MrsK's K-8 Books Worth Reading

my best-reads-for-k-8 shelf:
MrsK Books's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (best-reads-for-k-8 shelf)

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron

Castle on the Rise (Lost Castle, #2)
ISBN: 9780718095499
Publisher's Synopsis:

When Laine Forrester travels to France to attend her longtime friend's vineyard wedding, she expects to find a bride on the brink of a fairy-tale life. But after a series of unforeseen setbacks--a devastating diagnosis, a castle restoration put on hold, and the emergence of deep-seated family dynamics that threaten to derail the new couple's fledgling marriage--it seems the storybook life Laine had imagined for her friend--and once, for herself--is suddenly crumbling before her eyes.

With hopes of resurrecting a happy ending for one of them, Laine throws support behind her friend and agrees to accompany the couple to the groom's family home in Ireland, where the merging of a mysterious inheritance, long-buried wounds, and a fractured family set out to upend the trip from the start. It's in the unlikely corners of a historic Dublin pub, and across the wide-open moors bordering Ireland's majestic Wicklow Mountains, that Laine is slowly drawn in by the land and the people, sparking hope for something she never imagined possible: the courage to heal. But with secrets of her own--and a heart afraid to trust again--Laine must determine how much she's willing to risk in mending the broken places within herself, and whether she believes that even through the depths of our pain, a beautiful story can emerge.

Set in three time-periods--the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth century, Ireland's turbulent Easter week of the 1916 Rising, and present day--Castle on the Rise weaves a story of legacy, conviction, and redemption against the backdrop of Dublin's storied streets, and the stretch of Ireland's stunning emerald shores. It raises the question: given the choice between the fairy tale or a life of truly anchored faith--which legacy would you choose?

"Fairy-tale weddings never included..."
MrsK's Review:

Laine has arrived in France for her best friend's wedding. The "Sleeping Beauty" castle with a winter wedding will be a "fairy tale" wedding come to life. At least that is what Laine imagined. "Enchanted" with the allusion of a castle wedding, the beauty of a landscape that time has not erased, as well as the historical intrigue that beckons to every aspect of Laine's antiquarian roots. As for this day, the only thing missing is her faith in an enduring love. Laine soon realizes that the prospect of a castle's ruins and a manor house might just be what would put a smile on her daughter's face, after all "who knew what treasures might be housed in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland? Will she follow the "persistent whispering" that beckons her to follow a path she never intended?

Ellie begins her wedding day as a "peaceful " bride. One of the most endearing aspects to Ellie's wedding day countenance is her graciousness. A graciousness that has been woven within her by her Granma Vi, as well as a determination to face life with a quest for truth. 

Issy is not what a true Irish lady is expected to be in the year of 1915. Politically minded is not just a strength but a determining choice that could prove fatal. With her newly purchased Autographic Kodak in hand, she will follow her heart and do so much more than taking shots of the "sea and sky."
Yet, will Issy allow her "grit" guide her through the streets she knows in order to run dispatches through to those who are fighting for the cause? 

One winter's night in 1797, on the sea cliffs of Castle Chryn, Maeve discovers a motionless thief who is hunted by many and a fool in her estimation. Is the clan O'Byrne really using their castle ruins as a beacon as a smuggling effort against the crown or is it something more sinister? Neither Castle Chryn, nor Ireland would "bleed for naught." Can Maeve's hope forge peace in their land?

As a reader, there were many advantages for reading this novel. Castles...check, Ireland settings...check, quick historical romance...check, and from a trusted author...check!
Enjoy this moment within a time that spans generational love, devotion, and inner strength, because "failth isn't prepackaged... it's messy at times."
"Live every moment...
Fix every second of this night in your heart...
Protect it...
Visit it often."
An adventurous outing... A woven legacy worth saving... Delightful!
The Lost Castle (The Lost Castle, #1)        The Painted Castle (Lost Castle #3) 
Meet the Author:
Kristy Cambron   
KRISTY CAMBRON is a vintage-inspired storyteller, writing in the space where history, art, and faith intersect. She's an award-winning author of Bible studies and historical fiction—including her bestselling debut, The Butterfly and the Violin.
A self-proclaimed history nerd, she loves to chase all things research—going behind the scenes at a Ringling Bros. Sarasota mansion, touring a former TB sanitarium, making bee friends at a working honey farm, or embarking on a back roads jaunt across Ireland being a few. She holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing and spent 15 yrs in education and leadership development for a Fortune-100 corporation, partnering with such companies as the Disney Institute, IBM/Kenexa, and Gallup before stepping away to pursue her passion for storytelling.

