Summer & Books: Seven Riddles to Nowhere

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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Have you ever heard of “selective mutism”? The main character of this story has it, which makes this story interesting in and of itself. But the mysteries and hunt make this story fun too. A great summer read for pre-teen and teen, Amy Cattapan‘s Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

About the Book:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Because of a tragic event that took place when he was five-years-old, seventh grader Kameron Boyd can’t make himself speak to adults when he steps outside his home. Kam’s mom hopes his new school will cure his talking issues, but just as he starts to feel comfortable, financial problems threaten the school’s existence.

Then a letter arrives with the opportunity to change everything. Kam learns that he and several others have been selected as potential heirs to a fortune. He just has to solve a series of seven riddles to find the treasure before the other students. If he succeeds, he’ll become heir to a fortune that could save his school.The riddles send Kam on a scavenger hunt through the churches of Chicago.

But solving them won’t be easy. With the school’s bully as one of the other potential heirs, Kam and his friends must decipher the hidden meanings in artwork and avoid the mysterious men following them in a quest to not only keep the school open, but keep Kam’s hopes for recovering his voice alive.


Author A. J. Cattapan shared some “behind the scenes” with me about this book.

If you remember from my post about Angelhood, this is actually the book she planned on writing during NaNo 2011, but the plot wasn’t working out.

In her own words:

“The story was inspired by the Catholic school I used to teach in that was closed due to financial issues caused by low enrollment.

All of the churches connected to the riddles are real churches in Chicago.

CatholicChurchTours.com does organized tours that take students (and adults) on a tour of the churches in the book (the woman in church of this organization brought me on my research tours and she’s read Seven Riddles)!

The main character suffers from selective mutism and can’t speak to adults outside his home. As a teacher, I’ve had several students with some form of selective mutism who won’t speak above a whisper in school.”

My Review:

Seven Riddles to Nowhere is a blast! The characters are each unique and the writing style is crisp and fun. This story takes the reader on an exciting tour of Chicago streets and churches, while the characters gain insight into mysteries and symbols of our faith as they struggle to solve riddles. The tension and suspense mount right up to the very end!


I feel fortunate to have received an advanced copy of this book. Even though this is a middle-grade novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend this as a fun and fulling read!”

Connect with A.J. Cattapan:

Website: www.ajcattapan.com

Instagram: A.J.CattapanTwitter: @AJCattapan

Facebook: A.J. CattapanPinterest: A.J. Cattapan

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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Summer & Books: An Unexpected Role

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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This book is guaranteed to make your summer last longer and feel more relaxing.


About the Book:

The devastation of a ruined summer. The gift of a second chance.
Can Josie learn the lessons she needs in order to discover her true self?

After a humiliating event and overwhelming peer pressure, 16-year-old Josie flees her home to spend the summer with her Aunt on a South Carolina island. Her fresh start turns into the summer of her dreams as friendships grow, romance blossoms, and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. However, when tragedy strikes someone close to her, Josie realizes there are more important things than her reputation. As she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also discovers who God wants her to be.


Truly a summer read, this story takes place on a small island off the South Carolina coast. While the characters and mystery keep you turning the page, the beautiful setting descriptions will transport you.

Author Leslea Wahl shared with me how she creates such beautiful setting details:

“One summer when my kids were young, we went on a family vacation to the coast of South Carolina. I’d been to many beaches before but something about this place was so lovely and calming, it quickly became one of my favorite destinations.

“When I began writing An Unexpected Role and my character needed to get away from home, I thought about where I would want to escape to if I needed a peaceful place to re-examine my life, South Carolina immediately came to mind.

“I wish I could’ve gone back there under the guise of a research trip but sadly I had to rely on my memory. When I’m writing scenes describing scenery I close my eyes and envision being there. I try to focus on as many details as possible and then think about how my character would describe them. Since my main character Josie is quite theatrical, seeing life through her eyes was quite fun and the perfect chance to describe things in a unique way.” ~Leslea Wahl, author of An Unexpected Role.

