5 Books to Cozy Up With This Autumn

Autumn is, in my opinion, the perfect season for reading.

The cold weather, the cozy sweaters, the warm drinks in whipped-cream topped mugs… What could be better weather for snuggling up with a book? To help you find a great book to read this autumn, here are five books to cozy up with this autumn.

Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall

Selena Taylor has a fresh start in Lake Lure, but can she reunite her broken family by finding her father and brother?

One look at the cover of this sequel to Purple Moon is all it takes for one to realize just how perfect of an autumn read Fallen Leaves is. And not only does the cover scream autumn, but the story itself has so much autumn in it. Needless to say, if you’ve read Purple Moon, read this. If you haven’t read Purple Moon, read Purple Moon and then read this. 😉

Buy Fallen Leaves on Amazon ~ View Fallen Leaves on Goodreads

Just One Thing by Anna Schaeffer

Sadie Grey made a new life for herself in Georgia, but can she start over in Seattle?

This sequel to All of This has a beautiful cover that just screams AUTUMN! I’ve just started reading Just One Thing, and I can already tell you that it is really good! I should have a review coming to Goodreads soon. In the meantime, click here to read an interview with the author, Anna Schaeffer.

Buy Just One Thing on Amazon ~ View Just One Thing on Goodreads

The Hidden Deep by Christa Kinde

Homework, apple pies, football, autumn leaves, and… Angels?

The Hidden Deep is perfect for readers who love a dash of fantasy. Actually, the whole Threshold series is amazing for anyone. My sister Maya and I LOVE these books (I spelled love in all caps because that’s how much we LOVE THEM). The Threshold series was one of my favorite series when I was younger, and after rereading the series this autumn, I love it even more. ❤

And yes, it’s a sequel. I need to stop recommending sequels….

Buy The Hidden Deep on Amazon ~ View The Hidden Deep on Goodreads

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

Alice Grace Ripley came to eastern Kentucky to get away from small-town gossip, but a mystery, a kind old woman, and a rather odd library keep her there.

Really, Wonderland Creek is a great read for any time of the year, but I find that reading it at this time of year, autumn, makes it even better. I mean, mountains, librarians, mysteries… Doesn’t that scream autumn to you too? If you can’t read Wonderland Creek, or really any of these great books, this November, be sure to read them soon!

Buy Wonderland Creek on Amazon ~ View Wonderland Creek on Goodreads

This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

Sarah Miller’s life turns upside down when she befriends Tucker O’Shay, a boy with a fatal illness.

This is another tale that is wonderful during any time of year, but even more so during the autumn season. Be sure to have a box of Kleenex and a plate of shortbread cookies nearby while reading this. Click here to read a review of This Quiet Sky.

Buy This Quiet Sky on Amazon ~ View This Quiet Sky on Goodreads

What is a book that you would like to read this autumn?

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Mele Kalikimaka By Taylor Bennett Book Review

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Well, not really, but Christmas is coming SO SOON, guys! I can hardly wait to start decorating, baking cookies, shopping for gifts, singing along to Christmas music (Lauren Daigle’s Christmas album is my favorite!), and reading Christmas books. This year, I’m happy to have another book to read during the Christmas season: Mele Kalikimaka by Taylor Bennett, the author of Porch Swing Girl and Sand Castle Dreams.

My Rating: Four and a Half Christmas Ornaments out of Five

About the Book…

Mele Kalikimaka might be the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day, but Olive Galloway is feeling less than festive. After all, this is the first year she’s celebrated the holiday without her mom. Even the ringing of silver bells sounds a little blue. When an attempt to make the season bright ends in hurt feelings and a shattered heirloom, Olive’s hopes for a happy holiday are dashed. A surprise visit from a less-than-jolly fellow in red only adds to the turmoil. Olive is convinced that nothing can possibly bring peace to her corner of the earth. As presents pile up beneath the tree and Christmas Day draws near, Olive realizes it will take a Christmas miracle to help her family rediscover the true magic of the holiday season. 

