November 30, 2012

And the winner is . . .

The winner of the What Alice Forgot {paperback} giveaway is . . . 

YAY!! Congratulations, Jenn!! I'm going to be emailing you shortly! :)

If you didn't win, I still highly recommend you read this book!! Thank you everyone who entered the contest! :)

November 28, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling

I have virtually no hobbies except dieting. I can't speak any non-English languages, knit, ski, scrapbook or cook. I have no pets. I don't know how to do drugs. I lost my passport three years ago when I moved into my house and never got it renewed. Video games scare me because they all seem to simulate situations I'd hate to be in, like war or stealing cars. So if I ever lost weight I would also lose my only hobby.
  {buy here}

Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) is a great book to get nearly any 20- to 30-something woman for Christmas, even if they aren't a Mindy Kaling fan {yet}. This book will make you feel like you're listening to your funniest best friend tell hilariously relatable stories, so much so that you'll miss Mindy (and Twitter-stalk her) when you're finished reading.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me chronicles Kaling's life growing up in New England, her time in New York City working to break into the entertainment industry, and her experience in Los Angeles writing for The Office, amongst other things. I especially enjoyed Kaling's reflection on her body image issues growing up and her behind-the-scenes account of working in Hollywood. In addition to her memoirs, Kaling also offers fun lists such as "Alternate Titles for This Book" and "When You're Not Skinny, This Is What People Want You To Wear". 

But what makes this memoir better than the rest? It seems like everyone with an ounce of celebrity cred is writing books about themselves these days, but I recommend Mindy's book over others for a couple reasons. For one, Mindy is intelligent; even if she wasn't "famous" she would be able to write a book of memoirs and essays and it would probably still sell copies. She doesn't have to play dumb to get you to like her. But along with being intelligent, Mindy is very humble without being too self-deprecating; she isn't "braggy" but she's self-confident. She is able to make fun of herself and laugh with you through her experiences, like you're listening to your best friend. Her intelligence and confidence make her very attractive to me as a writer; it makes me feel like I can trust her and, more importantly, I like her which makes me want to read more. Finally, Kalling's book is refreshing because she's not crass or rude, which makes a huge statement amongst the racks of celebrity memoirs (to me at least). This book is not all about sex (although Kaling does touch on the topic in sections such as "Someone Explain One Night Stands to Me" and "'Hooking Up' is Confusing"), it doesn't contain any scandals, and I can't remember if she uses any curse words; but she doesn't need to these tactics to hold your attention. For all of these reasons this book turned me into a huge fan of Mindy Kaling and I found myself marathoning The Office immediately after I finished reading!

Bottom Line: If you're a girl who likes to laugh (who doesn't?), read this book wherever and whenever you're looking for a light read! I read this in about a day and a half and listen to the audio book constantly. //5/5 stars because it makes me so happy!

By the way, I tried to read Chelsea Handler's memoir Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang and I just can't get into it. Opposite of Mindy Kaling, Chelsea Handler is too crass and full of herself for me to persist! Does this book get better, guys?! :(

Do you watch The Office? Do you watch The Mindy Kaling Project? Are you a fan of Mindy? 

Don't forget to enter my giveaway of What Alice Forgot {paperback} here!! Contest ends tomorrow!

November 26, 2012

Monday's Reading Recap

Last week I read: Adulation by Elisa Lorello {and I adored it!}

Currently reading: A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion ; Out of the Blue by Lisa Maliga ; and Here Among Us by Maggie Harryman - - and I am frustrated at myself for juggling too many books!

Reading Next: I really want to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but I have a feeling I'm going to succumb to Reflected in You by Sylvia Day next {guilty pleasure}.


{I found this link up through Logan's blog, Southern Sunflowers and Coffee Beans - thanks Logan! :)}

November 22, 2012

What Alice Forgot AND a Giveaway!