I am happy to share a few of my favorite excerpts from the story:

We dock on the west side of the island amid tall sea grasses and sand dunes dotted with driftwood. I fight the urge to abandon my tennis shoes and run through the blanket of sand, letting it sift through my toes. We slowly drive by pastel-colored cottages with white trim that remind me of a box of saltwater taffy, welcoming us to the island. An elderly couple on their front porch swing wave as we go by. Neighbors chat over white picket fences. Children on their bikes try to keep up with us.  

We turn on to a beautiful street full of little shops. Striped awnings and lamp posts adorned with overflowing baskets of vibrant flowers line the street. Couples relax at cafe tables and happy families window-shop with ice cream cones in hand. Lily’s description of traveling back in time was spot on.

~from page 27 of An Unexpected Role.

Another favorite:

We start down the well-worn path that leads through the tall sea grasses to the narrow strip of beach. Kahlua scurries around the bushes, then in a blur of fur runs out to the ocean, splashing in the water as she chases something. I kick my sandals to the side and join her in the cool surf. The wet sand oozes up between my toes, my feet quickly buried. The beach is deserted except for an army of seagulls marching along the sand on pencil thin legs. Kahlua, dripping with ocean water, spies tiny crabs that skitter sideways across the sand. She pounces along as she tries to catch them.ocean-931776_1920.jpg

I move down the coast, mystically drawn toward the towering lighthouse, the gleaming white pinnacle having the opposite effect of its intended purpose. I’ve seen lighthouses before, on Lake Superior, but nothing as elegant and majestic as this one.   A sign kindly informs me I’m in Shipwreck Cove. The beach’s semicircle shape is surrounded by tall black cliffs; a wooden staircase leads up to the lighthouse. My eyes follow the large outcropping of unique rocks that juts out into the ocean at the southern end of the cove. I assume the town and marina must be on the other side of the natural barrier. 

~from pages 30-31 of An Unexpected Role

My Review:

I can’t believe I read An Unexpected Role in one day, but it was that good from beginning to end. I mean, this book is absolutely hilarious! For me, as a writer, I love that the main character’s mom is a writer! And poor Josie decides her mom is ruining her life because everyone at school thinks the embarrassing stories in the book are about her. More than anything, Josie wants an escape. And she gets one which has the potential to be everything a girl could want.

As the fun plot moves forward a mystery begins to develop, the tension really starts mounting. In addition to being fast-moving and at times hilarious, this novel has incredible descriptions. Since I read this (last year) as summer was dwindling down, I really appreciated the beautiful imagery, the beaches and ocean view. It let me hold onto summer for a wee bit longer. But this story is also filled with life-lessons that are totally relevant to young adults–well, to me too. This book is a fun and rewarding read!

Visit Leslea Wahl’s website and blog. Follow her on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also find her on Instagram:  Leslea_Wahl and Pinterest.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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Summer & Books: Saving Faith

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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If you are looking for a character-driven series that promotes virtue, you might want to check out T.M. Gaouette’s Faith & Kung Fu series. Yesterday, I blogged about the first book in this series, Freeing Tanner Rose, and today I’ll share a bit about Saving Faith.

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About the Book:

Saving Faith is the second of four books in the Faith & Kung Fu series.

With Tanner Rose gone, Gabriel is left to settle back into the God-devoted life he’d become so accustomed to. Except that his best friend’s sister, Faith, has decided that a life for the Lord is just way too confining. In an attempt to live a little, Faith focuses her interests on a handsome, but worldly, boy from her school, who has major self-control issues in and out of the kung fu arena. When things get too deep for Faith, she looks to Gabriel for help. Can Gabriel save Faith from self-created destruction or is he just too lost in his own worldly struggles to lend a hand?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Author T.M. Gaouette does a bit of research for each of her books. For this one she researched Scripture and the Catholic faith on various points, including pursuing the vocation of priesthood and attending seminaries. 

