Review: Intrigue in Istanbul (An Agnes Kelly Mystery, Book 1)


  • Title: Intrigue in Istanbul, An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure
  • Age Range: 8+
  • Grade Level: Middle School
  • Series: Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publication Date: December 25, 2015


Back Cover Blurb:  

    Everyone at the table is as surprised by Grandma’s little maneuver as I am, but I’m not looking at my relatives or even at Peggy, I’ve got my eyes glued on Grandma Agee. She’s reading Uncle Bob the riot act over at the dessert table…I’m concentrating hard on Grandma’s face, specifically her lips. But she’s turned ever so slightly away from me so I can only make out a bit of what she’s saying: “I told ya…” and “…button your lip.” among the finger wagging and eye scowling she’s giving poor Uncle Bob. 

With Grandma’s odd reaction and my dad being gone, unable to explain himself to me ever again, I feel an urgent need to find out is what in the world did he “get into” that Grandma Agee doesn’t want me to know about.


What I thought:

4 out of 5 bookworms

Before I get into the review, I would first like to point out what an intriguing (pardon the pun) title this is.  If I had picked up this book in a store, I would have immediately been drawn in by the title.  Kudos to the author for that.

Twelve year old Agnes Kelly’s father has recently died, and as the oldest, she expects her summer to be filled with chasing her younger brothers.  Suddenly, her summer changes drastically when Grandma Agee invites her to Istanbul on vacation.  But an overheard phone conversation leads Agnes to realize that her Irish grandmother is not in Istanbul for a break.  And perhaps the circumstances surrounding her father’s death were not what they all believed.

The story follows Agnes as she explores Istanbul, and her escapades around the city include beautiful structures from the past, disguises, and an elusive local boy.

What I love about this story is, first and foremost, Agnes.  She is such a great character.  She buds into a young spy as the book progresses and I love her obsession with knowledge.  The little definitions and explanations she drops throughout the book (the book is in first person, from Agnes’ point of view) are entertaining and informative, especially for middle schoolers.  Though the pace doesn’t pick up as quickly due to these small clarifications, they do become engaging as the book continues, not to mention the expansive vocabulary that is being taught surreptitiously.

I know there are many books that strive to be both interesting to children and teach them, but usually most children can see right through that (I know my younger siblings do!).  This book succeeds in keeping attention while teaching, and that is an unusual feat.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would most certainly read it again.  Christine Keleny has done a fabulous job and I will definitely recommend this book to middle schoolers.

With a flashlight under the covers,


Review: The Selection, Book 5: The Crown

  • Title: The Crown
  • Age Range: YA
  • Series: The Selection (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 288
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (May 3, 2016)
  • Publication Date: May 3, 2016


Back Cover Description:

    In The Heir, a new era dawned in the world of The Selection. Twenty years have passed since America Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, and their daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own.

    Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.


What I thought:

3 out of 5 bookworms

I read the first 4 books, so I am no stranger to the world of The Selection.  This book is advertised as a romance novel, and I do not believe that boys would have much interest in it.  That being said, despite the theme of the book, there really is not any romance.  The first three books of the Selection were engaging and amusing, but this one was less so.  There are also the political issues of Illea and how Eadlyn manages them as she prepares for her role as queen.  Unfortunately, Kiera Cass doesn’t really go in depth with the political issues or the romance.  The book is written in a way that doesn’t really move the story forward and there are some plot twists that seem to be placed in the book just for the sake of the twist, and without any foreshadowing.

I really do enjoy Kiera’s work in the earlier books of the Selection, but this one is not quite up to par for the series.  I would like to advise Christian parents that this book does endorse the LGBTQ beliefs and present that worldview as acceptable.  To non-Christians who are reading this, I would like to clarify as I have before: I am not a homophobe.  Simply because I think that being gay is morally wrong does NOT mean that I hate anyone. I have good friends who are gay, and though I believe wholeheartedly that what they are doing is wrong, I still love them, the person, even though I disagree with their actions.

On the whole, I enjoy the author’s previous work much better, and though I’m glad that I read it (for the sake of completing the series), I don’t think that I will be reading this book again.

