon” twin, Lillie Mae, frustrated that her best friend is spending too much time with the new girl in town. Before long, she learns a secret about the new girl. By the end of the book, Lillie Mae has learned more than that secret—she’s also learned that loyal friendship and close family relations can conquer any problem. This is a terrific book for middle schoolers with its strong anti-bullying and peer pressure messages.

Reviewed March 28, 2019

Porch Swing Girl (Tradewinds #1)

by: Taylor Bennett

I, like the main character, Olive, was jerked out of my comfort zone and moved to another city halfway through my teens. Olive not only is forced to relocate, but she also has to deal with the grief of losing her mother. She’s much braver than I was at that age. She sets out on a mission to earn money to fly home, then turns her fundraising campaign into an endeavor to help a new friend. I highly recommend this Christ-centered book about loss, friendship and the importance of family.

Reviewed June 28, 2018

A Mixed Bag of God’s Grace

by: Sharon René

This terrific book of middle-school devotions offers short stories featuring kids from Biblical times through current day. Each story is followed by a lesson, scripture and prayer. There’s also a section on life in the Middle Ages and during Biblical times. The book ends with background on each story.

My favorite was “Sleeping in the Lion’s Den.” René did a fabulous job writing from the perspective of a lion in the den where Daniel had been thrown. An imaginative twist on that popular Bible story.

I heard through the grapevine that René is wrapping up a three-book young adult series named “Defying Destiny.” Stay tuned…

Reviewed June 22, 2018

Code of Silence

by: Tim Shoemaker

If you ever have a chance to meet the author at a book signing, go! You’ll find him to be friendly, witty and full of wisdom. I attended one of his classes at this year’s Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Conference, where I hung around afterwards to chat. He was only too happy to let me pick his brain.

This middle-grade novel is the first in a three-part series about a group of friends who are at the wrong place at the right time. They witness a murder in this book, extract a “code of silence” from each other to protect themselves and wind up in a huge mess as a result of the deceit they must create.

I found myself trembling as I read some of the harrowing scenes. Can’t wait to read his next two.

Reviewed June 1, 2018

Sour Lemon and Sweet Tea

by: Julane Fisher

This is Fisher’s debut novel—an amazing launch to her writing career. It’s a terrific clean southern read for middle schoolers about family, friends and overcoming obstacles.

Set in Triple Gap, Georgia during the Carter era, the story centers around a set of female twins. The sour lemon twin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, learning the hard lessons of rejection and forgiveness. The sweet tea twin keeps her straight. Fisher slips in humorous dialogue and realistic settings that remind me of summertime life on my grandparents’ farm in south Georgia.

I can’t wait for her next book, which I understand is close to completion.

Reviewed April 24, 2018

A Flash of Romance

by: Sharon René

This talented author has made her mark on the young adult romance genre. Loved this collection, inspired by the classics. What imagination. I appreciate the clean romance and look forward to reading more of her work.

Reviewed January 11, 2018

Soprano Trouble

by: Victoria Kimble

Seventh grade is hard enough without adding peer pressure. With misplaced encouragement from her group of choir friends, Summer pranks the new girl. Her actions are soon discovered and now she must work in the church nursery as payback . . . with the new girl, a humbling experience. Over the next few weeks, Summer learns that first appearances are deceiving and that old friends aren’t always the best ones.

Soprano Trouble is the first in the three-part Choir Girl series. I promise—they all end on high notes.

I happen to know the author is an expert on girl drama. She has three beautiful daughters. Check out her website.

Reviewed October 29, 2017

Tinsel in a Tangle

by: Laurie Germaine

Roasted chestnuts! Germaine has lit up the Christmas season with this darling young adult book—an uplifting story about Tinsel, a clumsy elf in search of her talent and, ultimately, acceptance by her peers. Poor Tinsel, tallest of them all, must right her wrong to save Christmas and win the eye of Santa’s handsome grandson. I read this straight through, then passed it to my 14-year-old niece, who did the same. Such a fun read!

Hold onto your stockings! Germaine’s writing a sequel to this hilarious festive page-turner. Can’t wait!

Reviewed October 10, 2017

The Door in the Dragon’s Throat

by: Frank Peretti

If you’re sick of reading about vampires and princesses, check out this exciting work of Christian fiction. Biblical archaeologist, Dr. Cooper, and his children, 14-year-old Jay and 13-year-old Lila, travel to Nepur to excavate the contents of an ancient cavern called the Dragon’s Throat. The risk is high—everyone before them has died trying to access the forbidden door inside the cavern. When the Coopers plunge into the Dragon’s Throat, they are confronted with supernatural twists and turns in the ongoing battle between good and evil. Perfect for MG and young teens.

Reviewed June 16, 2017

Keturah and Lord Death

by: Martine Leavitt

Kudos to the National Book Award judges. This gothic tale of romance, generosity and friendship certainly deserved to be a finalist. Set in Medieval England, the book contained both the language pertinent to the time period and the poor village setting.

After losing her way in the forest, the beautiful Keturah, famous for her storytelling ability, must weave an entrancing tale to keep Lord Death at bay. We discover Lord Death is real, not a metaphor for the afterlife. Lord Death challenges her to find love. If she does, he’ll save her. Keturah’s mission is two-fold: she must find love and she must intensify her tale forcing him to extend her deadline.

The author did an excellent job developing the characters. Keturah’s relationship with her friends reminded me of several buddies who’ve stuck with me through gossip and challenging times. I loved how the author used job descriptions as names—Cook, Choirmaster and Tailor—to keep the readers from forgetting them. I easily envisioned the icy Lord Death, the frightening Soor Lily, and the amiable John Temsland.

I did not predict the ending, so was pleasantly surprised. The author and Keturah both wove delightful tales.

Reviewed Feb. 16, 2017

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