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Category: Recommended Reads

#FreakyFriday – Reinventing the Horror Genre

#FreakyFriday – Reinventing the Horror Genre

Meet Horror Author, Alex Kimmell

author-pic-w-text-e1429318472641Alex Kimmell lives in Rhode Island with his family and two dogs. The Idea of North was released in September 2015 to wide acclaim. His previous books The Key to Everything and A Chorus of Wolves are Amazon bestsellers and his short fiction has appeared in publications by Dynatox Ministries, Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit, Canyon Voices, Wordcount Podcast and Dumb White Husband.


The Idea of North

tIoN-FINAL-HR-CoverWhen piano prodigy, Dalton Beaufort, plays his music people die.

Devastation is all that remains as storms of unprecedented size rage across the country side.
An elite group of storm trackers catch on camera a strange shape at the base of the largest tornado ever recorded.

Uncanny haunted melodies play upon the gales as whirlwinds churn and blow the world away.
Dalton must do everything in his power to discover what links him to the mysterious tempests, and avoid traveling along the path of a grim family tradition.

After all, death and music run in the family.

What Readers Are Saying

“Alex Kimmell’s stories just get better and better. I got an advanced review copy of The Idea of North a while back. Given his description, I really didn’t know what to expect. That’s good. When I’m reading, I like not knowing what to expect. That edgy feeling continued as the story unfolded. The writing is sharp and straight forward. Alex can turn a phrase and paint a word picture without falling into sounding too writerly. This is a haunting story that will keep you up wondering what dark path the author will lead you down. No spoilers. Just read it, and watch the sky.”

A Final Note

 As a kid, I loved Steven Spielberg’s movies. He was the first movie-maker I’d known to create authentic families, lull me into the normalcy of daily life and then unravel it all, making their slow destruction all the more horrifying.
Kimmell is the literary equivalent of Spielberg. As I read his books, I’m both cringing and holding my breath to see how fate will crack and crumble his characters. And I love every minute of it.
#Sunday Chat about an Amazing Seattle Author

#Sunday Chat about an Amazing Seattle Author

Meet Arleen Williams

Arleen Williams is a Seattle novelist, memoirist, and co-author of a dozen short books in easy English for adults. She teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and refugees for close to three decades. Arleen lives, cycles, and writes in Seattle. Want to learn more about her? She’s a voracious blogger, subscribe at and

On a personal note, if I had one literary wish to grant, it would be to see New York Times Book Review pay attention to Williams work. She handles complicated, tumultuous and diverse subject matters with literary grace and expertise. She deserves national attention.

The Alki Trilogy

running secretsIn Running Secrets, flight attendant Chris Stevens is bent on self-destruction until she meets Gemi Kemmal, an Ethiopian home healthcare provider. Gemi and Jake, a paramedic, help Chris heal from and confront her difficult past, and regain a passion for living. In the process, Chris and Gemi forge an unusual friendship that bridges cultural, racial and age differences. Their friendship gives both women the support each needs.

Gemi comes to question restrictive traditions dictating her immigrant life, such as the headscarf she’s worn since entering puberty and the celibacy she’s practiced since the brutal death of her husband and infant in the violence that destroyed her homeland and family. Chris uncovers family secrets that challenge everything she’s ever known to be true.

Together the women learn that racial identity is a choice, self expression is a right, and family is a personal construct. Cindy Steward gave the novel five-stars and wrote this: 

“I finished the book last night and Oh My Gosh!! I LOVED it!!! I am not much of a reader, but I found this too hard to put down. The writing is exquisite and the story is wonderful. I found it easy to identify with the characters and picture them in my minds eye. I laughed, cried, smiled a lot and felt the love in the characters. I kept expecting a different outcome at every turn of the page and was pleasantly surprised each time!! I can hardly wait until the next one comes out. I wanted this one to keep going, to read more about Chris’ and Gemi’s new lives.”
CD captures the essence of the book in their five-star review:
This book is a polished jewel of friendship.

The author tackles the sensitive and complex subject of illegal immigration and American immigration policy without flinching. Never preachy, she illuminates the inhumanity of the “detention and deportation” system, the terror of the fleeing migrants and the horrors they will encounter when they are returned home.”


