What I’m Reading: Malicious Mischief

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Who knew that back in the day “Malicious Mischief” was a serious charge you could be arrested for? Lora Young knew, and she wrote her railway romantic suspense/mystery around this very concept. So here’s my take on Malicious Mischief by Lora Young.

Malicious Mischief is an interesting mix of suspense and mystery, with a bud of romance that grows organically throughout the story. (Don’t be too disappointed like I was at the beginning. Just wait for it, the romantic suspense comes later.)

Delia is not like most heroines, she’s awkward with men and doesn’t wait for them to come to her rescue. She’s perfectly happy to rescue herself, which you’ve got to love about her.

I confess it now—I LOVED the railroad setting. Trains have always fascinated me.

This is story about two worlds colliding, Delia’s dad owns steamer ships and Endy runs the local railroad depot. You also get a feel for the steamer ships that the railway eventually phased out. But the collision of these two worlds is messy, leading from pranks to full on mystery, unfolding with greater and greater suspense.

Somehow the author captures the intrigue of a railroad mystery, couching it in the confines of the everyday lifestyle of the time period. I found the book fascinating, unexpected, and chock-full of twists and realistic characters.

This book is not your typical romantic suspense/mystery. It’s a beautiful hybrid, growing in depth, complexity, and sprinkled with a bit of grit when necessary.

Lora Young

What started out as a secret pastime morphed into a desire to see her creations published. So she studied the writing craft, joined American Chrisitan Fiction Writers (ACFW), went to conferences, entered contests, and sent proposals. And got rejections.The reasons for those rejections were encouraging though. Every one of them said the editor liked the story and liked her writing, but the book market was tight and the publishing house was re-structuring or cutting their fiction line entirely.

So Lora decided to publish independently. Scared but determined, she produced her first indie pubbed book—a devotional entitled. Abiding: 30 Steps Closer. When she’s not writing, Lora enjoys reading, hiking, and ballroom dancing. Most of all she delights in drinking chai tea lattes, and spending time with friends and family.

For more on Lora Young and her books, you can visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Or check out her blog, LoraYoung.com.


A New All-Time Fav: Ellie Sweet #2

Ellie Sweet #2

Do you have those books that you just love and know you’ll read again, forever? Well I do, and Stephanie Morrill’s Ellie Sweet sequel is going on my Read Again shelf with all the other awesome books that spoke to me on a spiritual level. The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet is right up there with Madeleine L’Engle, Kristin Billerbeck, Robin Jones Gunn, and Tracey Bateman.

Just because success has come to Ellie Sweet, doesn’t mean her life is any easier. She’s still flawed and relatable, and the haters are piling up against her in both her school and writing life. This time she’s learning to be humble enough to admit her mistakes, even overcome them. It just makes her feel that much more genuine, like she’d be one of my friends.

This book is so real in its coming-of-age glory that it’s hard not to picture yourself as Ellie Sweet on some level. Even in her writing success there are pitfalls, some people love her book and some people can’t handle that she’s getting published as a teenager. Life gets even more complicated when her relationships turn rocky. This is where the author really shines.

Boys and friends are still tricky subjects for Ellie, but not everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow. The messy parts of teenage life are left messy, giving a whole new meaning to our own personal struggles. Life is hard–but it still moves forward and there’s still joy in it.

Bottom line: The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet is just that, an unlikely portrait of coming-of-age teenage life, mixed with genuine perspectives on building a dream career, dealing with family, and fixing rough relationships. A great, fun read that makes you think. I seriously can’t wait to see what Stephanie writes next! 🙂

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. She is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, http://www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out http://www.StephanieMorrill.com

What I’m Reading: Ellie Sweet #1

Ellie Sweet #1

It’s Ellie Sweet week here on my blog. My friend and fabulous author Stephanie Morrill released her latest book The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet about a novel writing teen who uses her friends as characters in her book. Makes you wonder if all writers do that, huh? Today, congratulations are in order because I just learned that this book received the coveted Grace Award for Best Young Adult Novel.