Kristy lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can be found teaching verse mapping and penning her next stories in a beloved coffee shop corner with kayaks on the wall. To join on the story road, sign up for Kristy's WRITING DESK newsletter at:, and visit the Verse Mapping Bible Study Community at:

"I received this book from the Fiction Guild for this review."
Thomas Nelson

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Peace, Locomotion
ISBN: 9780399246555
Publisher's Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Lonnie is finally feeling at home with his foster family. But because he's living apart from his little sister, Lili, he decides it's his job to be the "rememberer" and write down everything that happens while they're growing up. Lonnie's musings are bittersweet; he's happy that he and Lili have new families, but though his new family brings him joy, it also brings new worries. With a foster brother in the army, concepts like Peace have new meaning for Lonnie.

Told through letters from Lonnie to Lili, this thought-provoking companion to Jacqueline Woodson's National Book Award finalist Locomotion tackles important issues in captivating, lyrical language. Lonnie's reflections on family, loss, love and peace will strike a note with readers of all ages.

"I think it it's..."
Imagine Peace by Lonnie Collins Motion
MrsK's Review:
As a reader, there are always certain characters that speak into your heart. Those that you never forget as the years and titles move forward. As an educator, there are certain book discussions, in which your students are so engaged that you are touched with inspiration. Locomotion was one of those experiences. So when a new generation of learners wanted to read Poetic Novels, Locomotion was my first choice. As I created a list of titles, I was thrilled to discover Peace, Locomotion!

Lonnie, aka Locomotion, continues to hope that one day he will be old enough to be the guardian of his little sister Lili. He has continued his writing, only now he is writing hope-filled letters to Lili. His school life has changed, or maybe fallen back into a place less inspired. Yet, because of his academic slump, he has chosen to write Lili's letters to ensure that their memories of life before the fire won't fade away into a "grayness" that has become "real, real quiet" in their minds. He is gathering all of these letters into a box of "Before Time" for the time when Lili is once again living with him.

What is Locomotion's newest challenge? He has a teacher that believes he can't be a poet without being published. So many times, a small comment can cause a student to choose to disengage in ways that spiral out of control! Living in Miss Edna's home, Lonnie is met with a realization that in this foster location there are words like home, son, brother, and comfortable moments of love and support. Turning 12 will be a year of cherishing his before the fire life and learning to embrace his before "as a man" life unfolds. Will he remain hope-filled about his little sister's "new" before life?

Clyde is the friend that helps Locomotion regain his "for real" now life. Sometimes in life a stranger or someone who once seems like a foe, in reality becomes a life time friend. Clyde is honest. His honesty creates a "sounding board," a type of regulator for Locomotion. While Locomotion tries to come to terms with his new season of life, Clyde shares more about his own home. This form of bonding encourages Locomotion to move forward into an acceptance and freedom.

Through Locomotion's acceptance of his life with Miss Edna and her sons, he begins writing to Lili a "one true thing" for the day. These letters become an exposure to the depth of a "for real" family life. For the first time since the fire, Locomotion is now willing to accept that his little sister has a "for real" life in a family that he wasn't ready to support.

This sequel is as moving and inspiring as the first novel. The weaving of words, emotions, hopes, and acceptance portrays a realistic plot that creates an inner peace about how these characters are growing up. It is with much hope... that this reader eagerly waits Locomotion's next season...
"I think if you imagine it....
Then it can happen,...."
 Both titles are crafted with a character with heart,
true grit, and a voice that requires an audience.
Publisher's Synopsis:
When Lonnie Collins Motion "Locomotion" was seven years old, his life changed forever. Now he's eleven, and his life is about to change again. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. And suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life, his friends, his little sister Lili, and even his foster mom, Miss Edna, who started out crabby but isn’t so bad after all. Jacqueline Woodson’s novel-in-poems is humorous, heartbreaking . . . a triumph.

Meet the Author:
Jacqueline Woodson  I used to say I’d be a teacher or a lawyer or a hairdresser when I grew up but even as I said these things, I knew what made me happiest was writing.

I wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.

I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.

That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.

Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book’s binder. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Secret of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

The Secrets of Paper and Ink
ISBN: 9780718075729
Publisher's Synopsis:
A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England--a place she's learned to love through the words of her favorite author--and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she's renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily's journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth. The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.
"Hello, new friend.
I must say, the hollow of this tree is the 
perfect location to leave you a note."
From the girl at the tree... Emily
MrsK's Review:
During the last ninety-two days, Sophia's life had changed. Once a strong calling, her work at the LifeSong Women's Counseling center became an overwhelming fork in the road. On the wall was her certificate proclaiming that she was a Licensed Professional Counselor, a truth that could not be taken from her. David could no longer hurt her, it was time to step back into life, after all that is why she had spent the past ninety-two days recovering... getting stronger... ready to start life again.

Ginny Rose had come to Cornwall, England five years ago. Rosebud Books had opened and she had spent these past years keeping her husband's dream afloat  as he was in London "thinking."  Even though the people of Port Willis had accepted Ginny, book sales had dwindled, and Ginny had to find a way to keep Rosebud's doors open.

Rosebud Books, a welcomed place for all who entered its doors. A place of security and hope for Sophia. A dream that turned into a reality that Ginny wasn't sure how to save. A gathering place for many in the community. A place in which a journey through time would begin to show its worth through the journals of Emily.

In 1856, Emily began penning, as she defined it, about her simple life. For Emily, her thoughts became "etched" upon the pages. Telling of the days as they were weaving her story of a decade of choices.

Many of our reading choices resonate within us. As our lives unfold, there are those choices in which our path reaches a fork that only you will decide, in which way, you will go. Many of those choices begin painfully, then at some unexpected point, someone enters your day and a new season begins. All three of these characters bring to life a determination, inspiring hope, and a smile of assurance about life being well lived.

Open this book when a little grain of hope is needed,
"All we have in life are the choices we make.
We must make choices we can live with...
and die with, if it comes to that."
When a spring of hope brings forth new choices!
Meet the Author:
Lindsay Harrel  Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd with a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in English. She lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Lindsay has held a variety of jobs, including curriculum editor for two universities, medical and business writer, and copywriter for a digital marketing agency. Now she juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with working freelance jobs, teaching college English courses online, and—of course—writing novels.

When she actually has time to do other things, she loves to sing, read, and sip passion iced teas from Starbucks. She loves to watch God work in ordinary lives to create something extraordinary, and she writes to bring hope to those who may have lost it along the way.
"I received this book from the Fiction Guild for this review."
Thomas Nelson

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Indivisible by Travis Thrasher

ISBN; 9780785224051
Publisher's Synopsis:
Inspired by true events, 

Indivisible is a story of love, service, and finding each other all over again.
Darren and Heather Turner share a passion for serving God, family, and country. When Darren is deployed to Iraq as an army chaplain, Heather vows to serve military families back home as she cares for the couple’s three young children.

Darren knows he’s overseas to support the troops in their suffering as their chaplain. What he doesn’t know is how he will get through his own dark moments. And as communication from Darren dwindles, Heather wonders what is happening in her husband’s heart. Meanwhile, she’s growing weary in the day-to-day life of a military base—each child’s milestone Darren will never see, each month waiting for orders, each late-night knock on the door.

When Darren returns, he is no longer the husband Heather once knew. She is no longer the woman Darren wed. And so it’s at home that the Turners face their biggest battle: to save their marriage.

Based on the screen play by David Evans, Indivisible is a tribute to the beauty of serving our country, the courage of choosing love in the darkness, and the power of a God who never gives up hope.

"A wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept
is a wound that cannot heal."
John Eldridge, Wild At Heart
MrsK's Review:
It is rare that a prologue will become a unique perspective for the words that follow. When words "hook" you as a reader, you tend to turn the page with an expectation that either becomes an expectation or it evaporates as you read on. What would you expect from these words:
"So many special times to choose from. I have hundreds of good memories.
But we've stopped making new ones."
This is the story of a Chaplain, his experiences in the armed service, and his coming home to his wife, family, friends, and continued calling. The timeline begins pre-deployment in 2007 when Darren began listening to the "deep whispering" within. Things can get messy and uncomfortable when you choose to step out in faith. How do follow through with such an uncertain decision? This section is about daily living as a new reality is unfolding. It's beautiful strength is in the perfected weaving of scripture and narrative. It portrays a marriage that continued to build its relationship on an unshakable foundation. 
"No one prays harder for peace
than those of us in war!"
Deployment 2007 begins in May as Darren corresponds with his friends and family, especially Heather his wife. As with any separation, Darren's faith becomes a stronghold for his new normal. Nothing is ever safe, free from emotions, or endless as Darren is in the field. All of the men and women on assignment with him become a necessary family foundation, one in which one life touches another. Deployment, war, and death. Darren's hope endures but to what depth will he walk back home?