41cCff7gofL._SS500_In Biking Uphill, lonely college student Carolyn Bauer offers sanctuary to a homeless teen. Fifteen years later, only Antonia recognizes her old friend when they meet again in an ESL classroom, but she conceals her secret. Biking Uphill invites the reader into a world of undocumented immigration, where unexpected friendships bridge cultural divides and everyone benefits.



418puKpNb4L._AC_UL320_SR208,320_Walking Home. Seattle is a long way from the Horn of Africa. Despite escaping his country’s violence, Kidane is never too far from the nightmares and despair of his past. A new country, a new hope, and a new love may not be enough to save him. Only when he is able to face his worst fears can he have any hope of being truly free.

Rhino gave the novel five-stars and wrote this on
“In her breakthrough novel Walking Home, Arleen Williams creates a very personal look into the lives of the immigrant population that comes to America in search of hope. Kidane hopes for a world that is without the terrors of war. Talisha longs to one day hold a baby in her arms, to love, nurture, and watch grow. All of the characters that Arleen weaves into this heartwarming story have one thing in common: the hope of a secure world, free of violence. I was drawn to each of the characters as I read how their lives became intertwined due to the challenges that they face and how a new family was created. Out of despair, death, and loneliness they are brought together and a lasting bond is formed: a bond based on trust, strength, courage, and a hope that love can be stronger than the forces that attempt to destroy it.


Delicious YA Mystery

Delicious YA Mystery

Meet Addison Kline

71UxQi-dgTL._SX800_Addison Kline is an international best-selling author who resides in Philadelphia with her husband, their children and their two dogs. When she is not writing, she enjoys watching reruns of Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead and Sons on Anarchy, traveling with her family and reading to her heart’s content.

Addison is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association and while she loves to write in a variety of genres, Addison always says “mystery is her game.” Her favorite genres to write include romantic suspense, psychological thrillers, mystery and thrillers.

You can follow Addison on Social Media:

Click here to link up with Addison on Facebook.

Click here to subscribe to Addison’s website.

Shadow Dancer (Shadows of Morrow Series) (Volume 1)

3D+CoverSome secrets should just stay buried. On the day Tristan Morrow is born her mother goes missing, prompting an investigation that produces no solid leads. Fast forward 15 years, and the Morrow family still doesn’t know the truth behind Catherine Morrow’s disappearance. When 15 year old Tristan is required to write a biography on her mother for a school assignment, she learns the truth about her mother’s fate, and is hell-bent upon finding out who was responsible for her death. But when Tristan herself goes missing too, everyone is suspect, even her own father. Set in rural Fox Hollow, PA, Shadow Dancer unravels a web of lies, deceit, madness and corruption. Can investigators crack the case before Tristan meets the same fate as her mother? And who is responsible for the disappearances? There is much uncertainty as the investigation unfolds, but there is one thing that is certain: Tristan Morrow holds the master key to the entire riddle.


What Readers Are Saying

Melissa72 on gave it 5.0 out of 5 stars

This book was simply amazing from start to finish! We should create a 6th star for works like the one that this awesome author has given to us! It sucked me right in, I mean I was totally hooked right away, and left clinging to the edge of my seat throughout. There is so much mystery and suspense, I literally had to take deep breaths and remind myself to unclench several times as I felt my muscles cramping from tensing up. The questions, and secrets, and passions within the story are so intriguing, and exciting. This is one of those books that stays with you that you will be telling everyone you know that they MUST read it. The plot is flawless and smooth, it just flows, carrying you along. I couldn’t put it down and read it straight through. I would recommend planning some time for this, because I feel that you will want to do the same. I can’t wait to see what happens next! I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.”



Becki Brannen – Breathless

Becki Brannen – Breathless

2478156Becki Brannen is a thirty-something writer born and raised in the heart of Georgia. Her debut novel, Breathless, is the result of NaNoWriMo 2011, having been written in just twenty-nine days. Becki primarily writes “chick lit with a Christian twist,” marrying one of her favorite genres with her Christian faith. Her life verses are Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 41:10. Becki and her husband have twin daughters and a poodle, Sophie.


