2017 Book Challenge Book by Its Cover

2017 Book Challenge

A book you pick solely because of the cover

Fit Trilogy by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Sated (Book 3)

Synopsis: Keira Kenney knows she’s an odd duck. While she teaches kickboxing during the day, she geeks out at night and that can be something of a turn off in the romance department. All Keira wants is to find someone who loves her for her. When her friend sets her up with Daniel Song during a science fiction conference, she’s not expecting anything but a fun day geeking out. So she’s surprised when she’s not only attracted to the sexy Korean-American pyrotechnics expert, but he seems interested back. But Daniel has a life behind closed doors and Keira’s not sure she can keep up, or keep Daniel interested when all she knows and likes is vanilla.

I actually was gifted this book from the Ripped Bodice Bookstore on Twitter. I can’t believe I won it! What happened was they tweeted a picture of some books they were giving away and all I had to do was reply with the title of the book I wanted. Obviously I picked Rebekah Weatherspoon’s book because of the cover. And I am really glad I did. Rebekah was so sweet, she even signed it!! I enjoyed this book so much! It made me laugh and giggle and swoon. I also really love that Keira has mocha skin and Daniel is Korean. It is erotica, so be forewarned about that, but it was some of the lightest and sweetest erotica I’ve ever read.

Fallon’s Book

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

By Aimee Bender
Rosie was able to uncover her mom’s secret, her brother’s dispassion for everything, and a one-sided friendship all by taking a few bites of food. Pre-pubescent Rosie discovers she can taste the feelings and emotions of whoever makes or prepares the food she eats. She finds this, well, distasteful and is caught praying to the vending machine and its heavily processed, unsentimental, machine made meals. She never eats anything she makes herself.

I love lemon cake, though I’ve never tried it with chocolate frosting. This cover was very appetizing and that is the simple truth on why I chose Bender’s novel. (Hey, did you notice that the shadow looks like a person’s, because I didn’t until right now.) The narrative took me to a very different place than where I expected Rosie’s special talents would go. I was about 75% of the way through the novel (thank you Kindle app) before the Rosie I wanted to read about finally appeared. Then at around 90% complete, the timeline jumped and literally left me saying, “Huh?” Not two pages after that, the story ended because I wasn’t taking into consideration the eight pages of book club questions. In-depth discussion about character relationships would probably improve my opinion of the book (no, please just explain Joseph!), but as it was just me and my thoughts, I’m left with a sour taste, tinged with my own thoughtlessness.

Did you join us in our challenge? What book did you pick based on the cover? Did you enjoy it?

Our next book challenge is a book with a great first line… we’ll be revealing our picks on April 28. You should read along with us!

2017 Book Challenge: Re-Read

2017 Book Challenge


A book you loved… read it again

Christine’s Book

The Elements of Chemistry


HEAT (Part 2)

CAPTURE (Part 3)

from the Hypothesis Series by Penny Reid

Elements of Chemistry

Synopsis: Kaitlyn Parker doesn’t like parties, doesn’t like attention, and certainly doesn’t like her chemistry lab partner Martin Sandeke. The jerk-face is a jerk, no matter how handsome he may be. Martin doesn’t care that he’s a jerk. All Martin cares about is that Parker has been driving him crazy for the past semester. Once Martin backs Parker into the proverbial corner, he’s not going to let her out. In fact, Martin goes so far as to get Parker onto an island so he can finally have her undivided attention. The problem, of course, is that Martin is still a jerk-face, and Parker is still a girl who doesn’t like attention.

I read this series in 2015 when they first came out. It was one of those situations where I bought the first book, not realizing it was a cliffhanger. After finishing book one, I bought the whole series bundled, essentially paying for book 1 twice, but not caring because the books were that good! It was time to re-read it because: 1) I was depressed about some real life drama and needed a pick me up; 2) Penny Reid has announced that she will be writing the second book in the Hypothesis Series, Laws of Physics, and so I needed to prep; 3) I love nerdy, geeky heroines who have a strong moral compass and are all-around awesome. If you’d like to read my original, full book review, you can find it here.


Fallon’s Book

Midnight in Austenland

By Shannon Hale


I absolutely love Jane Austen. And my love for her has caused many relationship problems between me and other authors; I hesitate to start a book by an author I don’t know and usually just end up re-reading a book I know I’ll enjoy. My love, however, does not extend to all Austen inspired spin-offs, sequels, or changed point-of-view novels. I had just finished re-reading Hale’s Austenland and immediately picked up the next in the series (is it still considered a series if there are only two books?). It was at that time Christine and I decided to do this book challenge.
Midnight in Austenland does a good job reinventing itself from its predecessor. The story is once again set at the Regency-era Pembroke Park with a few familiar secondary characters. This time, we follow new guest, Charlotte Kinder, who just wants some time to reset her life but ends up trying to navigate through what’s real and what’s not At the park. During parts of the story I questioned whether I liked Charlotte or not, or if I found her too silly. Although everything about the people in Austenland can be described as silly, I don’t want my thirty-something heroine comparable to the naïve Catherine Morland. Once finished though, I was happy with Charlotte and had all those lovely, warm feelings I like to have at a conclusion. Maybe I should take the words of Hale to heart, “Jane Austen had created six heroines, each quite different, and that gave Charlotte
courage. There wasn’t just one kind of woman to be.”