She also shared with me a bit about Gabriel, the main character of the Faith & Kung Fu series:

My character Gabriel is the center of Saving Faith and this four book series. He is a teen girl’s dreamboat. He’s exceedingly handsome, physically attractive, smart, and an expert in kung fu. But there’s a surprising twist. Gabriel is extremely devoted to God, and is unashamed about that commitment. He wears his godliness confidently, but with humility. Basically, he’s cool and he makes adoring God attractive and cool too. Gabriel is not perfect. He struggles also. But he always looks to the Lord and he never gives up on Him.

Gabriel’s faith is his life. He adores God. He talks to Him, defends Him, and leads people to Him constantly, but he’s not preachy or pushy. It’s just instilled within him so that it’s delivered and received naturally. Scripture plays a huge role in this series, and is usually a part of Gabriel’s everyday external and internal dialogue.

I’ve read and enjoyed the first book in this series and I look forward to checking out book two!

A few Amazon Reviews:

“Gaouette does an excellent job fleshing out her characters. They are real, and very well written. Also the plot, there are likely very few of us who have not known someone who drifted away from the faith, or someone who struggles or struggled with anger issues. Or have friend impacted by divorce and its effect on the whole family. Gaouette captures so many deep issues and yet deals with them with sensitivity and from her faith based perspective.”

“The author does a great job taking us on her emotional journey leading up to the moment where she must decide if she’s going to stay true to who she is or succumb to the overwhelming pressure placed on her by her peers. There is a firm foundation of Biblical truths woven through the story. The author has a pleasant writing style and this book nicely ties in with the previous book in the series.”

Connect with T.M. Gaouette and learn more about the author and her books:
Website: https://tmgaouette.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TMGaouette

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TMGaouette

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037114.T_M_Gaouette

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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Summer & Books: Freeing Tanner Rose

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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Ever wonder what faith and kung fu have in common? This summer, dive into the first in T.M. Gaouette’s Faith & Kung Fu series, Freeing Tanner Rose, and find out!

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About the Book:

Freeing Tanner Rose is the first of four books in the Faith & Kung Fu series.

For Gabriel, Tanner Rose is just a superficial starlet, addicted to Hollywood. For Tanner, Gabriel is just a boring, kung fu-loving, Christian boy, who’s living a lackluster life in the middle of no-where. So, what happens when she’s forced to live in his world? It doesn’t take long before Tanner Rose craves a taste of her old life, even if it means upsetting a few people along the way. She thrives in the spotlight, after-all! Will Gabriel’s faith encourage Tanner to change her partying ways, or will her wild undertakings and addicting vices tempt him to do things he’d never considered before?

“There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” ~1 Corinthians 10:13

My boys love play fighting in the backyard or wielding walking sticks (or even yard tools). The other day I was watching my youngest (a 13-year-old) spinning two sticks at one time, one over his head and the other out in front. And I thought to myself, “Wow, that boys has skills!” He would probably benefit from martial arts training of one sort or another. In addition to health and fitness benefits, I believe that such training would provide discipline that would benefit a person in every area of their life.

I asked Author T.M. Gaouette why Faith & Kung Fu was the title of her fiction series and here is her answer:

I’ve been told that it’s a fascinating affiliation. But I’ve never been asked why I chose it. And my reasons go far beyond the fact that both myself and the main character, Gabriel, are devoted to our faith and love kung fu – he is far more superior in both than I am, however.

What Gabriel gets out of kung fu, he puts into his faith, such as physical and emotional strength, discipline, modesty, and balance. Kung fu is also an external manifestation of his internal devotion. Finally, kung fu provides Gabriel with the forum for intense meditative prayer and connection with God.

Modesty plays a huge role in this novel. The author recently posted “Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series: Modesty” on her blog. Be sure to check it out!

A few Amazon Reviews:

“Principled and religious without being pious or cloying, this is a fun, refreshing story about something other than fashion and romance.”

“This book is great! Helps one realize that faith can get you through difficult situations and that you don’t need to know how to “do” religion in order to believe. The characters are easily imagined in looks and personality. Wonderfully engaging.”