Buy Mele Kalikimaka on Amazon ~ View Mele Kalikimaka on Goodreads

My Thoughts…

Mele Kalikimaka is a Tradewinds series novella that begins around the time that Sand Castle Dreams ends. After the Thanksgiving festivities of Sand Castle Dreams, the Christmas season comes in full swing in Lahaina, Hawaii. Olive Galloway, the protagonist of the Tradewinds series, is feeling anything but merry this Christmas season. But when she tries to make the Christmas season merry and bright, things don’t exactly go as she planned. Will Olive learn the true meaning of Christmas this year?

“Must be Christmas magic.” I shrug and take another sip of cocoa.
Magic.
And maybe it really is.
Not the Santa-and-sleigh-bells kind of magic, but the kind Jazz is always

talking about. The magic of a Savior come to earth as a baby to redeem
the world.
-Mele Kalikimaka by Taylor Bennett

This novella is packed with Christmas, and I absolutely love that! Christmas is everywhere, from traditions to decorations to treats to music to the plot itself. And of course, all of the amazingness from the Tradewinds novels has found itself in this novella. From Grandma Bonnie’s treats to Jazz’s upbeat and sunny self to the sweet message of the true reason for the Christmas season, Mele Kalikimaka is sure to become a Christmas favorite!

If you’re a fan of the Tradewinds series, a lover of YA Christian fiction, or someone who loves Christmas books, be sure to grab a copy of this sweet little novella!

Note: I received a free copy of this novella in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

About the Author…

Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of contemporary YA fiction. Homeschooled since kindergarten, she is a proud homebody who suffers from the rare–yet always severe–case of wanderlust. 

Although she dreams of traveling to many different places, her favorite destination thus far (aside from her charming hometown in Oregon) is Lahaina, Hawaii. Taylor was so enamored with this tropical town that she became determined to write about it, hence her debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, the first in a series of books set in Hawaii.

A lover of literature since birth, Taylor found her love of writing fueled under the instruction of Andrew Pudewa and the other teachers at the Institute for Excellence in Writing, where she now works as an editor for their magazine.

When she isn’t writing, Taylor enjoys cooking, drawing, and taking long walks in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest

Visit Taylor’s Website ~ Find Taylor on Instagram

What is one of your favorite Christmas traditions?

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Interview With Author Anna Schaeffer

I’m so excited to be sharing an interview with author Anna Schaeffer with you all today!

Anna Schaeffer is the author of All of This and Just One Thing. I read and LOVED All of This and am so excited to read its newly-released sequel Just One ThingI am so lucky to have been able to interview Anna, and I am confident that she will inspire and encourage you through this interview as she has inspired and encouraged me through this interview and her books. Keep on reading for my interview with Anna!

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

1. When I was seven, I wrote a country love song. My family still laughs about it, but I was convinced I would end up with a Grammy one day. That was the start of my writing career.

2. Road trips are my favorite kind of vacation.

3. I make playlists for everything. I have playlists for writing different kinds of scenes, getting ready for work in the morning, and even for driving in the car on a rainy afternoon. 

Where did you get the inspiration for All of This and Just One Thing?

One summer in college, I took a walking/jogging class for a wellness credit (I’m not exactly ambitious when it comes to athletics…). One day I got to class early, so I decided to sit in my car and just listen to the radio for a minute. The song “Down” by Matt Kearney came on, and I heard these four lines in the second verse:

“It was Monday night under the street lights
She’s turning seventeen in seven nights
Out on the fairgrounds walking in monotone
She kicks a bottle as empty as her soul.”

 The song goes on from there, but for some reason, that one image stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A disillusioned, sixteen-year-old narrator started to grow in my imagination. The final book has nothing at all to do with the song, but that one image sparked what became All of This. 

I’d written a novel earlier, but the narrator hadn’t been all that different from me. So I decided to challenge myself. I was born and raised in the South, so I wrote Sadie as a girl from the Pacific Northwest who visits the South for the first time and experiences the culture shock of Southern culture. 

And, obviously, I’m not a runner…so guess what Sadie does when she’s stressed? She runs. I used that walking/jogging class for inspiration and drafted the novel that summer. 

That was supposed to be it. I wasn’t planning to write a sequel. But a year before All of This was even published, a friend and I took a weeklong trip to Seattle (where Sadie’s from). On the plane ride home, I knew Sadie’s story wasn’t over, and I wrote the synopsis of Just One Thing.

How does your faith impact your writing? 