Did you join us in our book challenge? What book did you re-read and why?

Our next book challenge will be pick a book solely based on the cover… we’ll post our picks on April 14. Hope you’ll tell us about the book you read!

The Bird and the Sword

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

Mythology & Folk Tales


Overall Rating: 4.5 (xoxo)

The Bird and the Sword

Quick Summary: Lark is special in a land where special means a death sentence. In their quest for equality, the kingdom has decreed that anyone who has special gifts must be put to death. With her dying breath, Lark’s mother tries to protect Lark by tying her fate to her father’s and telling her to pull back her words. Years later in an odd turn of events, Lark is singled out by the young King. Despite her muteness, Taris, the King, finds her useful to have around. As the two of them try to overcome a common enemy, they will discover that there is more to them than what meets the eye.

I love love love love love this book. I would give it 5 stars except that I’m not sure I could re-read it. It’s very emotional and powerful. There is a dazzlingly array of imagery, symbolism, and metaphor.

In some ways, I read this book at a critical time. While I’m not sure Amy Harmon intended the social criticism, I can’t help but make parallels to our lives today. Americans are experiencing a re-awakening in some ways. Regardless of political affiliation, there’s been an increased sense that what happens politically matters to people on a daily level. And for some, the changes they’ve seen are scary; they are matters of life and death.

While there are no direct allusions to our current political climate, how could there be when the book was released in May 2016 and was conceivably written well before that date, I’ll try to share a bit of the connection in my mind. Here’s a quote: “Corvyn was weak, but he wasn’t evil, though I wondered if weakness wasn’t just as dangerous. The weak allowed evil to flourish.” This sentiment strongly echoes Elie Wiesel’s speech, “The Perils of Indifference.” Here’s an excerpt from the speech:

“Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.

Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment.

And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century’s wide-ranging experiments in good and evil.” (Elie Wiesel, 12 Apr 1999,

This also ties into another quote from the book, explaining how the persecution of those with special gifts is justified: “convinced that equality could only be realized if no one was special, and the power of the words was eradicated.” Again there is a connection to Wiesel’s speech. He says, “What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means ‘no difference.’ A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.” Equality cannot come by subsuming difference. Indeed, it is an “unnatural” state because humans are not carbon copies of each other. I won’t go into this more, because I want you to read the book .

This theme of specialness, of unique gifts, is one that is explored throughout the novel, and is one that resonated deeply with me. There are many other themes, including the biggest one about the power of words. I could write on and on about this book. And that’s probably the number one reason why I enjoyed it so much. There is something “more” to it that I fall in love with.

Of course I love the characters too. There is action and adventure to complement the philosophical component too. And the fantastical nature of the whole plot is great. I love being transported to the Kingdom of Jeru.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $5.95)

$6 is a lot for an e-book, at least it is to me. But, this is a really, really good book. So while you should probably check your local library for it first, if they don’t have it, please spend the 6 bucks to buy it. You won’t regret it!

Something else you might enjoy:

I don’t think there is another book out there like this. Not with the kind of allusion and metaphor layered on top of myth. If you want another book like this, you’ll have to read more of Amy Harmon’s work. I recommend The Law of Moses. You can read my book review here.

2017 Book Challenge: Join us!

2017 Book Challenge


My friend Fallon and I thought it would be fun to do a Book Challenge. I’m not sure why we started thinking about it, other than Pinterest. I swear Pinterest inspires you in the weirdest ways. In any case, specifically we thought it might be fun to do the same book challenge, but picking different books. So Fallon can pick any book the meets the challenge requirement, as can I, and then at the end of the month we compare notes.


Obviously, since there are 26 challenges, we’ll need to read more than one book a month to complete it by the end of 2017, but since we both have kids, and jobs, and spouses that we actually like to spend time with, it may be a two year project. But it doesn’t really matter, because I’m looking forward to seeing what books Fallon will pick to fulfill each month’s challenge and reading what she thinks about the book she selected. I’m not sure she’d say the same thing about me, since she’d probably read my opinion in this blog anyway, but it’s fun to share something with a friend, especially since my family and I just moved away from Fallon and her bunch after living near them for over a decade.


