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.
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
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 Thing. I 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.
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.
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!
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?
Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker is a book that you simply can’t put down once you pick it up. The charming characters, 1960s Georgia setting, and peach pies will have you glued to this book from beginning to end. Read on for my thoughts on Chasing Jupiter.
My Rating: Four Peach Pies out of Five
About the Book
Scarlett Blaine’s life in 1960s Georgia isn’t always easy, especially given her parents’ financial struggles and the fights surrounding her sister Juli’s hippie lifestyle. Then there’s Scarlett’s brother, Cliff. While she loves him more than anything, there’s no denying his unique behavior leaves Cliff misunderstood and left out. So when he wishes for a rocket to Jupiter, Scarlett agrees to make it happen, no matter how crazy the idea might be.
Raising the rocket money means baking pies, and the farmer’s son, Frank, agrees to provide the peaches if Scarlett will help him talk to Juli. The problem is, Scarlett really enjoys her time with Frank, and finds herself wondering if, someday, they could be more than friends. Just as she thinks everything might be going her way, Cliff suffers an accident that not only affects the rocket plans, but shakes Scarlett’s view of God. As the summer comes to an end, Scarlett must find a way to regain what she’s lost, but also fulfill a promise to launch her brother’s dream.
The characters were absolutely wonderful. I think that they could’ve all sat around eating peach pie and this book would be just as good. Grandpop Barley, Cliff, Scarlett, Frank…. All of them were sweet and eccentric in their own way.
The setting was perfect for the story. I just wanted to get lost in 1960s Georgia with Frank, Scarlett, and Cliff. Rachel Coker made the setting very real and very vivid. I could almost imagine that I was in Georgia myself!
“You can stay perched in your bird cage forever. Or you can fly.”
–Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker
The story made me smile multiple times. Who couldn’t smile when Cliff writes a sign in Spanish or argues with Grandpop Barley? And who couldn’t smile at such tender moments as the ones with Frank in the peach orchard?
God’s love and grace were evident on the pages. I loved that God’s love and grace changed Scarlett’s life and the lives of those around her. The author showed this beautifully in Chasing Jupiter.
Who couldn’t love all of the peach pies? You had better have a peach pie nearby as you read this book, or you will get very hungry. Trust me on this one, okay? 😉
What I Didn’t Love
I felt like everything was wrapped up a bit too quickly. One moment there was a disaster, and then in the next twenty or so pages, everything was resolved. I wish that there had been more pages dedicated to the resolution and falling action of the novel.
The story wandered into preachy territory at times. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like the author could’ve brought the themes across in a more subtle, meaningful way.
Chasing Jupiter is the perfect summer read. If you love endearing characters, historical fiction, peach pies, and rockets to Jupiter, then this book is most definitely for you.
About the Author
Rachel Coker resides in Virginia with her parents and two sisters. She has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. Rachel also has a deep love for classical music and old black-and-white movies. When she is not writing or playing the piano, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving her Lord and Savior.
Have you read Chasing Jupiter? If you could fly to any planet, what planet would you fly to?