My faith is my reason for writing. I want to entertain readers with a good story, but I also want to gently invite them to think about the bigger picture and how they fit into it. Readers get to walk beside characters who experience life in all of its weird, messy, and sometimes painful moments. And as my characters begin to discover their purpose, it’s my hope that readers begin to think about theirs too. 

There’s a line in All of This that says, “As long as your heart’s still beating, you’re not done. You still have a purpose. God still has big plans for you.” That’s why I write—to share with readers that there is more to their story than what they’re going through. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, we’re loved like crazy by the Author of our stories. And He still has big plans for us.

What has God taught you through writing and publishing your books?

So many things. But I’d say one of the biggest has definitely been this: True success as a writer isn’t defined by my sales, reviews, or followers. What matters is that I’m loving God with everything I’ve got. That includes my writing. My job is to do my best with what He’s given me and to trust Him to take care of the rest. I write in response to who God is and what He’s done for me. If He is glorified in it, I’m successful. 

Through writing, I’m also reminded that we are made in the image of a creative God. That means we all have some kind of creativity inside of us. How awesome is it that we get to participate in creating things that contribute to the beauty of the world and point back to the ultimate Creator? 

If you had to describe Sadie Franklin in three words, what would those three words be?

Independent, sincere, and scrappy.

If you could spend an afternoon at a coffee shop with one of your characters, who would it be and why? What drink would you order?

As much as I love her, I won’t say Sadie, since we’ve spent so much time together already over the years 😉 I’d love to have vanilla lattes with Melina Elliot, Sadie’s aunt. Mel is wise and compassionate, but she’s also super witty and has a stubborn streak like Sadie. Our conversation would range from talking about deep heart stuff to joking about random topics.

If I got to pick a second character, I’d say Fynnigan Larcy from Just One Thing. Honestly, Fyn could make a piece of wheat toast sound fascinating. I’d just want to sit and listen to her commentary on life.

What are three of your favorite books?

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, and A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman.

What is your favorite quote? 

I have several! But here’s a quote from one of my favorite books. I’ve had it written on my bedroom mirror for years:

“I don’t believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify. And there will be many ways, even a million little ways, I will glorify him with my life.” – Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

I love that quote for many reasons. But as a writer, it reminds me that my identity and worth are not found in my author title. Writing is a big part of my life, but ultimately, my identity is in my relationship with Jesus. My goal is to honor Him in my writing, but there are also so many other ways He wants my life to point to Him. 

Lastly, what is your number one piece of advice for writers everywhere?

Know why you write. If you write for popularity or money or to impress others, you’ll ultimately end up disappointed. Those things never fill us up. But remembering your reason puts everything else into perspective. There will be days when you can’t seem to shake the writers block, or you’re overwhelmed by the publishing process, or you wonder if anyone will ever even like the project you poured your heart into. When that happens, remind yourself of why you’re doing this whole writing gig in the first place. Hold onto that, and you’ll experience more joy in the process. Why? Because you’ll know you’re doing what you’re made to do. 

About Anna

Anna Schaeffer writes about girls navigating their teen years and discovering their purpose along the way. Born and raised in the South, she lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, where she works as an administrative assistant and frequents all the best breakfast places in town. When she’s not lost in a story, she loves hosting movie nights, making playlists, and taking road trips with her family. Hang out with Anna at annaschaefferwrites.com and on social media @aschaewrites.

Buy All of This on Amazon ~ Buy Just One Thing on Amazon

View All of This on Goodreads ~ View Just One Thing on Goodreads

Have you read All of This? How has your faith impacted your writing?

BOOK REVIEW: Every Bright and Broken Thing by Brian McBride

Every Bright and Broken Thing by Brian McBride is a book that you won’t soon forget.

Full of beautiful prose, this book is sure to break your heart. The story will haunt you and leave you aching. Read on for more of my thoughts on Every Bright and Broken Thing.

My Rating: Three and a Half out of Five Astronaut Murals

About the Book…

Haunted by the last question their mother ever asked them, the Greyson brothers struggle to cope with their grief and adjust to life after tragedy.

Semi-popular sixteen-year-old Liam spends his nights performing as the lead singer of his high school indie pop/rock band, Liam and the Landmarks. But something happened to Liam four years ago at his friend’s house – a secret Liam will take to his grave. But in small towns like Summit, Colorado, secrets always seem to find their way out. 