Connect with T.M. Gaouette and learn more about the author and her books:

Website: https://tmgaouette.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TMGaouette

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TMGaouette

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037114.T_M_Gaouette

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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Summer & Books: Angelhood

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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Are you concerned that the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why might be detrimental to teens? Here is a novel for teens that deals with suicide in a life-affirming manner: Amy Cattapan‘s Angelhood.

About the Book:

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her.

Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

But Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. She’s going to find peace in the afterlife…as soon as she can convince Vera that living is what life is all about.


Author A. J. Cattapan shared some “behind the scenes” with me about this book.

While she planned on writing Seven Riddles during NaNo 2011, the plot wasn’t working out and she ended up writing Angelhood!

“I was so frustrated and depressed that my writing career was over before it had begun, that three days before NaNo started I got an idea for a story about a girl who believes her acting career is over before it’s begun. In 3 days, I had all the characters mapped out and the story outlined, so that become my NaNo project instead of Seven Riddles.”

Many of the plays mentioned in the book are plays that A.J. Cattapan performed in high school or after college. And the basilica where the guardian angels meet, Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, is a real church in Chicago that she visited while doing research for Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

I’ve heard many good things about this book, and I love Cattapan’s writing style (I read Seven Riddles to Nowhere), so Angelhood is on my “to read” list. But since I haven’t read it yet, I’ll share a review from Amazon.

Review:

“This is a YA novel but it will appeal to adults as well. Parents, this YA novel is completely safe to share with your kids in middle school and up. It’s a powerful and compassionate look at suicide as seen through the eyes of a teenager who does the unthinkable. In this story, “purgatory” means that a person becomes the guardian angel for someone else contemplating the same fate. Purgatory ends when the ultimate choice for life or death is made.
A.J. Cattapan has written a great story with terrific characters. I was carried away by Nanette’s battle to keep her charge from giving in to the darkness and evil that tried to surround her.
This is a difficult and dark subject but the author has written a story based on hope, not darkness.” ~Barb Szyszkiewicz

Connect with A.J. Cattapan:

Website: www.ajcattapan.com

Instagram: A.J.CattapanTwitter: @AJCattapan

Facebook: A.J. CattapanPinterest: A.J. Cattapan

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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Summer & Books: Rosa, Sola

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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“It’s easy to forget, or overlook, the impact that the death of an unborn or newborn sibling can have on other children in a family. Rosa, Sola explores all the raw emotions that go along with a family tragedy–in a manner that is merciful, not gratuitous.” –taken from a book review by on Catholic Mom

About the Book:

Rosa Bernardi, an only child living with her Italian immigrant parents in 1960s Chicago, often feels alone, or SOLA, as her parents would say. But after she holds her best friend AnnaMaria’s baby brother for the first time, Rosa is sure that if she prays hard enough, God will send her a brother of her own. When Rosa’s prayers for a sibling are answered, she is overjoyed—until tragedy strikes. Rosa is left feeling more SOLA than ever, and wondering if her broken family will ever be whole again.


In addition to a review of the book by , you will also find a character interview on Catholic Mom!
Author Carmela A. Martino shares how this book came to be:

The novel began as a short story called “Rosa’s Prayer,” which I wrote while working on my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. I had originally enrolled at Vermont to complete a YA novel, but after a few months in the program I realized that I didn’t yet have all the writing skills I needed to make that particular story work. Instead, I began a middle grade novel about a 12-year-old boy whose friends kept moving away. When my advisor, Marion Dane Bauer, critiqued the opening chapters of the novel, she said it lacked “emotional core.” I was devastated. I knew what my character was feeling, but apparently those feelings weren’t coming across on the page. Marion suggested a writing assignment: she asked me to write a short story about an event from my childhood that still aroused emotion in me. I chose to write about fear—the fear I’d felt at age ten, after my mother nearly died in childbirth.

“Rosa’s Prayer” went through several revisions. By the end of the semester, Marion approved the story for inclusion in my creative thesis. However, she said I could also submit it for my next residency workshop, which I did. My workshop group provided terrific feedback and encouraged me to turn “Rosa’s Prayer” into a novel. I spent most of my time in the Vermont Program working on the manuscript. The original short story spanned only a few weeks, ending on the day Rosa’s mother comes home from the hospital. The novel encompasses a year in Rosa’s life, and focuses not on Rosa’s fear as much as on her family’s struggle to heal from their loss. Interestingly, the most common feedback I’ve heard from readers is that the novel made them cry. For me, that’s a great compliment. I think Marion would be proud.

Since I haven’t read the book yet, though it is on my “to read” list, I have snagged a review from Amazon:

“School Library Journal called this a “gentle and moving story,” and I have to agree. Rosa is a good Catholic girl who desperately prays the rosary every night for God to send her a little brother. I don’t want to give the story away, but as the Amazon summary states, tragedy strikes the family. You can’t help but feel for Rosa and her family. Carmela Martino’s descriptions of love and loss are dead-on. Make sure you’ve got a hankie nearby when you reach the mid-point of this book. Still, the story is told with such compassion and care for the characters that you can’t help but love them. This would be a wonderful book to share with a child who might be coping with loss.”

Connect with Carmela A. Martino:

Website: www.carmelamartino.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/carmelamartinoauthor/

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/carmelamartino/

Twitter: @carmelamartino

Instagram: @cmartinoauthor

​Carmela is available for in-person and virtual visits and workshops. For details see: www.carmelamartino.com/bio.htm

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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Summer & Books: The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.

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This summer, expand your horizons and step into the heart of the world of foster children. Author T.M. Gaouette provides an inside look of the trials and joys in her book The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch.

About the Book:

Ten-year-old Benedict has been moved from one foster home to another, and he’s hated every one. When he arrives at Sunshine Ranch, he doesn’t bother unpacking. What’s the point? But his new foster parents and siblings are different from what he’s become used to. David and Martha Credence strive to instill love and Christian values in their family, and it inspires hope in each child.

Benedict is not into “religion,” but Sunshine Ranch is the home he’s secretly been yearning for. Still, he fears it’s all just a little too good to be true, and his sentiments are validated when he learns that they may lose Sunshine Ranch. Can the Credence children help save the Ranch? Will faith keep them together? Or will Benedict’s dream be shattered?

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is a story about a family devoted to God. It relays the personal journeys of all the Credence foster children and their struggles to overcome past and present pain and adversity. In this novel, the confidence of the devoted is challenged, but an even deeper understanding of God and His love are revealed.

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:12-13I


I love to learn how authors come up with their story ideas. Some of my ideas come from the news, others come from real life experience. And still others come directly from my imagination or from contemplating an idea or a “what if?” I asked author T.M. Gaouette how she came up with the story idea for The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch.

Author T.M. Gaouette’s answer:

I’m not sure how other authors come up with stories, but for me a novel can begin with a single moment in a scene. My moment was the main protagonist Benedict walking past a beautifully decorated living room with a large burning hearth. Another child, around his age, walks in and says, “It’s like a scene in a movie, right?”

I was inspired by the idea of a child who knew only the dark side of foster care, entering the light of those many other homes that offer love and compassion and patience. Martha and David’s foster care home was like a scene in a movie. And this was one of the reasons why Benedict struggled to feel at home. He was afraid that one day the movie would end. By the way, I never did use that scene in the final version of The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. But the concept remained.

Amazon Reviews:

“From page one I was pulled into this extremely moving novel about a young boy in the foster care system, unwanted and hurting, and how God draws him to Himself by incredible and quite surprising events.”

“I am finding it difficult to put into words my thoughts about this book, because the story speaks directly to the heart, and there are no words sufficient for how my heart was touched by this book. From the first page to the last, I found myself drawn compellingly into the love, suffering and grace of a large family of foster children drawn together from diverse circumstances and cultures. Once I started reading this book I could not put it down! This is the best read I have had in a very long time!”

Connect with T.M. Gaouette and learn more about the author and her books:

Website: https://tmgaouette.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TMGaouette

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TMGaouette

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037114.T_M_Gaouette

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.

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