We settled on 26 Books with Bringing Up the Burns from burns-familyblog.blogspot. I immediately liked it because of the reference to C.S. Lewis, even though I’ve never read the Chronicles of Narnia. Plus, my son’s favorite color is blue so I figured I can’t go wrong picking a book with a blue cover. It’s from 2015, but these lists never go out of style. To see the full list, click here.


We’d like to invite you to join us in our challenge. We’ll announce the next month’s challenge at the end of each blog post so you have time to select your book and read. Our plan is to post on the last Friday of every month, at the very least. You can post your book in the comment section for that month, or you can send me an email and I’ll add you to our blog post (yes! You, too, can be a blogger like us!). These will be short little summaries and reviews, just meant to be fun and interesting with little to no pressure. We hope you’ll come along on our adventure.


Our first challenge? A book you loved… read it again! (post scheduled for March 31, 2017)

The Index Card

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

Personal Finance

The Index Card.jpg

Overall Rating: 3.5

Quick summary: Dr. Harold Pollack from the University of Chicago suggested to financial journalist Helaine Olen that all of the financial advice a person needs can fit on a 4”x6” notecard. The idea went viral and Pollack and Olen followed up with their talk with this book explaining in further depth the basic rules that should govern personal finance.

This is an excellent primer for those who are recent high school/college graduates and those who are new to personal finance. The rules are very basic and only a few of them were surprises to me. The basics of save 10-20% of your income and invest for your retirement. Wait to buy a house till you can afford it and buy insurance (car, home, health, etc.).

The rules that surprised me were their advice not to buy individual stocks as it’s a form of gambling. I knew it was a form of gambling, but I didn’t realize that even experts had such a hard time buying and selling at the right intervals. I was also surprised by their advice about financial advisors. They suggested only using a fee-based fiduciary. The word fiduciary is important because a person with that title has basically pledged to only look after your financial best interest. I had not realized that many of the titles in the financial world meant almost nothing, financial manager, financial planner, and other such titles. I knew that most of them worked on commission, but didn’t realize that fee-based professionals existed.

Overall, there’s no concrete plan the way there is in other financial planning books. They don’t suggest doing one step before another and they avoid getting too specific for the most part. But I did learn some interesting things, like 96% of people have used some sort of government assistant, but only 40% believe that they do. It’s for this reason that they suggest supporting the social network, since everyone needs it at some point or another. Like all other financial books, this suggests a certain political outlook, but it wasn’t pervasive throughout the book, rather it was concentrated in this last step. And to me, it makes sense since it’s hard to imagine going through college without government assistance in some form or another, like a grant or a government loan.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $9.99)

Yes, if you are new to the world of personal finance. If you’ve never read a personal finance book, this is a great place to start because it has all of the fundamentals without being overwhelming. But like a lot of other books, I borrowed it from the library rather than buying it.

Something else you might enjoy:

I’ve already recommended all of the personal finance books I’ve read and thought were worthwhile. What’s your recommendation?

Top 5 Children’s Books

5 Favorite Books for Children

While my reviews are from my perspective as a parent, these are all books that my children have asked for time and again. This means that while the descriptions are mommy approved, they are all time-tested by my two kids ages 2 & 4. I highly recommend buying one of these books as a gift if you know of anyone who will be having a child. They are classics in the children’s books genre.


Little Blue Truck

The Little Blue Truck enjoys the slow pace of life as he says hello to all of his farm friends. But when a big dump truck gets stuck in some mud, the dump truck learns that having friends can be really important, maybe even more important than getting big jobs done.

This is a very lyrical book and I love reading it to my kids because of the fun sounds. I also love that it teaches children to be nice to everyone, because you never know when you’re going to need help. We also have the Little Blue Truck’s Christmas book, but I don’t care for that one as much.



We found this book by accident in the library. My son just randomly picked it out and it quickly became his favorite. Cloudette is a small cloud and had always been happy to float around and play with her friends. But when larger clouds go off to do big and important things, Cloudette feels left out. When a storm blows her to a new place, she find an opportunity to make a small difference and realizes that a little bit can go a long way.

Everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small, may seem like a naive way of looking at things, but it’s true. My dad always told me that I was successful if I could make one person’s life a little better. Hearing him say that got me through a lot of tough times in my life and I hope that my kids will remember Cloudette’s lesson as they begin to realize how big the world is around them.


Giraffes Can’t Dance

The animals in the jungle have one night a year where they all come together to dance. While all the other animals have special dances that they can do beautifully, Gerald is seen as awkward and a poor dancer. As Gerald walks away sad, a cricket teaches him a lesson about listening to the music of your heart.

The moral of this story is so simple and elegant that I wish every child could have it written on their heart. We are all good at something; it is simply a matter of finding the music that moves you. What a great reminder for children as they grow up and begin to understand competition.