Twenty-four-year-old Ezra thought that he could cure his grief when he left Summit behind for a prestigious art school in Chicago, but things only got worse. Now a college dropout working at a gas station mini mart, he turns to alcohol, prescription painkillers, and meaningless one-night stands. But Ezra can’t run forever – life always catches up with you. 

With abrasively honest dual-perspective narratives, Every Bright and Broken Thing illustrates the unbreakable bond between brothers and the power in coming home.

Click Here to View Every Bright and Broken Thing on Goodreads ~ Click Here to Buy Every Bright and Broken Thing on Amazon

What I Loved…

The friendships in this book are so good. All too often, friendships get snubbed in YA fiction and romance is put on center stage, but that’s not so here! Yes, there is romance. But I feel like the friendships are just as, if not even more, important.

The author has a beautiful writing style; it’s full of prose and almost sounds like poetry. Here’s a quote from Every Bright and Broken Thing just to prove it: “I try to see my life in color, but the colors fall flat. Dull. Muted. Completely and irrevocably unspectacular.”

I loved the author’s descriptions. From settings to characters to thoughts to actions, everything that the author wove together read like art.

Just seeing Christian fiction makes me happy okay? I love love love Christian fiction and it’s really important and exciting to see another YA Christian fiction writer share a story, which is one reason I was so excited to see this book!

THAT COVER. It looks so good and am I being shallow mentioning how much I love it here? I hope not because WOW that is a great cover. And speaking of the cover…

Everything about this book is really professional, which you don’t often see in indie books. I was very impressed with this. If you had just handed me a page and asked me if the book was indie or traditionally published, I would’ve said traditional (not because indie is bad but because indie books don’t exactly have a reputation for looking professional).

The Sanctuary was so good to see in fiction. I wish that I could go there and volunteer and that a place like that was real for all of the homeless people of Chicago.

The supporting cast of characters (including Mama Gracie!) MADE this book. The author poured so much personality into the supporting characters, and it showed! I loved this so much because too often side characters get pushed to, well, the side. Here the author did them justice.

I love seeing guy main characters in a Christian fiction book. In my opinion, there aren’t enough guys, or really enough diversity, in Christian fiction. I loved seeing it here.

What I Didn’t Love…

It seemed overly poetic and prose-y sometimes. While I LOVED the writing style, sometimes I felt like it was… Too much. At some points it felt like the author was leaning too heavily on prose to tell the story. I loved the prose, but felt that there was just a bit much of it.

I felt like Every Bright and Broken Thing didn’t focus as much on the question that the boys’ mom asked them as I thought it would. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but I kinda wished I saw a bit more of it.

The ending felt super abrupt. Everything sort of just happened and then the book was over. Although it was a good ending that had me wanting to know more about where Liam and Ezra would end up, I wished that there was a little more to it.

I felt like the characters’ arcs barely changed during the book and then all of the sudden drastically changed. One moment they are lost and completely broken, and then the next they realize what they need to do. I could be the only one, but I felt that this happened too suddenly.

There were vague mentions of the church hurting the family, but we didn’t get a good picture of how or why. I thought that this should have been expanded upon a bit since it was such a big part as to why Ezra and Liam left God and the church behind.

It felt like the tone almost never changed. Everything felt dramatic, dark, and gloomy. I wish that the tone had some more changes instead of just staying at one level.

A Note on the Content…

This book is probably one of the few Christian fiction books I’ve read that isn’t afraid to get into the dark, gritty parts of our world. These subjects are not handled comfortably, and, frankly, they shouldn’t be handled in a way that makes us feel comfortable because we should not feel comfortable with these subjects. However, these subjects do need to be handled with care. I feel that the author did an okay job of not getting into too much detail while still conveying reality. Some of the subjects dealt with include: Alcohol, drugs, sex, rape, and thoughts of suicide and self-harm, amongst some other things.

With that said, I understand that not everyone is okay with reading books that have such heavy themes and topics. Because of the heavy themes and topics that Every Bright and Broken Thing deals with, I would not recommend it to younger teens. I’d say that a good age range for this novel would be at least 16+.