Becki_Brannen_-_COVER_CONCEPT_-_FINALWhat happens when an ordinary girl meets the man of everyone’s dreams?

Keeping secrets is never easy, especially since Ryan Spalding is on the cover of every magazine and this year’s “Hottest Hunk under 30.” Good thing busy lawyer Carly Sparks is so out of the loop when it comes to celebrity affairs, or she’d realize she was in one!

Leading man, Ryan Spalding, tempts Carly in ways she’s only ever seen in the movies. She’s drifted away from a promise she made to God as a teenager, but Carly must rely on her faith when her relationship with Ryan is put to the test. Will it be enough to keep them together, or will theirs be just another failed Hollywood romance?


What Readers Are Saying

big heart“…a whirlwind romance that will leave you feeling breathless!”
Emerald Barnes
Author of Entertaining Angels

Loved this book. It has romance, trust, happy, sad, intense and God in it. Teared up many times while reading it and couldn’t put it down. Now I am so looking forward to the next book in the trilogy which is Strapless and yes I have already bought it. Can’t wait to see what Becki Brannen does next. Good read, highly recommended…”

Final Say

Breathless is a great read for fans of Christian Lit, Women’s Contemporary Fiction and Romance.  It’d be a fun choice for a Christian book club!
Connect with the author at or find Becki on Facebook at




#TT – A Creepy Kid and a Two-Edged Mystery

#TT – A Creepy Kid and a Two-Edged Mystery

IMG_0683I woke up this morning covered in sweat and sniffing back tears. I’d had a nightmare. Trying to return my heart rate to normal, I mentally went over the details of the thing. It was my familiar life at first, cozy and warm, but soon the surface of it crackled with terror. The fates of the people I love were distorted slowly at first, and then twisted to the point I couldn’t recognize them anymore. I woke up weeping, but I won’t soon forget the dream. In fact, you may see it in an upcoming short story.

You see, my writing comes from nightmares and softer terrors that have happened to me in real life. My new book is no different.

Here’s a Little about Me (squirm! cringe!)

lmMQa3hYRaised across the river from the Hanford Nuclear Reactor, I grew up looking at the world a little differently. I was the kid no family member wanted to share a bed with when we came to town because I woke up screaming in terror. I use that same imagination now to write the Josie Jameson series and illustrate for talented authors, preferably with a cat on my lap or dog at my feet.

I love living in rainy Seattle, volunteering in my kids’ schools and raising funds for Providence Hospice of Seattle.

Sure, you may not love rain, but when the skies turn gray over Seattle, I nestle into my art loft to write and draw pictures. If you walk past my house, look up and smile! I just might sketch you!


Something you might now know about me: I’ve collected Pex dispensers for 30 years. When the Seinfeld episode about the Tweety bird Pez aired, I was worried collecting Pez would become trendy.

I’m on Twitter @JenniferLHotes.




Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch

Front CoverIn author Jennifer L. Hotes’ YA thriller novel, Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch, readers meet a teen that’s been struggling since childhood to fill the shoes of her dead mother. Josie is a caregiver to her little brother, a confidante to her grieving dad, and the backbone of her tight-knit group of friends. But always being the strong, responsible one has taken its toll on Josie, now fourteen. After stumbling upon the grave of a witch, she’s been plagued with nightmares, dark visions, and fainting spells that leave her feeling like a freak. And then suddenly her faulty heart gives out and for 5.4 seconds Josie is technically dead. Hoping the life-saving surgery will finally transform her into a regular girl, Josie’s about to discover the witches have other plans. As she struggles to accept the foreign object now regulating her heartbeat, Josie begins to dream the life of a headstrong teen in 1820s England who, along with 11 other girls, is devoted to empowering women in their strict society. The second book in the Stone Witch series takes readers along with Josie who, with the help of her friends and clinging to the final memories of her mother, must face the challenges of her future as the past battles for her soul. Will she be strong enough to face her fate?