Love You For Always

This is a sentimental pick. My mom read it to me and I knew I was going to read it to my children. The storyline is pretty straightforward—as the child grows older, the mother reaffirms that she will always love her child. Even though I’ve read this book a hundred times, I still tear up at the end. It never fails.

This is a little silly and over the top with how long the mother continues to sing her song to her son. I made up a little tune so I can sing it to my kids, which I still do every night even if we don’t read the book, but I actually saw an interview with the author who sang the song. I promptly forgot the melody so I still sing it the way I imagined it to be, but in case it’s been a hug mystery to you, here’s the video.


Billy Bully

As the title may indicate to you, this book is about bullying. The main character in this story, Billy the Bull, alienates his friends one by one. Once he is alone he realizes that he hasn’t been a good friend and so tries to win them back one by one.

I love this story because it shows that you’re a good friend by what you do. How you treat people matters and this book outlines specific ways you can be a good friend or a bad friend. It also has the added benefit of helping your child to practice counting.


As a little bonus, I want to recommend borrowing from the library or buying used Chicky Chicky Chook Chook. It’s out of print, which is why it’s not included in the five books above, but I love reading this book to my kids. It’s nonsensical, but the sounds are great. It is a fun book to read because of the silly rhythms. We found this book at the library, so check it out.

What are your favorite children’s book?

Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Personal Finance


Overall Rating: 5

Quick Summary: Dave Ramsey offers concrete steps individuals and families can take to organize their finances, pay off their debt, and invest money for their future. In what Ramsey calls “baby steps,” he outlines seven steps people should take for their financial health. Ramsey is not necessarily interested in saving you money—his snowball debt method prioritizes the smallest debts first which means you wind up paying more money in the long run on interest. His approach, instead, is much more about psychology and motivation. If you’ve tried other methods of paying off your debt and have failed, then this may be what you need to finally ditch your monthly payments.

What I love most about this book is how detailed Ramsey is in what you need to do. In each chapter he offers the general principal and then gives examples from the people and families he has helped. These examples are great in answering questions that otherwise might be overlooked. Having read other personal finance book, I’ve found that this is the hardest thing to do—figure out how the general principals apply to you.

Since I’ve read financial books before and we still have debt, I know that having the intellectual knowledge is not the same as being able to implement that knowledge. This is why, although Ramsey’s method can cost more money in the long run with paying off debt, I’m going to give it a try, because paying off one debt, no matter how small, is intensely rewarding. Just like seeing the scale go down by one or two pounds, seeing small successes really matter in continuing the long journey to financial health.

One thing I did not like was trying to find additional information outside of the book. Going to Dave Ramsey’s website looks like every other financial guy trying to sell merchandise with his name and logo on it. The website did not feel like the straight talking Dave Ramsey of the book and, in fact, made me uncomfortable. Trying to find the answer to a very specific question led me to other sections of the website that were written by other financial advisors, not Dave Ramsey, and they offered NO new insight. What I did like from the website were the transcripts from Ramsey’s radio show. Reading through those were helpful and it was like having access to hundreds of people’s stories, similar to what you find in his book.

As with all things, Ramsey comes at finance from a political and religious perspective. In my previous book review of his shorter book, The Money Answer Book, I mentioned that he is a Christian and presents his advice from that particular perspective. I appreciate how upfront he is about this, from the beginning of the book, and found some of his Biblical quotes motivational. However, what I find odd is his aggressive justification for Christian’s having wealth at the end of the book. I didn’t realize that so many people thought being Christian and being wealthy were at odds.

Additionally, Ramsey has certain political views that bleed through, particularly in regards to government run programs like social security and disability. If you are easily offended, just be forewarned that there are slight digs at the government. For me, Ramsey’s anti-government stance is softened by his exhortation to give charitably. Giving not just to whatever church you happen to belong to, but to organizations and people that you believe in. He emphasizes that wealth will not solve any problems in your character—if you’re a jerk, you’ll still be a jerk, and if you’re a giver, you will continue to be a giver, just with a bigger wallet.

In the end, while I’m not convinced of every single piece of advice (who would be since we all have our own opinions), I personally am going to try and implement his plan. If it works, I’ll update this book review. If it doesn’t, I’ll update this book review. But certainly his argument is compelling enough for me to give it a try and that’s saying something.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $12.99/Hardcover $14.99)

Obviously if you do not have debt and have a clear financial plan, you don’t really need this book. But if you are struggling financially, it’s certainly worth a read. I borrowed the copy I read, which I thought was appropriate since the whole point of the book is saving money. If you’re the kind of person who likes to check back on his advice, look things up, and use the workbook pages that are included, then you should certainly purchase the book.

Something else you might enjoy:

I’ve read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t change my life. It’s still worth reading, since it’s a powerhouse in the personal finance genre.