The Red Umbrella


This book, y’all!

Every summer, Audio File gives away audio books weekly. I have a really bad habit of downloading them and then forgetting them, because I never had room to store them on my phone. Now, with a newer bigger phone, I do. I am so glad I did not download The Red Umbrella and forget about it.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is going on my list of must-read writers. Her novel is set in Cuba and America, circa 1961. The main character, Lucía Álvarez, is a young teen at the beginning of Castro’s reign. Her parents are not part of the revolution and want to get Lucía and her brother, Frankie, to safety.

As the story unfolded, I learned a lot about Cuba and also saw similarities to aspects of America’s current political atmosphere. It was a scary realization, that thoughts in my head match the thoughts of people watching Castro take over their country. So many people were certain communism could not win, that the whole thing was a political phase that would fade into memory soon enough.  They were wrong.

The writing was beautiful and dealt with fear and tragedy in a poetic and heartbreaking manner. I loved the American couple in the second half of the story, despite Mrs. Baxter’s ignorance of Lucía’s culture and what the world is actually like outside of small town America. Her heart was pure, and the mix-and-match family created by the situation was beautiful.

I just cannot say enough good about this book. Go buy it. Right now.


Review: Blood Rose Rebellion


Yesterday, I alternated practice equations for my math final with chapters from Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves.

When I first started reading, I was slightly disappointed by the British setting, though I am not sure why. I normally adore all things British. But, the setting quickly shifted to Hungary, and that was gorgeous. I don’t know a lot about the history of that part of the world, so I got to learn and do my own research to check out new tidbits. That is my favorite part of historical fiction.

My favorite favorite was the poet in the story. I loved learning that he is a real person and actually did participate and even help spur on revolution with a poem. I firmly believe poets ARE revolutionaries. Words are power.

Another favorite about this story is the mix of real history and alternate history and the supernatural – the richness of magic meets the lushness of culture.

There are so many tendrils of web woven together in this story that I hesitate to share details. I loved the characters of Gabor and Matyas the best, and there is plenty of allegory to me constructed from the plot if one wants to compare societies and histories.

All in all, Blood Rose Rebellion is well worth the read. Check it out.




The Island Deception: A Magic Read


(Gateways to Alissia #2)
by Dan Koboldt

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. But what happens after you step through a portal to another world, well…

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He’d done his job for the mysterious company CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he’s also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily–or not–CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time, he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task: Help take Richard Holt down.

It’s impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds–a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia–if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.

Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval, The Island Deception blends fun and mystery into a brilliant new fantasy from Dan Koboldt.


Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 70 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.

Author Website:
Twitter Profile: @DanKoboldt


Whatever your purchasing preference, you should go right now and buy both this book and the previous novel. 

(Gateways to Alissia #2)
by Dan Koboldt

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Review: Hollywood Homicide


I don’t read a ton of mystery novels, but sometimes it is fun to play connect-the-dots… can I put the clues together before the author reveals the killer/thief/bad guy?

I recently picked Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett for a fun bit of escapism. I liked the main character, Dayna, pretty quickly. Her mix of sarcasm and nervousness spoke to me. I often cover my fear of inadequacy with jokes and smart remarks, so I felt a lot of empathy for her. I thought her past as a recognizable face but not a major celebrity (as in, movie star) was neat. It gave her some Hollywood currency but kept her from being unrelatable to those of us with no connection to the industry.

The mystery itself had plenty of twists and turns. Just as I would think I had it figured out, a new clue would fall into the story. The women in the book seemed to be in the same boat and I loved the mix of passion and ineptitude.

I don’t want to spoil anything about the story, so I am going to leave this short and sweet. If you are looking for a fun mystery, check out Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett.

Review: Mask of Shadows

I don’t read a lot of fantasy. I am picky. A fantasy novel has to suck me in pretty quickly. I need to want to know more about the characters and the world almost instantly. That said, I loved Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller.


I was instantly drawn in by the main character, Sal. I loved her attitude in those opening pages and I was intrigued by her intrigue with the young lady she was robbing. A romance? I wanted to know if that was in the cards for her and, if so, how. I loved the semi-western meets Robin Hood feel of the opening scenes and the concept of the Left Hand.

I’m afraid to share much more about the plot, because picking apart the threads that lead you into the center of it all was fun. I’d hate to deprive you of that joy.