I will be doing a blog post series on hard topics in Christian fiction soon, so stay tuned for that!

Conclusion…

This was a very hard book to read because of the characters’ hurt and pain and because of the heavy topics it deals with. And that is not a bad thing. We need books that are hard to read, that illustrate the reality of our world and offer us hope and healing as this book does. Some other elements (not the “hard to read” aspect) kept me from falling as in love with this book as I wish I could have. However, it is a good book, and I’m sure that many others will enjoy this story and find hope within its pages.

About the Author…

A winner of the 2016 Wattys Award, Brian McBride published the award-winning Young Adult Contemporary debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, in 2018.

Born and raised in Oregon, Brian moved to California at sixteen, where he has lived ever since. He’s been writing since he was thirteen-years-old and has been reading for longer. Brian is pursuing a degree in Social Work, which he hopes to use to aid children and families. A fourth generation pastor and founder of the Pioneer Movement, he is passionate about his faith and longs to see Christians become all that they are called to be. Among other things, he is also passionate about iced tea, animals, adoption, and the arts.

Find Brian McBride on Instagram @brianmcbrideauthor and click here to visit his website.

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you read Every Bright and Broken Thing? What are some indie books that you enjoy?

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Interview with Author Ashlee Cowles

I’m so excited to be sharing an interview with author Ashlee Cowles with you all today!

Ashlee Cowles is the author of Beneath Wandering Stars and Below Northern Lights. Y’all have hear me rave about Beneath Wandering Stars before in my post “7 Books About Military Kids.” Guys, if you haven’t already, READ THIS BOOK. It is honestly one of my favorite books, and I was so excited when Ashlee Cowles agreed to do an interview. She is not only a great writer, but also so kind, inspiring, and all-around amazing. Keep on reading for my interview with Ashlee!

Tell me three random facts about yourself! 

  1. I once swam a few feet away from a shark…only I didn’t know it until I got out of the water and saw the fin! (Maybe this is why I now prefer swimming in the Great Lakes to the ocean!).
  2. My high school prom was held in a German castle.
  3. I’m pretty sure I could live off of olives, cheese, and fresh baguettes.

How did growing up as a military kid influence you and your stories? 

So far all of my stories are rooted in locations I’ve either lived in or traveled to, in large part because of my mobile military upbringing. I love stories with a strong atmosphere and sense of place. I think living in different regions and among a variety of different cultures has given me an ability to recognize the little details that make all of those places “home” in some way (because most military kids don’t just have one home — they have certain memories that feel like home). For example, I can still remember the sound of cicadas from spending my early childhood years in Alabama and Texas, I know what it feels like to not see the sun for weeks during a Pacific Northwest winter, and one of my favorite scents is the smell of cinnamon almonds roasting at a German Christmas market. Those are the kinds of special details I try to incorporate into my stories to make them feel real, but mostly, I just love writing about people from vastly different backgrounds who are trying to work together and figure out how to make their way in this complicated world. Growing up in the military community gave me a lot to think about in that regard.

Where did you get the inspiration for you novel, Beneath Wandering Stars?

My own upbringing as a military kid was definitely a major source of inspiration. There is a huge population of teens who know what it’s like to change schools multiple times because your family has to move every few years, and who know what it’s like to have a parent or loved one deployed to a war zone for months at a time. Yet I hadn’t read any Young Adult novels that focused on this unique upbringing, so I decided to follow Toni Morrison’s advice — “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Your story is set during a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Why did you choose that as the setting for Beneath Wandering Stars?

I knew I wanted to set my military kid story overseas on a U.S. military base in Europe (since that’s a unique experience many military kids have at some point), but I also wanted my protagonist (in this case, Gabi) to go on some kind of adventure that would cause her to grapple with the challenges that are part of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. After I walked the Camino de Santiago myself in 2011, I finally knew what my “adventure” would be and the rest of the story kind of fell into place! The Camino is a real-life “Hero’s Journey” and a fantastic setting for fiction — you meet so many interesting people who are walking the route for all kinds of reasons. I knew it would be the perfect setting for Gabi to encounter other characters who would stretch her and help her grow.

What message do you hope readers take away from Beneath Wandering Stars?