Kirkus Reviews Reads Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch

Back Camera
Watercolor of the Stone Heart

“Secrets, lies, and teenage angst abound in Hotes’ (Josie Jameson and the Fourth Tombstone, 2015, etc.) second installment of a supernatural YA series.

Josie Jameson is not your typical 14-year-old. After losing her mother at 8, she grows up fast, shouldering most of the household burden while her father drowns in grief. The loss hardens and matures her but also leaves many unanswered questions. Surrounded by a group of childhood friends, Josie searches for the truth about her mother and finds more than she expected. After a fainting spell lands her in the hospital, she wakes up with a pacemaker implanted, and Josie begins to experience strange, vivid dreams. Asleep, Josie is transported to 1800s London through the eyes of Agatha, an Irish missionary. Upon realizing that Agatha’s adventures are strikingly similar to actual historical events—like the push for women to take more active roles in the church—Josie plans to learn the truth behind the dreams. Fresh, modern, and inventive, the novel alternates between Josie’s and Agatha’s worlds. Each chapter reveals pieces to the overall puzzle of how and why Agatha and Josie are connected. Agatha’s chapters unveil a world where a secret sisterhood works to glorify God by clinging to the ideas in the “lost Book of Mary.” They yearn to be martyrs and leaders in a patriarchal religion. Josie’s narrative includes hashtags and relationship drama, making her seem authentic and contemporary. Hotes carefully layers Agatha’s tale and hints provocatively at what makes Josie so special. Certain key moments, however, such as a character’s struggle with depression and the ultimate big reveal, resolve without the same care and attention given in the novel’s ascent. But Josie—loyal, determined, and vulnerable—is a character readers will want to know better.

A delicious supernatural mystery that spans centuries. 


What Readers Are Saying

From Teresa Miller’s review, “Recommended to those who believe in ghosts, witches, and lost souls and who are curious about how mysterious, often evil forces can alter and control our actions, thoughts, and feelings.”

From Kate Erickson’s review, “The book ends—like all good mystery series—with a cliffhanger. I can hardly wait for the next installment.”

From The Book Junkie, “I knew almost from the start that I would be finishing it in one sitting.

From VMC on Amazon, “The book is just a touch creepy, in an intriguing and compelling way. A great read, especially if you like history, folklore, and ghost stories woven together.


Finally, Did You Know?

Yellow Car Lady
Not the best picture, but it was snapped from my car. The lady in the yellow car is real.

There’s a character in the new book that lives in the periphery for the first half. She’s an old lady that drives a ragged yellow car. The back windshield is covered in posterboard, which are riddled with her words written in a crude hand. Things about God and radiation and pain and safety. She wears a foil-covered hat.

She’s real.

I was working out a storyline kink as I drove my daughter to fencing, when she rolled up next to me at a stop sign. The hair on my arms stood up. Later that same day, miles away from there, she parked in front of the Starbucks where me and my daughters were having a snack. The third time I crossed paths with her, I knew she was supposed to be in the book. She would be the one to first recognize Josie for what she had become and feel the need to watch her.

#MondayBlogs – A Mystery Plucked from Real Life

#MondayBlogs – A Mystery Plucked from Real Life

As a delicate rain mists my parched Seattle garden, I can’t help but breathe a sign of relief. My favorite season is here, autumn. Not for the pumpkin-spiced everything or the return of school for my kids. No, it’s because the pace of life slows a tad. Once again, I find time to snuggle in with a good book. And I’ve finished yet another one I’m excited to share with you.

Meet JT Twissel

janToday, I’d like to share one of my favorite authors with you, JT Twissel. If she were a man with a quasi-British last name, movies would be made out of all her books. But, for now, she writes for the sheer love of the craft and for the readers that pester her to give them more dammit, more! (I may be one of those prodding fans. Okay, cripes. I am.)

JT Twissel (Jan) was born in a small town in Massachusetts and raised primarily in Reno Nevada, leaving home at eighteen to see the world. Eventually she settled down, living first in Chicago and then in the San Francisco Bay area where she obtained a degree in English from UC Berkeley. She worked as a newsletter editor, a process analyst, project manager and technical documentation manager before becoming a full time writer. Aside from her children, she’s most proud of the years she spent as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, interviewing children with life-threatening conditions and helping arrange their wishes.

