Welcome to Monday Book Reviews! I have a long list of books I’ve read in the past year that I haven’t been able to review, so I’m mixing them up with books that I’m reading and are on my TBR. Today I’ll be reviewing 18 Things by Jamie Ayres, that I read a while ago and only scanned over it again to remember character names and certain details. I remember the story clearly.






RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥




Olga Gay Worontzoff thinks her biggest problems are an awful name and not attending prom with Conner, her best friend and secret crush since kindergarten.

Then, Conner is killed in a freak boating accident and Olga feels responsible for his death.

When she downs an entire bottle of pills to deal with the emotional pain, her parents force her into counseling. There, her therapist writes a prescription in the form of a life list titled “18 Things”: eighteen quests to complete the year of her eighteenth birthday.

But there’s more to Olga’s quests than meets the eye and when her therapist reveals a terrifying secret, her world is shaken.

There’s only one thing she knows for certain: her choices won’t just affect her future, but all eternity.


Olga’s been in love with Conner since they were little kids and never told him, so they grew up being best friends. Conner dies tragically while they’re out sailing, and Olga is unable to save him, though injured herself and subsequently rendered unconscious. She can’t help but blame herself, thinking she could have done more to save him. The fact that she wanted the girl he asked to prom – popular, head cheerleader Tammy, to know she could have him with her any time she wanted when they planned that fateful day, made it worse. Unfortunately, when she goes back to school after his funeral, a few anonymous and cold-hearted classmates leave notes in her locker blaming her too.

In an effort to escape her pains, physical and emotional, Olga takes the bottle of pain medication the hospital prescribed her when she was discharged. After the ‘pill incident’, her parents insist on therapy. Her therapist Dr. Jill recommends a bucket list of 18 things to do during the year until she’s 18 to help her move forward with the healing process.

It’s while waiting for one of her sessions that she meets Nate Barca, who was court-ordered to therapy. A friendship begins. Olga finds Nate attractive, which she bothers her, because she still loves Conner. She appeals to God for answers – through prayers and pleas many times. How am I going to get through the year? Why didn’t God take me instead of him? I’m not going to give away much more because of spoilers.

I loved the idea and premise of the story. Reading how Olga, Nate, and her friends helped construct and get her through the bucket list was fun. Most of the characters were well fleshed out, although a couple were kind of cliché. Nate was my favorite and who I felt had the most personality. The book has references to God, scripture, and prayers, but it’s not added in a preachy way; it’s an important part of who Olga is and how she ‘deals’.

The ending shocked me – but didn’t, I guess. I had suspicions about how it was going to end in the beginning, but as I kept reading I said ‘Nah’ and forgot about them. When I finally reached the ending, I thought to myself – ‘Wait, what?’ … and had to go back to look for the clues that had me suspicious in the first place!

Overall, I think this is an interesting and clean read for young adults, and would recommend it.

RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥



AyresJJamie Ayres writes young adult paranormal love stories by night and teaches young adults as a Language Arts middle school teacher by day. When not at home on her laptop or at school, she can often be found at a local book store grabbing random children and reading to them. So far, she has not been arrested for this. Although she spent her youthful summers around Lake Michigan, she now lives in Florida with her prince charming, two children (sometimes three based on how Mr. Ayres is acting), and a basset hound. She really does have grandmothers named Olga and Gay but unlike her heroine, she’s thankfully not named after either one of them. She loves lazy pajama days, the first page of a good book, stupid funny movies, and sharing stories with fantastic people like you. Her books include the first two installments of her trilogy, 18 Things and 18 Truths. Visit her jamieayres.com.





Hey everyone! Welcome to Monday Book Reviews! Today I’ll be reviewing A Journey Through the Valley by Koywan Keyes.






RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥




A Journey through the Valley is an Inspirational story that will take you through the valley of many hardships, and give you the power to go through your own valley. If you are tired of going through the same situations in your life that don’t lead you to your promise from God, then A journey Through the Valley will help you open your eyes in your own life and allow you to connect with God, and make it through your Valley. Do not be fooled to think that you are the only one who is going through some problems in your life. You are not, and you will see through this book that God will give you strength to make it through your Valley, if you let Him. It tells the story of my personal Journey where I faced financial hardships, lost friends, lost job and lack of resources. Furthermore, it deals the feelings and emotions that are connected through going through rough situations in life. In addition, it includes my sister’s journey through brain surgery, capturing her fears, her challenges and ability to connect with God to overcome. If you do not believe in the power of God; you will discover it in, “A Journey through the Valley.” God will allow your dreams to come true, keep the faith, and learn how to journey through your valley.


This book was great in the sense that it takes us through Mr. Keyes own personal journey while pursuing a life long dream. Unexpected hardships cause him and his family to struggle through rough times, but they never give up their faith. He writes about repeated financial hardships, nearly losing his home, and the range of emotions he experienced going ‘through the valley’. Various Bible verses are quoted throughout the book, which Mr. Keyes uses to remind readers that the valley is temporary and anyone can overcome hardship.

The reason this book struck a chord so deeply with me is because of his sister. Like me, she suffered a bleed in her brain, causing a stroke. Mr. Keyes put aside his own needs to be there for her. He writes about his sister’s struggles to overcome her own life altering event and getting through the madness. It was inspiring to read and I’m thankful that Mr. Keyes included it.

I love reading about experiences that are similar to mine and that I can relate to. It makes my journey feel less complicated and that much easier to achieve. Make sense?

I wanted to give this book 5 hearts. Truly. It has the stories that inspire me. Why couldn’t I? For a couple of reasons.