Whether or not you grew up in a military family like Gabi, I think a lot of us feel are longing for more connection and feel a little “homeless” right now, like there isn’t one physical location where we feel like we belong. The last line of the book will probably always be my favorite — “People are the only home the Army issues.” Because that’s what “home” ultimately means to me — it isn’t just a place, it’s the relationships and memories we carry with us no matter where we go.

If you had the chance to go on a trip with one of the characters from Beneath Wandering Stars, who would it be and why? Where would you go?  

What a fun question! I would probably want to go on another walking pilgrimage, and I would love to take along Homer, the German Shepherd, who makes an appearance at the end of the book. He’s such a loyal companion and he would make me feel safe if I wasn’t traveling with other people (Homer also plays a major role in the sequel to Beneath Wandering Stars, Below Northern Lights). I’ve had serious wanderlust for Italy (and gelato) lately, so I would probably want to hike the Way of St. Francis — a pilgrimage route from La Verna that passes through Assisi and ends in Rome.

What are three of your favorite books? 

Three recent favorites are A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, and Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge.

What is your favorite quote? 

I love this quote so much that it’s actually on the homepage of my website: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~T.S. Eliot 

Lastly, what is your number one piece of advice for writers everywhere?

To write well, I think you first have to see well. By that I mean you have to notice details and pay attention to what moves you and what moves other people. That’s why I’ve kept a notebook of quotes and poems and little snippets of writing that I love — it helps me to pay closer attention to what kind of words ring true and why they make me feel something long after I’ve finished reading them.

Thank you so much, Ashlee! I’ve loved having you on my blog and reading your fantastic answers.

About Ashlee Cowles

Ashlee Cowles is the award-winning author of BENEATH WANDERING STARS (Simon Pulse), BELOW NORTHERN LIGHTS, and WISDOM FOR THE WAY. Raised in a military family without roots, Ashlee enjoys traveling the world almost as much as she loves telling stories. Learn more at ashleecowles.com.

Click here to buy Beneath Wandering Stars ~ Click here to buy Below Northern Lights

In what ways does you life influence your stories? If you could go on a trip with a book character (yours or someone else’s), where would you go and who would you take?

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Book Review: Sand Castle Dreams by Taylor Bennet

Usually, when it comes time for a sequel, I prepare myself to be disappointed. I find that sequels can never quite live up to their predecessors. But in Sand Castle Dreams, I happily found a sequel that is just as good as its predecessor. Keep on reading to learn more! =)

My Rating: Four and a Half Slices of Key Lime Pie out of Five

About the Book…

Sometimes we have to face our greatest fears in order to become whole again.

Returning to Maui after one of the most challenging summers of her life, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is ready for things to return to normal—or, at least, a new normal. But even though she and her sister are back on the island they love, nothing is the same since they left for Boston a few months ago. Olive’s friend Jazz is hiding a secret—possibly something even worse than the cancer diagnosis she received earlier in the year. Can Olive ever stop running from memories of all they’ve lost?

When their friend Brander suggests Jazz attends the church’s teen support group, Olive thinks it’s a great idea—until Jazz insists that Olive join her. While the group is the perfect place for Olive to share her struggles, she wants nothing to do with it. Instead, grief threatens to roll over her like the ocean waves, and tiny fibs turn into looming secrets. When a scruffy puppy and one viral video send another storm rolling into Olive’s life, she ends up face-to-face with her biggest fear. And the only way to make it out of the tempest is to go straight through.

Buy Sand Castle Dreams on Amazon ~ View Sand Castle Dreams on Goodreads

What I Loved….

I loved the way that friendships were portrayed. Brander, Jazz, and Olive are such a great friend group! I wish that YA fiction had more friend groups like them. Too often YA books focus on romance. Which brings me to my next point…

The “romance” going on didn’t take over the story. The focus of the story wasn’t on the romance, and the subtle romance didn’t take over the story as it does in so many books. I loved this because being teenager is about so much more than dating and breakups.

The character arcs were phenomenal. It was exciting to be able to see how Olive and the other characters grew and progressed from Porch Swing Girl.

All of the desserts that Olive’s grandmother made!!! Um, yes, this is a total highlight. Can Olive’s grandmother just cook for me? Yes? Perfect! And you can actually have some of her cooking by making the recipe in the back of the book! Don’t you love it when there are recipes in the back of books?