Via Twitter:  @jttwissel
Via Pinterest:


Willful Avoidance

imagesInspired by a true story. . .

Maya Bethany awakes as though from a seventeen-year coma to find herself in bed with a stranger—her husband—who is on a course that will ruin not only her life but those of her children as well unless she does something. But what and how and who will help her? Certainly not the flirtatious millionaire she works for. Nor the jaded lawyer who urges her again and again to compromise with the tax man. No, they only complicate her life at a time when she’s just trying to survive. There will be no white knights to save her. She has to do it herself.

Willful Avoidance is a term in the tax man’s lexicon that refers to the refusal of a spouse to obtain knowledge which he or she needs in order to competently cosign income tax returns.

JT Twissel spent fourteen years fighting the franchise tax board, ultimately appealing to the highest tax court in the state of California, the Board of Equalization. The charge against her: willful avoidance. She wrote this fictionalized version of the story as a cautionary tale. If you think what happened to her can’t happen to you, think again.

My Review:

413 Fir Color
An old lady from NoCal I drew last year.

As an author myself, I know how much time and love it takes to craft a novel which makes me feel all the worse for wolfing down JT Twissel’s latest book in a matter of hours. Within the first chapters I came to care about Maya and her uphill battle against a horrible ex-husband and the IRS. Grounded in reality, her story was dramatic, funny, tragic and wonderful.

What I appreciated most is that Twissel didn’t write what the readers wanted to read, but instead wrote the organic journey of Maya with all her ups and downs. The result is a book with a story you could chew on and with twists that kept me reading late into the night! An added bonus of this book was coming away with a rudimentary understanding of our tax laws. Twissel, you’re a sneaky one. Have you ever thought about teaching the subject at the university?

Willful Avoidance spans multiple genres. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Legal, Women’s Fiction, Humor, Literature & Fiction, Contemporary Women, and Political – there’s something to entice every reader. Why not suggest it for your next book club read?


Like Me and Want More from JT Twissel?

In her own words:

“The battle for Innocent Spouse Relief, which is at the core of Willful Avoidance, is based on my own fun and games with the taxman.  Before the release of the book I wrote a largely satirical, five-part series on my blog on the subject.  If you’re interested, here are the links:

Five Deadly Sins in the Eyes of the Taxman:
Language in the tax code that might surprise you. Especially if you don’t understand financial documents your spouse insists you sign.

The Three Easy Pieces:
The minimum requirements for Innocent Spouse Relief if your spouse’s financial fandangos leave you in the crosshairs of the IRS.

Secrets of a Kick Ass Tax Woman:  http;// You can fight the taxman.

Off to See the Wizard: Facts about the court of last appeal.

Confronting the BOE:  The scene insist the courtroom as final, final tax appeals are being heard.

Haunted by an Unrealized Dream

Haunted by an Unrealized Dream

Today, I’d like to introduce you to author, Mary Rowen.

Meet Mary Rowen

1546052_250009598490616_1231911253_n-1Mary Rowen is a Boston area mother and a music lover. All of her novels focus on women of various ages growing up, or at least becoming comfortable with themselves. Her essays have been anthologized and/or published on multiple blogs. Mary grew up in the Massachusetts Merrimack Valley, is a graduate of Providence College, and has worked as a teacher, writer, salesperson, and political canvasser. She firmly believes that all of those jobs provide good preparation for an aspiring writer.

Please visit her blog at:


Twitter: @maryjrowen.


Living by Ear


What happens when the world you love doesn’t press pause when you do? Singer-songwriter Christine Daley hit the streets of Boston and became a minor celebrity—with a local radio hit—in the 90s, but a “short” career break to marry and have kids changed everything. Now, sixteen years later, she’s a frustrated suburban housewife, struggling to find her place in life.

