In my head...and other thoughts.

My thoughts. Simple as that. I'm a Christian. Mom. Wife. Daughter. Friend. Coworker.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Moonlight on Linoleum

Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig and published by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.

If you love a good story about dysfunctional families - then stop what you are doing and read this story!! You will NOT be disappointed. You WILL be amazed at the obstacles these children overcame, the tenacity of the eldest child Terry (the author), and the blatant selfishness of their mother.

Helwig's description and story-telling is so beautifully written you may have trouble remembering that this actually happened - that Helwig most likely had to conjure up buried memories of her childhood that were very hard and difficult.

The story starts out by Helwig's mother, Carola Jean Vacha, telling Helwig that she left her father so that Carola wouldn't kill him. Thus begins the life that Helwig has so graciously shared for us to read about. Her mother, luckily, doesn't murder their father, but does instead gets a divorce and moves out west to Colorado. There Carola meets her second husband in which she has another child, Patricia.

The story continues on, with more babies, more husbands, and always moving to another location. Helwig talks of her mom's rendezvous with many men and her addiction to pain killers. Helwig's devotion to her sisters are shown throughout as well as her dedication.

Helwig might not think of herself as the mother, but throughout the story, we see her taking more control of the family.

I give this story 4.5 stars. Thanks to, Simon and Schuster, and Terry Helwig.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Christmas Journey Home

A Christmas Journey Home by Kathi Macias and published by New Hope Publishing, a division of WMU. I received this book via

In one word, I would describe this book as "cute". Many characters tell their side of the story throughout the book. Being from the United States, the plot pulled me into the story. Being a Christian, I felt that if I could relate or understood better the conditions in which illegal aliens find themselves in, I would like to think I would have more compassion. The story boils down to one question: is it better to follow the laws of the land, or to show compassion to every human being, no matter their financial status/race/weight/etc. etc. (Even though everyone would most likely say compassion and love overrules, sadly it doesn't seem to be the case in which the world we live in today.)

We meet Isabella and her newly-wed husband Francisco out in the middle of the Arizona desert. Driven by violence in their town in Mexico and by the urging of her grandfather, the couple are illegal aliens trying to find a better life for themselves and a baby, who will be soon born. Isabella's whole family was killed by gang violence and as long as it is no longer safe for them to live there with a child on the way, they head out to the great unknown, trying to reach the American Dream.

Miriam, a newly-widowed wife and mom to six-year old son Davey, doesn't know how to control her grief or anger of her husband dying. Staying on at the ranch after her husband passes away due to his job as a border control agent, has left Miriam tired and stressed. If not for her mother, Carolyn, who has come to live with them to help - Miriam knows she coudln't continue to stay on the ranch that her son loves so clearly.

Things then continuely spin out of control for both Isabella and Miriam. Isabella and her husband are forced into a labor house while Carolyn's health suddenly takes a turn for the worse, leaving Miriam to fend for not only Davey and herself, but the sprawling ranch and the many animals who live there.

The story continues to show each person's thoughts in the situations. We even see how much Davey has the child-like faith of knowing there is a God. The story wraps up nice and neat, just like a Christmas present.

While the plot was an interesting concept, I wish the characters were more developed, had more depth to them. We only get a glimmer of Carolyn and her struggles and thoughts about her health. Isabella's grandfather is mainly only shown conversing with God and his one companion, another elderly man who has also lost his wife. I would have liked more of a background of Isabella and Francisco, the country to which they are fleeing from.

I would give this book a 3.5 rating. Good plot, but wish it would have given more of a punch. Thank goes to New Hope Publishing,, and Kathi Macias for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ten Plagues

Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy. Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Received by

As I've said before, I have been wanting to find Christian authors who write fiction that can tell the message of Jesus Christ through their story as well as serving up an excellent plot for readers to sink their teeth into. I received Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy through and wanted to see if Nealy could deliver what I was looking for. Sadly, this came up short for me.

The story starts out with Keren Collins, a cop investigating the deaths of  ladies who have just turned their lives around. Enter Paul Morris, an ex-cop who is now a pastor at a local mission, the mission where most of the ladies turning up missing, have gone for help. Morris unexpectedly receives a package each time before the dead are found. Obviously, someone wants Morris to feel pain, by taking the very ones who come to him for help and torturing them with different plagues as are found in the Bible.

Collins and Morris work together along with Collins' partner O'Shea, who is conveniently left out on many scenes in the book. Collins and Morris have a history with each other, dating back to when Morris was a detective himself. This pairs the couple up to a stormy relationship while trying to be professional about their job in bringing justice to the killer.

The author uses scripture throughout the story to back up her plagues plot and uses some interesting dialogue between Collins and Morris on how tough it is to be a cop and a Christian at the same time. I did not mind the plot with the serial killer and wished it would have gone deeper actually. I wish it would have included O'Shea more into the story, as he is Collins "real" partner.