As a reader, I can overlook a few spelling and grammatical errors, but Journey has too many for me to overlook and not mention. For future editions, Mr. Keyes may want to consider an editor.

There was a section in the book where Mr. Keyes mentioned the media making a big deal out of people donating to churches and feels that members of congregations should continue to give money to their churches. I have to disagree.

Firstly, any mention of media & church donations doesn’t belong in an uplifting book like this to begin with.

Secondly, there are many evangelists (particularly of the TV variety) that take advantage of loyal followers with limited incomes. (ie: Each follower donating $300 towards a multi-million dollar jet – evangelist name withheld). The media are performing a public service by exposing the money hungry, not-so-Christian evangelists and ‘churches’.

Thirdly, donations (tithes, offerings) are personal choices. I gladly donate money if I know it’s being put to good use. If it’s going to be used to line another man’s pocket, I’ll give it directly to the person who needs it.

Aside from the issues I listed above, I genuinely enjoyed this book. I’d recommend it to anyone who feels a heavy burden and wants to know that things will get better.

RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥







Welcome to Monday Book Reviews! Today I’ll be reviewing Revival – How a Tenor Lost His Voice But Found His Calling by Donald Braswell with Mark Koopmans.






RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥




Five years removed from his 1990 Juilliard graduation, Donald Braswell is set to be “the next Pavarotti.” Braswell’s successful career ends, however, not with a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall, but alone, lying in a dirty ditch.

Following the hit-and-run accident that steals his voice and future, the “Texas Tenor” struggles with depression and despair—until the night his daughter, Aria, is born. Understanding this new and immediate life change, Braswell fights to relearn how to speak and sing—and how to share this gift of second chances with others. When he auditions for America’s Got Talent, his family, his faith, and his entire future hangs in the balance.


I will be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for come-back stories. Unless you’re in a position of recovery yourself, it’s difficult for a lot of people to fathom the hardships, struggles, depression, and desperation that Mr. Braswell had gone through over the years.

Donald Braswell was an up and coming shining star in the opera world. He graduated from Julliard and was a fantastic tenor until he lost his voice secondary to trauma caused by a freak car accident that occurred while he was bicycling. His doctor’s had informed that he’d probably never be able to sing again.

He went through what many of us who have suffered through life altering medical events, like I mentioned above, but with his faith in God and the love and support of his family and friends, he persevered. Though he believed his singing career was over, he knew he had to help support his family. He and his wife had three beautiful daughters after his accident.

Donald went from singing opera to working as a painter, a carpenter, and a car salesman. One car sale opened the door to his recording of a music CD. An application sent without his knowledge by his wife to America’s Got Talent would change his life and his perspective on it.

I’m so inspired by Mr. Braswell’s journey and it makes me acutely aware of just how powerful FAITH and hard work can be. It reminds me that I CAN recover, that I CAN defy the odds, and I CAN find my place in the world.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys memoirs.

RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥



DBraswellDonald Braswell II is an American actor, classical crossover tenor and composer. Braswell was on a fast track to become an internationally acclaimed opera singer when he suffered a car accident in 1995 that made him unable to speak for almost two years. After that, he lived a quiet life outside of the spotlight until his appearance on the 2008 season of America’s Got Talent where he was a Top 5 finalist, which gave him another chance at a career in entertainment. Since then, he has entertained audiences both internationally as well as shore to shore in the United States in concerts, television appearances, inspirational speaking and radio. He boasts an international fan club with fans from over 25 countries.

KoopMark Koopmans is originally from Ireland. After working in Holland, Spain, France and England, he won his U.S. “Green Card” in 1994, and is an American by choice since 2003. Koopmans began his writing career with a feature for a regional magazine in California. Since then, he’s worked as a staff writer for newspapers in Florida and Texas. Koopmans is also a proficient blogger and is working on his next book, a novel. Koopmans lives in Virginia and is a married, stay-at-home dad to three active boys under the age of nine. He writes at night. Check out his blog: Vignettes from VA (and DC, too!).






Hey all! There’s a new study guide available, written by my dear friend and fellow blogger Melissa Maygrove‘s mom! Check out the details below.

The Gatehaven Study Guide by Jeanette Pierce is a Bible-based study of the occult designed for use with Gatehaven, a gripping, award-winning novel by Molly Noble Bull. It is available in student and teacher versions and e-book and paperback formats.
Documented background information provides a picture of life in England and Scotland during the late 1700s, emphasizing the poor living conditions and the importance of the Protestant Reformation and its effects on religion in Europe.
Also included are study questions for each chapter of the novel, a vocabulary list, questions related to the structure of the novel, and a writing assignment that students can complete independently of the teacher. Permission is given to make copies of the final exam.
This study guide is designed for 8th thru 10thgrade students, but adults can use it, too. It’s a great resource for home schools or private schools, and it combines instruction of history and language arts.


Author Bios
Molly Noble Bull is a multi-published Christian novelist from South Texas, and Gatehaven is the grand prize winner of the 2013 Creation House Fiction Writing Contest. As a result, it was published in trade paperback and e-book in March 2014. Molly’s next novel, When The Cowboy Rides Away, is scheduled for publication in 2015.


Jeanette Pierce is a retired English teacher living in Houston, Texas. She holds a master’s degree and has taught at high school and college levels. The two study guides for Gatehaven are her first published works, but stay tuned. Jeanette is currently working on study guides for When The Cowboy Rides Away.
Author links


Buy Links for
Gatehaven Project
The novel:
The workbooks:

Free samples of books: http://www.mollynoblebull.com/book_sample_download.htm