I will tell you I had a little crush on Ruby and Sal. Yes, both of them. Don’t you judge me. I think Sal would approve.


If you would like to learn more about the author and her books, visit her website here: Linsey Miller.

Review: Macy McMillan is Magnificent

I recently got my hands on a review copy of Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green. I adored her last verse novel: Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles, so reading this one was a no-brainer.


I fell for Macy instantly. I have been a tween girl with a mom about to remarry. I remember all of the conflicting emotions, wanting Mom to be happy, not liking or disliking the soon-to-be-stepfather so much as not knowing how things were going to change and hadn’t they changed enough already for crying out loud?

Macy is a child thrust into the need for mature adult emotions and decisions. Her best friend and her mother seem unconcerned, though we know they do love Macy. She simply hasn’t done the best job of communicating her feelings clearly, which is the case for most early teen girls and boys. Emotions are difficult for adults to communicate and understand, so imagine trying to figure them out at thirteen.

The theme of communication struggles is symbolized by Macy’s loss of hearing. She uses sign language to communicate and not everyone signs. Even those who do sign aren’t as fluent as her mother, and her mother is the person she is having the most struggle communicating with. I think this illustrates that even when we understand the words (or signs) another person is giving us, that doesn’t mean we always understand the meaning behind those words (or signs).

As for the rainbow goddess, well, it’s no secret I adore relationships between kids/teens and the elderly. I love to read and write them. I had plenty of them when I was a kid. My favorite church small group as an adult has included women ages 26 (that was me) to 80. People of different ages learn from one another, and I love love love love that.

Everything about this book was wonderful. It’s a novel to share with your child, to read while eating warm cookies with cold milk, to pass onto a friend…

Finding God in the Waves: A Review

I spent the last few weeks reading Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science by Mike McHargue.

Some of you have followed my journey into doubt and cynicism and general confusion about my faith via my posts on Middle Places. Some of you have not. So let me just say this: I have been in a season of faith deconstruction for a few years. At first, it was more a dissatisfied feeling… a time in the desert, spiritually. But I was not content to stay in the desert, so I started chasing after God with everything in me.

I also let myself question God. I let myself question everything, because not questioning was only leading me down a bitter path. I knew that path could not lead anywhere I want to go.

If you don’t ask questions, no one knows to give you answers.

Imagine that.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears, right? I forget who said that, but I believe it. I believe that, and there aren’t a lot of definites in my belief-case right now.

As soon as I heard Mike, also known as Science Mike, talking about his book, I knew I had to read it. That was the first Liturgists podcast episode I listened to, and I listened with tears on my cheeks.

I had found my tribe.

“The first and best response to someone whose faith is unraveling is a hug. Apologetics aren’t helpful. Neither are Scripture references. The first thing a hurting person needs is to know they’re not alone.”

Thank you, Mike. As a pastor’s wife in the south, it would be pretty easy to isolate myself in this journey and to live as though I am alone. I am lucky to have a church family that hugs me, literally and metaphorically. No one is handing me Lee Strobel books or quoting Paul at me. And that is good, because I have already read Strobel and I mostly want to punch Paul in the face. Not always. Sometimes I love good ol’ Paul so much I could kiss him right on the mouth. But, when he talks about women, I mostly just want to punch him.

And I am willing to say that.

I am lucky to have a husband who loves me and doesn’t feel his own faith or calling is threatened because his wife can’t decide what she thinks about the Bible. I am lucky to have a church that isn’t threatened by my questioning and sees my heart, how I love Jesus no matter what I think or don’t think about the rest of it. Not all pastor’s wives can openly struggle and journey and live their own faith.

In Finding God in the Waves, Science Mike took me along on his journey into atheism and then back to God. He used a lot of science, and I actually understood most of it. That in itself blew my mind. I thought I disliked science, but it turns out I just dislike math. The theories and all of the workings of the human brain? That stuff is interesting and actually HELPED me make sense of my faith.

In the pages of this book, I found my own questions about the Bible and prayer and how God engages the world… or doesn’t. I didn’t find answers, per se, but I did find a companion on the journey and new tools for understanding myself and my world and my faith.

If you are a skeptic or even just a person of faith who wants to better understand people who struggle with the things that seem simple and sure to you, I cannot recommend this book enough.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.