Ellie Sweet is a girl after my own heart–sweet and flawed, but lovable. From the beginning of the book Ellie is crushing hard on the new kid, while outgrowing her friends at the same time. Instead of dealing with her problems or getting even, like when her friends diss her, or her bestie starts dating her crush, she writes it all in her historical novel. Not your typical teenage response and I love it!

Maybe it’s because Ellie is a writer chick, but I can totally relate to her as she struggles with being an outsider. Sometimes that’s by choice, because she doesn’t drink or party much, but sometimes that’s just her nature as a budding writer. It’s the typical pose of the writer, observe and report and Ellie is no exception.

Out of nowhere her real life livens up as her crush wants to date her in secret, leading the the school bad boy to admit he’s crushing on her. The way Ellie deals with both guys, by bumbling through with all the grace and awkwardness you expect from a teenager, is refreshingly honest. Because let’s face it, teenage girls and teenage boys come from two different planets. In fact, it reminds me very much of my own high school debacles.

Suddenly the details of what Ellie wrote in her book get out, and her friends turn on her. Somehow she picks up the pieces and moves forward in a way that anyone who’s ever been bullied can relate to. We’re coming to the point where I don’t want to give too much away. Fortunately for you, Stephanie Morrill includes a link to the first chapter of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet on her Ellie Sweet Page.

Bottom line: my favorite parts of this book are the character, her voice, and the honest, awkward, and refreshing ways that the author deals with teen problems. If you like Sarah Dessen books and are looking for a clean, but realistic teen book, then The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is for you.

Happy reading, and stay tuned for my review of the Ellie Sweet #2, coming Thursday as Ellie Sweet week continues.

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. She is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com

Free Book Giveaway and Review: My Stubborn Heart

I’ll be giving away a copy to one lucky commenter. Just leave an appropriate comment on the blog by 11:59 pm on October 20, 2012 and you’ll be entered to win. This giveaway is only open to residents of U.S. & Canada.

What a good debut book by author Becky Wade. I really enjoyed this story. I read it in one day–9 hours straight! 🙂 Becky has created some very real characters that everyone can relate to and even feel for. They are by far the best parts of the book for me. I couldn’t wait to see what happened to them.

The author portrayed a great dichotomy between the characters, Kate and Matt. Kate was wonderful to read, and someone you wanted to root for. Becky really nailed the male character’s voice in Matt and made him sound like a real guy. I loved the dual perspectives in this story.

The settings in the novel were also very well-written. It felt like a vacation as Kate restored an old house in a quaint town on leave from her job. I wish I could’ve been there with her, taking a break from everyday life. In a way, I was.

There were some parts of the romance that the author skipped over. You know the ones, those movie montage scenes where the couple is actually getting to know it each other and falling in love.  The author only did this a few times, but the romantic in me wanted all the cute details. However, she made up for it with lots of other great in-depth scenes.

Overall, this was a fun, romantic, get-away-from-it-all kind of book that you could read again and again. I enjoyed the very real characters, young and old, and the fabulous settings. I think you will, too.

Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Saturday, October 20, 2012. I will randomly choose a winner and announce it like we’re sharing a birthday on Monday, October 22, 2012.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

A Wrinkle In Time Becomes a Graphic Novel


Can you believe it? One of my all time favorite young adult books A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle has been made into a graphic novel. Finally, a graphic novel I might actually read! According to Publishers Weekly, the author/illustrators Hope Larson and Margaret Ferguson had a hard time cutting scenes.  That means the story is pretty much as complete as possible. Great news for die hard L’Engle fans like me. Check out the graphic novel review and an interview with the author/illustrators:

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel Book Review

How A Wrinkle in Time Was Made Into a Graphic Novel      

5 Reasons I’m Afraid to Finish The Hunger Games

I’ve watched the movie. I’ve read part 1 of The Hunger Games, but can’t seem to get past that point. Part 1 was great. Seeing the plight of District 12 juxtaposed next to the excess of the Capital was quite a striking picture. But now I’m frozen. I can’t seem to make my fingers turn to Part 2–The Games. Maybe there’s a reason, or five, for that. Mostly questions spinning around in my head. If you love The Hunger Games, help me answer these questions:

1. Is it too violent? The whole concept of the Hunger Games is barbaric and utterly violent by definition. Kids killing kids, can it get any worse? As a YA novel, the violence should be kept to a minimum. But I’m not sure if the publisher’s minimum and my maximum are at the same level. I’m a chick lit, romantic comedy, happily-ever-after kind of girl. Sure, I love the occasional sci-fi/fantasy like Neil Gammon’s Interworld, but it’s not too violent. My friends tried to convince me that the violence is minimal and tastefully done. Still, I hesitate. At some point I’ll have to just see for myself.

2. Is it too bleak? For me, fiction needs to have a redeeming quality to it. I love to learn a lesson or look at something different because of a great story. Since I’m very empathetic with the characters I read, I had to stop in the middle of Part 1 and do something happy. It was hard to picture myself in District 12. What a horrible place. Made me compare the conditions to how people live in third-world countries. It did open my eyes in that respect.

3. Is it completely hopeless? Katniss has to enter a game she can’t win, but all along I’m rooting for her to overcome. Is it even possible? These people in the Capital are horrible, unfeeling, double-crossing lunatics. (Is that how the rest of the world sees America? How sad.) Katniss has trained herself to survive, but the odds are completely against her. I just wonder how many hopeless situations she’ll have to overcome. I’m not a drama queen. In fact I hate it. My fear is that she’ll face too much drama and I’ll stop reading.

4. Where’s the romance? I wouldn’t call any of Katniss’ interactions with Peeta and Gale romantic. Gale is just trying to survive. It makes him a good guy, but I didn’t see the sparks fly. And Peeta’s doing the same, in his own way. At this point I’m not sure if I like him, but he’s unpredictable. Half the time he seems to hate Katniss, and then he doesn’t. That wishy-washy kind of character is true to life, but not any kind of man I’d want.

5. Can Katniss ever return to normal? After seeing the Capital and being in the Hunger Games, will Katniss survive? If she does I hope she doesn’t have to go back to the horror of District 12. She already knew it was awful. Her new experiences would certainly change her forever. Who can deal with such trauma and be the same? I guess that’s why there’s two more books to read. I wonder how Collins can twist such depressing circumstances into some kind of satisfying ending. I can’t see it. But I hope I’m wrong.

If you’re a Hunger Games fan, why do you love it? Could a happily-ever-after kind of girl love it, too? Go ahead, convince me. I dare you. 🙂

Lost in Dreams: YA Book Review and Giveaway

Lost in Dreams is the second novel in the Altered Hearts series by Roger Bruner with his daughter Kristi Rae Bruner. It follows Kim Hartlinger after she’s just come home from a life-changing missions trip. She can’t wait to take on the world with the new faith she’s found in God. Then her world is suddenly rocked by the tragic death of her mother. Will she ever be the same? Will she ever get past the guilt?

Kim’s story is one of heartbreak and overcoming tragedy to find redemption. With the help of her new friend, Aleesha, she finds out who her true friends are and what a color-blind world really looks like. This is a great book for teen girls who love to read and may be struggling with guilt or depression. Bruner is not afraid to travel into the depths and misconceptions about grieving, which makes for a poignant story. However, the book is not a short read. Teens may find that overwhelming, but there’s a lot of chapter breaks to keep things going.

I will be giving this book away on my blog. If you’d like to be entered into the contest to receive a free copy of Lost in Dreams, just leave a comment on my blog by 11:59 p.m. CDT on Sunday, September 11th, 2011I will announce the winner on my blog on Monday, September 12rth.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing for review.