Nick, you will never believe how this man spoke to me. You will want to punch him in the nose when you hear. Except it's so strange, because it was you, Nick, you were the man.
-from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I almost didn't read this book because of the mixed reviews, but I am so glad that I did! I think this is a book that every woman should read, twice if possible (a decade between each read). What Alice Forgot opens as Alice Love falls at the gym during a spin class and loses ten years worth of memories. Instead of being a happy-go-lucky 29-year old, happily married and newly pregnant, Alice finds she's actually almost 40 with 3 children and in the process of a divorce. She also comes to find that the woman she once aspired to be isn't exactly how she turned out, which both impresses and horrifies her. Through her bout of amnesia, Alice is able to reevaluate her life through the rose-colored lenses of her youth and is given an opportunity to make some changes in her life she couldn't have appreciated without this new perspective. 

Many reviews I read said that this book was too long; some argued the beginning should have been cut, some argued the end. Honestly, I don't think this book would have been the same if cut in half and I thought the length was perfect. While the beginning is a little slow and it takes some time to grow attached to the characters, Moriarty does a wonderful job of weaving Alice's present-day experience in with her memories to give the reader the best understanding of how Alice is maneuvering through her amnesia. Just as Alice develops memories that are reintroduced into her life, so the reader gains a new piece to the puzzle of Alice's life. While this slow development can be frustrating, I found it necessary for telling the story. 

This book is powerful in that it challenges the reader to examine their own life with a different perspective. Alice is able to do this in many areas of her life that have changed, but most important is her relationship with her husband and her relationship with her sister. Without the memories of the past decade, Alice is not weighed down by the hurt and bitterness of each relationship so she is better able to meet the needs of those around her. While not all of us are given an opportunity to look at our lives as objectively as Alice, this book invites you to strip away the emotions and memories that cloud your everyday lens to see life with the optimism of youth. As I mentioned, I think this book should be read by every woman, twice if possible: once before turning 30 and again later in life. I think it will be interesting to read again when I'm older and maybe less optimistic like Alice. Hopefully I won't have to do so much damage control!

Bottom Line: Every woman should read this book. If it starts out a little slow and disjointed, give it time and keep reading. While I'm very conservative about giving out perfect scores, I really think the message of this book pushes it past the 4½ stars the story and writing might deserve. ★★★★★/5

But Wait.... There's More!! 

Because I'm so thankful for you guys, one lucky reader is going to win a paperback copy of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and all you have to do is be a follower of this blog {i.e. GFC, BlogLovin, etc}! You can earn more entries after you follow! Enter below for a chance to win! A winner will be selected at random next week, and who knows, I might throw in some more goodies at random! :) Best wishes!

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones! I'll be spending time with family, shopping until and I pass out, and trying to sneak in as much time as I can reading Adulation by Elisa Lorello! ;)

November 19, 2012

The Encounter by Stephen Arterburn

How do you tear down a wall you've been building most of your life? 
One brick at a time
-from The Encounter by Stephen Arterburn

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Book Sneeze but all opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine. I was not compensated in any other way.

The Encounter by Stephen Arterburn is a novel that chronicles the journey of wealthy businessman, Jonathan Rush, as he travels to his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska in search of his biological mother who gave him up for adoption at age 4. Suffering from severe anger that is destroying his relationships, Jonathan is urged by his pastor to make this journey in hopes that he can find closure and healing.

I am a huge fan of Stephen Arterburn; I listen to his radio program, New Life Live, often and I am familiar with his self-help books. I was surprised to find that he had written a novel and eager to read. Much like his other work, Arterburn did not disappoint in this genre. While this book is relatively short (167 pages), not a page is wasted; it is well paced and concise. There is rarely a dull moment as readers follow Jonathan's search for the identity of his biological mother with the help of a local news reporter, Erica.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is that, while the story is inspirational and the author encourages the reader to pursue healing and forgiveness as modeled by Jesus, it is not so heavily saturated in Christian rhetoric that it is intimidating for non-Christian readers. This turns a great story into an even more powerful tool that can be used to generate dialogue between Christians and non-Christians alike. Jonathan, actually feels very non-committal in his faith despite his efforts to appease his pastor to make sense of his past. I find that Arterburn's technique of meeting the reader where they might be rather than blasting them with condescending inspirational fluff is much more effective in changing their heart through the story. People of all walks of life are better able to relate to Jonathan because he isn't the perfect model Christian and he has the same doubts and concerns many readers may also face. This realism is critical to making an impact and I really admire Arterburn for developing a character so capable of transformation rather than already transformed.