This novel is about faith in action. Courage is enduring the trials that we all have very little control over life and death issues... choices made are our only defense. Outcomes that wound us become stumbling blocks of survival. And yet, survival can turn into a "grit" of hope and new seasons.

A unique retelling about one man, one marriage, one life, death of many, and one walk of enduring faith. An inspirational read,
"In light of eternity, all of this is but a
grain of sand on the seashore."

A story of faith, love, and overcoming that which comes against us!
Meet the Author:
Travis Thrasher Bestselling author Travis Thrasher has written over 50 books, spanning genres in fiction, nonfiction and children’s literature. His inspirational stories have included collaborations with filmmakers, musicians, athletes, celebrities and pastors.

With the childhood goal of pursuing a writing career starting in third grade, Thrasher worked for 13 years at Tyndale House Publishers after graduating college. His experience working with authors allowed him to understand the writing life as well as training him to work with a variety of personalities. This experience has proven to be valuable with co-writing projects.

His novels are as diverse as the people he’s worked with, ranging from love stories to supernatural thrillers. This storytelling ability has also allowed him to work with others on their books, from country musician and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery to Bill Klein and Jen Arnold, reality TV stars of The Little Couple. Upcoming projects continue to expand his talents, with projects including Olympic Pride, American Prejudice about the lives of the other 17 American black athletes who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and Baby Don’t Hurt Me about comedian Chris Kattan’s life and time on Saturday Night Live.

Travis lives with his wife and three young daughters in a suburb of Chicago and fittingly enough will have a children’s book entitled Brave Girls Confidential released later in 2017.

"I received this book from the Fiction Guild for this review."
Thomas Nelson

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing
ISBN: 9780735219090
Publisher's Synopsis:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

"Marsh is not swamp.
Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water,
and water flows into the sky."
MrsK's Review:
When we meet Kya she is young, abandoned, and in need of much TLC. As she grows up there is much that she learns by survival, as well as her brother, Jodie, who teaches her survival skills in a marsh. In 1952, Kya's mom walks down the road with her train case in hand. Three more siblings walk down that road... until that evening when Jodie must leave too. So many emotions flow and ebb as you experience Kya's life as the "Marsh girl."

Jodie, seven years older than Kya, plants the seeds of survival in the swamp. His teaching of bird songs, steering the boat in and out of the swamp, and the creatures that live in Kya's world will become the seeds of Kyra's scientific discoveries and survival. 

In 1969, Chase Andrews is found dead. No footprints were ever found, at first it appears he fell to his death from the tower in the swamp. The sheriff accepts how Chase might have died, until others in the town begin coming forward about strange sightings and clues.

Back in '52,' as a storm was approaching, Kya becomes disorientated and a friend of Jodie's helps her find her way back to her cove. Slowly, Tate becomes a friend, someone to fish with, someone to sit on the beach to watch the sunset, and someone who cares enough to teach Kya to read and write. If it wasn't for Tate, Kya would never have published her discoveries.  Yet, if it wasn't for Tate, Kya would not have been abandoned again to a life alone in the swamp. By 1970, Tate will remember his father's definition of a man: "one who can cry freely, feel poetry and opera in his heart, and do whatever it takes to defend a woman."

"Don't go thinking poetry's just for sissies.
There's mushy love poems...
but there's also funny ones, lots about nature...
they make you feel something."
Kyra begins bringing in fish for the local wharf. Jumpin and his wife are the ones that will help Kyra get clothing, small amounts of cash, and gas for trading. Jumpin becomes a father to Kyra and is involved in providing "cover" during difficult times. 