The themes and messages packed into this book were a big highlight for me. From dealing with grief to authenticity to saying goodbye to helping friends, the themes, examples, and messages in Sand Castle Dreams are sure to uplift, encourage, and inspire readers, as well as bring them closer to God.

The setting of Lahaina, Hawaii, was so well written. I felt like I was in Hawaii eating shave ice and walking along the ocean with Olive and company. I really, really want to go to Hawaii now…

“It’s okay to cry, sweetie. It only means you have a heart so full it doesn’t have room for tears.”

-Sand Castle Dreams by Taylor Bennet

What I Didn’t Love…

Olive slightly annoyed me sometimes. She seemed a bit whiny at times, in my opinion. A bit whiny and moody, but she made up for it in the end. =) 

It felt a bit preachy at times. Olive’s friends and grandmother seemed to “preach” a bit to Olive. I feel like themes and messages could have been delivered better in different ways and been just as, if not even more, effective.

Conclusion…

Sand Castle Dreams is the epitome of a good summer read. It’s got a summery setting. It has a great group of friends. And, most importantly, there’s a lot of dessert. 😉 I’d highly recommend this to anyone who loves YA Christian fiction or a good contemporary story.

About the Author…

Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of contemporary YA fiction. Homeschooled since kindergarten, she is a proud homebody who suffers from the rare–yet always severe–case of wanderlust. 

Although she dreams of traveling to many different places, her favorite destination thus far (aside from her charming hometown in Oregon) is Lahaina, Hawaii. Taylor was so enamored with this tropical town that she became determined to write about it, hence her debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, the first in a series of books set in Hawaii.

A lover of literature since birth, Taylor found her love of writing fueled under the instruction of Andrew Pudewa and the other teachers at the Institute for Excellence in Writing, where she now works as an editor for their magazine.

When she isn’t writing, Taylor enjoys cooking, drawing, and taking long walks in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest

Visit Taylor’s Website ~ Find Taylor on Instagram

Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you read Sand Castle Dreams? What would you do on a trip to Hawaii?

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BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson sat on my TBR for much, much too long. Once I received it from my grandparents for my birthday, I was so excited to start reading. And once I started reading, I couldn’t put this book down!

My Rating: Four and a Half Imaginary Friends out of Five

About the Book

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

Find The Girl Who Could See on Goodreads ~ Buy The Girl Who Could See on Amazon

What I Loved

The whole concept of this book is brilliant. Imaginary friends, other worlds, Los Angeles, the FBI… Kara Swanson blended all of this and so much more into one fantastic story that had me daydreaming about Fern, Tristan, and their world for a long time. And speaking of Fern and Tristan…

The characters of this book are unforgettable. I’m sure that I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Characters can either make or break a book for me. Fern, Tristan, and the rest of the cast of characters MADE this book for me. They’re so real and perfect and precious. I loved them all!

“If I’m not broken, then what am I?”

Tristan’s voice softens. “You’re the only one on this planet who is truly whole.”

-The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

The adventure the story takes you on is one that you won’t want to walk away from. The plot of the story, combined with the characters, suck you into another world, or shall I say, Fern’s world. It was SO HARD for me to put this book down. So hard that I didn’t. 😉

The ending of The Girl Who Could See is perfection. But to find out just how perfect it is, you have to read it. So what are you doing? Go grab a copy!

The cover of this book…. THERE ARE NO WORDS.

What I Didn’t Love

I wish that it could’ve been longer. The Girl Who Could See is perfect in its novella-sized package, but I can’t help but wish that it could’ve been a little longer. I would’ve loved to see more of the amazing characters and their stories!

Overall

The Girl Who Could See captivates both the imagination and the emotions. This book is a real treat not just for fantasy and sci-fi fans, but for all bookworms who love a good story and a good adventure.

About the Author

As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate to characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself. At seventeen, she released a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. She received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer award in 2015.

Kara loves to hang out with other book nerds and chocolate enthusiasts on Instagram (@karaswansonauthor), Twitter (@kara_author), Facebook (Kara Swanson, Author) and on her website (karaswanson.com).

Have you read The Girl Who Could See? Did you ever have an imaginary friend?

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