Besides the powerful themes and inspirational message, Stephen Arterburn offers a well-written and exciting story. The characters are likable and realistic, the plot is continuously pressing forward at a steady pace with unexpected twists and realistic outcomes; these help create a book that the reader won't want to put down (I read it in one sitting!). The only minor complaint I have is that I found the character development to be too brief; while I enjoyed all of the main characters, I felt kind of thrown into Jonathan and would have enjoyed more in-depth development of what had gotten him to his breaking point. This may have proven more helpful in connecting with him more quickly. I also don't think I saw Jonathan as full of anger as Arterburn intended until Jonathan had an outburst. These complaints did not really affect how I felt overall about the story, but it may have made me care about or connect with the protagonist more.

The Encounter is an enjoyable and entertaining story that brings to life Christian ideas through the actions of the characters more than simply through their words. This novel will challenge the reader to look inwardly to see if their own life is being stifled by not living the way Jesus models. It will also encourage the reader to reconsider conflict and negative feelings through the lens of the person who is the source of their problem. Most importantly, this book is capable of bridging a gap between Christians, skeptics and non-believers because of its presentation in a non-condemning way. I really hope Steve Arterburn writes more fiction; I am always impressed by the talent he has encouraging people toward healing.

Bottom Line: This is a great book for anyone to read and it's short enough that you have no excuse! Even if you're not a big fiction fan, I recommend this book because it will entertain you, inspire you and really make you think! A great read for Thanksgiving week! ★★★★/5

I review for BookSneeze®

November 15, 2012

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin

There's something about putting things in print as opposed to saying them on stage: it seems they carry more weight. 
Even the jokes, people take more seriously
-from Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin


Kathy Griffin always gets on my nerves until I actually take a minute to pay attention to her. I've caught her reality show, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, a couple times and was surprised I enjoyed it. I also watched an E! True Hollywood Story about her a few years ago and felt that she had a lot more depth than she portrays as a celebrity. I picked up her memoir the other day because I wanted a light read that would make me laugh and I was interested in learning more about Griffin; once again, I was surprised by the depth of this silly, ridiculous, D-List comedienne. 

Born and raised in Illinois, Griffin moved to Los Angeles after high school to pursue acting as a career. Her memoir chronicles the childhood experiences that led her to want a career in the entertainment industry and documents her journey up to the present day. There are two things I really took away from reading about Kathy Griffin's experiences: she really worked her butt off to achieve the success she has today and she couldn't have done it without the support of her family. Both of these things really impressed me and gave me a more positive impression of Griffin overall.

Griffin is incredibly transparent in her memoir, exposing details about her estranged older brother, her marriage, plastic surgery nightmares and details about her celebrity friends and coworkers. Some of her transparency felt brave, like her chapter on her brother and her marriage; other things felt catty and unnecessary, like her chapter on Brooke Shields. I found myself impressed with Griffin one minute and then annoyed with her the next - which, to be fair, isn't too different from how I ordinarily feel about her in the first place. Generally speaking though, Griffin's prose is smart, her stories are interesting and her reflections deeper than you might expect.

My biggest complaint was the length of this book, I felt like it would never end. I like to read celebrity memoirs for somewhat brief entertainment and, while Griffin's book was entertaining, it was lengthier than necessary. One chapter about Griffin's relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak consisted of nothing but emails between the couple; I think I read 5 pages and then skipped the rest of this chapter. The bonus chapter in the paperback edition felt like nothing but trash talking so I skipped that, too. If Kathy's editors could have snipped out her cattiness, the book might have earned itself an extra star and saved me a few hours of reading time.

Overall, I must say I like Kathy Griffin a lot better now that I've read this book. I appreciate how hard she works, how much she values family and how loyal she is as a person despite the persona she projects to the public. I am a little disappointed there were no Hanson references in the book; Kathy always used to reference Hanson! ;) 

Bottom Line: If you're interested in reading about a real struggle to make it in Hollywood, you'll find this interesting and entertaining. If you're on the fence about liking Kathy Griffin, you'll probably like this (and her), too! If you don't care about Kathy or the entertainment industry, skip it. // 3/5 stars. I would have given it 4 stars if it was like 20% shorter.