After filing for divorce, she learns that her attempts to reestablish her own rhythms—both in music and in love—are more complicated than she’d anticipated. Her two teenagers are desperate for their mom, and her soon-to-be-ex-husband is throwing every obstacle he can in her way. Adding to the stress is the progress in technology, which has not only changed the music industry, but also the dating world. Is there room in the mix for Chris?

My Review

Ignoring a dream comes with a heavy toll.

Mary Rowen’s novel, Living by Ear, is a work of literary fiction, but like all the best books, resonates with authenticity and heart. Anybody that has ever had to put aside their hopes and ambitions to take care of someone else will be struck deeply by Rowen’s protagonist, Christine.

On the verge of breaking into a national career, Boston busker (or street musician), Christine puts her musical ambitions on hold to marry and have children. Though she aches to tend to her dried up ambitions, Christine is discouraged, held back and maybe even sabotaged by people she trusts until her dream withers and nearly dies. Though she puts on a strong face for her kids, I call it fake-happy, she’ll pay a price for ignoring her passion  – and she’ll pay it in the very marrow of her bones.

Rowen’s beautifully flawed characters and relatable story were delicious and hard to put down. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into another of her books soon. She definitely earned five stars from this reader!

Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

If you smell the faint scent of smoke issuing off my website, it’s my smouldering Kindle. I’ve been reading overtime to find you some new authors for your autumn reading.

Meet A.M. Willard

A.M.-WillardToday, I’d like to introduce you to A.M. Willard. She is a true believer of soul mates, and happy ever afters. She enjoys reading, sailing, and of course writing contemporary romance with some saucy scenes. Releasing her first novella of the One Night Series on April 12, 2014 has sent her on a new journey in life.

A.M.’s passion for writing started at a young age, but with the love and support from her husband of eighteen years pushed her to follow her dreams. Once she hit that first publish button, she hasn’t looked back. She is a proud member of the Romance Writers of America organization.

A.M. Willard was born and raised in the Panhandle of Florida, but resides in Savannah GA with her husband, son, two cats, one rotten dog, and her six chickens. Yes, we said chickens…

You can connect with A.M. Willard on her hot looking website at or on Twitter @AMWilliard1.

Fading Memories51hm6PpP9pL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

In this Mature Contemporary Romance, A.M. Willard brings you Fading Memories—a story about love, grief, and memories that slowly fade with time.

Isabel Nichols’s life changed in more ways than one through the years. As a young child, she experienced a loss that devastated her. It wasn’t until she was an adult that the universe around her shattered. In a twenty-four-hour time frame, she lost what she’d thought was her world. What followed was a year of mourning, a year of grieving, a year of darkness. Now, there’s one man who can show her the light.

Dakota Jackson left his life behind on a whim, moving to a beach cottage away from the big city where he grew up. He sees through Izzie’s clouds as he gets to know her, with the drive to be everything that she’s ever needed. The only problem is, Dakota holds the key to a secret that could ruin both of their hopes and dreams.

Passion isn’t always enough to heal a broken heart; love isn’t always enough to guide you through the darkness.

This is about two souls that were meant to be together from the day they were born. Two people who have to figure out a way to look past the memories. It’s the now; it’s living your life as you’re meant to, loving the one your heart craves. It’s about letting go of the grieving, learning to be who you are, and accepting life for what it is.

Can love cure all things despite its hardships?

What Readers Are Saying

plates on wallJessie on gave Fading Memories five stars. Here’s what Jessie wrote:

“LOVE LOVE LOVE! Not only a wonderful story, but great characters. A great story of heart break and finding love again after terrible pain and loss. It’s really a deep and touching story that is full of emotion, and of course romance. The character pairing is perfect, they all work great together and make the story flawless. Truly a great story!”

Fading Memories is fresh off the presses. I encourage all the romance fans out there to download it and enjoy. If you love it like Jessie did, post a review on your favorite site.

That’s all for today, but join me tomorrow when I introduce you to another fabulous author – and maybe your new favorite book!

Entertaining Angels by Emerald Barnes

Entertaining Angels by Emerald Barnes

A1vvhLeXzVL._UX250_Emerald Barnes is my featured author today. She’s an avid blogger, a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd (her words – not mine!), a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number one in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor.She resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it.