One thing I can't stand in stories (and this is a personal reference in which some of you already know) is the romance factor. Some authors can pull this off without me rolling my eyes very much, but in this story, it practically wanted me to stop reading half way through. Why is it that every time a man and a woman who are put together in a situation, have to act so juvenile in admitting they like each other? The author tries to make the duo have a "disturbed, troubled" history so that they fight at almost every juncture, when in the character's "mind", they can't believe how much they want to kiss the other!

I would give this a three-star rating. Wish I could have given it a better one.

Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis. Published by Simon and Schuster, Inc.

Being a Christian, I always feel compelled to read more works by authors who themselves are Christians. I am not fond of theological works, although I probably should be. I am a fiction reader, more or less, and thinking one who can pull off a great work of fiction with sharing the message of God, to be one of the greatest things on Earth. What a way to use their talent to glorify God!

Saying that, I realize, that this is more of a memoir or along the lines of an autobiography of Davis' decisions and what that has lead her to accomplish in her life. I have been reading more memoirs of late, finding that a good memoir is just as good or better than fiction. Finding the right memoir that speaks to oneself, is the trouble. Sure, many people can and have wrote about what they think is important or what special circumstance they have gone through, but few can tell it in a way that draws the reader in; a way that makes the reader want to know more about the situation. Davis does this for me and oh, so much more!

Davis is a young adult woman who finds herself submitting to God's call on her life. Although it isn't something that most can or will do, Davis feels this pull more than anything and with her love of God so strong, dives right into what she was meant to do. She packs up after graduating high school and leaves for the desolate country of Uganda.

WOW! Right there this blows me away. An 18-year old girl who has had a relatively "easy" life living in the United States, gives it all up, to go help the children and people who live in the poor African country. What a testimony right there. Davis goes on to explain how she started her missionary work as a teacher and how at a very young age, adopted her first daughter.

Her story goes on to show the importance of loving and having family, other than having materialistic items. Something we all know, but oh so often, don't live it. Davis' story continues on how she started her own organization to help the people more and has now adopted 14 daughters.  Her struggles with showing love to her daughters, who sadly don't understand true love, to her problems on how to take care of the many people who come to her for very basic needs, is a miracle. Plain and simply, it shows how God can and will use a willing individual for His greater good.

While reading the book, I did find myself jealous of Davis, which is crazy in itself. Would I really want to live where there were no running water or electricity? To live where I was the only person of white skin? To battle the bugs and illnesses that run rampant? The simple answer is no. But to fully and willingly sacrifice as much as she has done for God, yes. But the most AWESOME thing in this book happened when I was thinking such selfish thoughts...God spoke to me through Davis' writing.

It was like He knew I what I was thinking and BAM! Davis would write something that spoke to my heart, that I would nearly break down and cry.
One of those passages is " God reminded me how beautiful we all are to Him, after all, we were created in His own image, and He looks at me, at you, in all our sweat and dirt and brokenness and says, " I choose you. You are beautiful."
Or this passage that made me remember how very much loved I am by Him - "Thank You that when I feel old and used up and broken and no more exciting than a cardboard box, You whisper that You love and value you me, and that in Your eyes, I am shiny and new."

I have had not heard of Davis before reading the synopsis of the book on I necessarily didn't even mean to click on the title to read it, but there again, the power of God. What a truly remarkable story that is still in the works! Davis should be proud of not only her pure love of God, but of writing an exceptional well-told story.

And hopefully, anyone who reads this book can walk away knowing that it doesn't take someone serving in a foreign land to serve God and do His will. Davis sums it up all nicely in this passage from the book, "I am just an ordinary person. An ordinary person serving an extraordinary God."

I give this a 5 star rating.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, published by Philomel Books (division of Penguin Group {USA} Inc.).  5 STARS!!!

I will randomly go into our small town's library and see if they have anything I would like to read that is new. I have read about everything there that I am interested in and sadly, I won't stoop down to romance, so usually I either find one that sounds "okay" or maybe even one I've already read before. (Glass Castle/Before Woman Had Wings/ Blackbird anyone?!)

I always look at the cover, read the jacket and usually the first couple of pages before I can decide if I like it or not. This book had just a simple but beautiful cover; the jacket intrigued me into the story; and before I could get past the first page...I was head over heels with this book. Lucky for me, when I went home to check out the reviews on, I noticed it was actually in my to-be-read pile! Which is a good thing considering I have over 600 books on it :)

Sepetys is a debut author who tells the story about Lina, a 15-year old girl from Lithuania during the World War II years and when Stalin reigned. The story jumps right off the first page, showing us Lina, her mother and brother being arrested by the Soviet "secret police" and being herded like cows into trucks with many other Lithuanias. Both Lina and her brother Jonas are surprised at their sudden charge of being anti-Soviet. (Their mother not so much.) So begins one of the most horrifying acts I've ever read. (Please note that while this is a work of fiction, the author based it on interviews with survivor's families as well as her own family's story. It is based on what she had read/been told/ and what she found in her research.)