Do you like Kathy Griffin? Why/why not? Do you think reading her memoir would change your opinion? 

November 13, 2012


If you're interested in loom knitting, head over to my personal blog, daniellesque! I'm giving away an assorted loom set to get you started on creating cozy things for the wintertime!

Not into loom knitting? Don't worry, I'm going to have another giveaway here at The Book Barn soon, so stay tuned! :)

November 12, 2012

Edgewood by Karen McQuestion

Whatever I'd seen last night was dangerous, and I wasn't looking for trouble. My room was my cocoon and I didn't want to be found. Let other people figure out what was going on. I wasn't brave enough to risk my life getting involved. 
I wasn't even a little bit brave. I wanted my old life back, the one where I studied for tests and diligently went to school, not doing anything that would make me stand out from the crowd.
-from Edgewood by Karen McQuestion

Karen McQuestion has been on my list of authors to read for a few months now, so when she asked if I would read and review her novel Edgewood I was really excited! I wasn't expecting to read a young adult action adventure sci-fi novel, but I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed the book!

Edgewood is the story of Russ Becker, a cookie-cutter typical 15-year old boy, who witnesses a strange astronomical event one night that can be likened to a supernatural meteor shower leaving a perfect spiral of glowing rocks behind. Russ doesn't just witness this event, he stands in the middle of the spiral and is affected by it, soon learning that it has given him supernatural powers. He befriends 3 other teens with the same experience who tell him about a group that is hunting them down. The first in the Edgewood series, this novel provides a basis for the story to come by introducing the cast of characters and climaxing as Russ is confronted head on by the mysterious group that is hunting him.

Edgewood is the type of book that made me fall in love with reading when I was younger. This book has all the elements that make for a great young adult book and proves that reading isn't "boring". First off, this novel is entertaining and action-packed; the story is continuously moving forward and new information is constantly being introduced. This suspense keeps the reader on their toes trying to piece together what is happening right along with Russ, who narrates his story.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is that the characters are likable and realistic. I especially favored Russ and found him to be a great protagonist for young readers. Russ is about as average as any teenage boy on the cusp of getting his driver's license; he has a good heart, works hard and has a balanced attitude about family, friends, school and life. I think teenage readers will identify him especially because Russ seems to validate teenagers in ways society tends to underestimate them. Russ isn't dumb; he knows when to pick his battles, what he can get away with and when he should choose not to follow the rules. But at the end of the day Russ has a good heart and is a smart kid, just like most teens I know.

Similarly, this book uses Russ to teach valuable lessons that are important for teen readers to learn. For example, it challenges readers to look at things through other people's perspective and not to jump to conclusions. Russ shows this through his relationship with his annoyingly clingy nephew and also through his interaction with Gordy Hoffstetter. Another lesson readers can learn through Russ is not to underestimate people, which he does with his older sister, Carly. I think the lessons teens learn vicariously through Russ will have a greater effect on them because he is such an identifiable teen protagonist.

My only small complaint about this book is that it does read like a teen novel. This can be seen as a huge strength since it's narrated by Russ in first person and McQuestion excels in making it sound like a teen is telling the story. But it also feels a bit pedantic at times to the adult reader. This didn't really affect my enjoyment once I got used to the character's voice; however, if you're an adult reader it might be worth noting.

Overall, I definitely recommend that you read this book and I can't wait for the next in the series!