Find her blogs at and which takes up more of her time than she anticipates but loves it so very much!

She loves to stay in touch with her readers and to hear their stories about her work! Feel free to connect with her. If you’re a tweep like me, find her on Twitter @EmeraldBarnes.

Entertaining Angels

finalcoverHere’s the lowdown:

Madison Andrews can’t face her reflection in the mirror. All she sees is a big, fat nobody. Yet, deep inside she longs for something more, something that’s not skin deep. Along comes Zach, the new guy in high school. He’s smoking hot and totally out of her league. She somehow catches his eye, and he makes her feel beautiful for once. But just as she gets close to Zach, her nerdy best friend, Chase, won’t let Madison doubt her true beauty, no matter how many meals she skips. Dark forces are at work, darker than the lies and mocking from her peers, stopping her from amounting to her full potential. With her newfound Christian faith, can Madison find true happiness in her own skin amidst the battle of angels and demons?

Listed on under the genres, YA, Teens, Literature & Fiction, Religious, Christian, and Social Issues.

What Readers Are Saying

This 5-star review on Amazon from Kara Grant was enough to persuade me to download the novel!

easterKara begins her review with Barnes’ dedication and makes a note that she reread the novel and wished she could give it another five stars. 🙂

Dedication from the book-

“To all the girls in the world:
Don’t let the world tell you otherwise.”


Now, Kara’s comments:
“Wow, oh wow, how I WISH this book had been available when I was in high school. However, I’m utterly grateful to have read it at this point in my adulthood as well. This story had my full attention from the beginning and I just had to know what happened to Madison “Mads.” She’s not your typical teenager, but she suffers way too much emotionally from low self-esteem no matter how many times her best friend, Chase, tells her how amazing she is. That’s not surprising though because sometimes an outsider’s perspective can help tremendously.

Enter Zach Taylor, the new kid in school and instantly noticed because he’s a hunk. Madison hasn’t even spoken to him, but she immediately wishes she could catch the attention of a guy like that and believing this to be impossible she starts feeling low again. So when he seeks her out and pursues her friendship, no one is more surprised than she is at his sudden interest in her. It’s just too good to be true! Instead of allowing herself to hope, she ignores the guy and even convinces herself that it’s some cruel joke for him to like her. Little does she know the incredible plan God has for her.

Before I even read the story, I noticed the dedication of the book and felt like this story was for me (LOVED the dedication). I never believed myself to be pretty or knew my worth in high school so when I heard about this book, I knew it was for me. Any other girls reading this review ever dealt with low self-esteem? We ALL have and I truly believe this book will have a huge impact on the females who pick this up. It DEFINITELY affected me deeply!

Even though Madison is WAY too hard on herself and MOST of the time (even when not being mocked or laughed at) it’s in her head that something is wrong with her. She also makes the mistake of comparing herself to ALL the girls around her including her mom, which convinces her further of being inadequate. She annoyed me a few times in the book about lies she believed and misunderstandings with Chase. But again, I’ve been guilty of the same issues.

Despite this book being a Christian YA book, I didn’t see it as preachy at all. Madison has no idea how much God loves her and once she discovers this reality, it changes everything she knows. Her heart is already incredible, but she is a slave to thoughts of ugliness and unworthiness. When a person doesn’t understand God’s love for them, this can be a problem. No matter how much you’re told how beautiful you are, it’s a revelation that must come from God or you’ll never believe it/never understand the truth of it/start to doubt it.

It was really cool how the author implemented that doubting God, feeling ugly, feeling worthless, and even depression from those thoughts are part of spiritual warfare. No matter what others say, only what God says should be important and focused on. Everyone relates to peer pressure and wanting to fit in, but knowing who you are in Christ is the best way to knowing joy and being free from negative comments from others (even a certain little brother who was just spiteful throughout the book).

It was sooooo easy to hate Ashley’s character in this book, but we do learn why she’s so cruel and it makes sense. Zach is also not who he seems to be, but I really enjoyed his character. Some of the dialogue from Zach had my eyes go wide more than once.