I admit, I have a semi-obsession about the Holocaust and World War II along with many others in this world who can't believe such a heinous act was allowed to happen. I've looked on the internet for many hours times many days absorbing the information out there and have read quite a few books surrounding it. (The pictures!)  How can anyone forget The Diary of Anne Frank? My search has always lead me to Hitler and his surrounding evil men who helped him get away with massive murders. (This horrible crime actually took place a few years before the start of WWII, but their story is much like Holocaust survivors.) Sad to say, Stalin I've only read about a little. Sure I knew he was an 'bad' man, but to know that he was in charge of so many losing their lives and the way people were treated, he was no better than Hitler himself. (Of course, you all might be shaking your head about my 'lack of knowledge' about Stalin, and really, it is pathetic. Hitler was the main man and I think the rest of the world was concentrating on watching him move, letting Stalin carry out his dirty little plans.) 

Back to the story.Lina is an aspiring artist, always drawing what she sees, how she feels and what is happening around her. Her sketching whenever she finds pencil/paper/pen to do it, lets her have an escape, propelling her forward to survival. The book is in present tense, but we find out about Lina's family/extended family and her past through memories she comes to rely on to get her through the hardest parts of being taken.  After many miles of being treated like cattle, hundreds to a train car, Lina, Jonas and Elena (her mother) are then ordered to work at a potato/beet farm in which they are made to complete hard labor for a ration of 300 grams of bread per day. The story goes on telling how the family worked hard, interacted with other prisoners and feared the soldiers.

Sadly, the story does not end there and happy ever after. Lina, her family and other characters from the book we learn about, are then once again, herded together and travel many many days, making their way to the North Pole. There they must provide for Stalin's soldiers who are there to keep them imprisoned. Hard winters, diseases, malnourishment and the lack of sun, makes it unbearable for the prisoners. 
Throughout the book, Lina's mother Elena, shows her kindness/goodness and belief in the human soul. She does not "hate" the enemy. She offers to share with others their food, comforting them and telling her children that "two wrongs don't make a right" (paraphrased...and I might even have it wrong...but I think its about right.) Her strength is so real you can feel it. Her love for her children is very deep. 

I will not reveal anymore of the story as I feel as if I have already said too much for others not to read it, but oh I hope they do! I believe it might be more directed at youth (the inside says Philomel books are a division of Penguin Young Readers Group) but I have not read a story more real than this one in a very long time. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours while you get transported back into time during the 40s where surviving  was the only option. 

***The author includes a note in the back, giving a few more facts to the history that happened not that long ago to these people. Please don't forget to read this. My favorite quote is in this section, "Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy - love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit" ~ Rita E. Sepetys

Watch the video of the author explain about the book...even watching it after I read it...WOW!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wreath by Judy Christie

This is my first review. Please don't be looking for flowery words here, I'm a simple person who likes to just write in an uncomplicated way. Books will be rated from 1 star (terrible) to 5 stars (amazing!)

Wreath by Judy Christie is published by Barbour Publishing, INC. and will be released 10/01/2011. This is a young adult literature (YA) book.

The book starts out with Wreath trying to comfort her mother as she is very sick from an illness. Wreath's mom Frankie then dies and Wreath takes off, fleeing from her mom's boyfriend, Big Fun.

The story's plot revolves around Wreath's promise to her mother, to attend college after high school. (Wreath is entering her senior year.) Frankie also thinks Wreath has called Child Protective Services to be put in foster care, but what Frankie doesn't know...turns out to be Wreath's biggest downfall and success.

This story follows the year after Frankie dies, leaving Wreath to fend for herself in the big wide world, trying to still attend high school to honor her mother's wishes.

While the plot was very good, I enjoyed it very much, it was also unrealistic, in its setting. Maybe in a big city a girl like Wreath would go unnoticed, but in a small community where this supposedly takes place, it would not. (I'm from a small town...whatever you try to keep secret isn't...whatever you do is broadcasted!)  I did find it annoying that everyone "loved" her. To her out-dated, thrift clothes (come on...really she found wearable clothes in junk cars that have been sitting there for ages?!) to her ideas for decorating. That seemed a little far-fetched as well. No one is always liked by everyone, a fact everyone knows.

I like the determination of Wreath in her situations, which will probably help teens overcome their struggles as I'm sure none of them face what she tackles head on. The character is well developed and I can remember feeling and thinking some of the same thoughts when I was in my teens.

I would give this book a 3.5 star rating. The plot was good, just maybe not the way it was told. Wreath by Judy Christie is published by Barbour Publishing, INC. and will be released 10/01/2011. This is a young adult literature (YA) book.

Becky's bookshelf: read

The Lovely Bones
5 of 5 stars
This book was sooo good! I really loved reading it. It is about a girl who has been murdered and we join her while she overlooks her family dealing with the aftermath of loosing a daughter/sister/etc. Alice Sebold did very well with this bo...