Bottom Line: This is a great novel for you to read if you loved The Hunger Games, especially alongside your teen reader. I also recommend this book to anyone who is trying to convince their kids to enjoy reading because it's suspenseful and smart with a good message yet easy to follow. This would definitely make a great gift to any teen reader this holiday season! And get this: it's free to borrow from Amazon Prime right now if you're a member {only $6.99 for the Kindle Edition if you're not!}. 4/5 stars in general, 5/5 stars for teens.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

November 8, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

The average person falls asleep in seven minutes, but I couldn't sleep, not after hours, and it made my boots lighter to be around his things, and to touch stuff that he had touched, and to make the hangers hang a little straighter, even though I knew it didn't matter.
-from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is a novel that artfully weaves together three narratives about loss: a man who loses his first love in the bombing of Dresden in World War II and is subsequently unable to speak, a woman whose husband walks out on her out of grief when she becomes pregnant, and Oskar Schell, a 9-year old genius whose father died in the September 11 attacks. Oskar discovers a key in his late father's closet and vows to find the corresponding lock as a way of handling his overwhelming grief. Oskar's journey introduces him to many colorful characters and stories that ultimately bring the three narratives together as the three work through their grief and learn to move forward with their lives. 

I'll be honest, this book reminded me of how long I've been out of school and how mindless my reading choices have been lately! When I began reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I really enjoyed Oskar's voice and found the prose of the novel very beautiful, but I wasn't intrigued enough by the story and characters to want to devour this book. In fact, once the other narratives began I almost got bored because the three stories seemed so disjointed. However, I made the decision to finish this book (because I want to see the movie, not gonna lie) and I'm very glad that I did. Without spoiling anything, there comes a point where you see how wonderfully the three narratives begin blending together and that is the moment where I really cared enough about the characters to happily finish the book. Unfortunately for many readers this comes long after they've given up; but I assure you, if you start this book it is worth finishing.

My favorite part of this book was the prose; Foer delivers a story that could not make as great of an impact if it didn't have the words he has used the way he has used them. Foer captures the many layers and experiences of grief and makes you feel them wholeheartedly. Personally, I have been fortunate that I have never really lost anyone close to me; but this book made me feel like I had (I cried a lot reading it!). The voice of Oskar Schell will warm your heart and break it in the same sentence because it's so believably that of a grieving 9-year old boy trying to make sense of his loss.

Even though it became an act of perseverance at times, I'm glad I finished this book because it delivered in the end. I look forward to reading more of Foer's novels soon.

Bottom Line: Read this if you're looking for a book that will challenge you, both mentally and emotionally. This may also be a good book to read if you're dealing with working through your grief (although I don't know from personal experience). // 4.5/5 stars

By the way, I really didn't like the movie. I know that's how it usually goes, but especially with this one! 

November 5, 2012

Why I Love Singlehood by Elisa Lorello & Sarah Girrell

Do I still want couplehood? I honestly don't know. Depends on what day you ask. But what I do know is love doesn't understand numbers or logic. Doesn't know race or culture, gender or age. Love just is. And it's as simple as that. 
Relationships, however, are an entirely different matter. 
All you need is love, sang the Beatles, but they never said what kind. Give me companionship and camaraderie, but keep your bathroom to yourself. 
-from Why I Love Singlehood
by Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell
{buy here}

It's no secret that I really enjoyed Elisa Lorello's Faking It; it was an easy read with a message deeper than anticipated. Lorello's joint venture with Sarah Girrell is equally enjoyable with a cast of characters you'll grow to really love and a message important for readers with any relationship status, not just singles. 

Why I Love Singlehood is the story of Eva Perino, an ex-writing professor who quit her job in academia to open The Grounds, a coffee shop near campus. After her ex-boyfriend tells her he's just gotten engaged, Eva embarks on a mission to prove to the world that she is happy to be single. She starts a blog with the same title as the novel, in which she reflects on her adventures as a single woman; these include her experiences online dating, speed dating, and even breaking her rule of dating a customer. Why I Love Singlehood doesn't just superficially explore romantic love through the lens of a borderline-jaded single woman; this book also examines love of friends, love of family, love between parent and child, love between husband and wife, love between sisters, even the love of baking. Most importantly it focuses on love of self and how that love affects everything else. 

The only criticism I really have for this book is that it's not incredibly climactic; that is not to say that it isn't entertaining, only that the ultimate climax comes at a slow boil. The best thing I can liken this to is watching a good television show (in fact, I totally think this book should be picked up as a tv show!). There are a lot of smaller story lines that make up the book as a whole and I enjoyed them very much; I would have even liked to see them developed even further, especially the stories relating to Minerva and Norman. 