"Where the crawdads sing," is a way of saying "far in the bush where critters are wild." The story line is a bout a life that most of us can't imagine. The characters in Kyra's life are sometimes brutal, often times compassionate, and for the most part deeply engaging. This book is an excellent choice for every book club...
"Crying and screeching, the birds swirled and dived,
hovered near her face,
and landed as she tossed grits to them."
 A well developed story about a young girl on her own.
How does one survive a life that is loaded with
unfortunate loneliness?
Meet the Author: 
Delia Owens  Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in AfricaCry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in Idaho, where she continues her support for the people and wildlife of Zambia. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Chosen People by Robert Whitlow

Chosen People (Chosen People #1)
ISBN: 9780718083045
Publisher's Synopsis:
During a terrorist attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a courageous mother sacrifices her life to save her four-year-old daughter, leaving behind a grieving husband and a motherless child.

Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University, typically uses her language skills to represent international clients for an Atlanta law firm. When her boss is contacted by Jakob Brodsky, a young Jewish lawyer pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s family under the US Anti-Terrorism laws, he calls on Hana’s expertise to take point on the case. After careful prayer, she joins forces with Jakob, and they quickly realize the need to bring in a third member for their team, an Arab investigator named Daud Hasan, based in Israel.

To unravel the case, this team of investigators travels from the streets of Atlanta to the alleys of Jerusalem, a world where hidden motives thrive, the risk of death is real, and the search for truth has many faces. What they uncover will forever change their understanding of justice, heritage, and what it means to be chosen for a greater purpose.

"To walk with the Almighty all the days of your life."
MrsK's Review:
Jerusalem, welcoming to visitors... or dangerous?
Hannah, a scriptural name. A chosen name. When she was young, her uncle Anwar had spoken a blessing over her... Today, Hana works for a law firm in Atlanta. With her language skills, background, and as an international lawyer she is chosen to lead an investigation into what might be an international terrorist killing.

Contracted by Jakob Brodsky, Hana quickly realizes that this case will need someone living in Israel. In today's world, getting information will mean having someone with connections, as well as someone that will provide protection while opening doors to what really took place. Like Jakob's father, Jakob had a fierce determination for freedom and for pursuing cases until the truth was revealed. After hearing Ben Neumann's reasons to want to know if his wife's murder and daughter's disfigurement was an act of its own making or supported by others. Jakob knew he would be seeking help in this investigation. Ben wanted to help other families to have a voice against terrorists. Jakob knew nothing about this case would be considered easy and everything about this case would mean that finding truth would become an endangerment that would require all of the strength, support, and trust in the other investigators.

Hana also recognizes the moment that she would be committed to this investigation. The truth had to be uncovered for Sadie, this case had to be revealed and resolved. For Sadie had a smile of an "overcomer," which ushered in the peace-filled determination for Sadie to fight for this little survivor. What Hana isn't prepared for is all of the false leads, lethal alleys, nor the emotional strain of going home to a land that had become so deceiving. Would she be able to trust either Jakob or Daud?

Although Daud Hasan was an Arab, he knew technology... and he was the one trained in all areas of the Middle East. He would be the man that could guarantee protection. For Hana, he would be the one who appears to be a traitor.

Have you ever stepped out in faith into a situation that had to begin with a prayer of protection, plus an added mixture of strength, guidance, and trust? The rest of this story is action packed and every character is ingrained in a truth that would create the empowered vs. those seeking a wicked control. Expect at least one sleepless night...

Terrorism is based on belief, not ethnicity!"
 A chilling story that could be played out
anywhere in today's US or abroad!
Meet the Author:
Robert Whitlow  Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina. 

"I received this book from the Fiction Guild for this review."
Thomas Nelson

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Best Family Ever by Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell

Best Family Ever (Baxter Family Children, #1)
Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell
ISBN: 9781534412156
Publisher's Synopsis:
Brooke is the perfect older sister. For that reason, Kari and Ashley work hard to make their parents just as proud of them as they are of Brooke. Each girl has her own talents. Brooke is an excellent student. Kari is a great soccer player. Ashley, a talented artist. And they are always there for each other. But when the news comes that Dr. Baxter is moving the family from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Bloomington, Indiana, and the Baxters need to leave the only home and friends they’ve ever known, no one is happy. Saying goodbye is hard but the family still has what’s most important—their faith and their love for each other.

In the first book in the Baxter Family Children series, #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell tell the story of what it was like to grow up in the Baxter family, the best family ever.

"Your very best friends are the ones around the dinner table each night."
MrsK's Review:
This novel is one of the sweetest stories newly crafted. The younger Baxter family moments are full of life, joy, struggles, and acceptance. The book begins in winter, it is Ashley's joy that they are studying snow flakes in her 4th grade science class (school memories of snow and snow days is my joy). When the news that the family could be moving from their beloved Ann Arbor, every family member must trust in their strength, as a family, to see them through this season of change.