With a flashlight under the covers,



Review: The Trials of Apollo, Book 1: The Hidden Oracle


  • Title: The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle
  • Age Range: 10+
  • Grade Level: 5+
  • Series: The Trials of Apollo (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 385 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Hyperion (May 3, 2016)
  • Publication Date: May 3, 2016


Back Cover Description:
    How do you punish an immortal? By making him human. After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor. But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters, and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.


What I thought:

5 out of 5 bookworms! fivebooks

I love Rick Riordan’s hilarious writing style, engaging plots, and the way his books actually teach Greek mythology.  Though this book is not in the same series as the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, it is set after them, and contains spoilers from the previous books.  To Christian parents I must issue a warning: Apollo is bisexual, and though Riordan’s books never have any graphic scenes, they do endorse the LGBTQ beliefs and present that worldview as acceptable.  To non-Christians who are reading this, I would like to clarify: I am not a homophobe.  Simply because I think that being gay is morally wrong does NOT mean that I hate anyone. I have good friends who are gay, and though I believe wholeheartedly that what they are doing is wrong, I still love them, the person, even though I disagree with their actions.

Apollo is a self-righteous, egotistical jerk, in the beginning and throughout much of the book.  Yet, as he faces his trials, his character changes.  He repents of previous wrongs and more understands what it’s like to be a human.  (In the beginning he refers to humans as pathetic meat bags.)  By losing immortality, he gains an appreciation for life.

The plot is on par with the rest of Riordan’s work, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but yes, Percy does make a brief appearance, and yes, we do get word about Leo and Calypso!!!

On the whole, I would say that it is well worth the read, and I will be reading it again, though there are some worldview concerns for Christians.


With a flashlight under the covers,


Good News!

Hey guys,

I have great news!  Erik Weibel of the amazing blog This Kid Reviews Books is letting me guest post my review of Outlaws of Time on his blog (of which I am an enthusiastic reader)!  Keep checking in on his blog,, as he has told me that it will be featured sometime in the next week!

Until then (with a flashlight under the covers),


ANOTHER N.D. Wilson Giveaway (yay!)

Hey guys,

Sorry I haven’t done any reviews lately, but the only reading I’ve been doing is for school 😦 (finals coming soon!).  In other news, I just wanted to let you know that if you bought Outlaws of Time there is another giveaway!!  I received the following in an email:


Ahoy Outlaw Readers!

You’re getting this email because you purchased Outlaws of Time and participated in the rewards! First wave readers are greatly appreciated, so we have another giveaway for you. 

Help us spread the word about Outlaws of Time by posting a review on Amazon (or Goodreads, if you purchased the book elsewhere) and we will mail you a signed Outlaws bookplate for FREE. But only while our supplies last…

Just send a link to your specific review (along with your mailing address) to, and we will get a signed bookplate out the door and heading your way!

Many thanks for your support!

Team Outlaws


Hope you guys follow up on this opportunity!

With a flashlight under the covers,


N.D. Wilson Giveaway!

Hey guys,

N.D. Wilson, one of my favorite authors, is doing a giveaway to promote his new book, Outlaws of Time (buy it on Amazon here).  A link to Wilson’s page is also right here.  Here is what he had to say, pasted below:

On April 19, 2016, I am launching OUTLAWS OF TIME: THE LEGEND OF SAM MIRACLE. It’s my first novel in two years, and to commemorate the memmorateness of the occasion, I’m focusing all my book promotion on giveaways!

Anyone who buys OUTLAWS in the first week (no later than April 23) will receive their choice of rewards. Multiple copies earn multiple rewards. I don’t care what format you might purchase or which retailer you might use, just email a receipt to and name your reward.

Over the years, I have heard from thousands of aspiring writers, young and old. And so my first giveaway centers focuses on all of you with interest in the craft.

REWARD (1) N.D. WILSON’S SCHOOL OF FANTASTICAL WORDCRAFT (For Aspiring Writers and Word Pirates)

Send in your receipt and receive links to nine (9!) segments on the craft of writing.