Speaking of other characters, they are what really breathe life into this story. While I enjoyed Eva as a protagonist, she wouldn't be nearly as colorful without her friends: the Originals, Regulars and employees of The Grounds. Initially it was difficult to get them straight in my head {there are a lot of people to remember at first}, but as soon as I familiarized myself I enjoyed learning about these supporting characters as much as I enjoyed reading about Eva. The story about Eva's plight for romantic happiness is colored in with the abundant friendships she has and the love she experiences through them.

Beware, this book will make you hungry for calorie-heavy baked goods! I was inspired to purchase a "Black and White" cookie from my local bakery because of its role in Why I Love Singlehood. I even tweeted a photo of my cookie to Elisa Lorello and she replied and posted my tweet to her Facebook account! Considering I'm such a huge fan of Lorello, I think I was more starstruck than if Kim Kardashian replied to me! HA! ;)

Bottom Line: This is an easy read for any woman looking to be entertained without sacrificing a good message that will warm your heart. Whether you're single, married or anywhere in between, this is a great book to cozy up to this fall. ★★★★/5

Don't forget Elisa Lorello's Adulation comes out tomorrow! :) 

November 1, 2012

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

I can't explain it. If there was a group for Widows Who Were Just About to Get Divorced, I'd bloody join it, I definitely would. It's absolutely crap; I can't be a poor widow, mourning the loss of the love of my life, and I can't be a Just Divorced and Still Fuming, either, so it's hopeless. You really know you're in trouble when there isn't even a support group you can join.

After starting fall out with 80°+ weather in Southern California, it's finally starting to cool down here so I thought I'd recommend a great book to cozy up to with your hot cocoa in between knitting {Or while you're waiting for the power to come back on, east coast! My prayers are with you all as you recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Gil McNeil's novel The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club is a story about Jo Mackenzie's search for identity as a woman and mother during tragic time in her life. Shortly after confessing an affair and proposing a divorce, Jo's husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with two young boys and a secret second mortgage she didn't know about. Jo decides to leave busy London and move to a small seaside village, purchasing her grandmother's yarn shop. There Jo reinvents the shop, which includes a "Stitch and Bitch" group, and also realigns herself and her priorities as a woman and mother.

My biggest complaint with this book is the title and synopses I found on the internet; I know that sounds like a strange complaint, but the book I read was a very loose representation of what was advertised. First of all, the "Stitch and Bitch" club that Jo creates at her yarn shop never dons the name "Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club", as is implied in the book title. Secondly, while the club was an integral part of Jo's realignment in the second half of the book, it in no way dominates this novel enough to be the title. In fact, some of the more important characters like Ellen and Grace aren't even a part of the club and I found it unfortunate that this title probably won out for cute, trendy marketing purposes.

As for the synopses found online {i.e. Amazon, Good Reads}, they say, "when a new man enters Jo's life, and an A-list actress moves into the local mansion, the knitting club has even more trouble confining the conversation to knit one, purl two"; this is completely untrue! The knitting club is the only group of people who don't hassle Jo about her new celebrity friend and none of them even know about the man who enters her life! This description makes me want to rip my hair out! It reminds me of a book report by someone who obviously didn't read the whole book. 

If I put my grievances with the title and publisher aside, I rather enjoyed the book, even though not much really happened. Every time the story seemed like it was going to take a huge turn in a new direction, not much came from it. But what I loved about the story is that it was very human and true-to-life. Jo isn't perfect in the end and her life's problems aren't solved, but she gains a better understanding of what it takes to survive the ups and downs life throws at her; and most of what it takes are great friends, some of which are part of her knitting group. 

I'm not going to race out to read the sequels to this novel, but I think I will read them eventually because I did love the characters and enjoy McNeil's writing style. Another thing I enjoyed is that this book really encouraged me to learn to knit with knitting needles. I use knitting looms right now and even have a knitting & prayer ministry, but using sticks like Jo sounds much cooler after reading this book! 

Bottom Line: Read this if you don't need crazy twists and turns to entertain you; it's got a great message and wonderfully written characters. Just beware not to judge this book by its cover, title or synopsis! 3½/5 stars {but I rounded up once I put my annoyance of the title and synopsis aside).