Growing up isn't ever easy. In a family of seven, the emotions and insecurities are met with loving guidance. The siblings (ages 6-13) learn the value of self-worth, sharing, and supporting each other in their uniqueness. With parents who are taking their responsibilities seriously, they strive to provide a nurturing environment in which each child's individuality is guided, encouraged, and embraced.

Take a moment and consider the following:

  • Can you have fun without perfect decorations?
  • Is it possible every day to "see" and "know" how to help others?
  • Can you be confident in who you are when others hurt your feelings?
  • When did you learn that being perfect isn't your path... instead faith would see you through to completion?
  • Is it possible to offer grace to someone by offering them the benefit of doubt?
With the technology gap growing in our relationships, this is a perfect novel to settle into the rest our winter days. I encourage you to gather your family, add some comfortable lighting, put on some pajamas, role out sleeping bags, grab the stuffed animals and spend a few nights reading... discussing... sharing... and being family.

Happy New Year,
"Many years from now, even when everything seems
like it has changed,
you'll still have each other."
An adventurous outing... Delightful!
Meet the Authors:
 Karen Kingsbury  Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development with Hallmark Films and as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books are being developed into a TV series slated for major network viewing sometime in the next year. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University. In 2001 she and her husband, Don, adopted three boys from Haiti, doubling their family in a matter of months. Today the couple has joined the ranks of empty nesters, living in Tennessee near five of their adult children.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Becoming Mrs. Lewis
ISBN: 9780785224501
Publisher's Synopsis:
From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.
"You would not have called to me
unless I had been calling to you."
Aslan, The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis
MrsK's Review:
Joy's story begins in 1946, New York. Amidst an anguished phone call, Joy reveals insights about her doubts. A marriage between two writers with beginnings of idealism and passion was now "unhinging" her husband and bringing her fear, despair, and desperation. A desperation that began as a "crack" in her soul... where God came in.

Three years later, Joy writes her first letter to C.S. Lewis and from that point on their letters "flew over the ocean like birds passing each other in flight." When one is in the wait room of transformation, you tend to wrestle with who you are becoming and the abounding truth about which path you desire to travel. 

With stunning settings, biographical glimpses conveyed from their letters, and unblemished crafting of a fictional story line... Joy once again has been given a voice. With a wealth of insights, I could have written so many tidbits that would have enticed you to read this narrative. Reviews appear to be mixed. If you have not experienced C.S. Lewis beyond Narnia, much of this story could appear as a fictional love story. Having completed a study about C.S. Lewis by Devin Brown: Discussing Mere Christianity (Study Gateway DVD series), I was enthralled with the unveiling of Joy's story.

Read, cherish the encounter, and place this on your book shelf. It is priceless!
"The beauty that brings us to peace and whispers
that there's something more."
 A beautiful journey that must be shared! 

Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters     Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman: The Letters and Autobiography of Joy Davidman
Meet the Author:
Patti Callahan Growing up in Philadelphia as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Patti learned early the value of storytelling. At the age of twelve, her family moved to South Florida where Patti found the sanctuary of libraries and began her slow but steady journey into understanding the power of story to navigate confusing times in life.

Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work, and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she now lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.
"I received this book from the Fiction Guild for this review."
Thomas Nelson

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Title: Olive Kitteridge, Author: Elizabeth Strout
Publisher's Synopsis:
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition – its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

"... Olive Kitteridge was going to New York..."
MrsK's Review:

Olive Kitteridge is a complex woman. A small town educator, that is either accepted or provoking others into costly denial. She speaks her mind and she isn't one to back down. So many lives are always in a state of unraveling. Olive continues to involve herself in the needs of those in her town, and of course with her family. Yet now, at seventy two, Olive no longer feels satisfaction in her efforts to help... it is more of a compelling "put out." Often over-bearing, cruel, and insensitive to how her words and actions affect those around her, Olive must come to an understanding that brings a painful moment of clarity... a true reflection of herself.

Written with in the thirteen lives, Olive's character portrayal is faceted with so many illuminating strengths and weaknesses. Every life is complex. Every season in life evolves into the next. Olive's journey unfolds as if she was on a trip through time. Some stories have closure, some are still left undone. Just as in life, the final completion is still in progress.
"She didn't like to be alone.
Even more, she didn't like being with people."