1)The Basics: See it/Say it
2) Plots & Outlines: Story Architecture
3) World Building: Realism and Fantasy
4) Character Building & Writing Dialog
5) Narrative Voice and POV
6) Style, Genre & Markets
7) The Poetry of Description: Word Bones and Rhythms
8) Mastering the Senses: Stories that Stick
9) From Rough to Final: Editing with a Blade

I’m filming these segments now and will begin sending them out free as soon as they’re ready.


Dear Ashtown Fans, I love you. No, really. You have hung in there with me through thick and thin. Even though I still haven’t been given a release date for this finale volume, it is your commitment and passion that keeps me pushing it forward. I’m not even joking. Because the fire burns hot among Ashtown fans, and because I hope you’ll love Sam and Glory in Outlaws of Time as much as you love Cyrus and Antigone Smith, I’m going to do something I have never done before. I’m going to record a reading of the first two chapters of Book IV from the manuscript, and I’m going to send it to you. If you, like thousands of others, would love to clear the cliffhanger at the end of Empire of Bones, this reward is for you. Send your receipt in and claim it.


For those of you who have print copies of my nonfiction, now you can take me with you to the gym. For those of you who have never read my nonfiction, now’s your chance! Send in your receipt and claim both downloads. I will be chatting at you in no time. And as a sidenote, I recorded these late at night, while sipping bourbon alone in the dark, so I really don’t hold anything back.

Cheers and thanks so much for your support!



Hope you all enjoy his new book.  My copy is on the way, and I will review it when I receive it!

With a flashlight under the covers,


The Top Ten List

I think I have 10 favorite books/series.  I don’t know.  I’m not going to pick my ten favorite books just to fill the list.  There might be 7, there might be 13.  I don’t know yet.  The following books are not on the list in any particular order, and I will do more detailed reviews later.

  1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling.  Sorry, but this is a no-brainer.  I re-read these every summer, racing my self of previous years to see how many days it takes.
  2. The Ashtown Burials series by N.D. Wilson.  Sounds sinister, but N.D. Wilson is a Christian author, and I assure you his books are anything but dark.  Hard to believe for you HP fans out there (including myself), but I might even like Wilson’s work more than Rowling’s.  Some scenes in the Harry Potter books get a bit monotonous my seventeenth time through, but Wilson’s writing is fresh every time.
  3. The 100 Cupboards series (also) by N.D. Wilson.  These books by Wilson also captivate.  I wish I could reveal more, but I don’t want to ruin anything.  Wilson has a gift for creating believable worlds that I want to live in, and unpredictable plot twists that make me an emotional wreck.  His characters are believable and full of life.
  4.  Leepike Ridge (again) by N.D. Wilson.  Notice a bit of a trend.  I absolutely LOVE N.D. Wilson.  Magnificent story about a boy who gets sucked by a creek under a mountain, treasure-hunters, a step-fiancé, a journey under a mountain, crazy berry, crawdads, an old dog named Argus, and a bed.
  5. The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart.  These books are perfect. Four children with special talents pass a series of unusual tests and are recruited by a narcoleptic old man to save the world and stop The Emergency.
  6. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians/Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan.  I knew a bit of Greek mythology before I read these.  But the way Riordan twists myth and modern world into an educational page turner is amazing.  The Percy Jackson books and the Heroes of Olympus books are actually two separate series of 5 books each, but Heroes is a continuation of the other.
  7. The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. By another Christian author, 4 great books with an exciting plot and lots of humor, not to mention animals like the fearsome toothy cows, quill-diggles, cave blats, meeps, chorkneys, and toothy hounds.  The story also includes the Fangs of Dang, Peet the sock man, ridgerunners, and the lost jewels of the shining isle of Anniera.
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  C.S. Lewis is a great Christian author whose books were what got me hooked on reading.  There are seven, and they focus on a land called Narnia, and though the main characters change from book to book, they are always children.  Must read books for anyone who considers  themselves a reader.

The list ended up totaling only 8, but I am sure that I will think of more later.


With a flashlight under the covers,



P.S. If you need a laugh, check out this superb sample of writing: N.D. Wilson’s bio page.  I dare you to keep a straight face.