I was able to figure out what was going on from the beginning, but it made the story no less exciting for me as I waited for Madison to overcome her torment. I also enjoyed how she got a job at a coffee place and her boss was an enhancement to the story.

Barnes writes spiritual warfare in such a tangible way, I considered her as talented as Frank Peretti (one of my fave Christian authors and a genius at writing spiritual warfare in fiction). I thought that God went through so much trouble to get His message across to Madison and to break through to her, I just couldn’t believe what it took for her to understand. However, God pursues EACH of us this way and He definitely has spent years working on my heart to understand the same message. He loves us, He fights for us, He’s relentless to make us understand who He is, He will never stop, and He’s determined to show us our worth because even though He’s already make the ultimate sacrifice, He still goes out of His way to show us how beautiful we are to Him.

Madison finally learns this crucial lesson and it changes her in magical ways. I connected with this story and it was much deeper than I anticipated. I hurt with Madison, I wanted to stand with her against lies and cruelty, I was happy for her, and I rejoiced for her when she overcame! What a great book, a definite jewel that shines for God and His beautiful creation……US!! 🙂

At the end of the story there are two bonus short stories that I simply loved on top of this great book!! One is from Zach’s perspective and one is from Chase’s perspective, brilliantly done and very special.

I want to thank the author from the bottom of my heart for the review copy provided. I was not required to write a positive review, but books like this one make it easy to do so. The opinions expressed are my own.”

Read by the Seat of Your Pants!

Read by the Seat of Your Pants!

635711350966973188-1822444232_psl-090413-tbvThis morning I woke up to find fog on my car windows. I dressed my daughters in layers, knowing the gray Seattle morning would morph into sunshine before lunchtime and nudged them out the door towards school.

Yes, hoodie sweatshirts coming back into the wardrobe cycle and the trending of Starbucks #PSL on Instagram can only mean one thing. Fall is here.

With the shorter days, I hope you (like me) are finding time to curl up with books again. If you don’t have the next read figured out yet, look no further.

Meet Donelle Knudsen

Author-Donelle-KnudsenToday, I’m delighted to introduce you to author, Donelle Knudsen. Her hometown is Portland, Oregon, the beautiful “Rose City” of the Pacific Northwest, but has lived in Eastern Washington since 1988. She earned a B.S. in Arts & Letters from Portland State University and is a four-time finalist in Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Literary contest in the memoir category.
She owes her love of books and the craft of writing to her late father, who was never too busy to read her stories or make visits to the “Big” library every Saturday. Her memoir, “Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother’s and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia” was published in 2011. Her first novel, Between Heartbeats is available now.
I love that author, Donelle Knudsen, happens to collects books, stuffed animals, books, and purses. 🙂

Between Heartbeats

Between-Heartbeats-by-Donelle-Knudsen-e1440735918672Her first novel, Between Heartbeats, fits into a few genres including – YA, Romance, and Literature & Fiction, but I’d also define it as a thriller because of its breathless pace and seat-of-your-pants story line.

From the back cover, here’s a nice overview:

Can life change between heartbeats? Diana awakens on her seventeenth birthday in a joyful mood. But at breakfast she is told, during a heated argument with her mother, that the man she has loved as her father is not her father at all. Diana decides to unravel the mystery of her childhood and the reason for their secrets and travels across the country to visit her step-father. And so, Diana begins a journey where she discovers shocking truths hidden just beneath the surface.
To further complicate her summer, she meets Kevin Wright, a college junior. When Kevin vanishes without a trace, Diana learns family is more than shared DNA and discovers who will help her when it appears all hope is gone. In Donelle Knudsen’s Young Adult novel, Between Heartbeats, a young woman’s quest to find her roots enables her to discover love and the power of forgiveness.

What Readers Are Saying

Between-Heartbeats-TeaserWell, normally I feature some Amazon reviews in my book posts. But, all the reviews for this relatively new release contained spoilers. I don’t want to ruin your experience by revealing too much here, so I’m not quoting them. But, the readers do agree that Between Heartbeats is a worthwhile read, full of twists and emotion. I encourage you to check it out!