Sometimes there is a novel that is well defined...
One in which the characters puzzle you...
One in which you are left with "unfulfilled" puzzlement!

"I never intended to return to Olive Kitteridge.
I really thought I was done with her, and she with me. 
But a few years ago I was in a European city, alone for a weekend, and I went to a café, and she just showed up. That’s all I can say. She showed up with a force, the way she did the very first time, and I could not ignore her."
Meet the Author:
Elizabeth Strout Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels, including: Abide with Me, a national bestseller and BookSense pick, and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. In 2009 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.
Random House Partnerships - Random House Books 

So many books to explore:

MrsK's to-read book montage

Heartbreak Creek
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Each Little Bird that Sings
The Saturdays
Emily of Deep Valley

MrsK Books's favorite books »

Stay Connected with MrsK's Reviews:

MrsK's Reading Bio

Reading is important! No questions asked, not even a blink of the eye from any student I grew up with. On the first day of the First grade, we were given our first books. Day two we all read aloud, round robin of course. Day three we were place in our first basal, now known as a lit circle group. Books were so important, publishers designed new curriculum so that every student was reading by the end of the first week. These early readers had images that looked like what we could see in the classroom, beyond the classroom, even on the big screen. Reading is important, throughout history every generation has believed that “Reading” opens up the world for endless possibilities.

I adore the 1950’s Dick and Jane books. Actually, most reading specialists and experienced (45+) educators believe that every student learned to read with Dick and Jane. Since these books are being re-issued, I have heard many parents, grandparents, and students claim that Dick and Jane stories of repetition does teach students to read.

Early influences from my mother influenced my desire to read. I would watch her read and we would go on “secret” excursions to the library. The library became my playground. I owned every book I could carry home, of course they needed to be taken back to their home after visiting with me for a week or two. My first book that I could pull off of the library shelf and read was, Father Bear Comes Home. I only saw my dad on Sundays for a few hours. I would pull this beginning reader off of the library shelf every week. Every week I would try to read the first chapter. Every week I got further in the story. My mom would let me check it out, only if I could read it myself (She didn’t like the illustrations therefore she didn’t want to take time to read it to me). One day, I pulled the book from the shelf and when mom came to get me from the children’s corner, I realized that I had read the whole story. I ran to the check out desk and the Librarian KERCHUNKED the checkout card. My mother, brother and neighbors read. My teachers read. We all read aloud all day long in school. The Priest read aloud every day at mass, even in Latin. Everybody in the Doctor’s office read. People on the bus read. Dad’s waiting in their cars as the Mom’s and children grocery shopped, read. In fact, once you could read and write, Sunset Magazine considered you a reader and sent you mail every day.

Reading is important; I’ve spent my life reading. I’ve traveled around the world and into space through books. My favorite genre is whichever book I have open at the time. Children’s Literature is my passion. Book clubbing is one of the best past times, especially if food is involved. In fact my friends of old are in a book club and we are about to embark on a beach trip to “read” and discuss our newest selection.

My “home-run” book story has helped every student find his or her own “home-run” reads. Every year, I have shared my, Father Bear Comes Home, and every year my students have brought in their “home-run” books. That’s the “diving board” into our Lit. Studies.

In “Growing Up Digital,” Tapscott’s insights into the new generations enthusiasm for the Net reminded me of my generation’s enthusiasm for reading, movies, TV, parties and our driving permits. The Net-Generation, as Tapscott describes, “are learning, playing, communicating, working, creating communities, and enforcing a social transformation.”
N-Geners are interactive “techies” who are always looking for a way to “work it” verses the TV Generation of “Baby Boomers” who started out looking for “how it works.” Reading development is tougher today, society moves too fast to invest their “non-working” free time into a book or even “home work.” Since I stepped into my own classroom, I have seen students being told to read, being forced to read, and threatened into reading. Homework is not any longer the vehicle for students to gain their future lifestyles or careers with. Yet, the Internet does create an enthusiasm for learning. Since I have been enrolled in these courses, I have used the computers in every subject. My students are using the newest technology in the classroom because I am giving them investigative sites to use as they learn from each other and books. I agree with Tapscott, in order to bridge the gap with this up and coming generation we must “live and learn with them.”

FTC Required Disclaimer: I receive these books from the publishers. I did not receive monetary compensation for these reviews. These reviews have been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at


Booked for Giving: