Books I Read in 2015

Special Edition Link up with Kate Motaung


This year I participated in the Good Reads Reading Challenge, where you set a goal of how many books you want to read in a year. I set my goal at 75, and I accomplished it!! Throughout the year I have posted some book reviews of some of those books that I have read. These are my favorites!! They aren’t in any particular order, but I will say that the first two books would be at the top of my list.

The Dead Key by D.M. Pulleydeadkey

The story takes place in 1978 and 1998 and switches back and forth seamlessly.  It tells the story about the secretaries at the First Bank of Cleveland in 1978. Then, in 1998, a female engineer is assigned to work in the abandoned bank to draw up the actual floor plans, so that a buyer can decide if it can be renovated.  The twists and turns in the book are so good!!  Half way through the book, the author linked the past with the present with one character.  Brilliantly written.

Don’t Say A Word by Barbara Freethy

I don’t know how I came about this one, but it’s one of those OMG kinda stories!! I really do enjoy a good suspense, and at one point I was like “no. way!!” Russians, unexplainable accidents, romance…gah…so good!! It all starts when a girl sees a photo of a young girl in a Russian orphanage, and the girl looks just like her, and she’s not even Russian!!

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evansmistletoeinn

This was one of my Holiday pics. This was the actual book, and it’s one of those books that’s a really nice size, hard covered, beautiful cover design.  My mom got this one from the library, and it sounded really good. Romance, Christmastime, a writer’s workshop at the Mistletoe Inn, two aspiring writers sharing their dreams, their writing and their troubled pasts…yeah…totally my kinda book!! It was one of those stories you think you have figured out, but then you don’t.

It Had To Be Him by Tamra Baumann

Megan has always been considered by her family to be a screw up. When she becomes pregnant and her boyfriend leaves her, she must return home to a town where her father is the Mayor, one brother is the Doctor, another brother is the Sheriff, and her sister runs the very private hotel to the stars. Her boyfriend Josh comes looking for her and their daughter, and wants a second chance. Meg and her family don’t want anything to do with him. She thinks he left her because she got pregnant, but he needs to let her know the real reason…in time. It gets really interesting and the characters come alive when Josh shows up and gets shot by the shotgun toting grandma, who is an excellent marksman, but only grazes his arm. He finds himself facing the law, (one brother) needing a doctor (the other brother) and needing a place to stay (the sister). I loved Meg’s determination to prove her family wrong, and also love how this story actually made me laugh out loud.

It’s Just My Nature by Carol Tuttle – Non-Fictionjustmynature

I have always been fascinated about learning what makes people “tick” and their different personalities, and what makes each person unique. I like the approach that she used, it was very easy to understand. She explains how most people are used to the Myers-Briggs personality test, which defines 16 different personality types. In her book, Carol defines only 4 different types, with all of us having a little bit of each type, and one dominant one and a strong secondary one. These types of personalities or as she calls it energy, are also found in nature. So interesting!!

Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan

This is another laugh out loud funny book. Recently divorced Sadie finds herself spending the summer along with her two kids at the home of her Aunt Dody. Sadie soon finds out that also staying at the house are her two cousins, Dody’s sons, Jasper a chef at a fancy restaurant, and Fontaine an interior designer. This book is written in Sadie’s perspective, and I found myself reading it fairly fast at times, because that just seems how Sadie’s mind works. Sadie is fluent in sarcasm, and with Dody and Fontaine, you never know what is going to come out of their mouths. Dody likes to use the wrong words when she has a conversation, and is just oblivious to her mistakes. Add in the handsome, house sitting Doctor, and you definitely have a fun read!!

The Memory Thief  by Emily Colinmemorythief

This was another actual book, recommended by my mom (she is the librarian after all 🙂 ) This one was good. It had some good twists and turns, romance and was overall the type of book I was trying to figure out as I turned each page. The summary on the back describes Madeline losing her husband in an avalanche, the news is delivered to her by her husband’s best friend, who has been in love with her for years. She is left to raise her son, who has some kind of secret. Then across the country this guy wakes up from a motorcycle accident with his memory wiped clean. But he is haunted by dreams of a mysterious woman and a little boy, neither of whom he has ever met.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Not my usual genre, but since it was so talked up, I wanted to see what all the hype was about. It was good, a bit dark and twisted, but good. I kept reading it just to see how it would all turn out. I’m fascinated by the depths of the imagination of an author when writing a story like this.  After I read this one I definitely needed something a lot lighter, so I read “The Best Medicine” by Tracy Brogan.  She did not disappoint; again she had me laughing with the things her characters say.

The following book was written by my dear friend Holly Michael.

Tsunami 2004: Still Wading Through Waves of Hope by Holly Michael

It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since The Tsunami, it doesn’t seem that long ago, as I recall watching the news coverage about it on TV. This book really captures what happened to the people and the area on that day, in a way that the news reporters could not. Being that Holly’s husband, Father Leo Michael (Anglican priest) is from the region where the tsunami hit, this was very personal for them. They launched a fundraiser with events, a website, and interviews, and raised more than seventy thousand dollars, which they would deliver personally. Holly, Father Leo and Vicky, a member of their church, boarded a plane and headed to the most devastated areas to help the victims not only financially, but to listen to their stories and help in any way they could. Father Leo was very familiar with the area they visited, and being that he holds a counseling degree and can speak the native language, was exactly what was needed in connecting with the people so soon after such destruction. The first account stories from the people who experienced the enormous wave, are incredible, yet the devastation and emotional toll it has left in its wake is heartbreaking. Holly also captured several pictures of the areas that were hardest hit, and is included in the book. What impressed me the most is the unconditional love and support that was shown by the three of them, as they talked with the people in these small fishing villages, and the financial help that was given, regardless of religion. Holly talks about the struggles her and Vicky experienced going to a third world country, but I know the people she came in contact with, would have never felt the doubts, apprehension, or sadness she felt when seeing the destruction and poverty. This only made her compassion more evident as she hugged and comforted the many children who told their stories.

But this book isn’t only about the devastation and the loss. This book is about hope. Because while they were there, they helped several children by securing Certificates of Deposit for them, and were able to see how these efforts blessed the same children 10 years later as her and her husband made the trip back. This book seamlessly chronicles the time directly after the Tsunami, and 10 years later. It is amazing to see how people can move forward with their lives even after such a traumatic experience. Several inspiring survivor stories are included at the end of the book. It is also inspiring to see how the efforts of a handful of people can impact so many, when their only goal is to help.

I was fascinated by the very different culture, and how well Holly describes it. Even in spite of the event that took place during their second trip back to India 10 years later, Holly and Father Leo’s faith in God does not waiver; it draws them closer to Him. I know they will continue to do great things for Him, as they continue to be led wherever He leads them.

This book was written by Holly’s son Jake Byrne (with her help and input in the last chapter)

First and Goal: What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up By Jake Byrne51P3l-0MnSL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

At age 14 Jake was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he did not let that slow him down, or stop him from pursuing his dreams to play football, all through high school, college and ultimately in the NFL. He shares his triumphs and his struggles in such a heartfelt, real way, that you cannot help but find a nugget in this book to apply to your life as well.

The one thing I noticed is that this book is categorized under Youth Nonfiction, being a mom to 3 boys myself I was thinking how much they would enjoy reading it. But I have to say this book is for anyone facing any type of struggles in their life. It really encouraged me personally. As a football fan, I enjoyed how the book was set up with the different football terms being defined, and then using those examples with life experiences. If you’re not a football fan, you will not get lost in the jargon. What I think I enjoyed most were Jake’s life stories, the fun antics he describes with his siblings and friends. This tells me that he has a full life filled with love from family and friends, but it does not overshadow the love he has for God; that shines through as he encourages his reader to look to God for strength to help them through whatever they struggle with.

I found it so fitting that his mom, Holly Michael’s, contribution is under the Extra Point category. This brief jog down memory lane completes the book in such a way that I now understand why whenever the camera zooms in on any football player on the sidelines, the first thing they say is “Hi Mom.” Because it is the pure love of a mom that strengthened and encouraged him as he worked diligently to get to where he is today.



Having a Kindle has really fed my reading addiction or helped with my insomnia, lol. I have found that I read all kinds of books now.  As I started writing fictional stories this year, I thought all this reading would hinder my writing, but I feel it has strengthened it, especially once I read this quote by Steven King:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Well I got the reading part down 🙂 .  Looking forward to more stories in the new year…to read…and to write!!

Book Review: Crooked Lines by Holly Michael

indexI am so excited about this book.  I love a good book, especially when it is written by one of my friends!! You can read about how I met Holly Michael at the end, but first the book review!!

This book draws you in with the very first sentence.  It tells the story of the spiritual journey taken by each of the two main characters, Rebecca and Sagai.  But they are worlds apart; Rebecca is from Wisconsin and Sagai is from South India.

Rebecca has so many questions that need to be answered.  As the story unfolds so many times I could feel her emotional pain, I felt her frustrations and sometimes her self doubt, which lead me to keep turning the page in hopes that she would find her answers.  She is a strong woman with determination that continually shines through even in the face of obstacles.  Something all of us can strive to achieve.  She also had me smiling with some of her phrases and literally laughing out loud on one particular instance when she receives a book from her Mother-in-law.

Sagai is so dedicated.  He knows he is called to be a priest from a very early age, and he goes through anything and everything to fulfill his destiny.  He has a big heart and so wants to be a priest that he tends to look past things that he should be questioning.  Eventually his frustrations and doubts are revealed, which is very realistic even for someone who knows their purpose in live.  But it’s his faith in God that helps him continually move towards his destiny.

Holly writes about India and Sagai’s life in such detail.  I liked the way she used various greetings and phrases in different languages, to capture the heart of the culture.  Most of which I could not pronounce, but it did not take away from the story, it only enhanced it.  I also found myself Googling words for various things in the Indian culture to get a clearer picture of what she was talking about.  The story flows seamlessly between the two characters and cultures, and you get a clear understanding of the culture that Sagai comes from, (even without Googling).

This is such a good story, with great characters; something I really enjoy in a book.  One other thing I would like to mention is the cover; such a beautiful cover design!!  The main thing I liked about this story is that it isn’t about them finding religion, but finding their purpose and/or calling for their lives.  It is a true spiritual journey for both characters, not only in finding God, but also in finding their true selves.  Anyone can read this book regardless of your spiritual beliefs.  I especially like the one common thread throughout the book that actually binds the two characters together.  As I mentioned, the very first sentence draws you in, but it’s the last couple of sentences that makes you say “hmmm” with a smile on your face.  I actually like to read books that are part of a series…just sayin’. =]

A little background:

I met Holly Michael about 25 years ago, when she was my supervisor at my first office job.  She taught me how to operate a PC with no hard drive by using those 5 ¼ floppy disks.  She was the one that introduced me to “modern technology” and I continued through the years advancing along with it.  We worked together for several years, until she left to start her family.  I always knew she would be a great mom, her 3 grown children are shining examples of that.  Both her sons play football, one for the NFL and one for the Rajin’ Cajuns, and her beautiful daughter just started teaching at a University.  She talked about being a writer, and I always knew she would be a great writer, this book is a shining example of that.

I am a total book lover, I love the feel of a book in my hands…the clear black type on crisp new paper…turning each page…the new book smell.  But again, Holly has nudged me towards modern technology.  I never thought I would ever use a Kindle, since I am such a book lover.  But the anticipation of wanting to read this book got the better of me.  I do not own a Kindle (yet) so I downloaded a free Kindle app to my laptop just so I could download the book and finally read it!! (Yeah…not exactly the convenience a Kindle portrays in their commercials, but it served its purpose for me).

I am ordering it from Amazon, and you can too, just click on the book cover at the top.  I’m sure I will read it again when I get the book in my hands, just so I can get the whole new book experience.

You can find more from Holly Michael at: and