The Queen of Katwe

The Queen of Katwe, One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion


I have very mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. It was an insightful look at Uganda’s culture, the living condition of the poorest of the poor, and how the chess program started in Uganda. However, the book took a long time to really get started. There were life sketches of people whose names meant nothing to me and I wasn’t sure why they were included in the book. There was a detailed history of the establishment of the chess program, which was interesting, but I wasn’t yet hooked because Fiona’s story had not yet started.

Even after Fiona’s story started, I still didn’t feel connected to her. It was almost like the author didn’t really know her and was only doing an outsiders summary of her life. It’s entirely possible that Ugandan culture, specifically that of the slums, does not allow outsiders to get to know someone. But I long for details, thoughts, and feelings of the people who are being written about. Not just a fact sheet. The details of life in the slums were absolutely heart breaking, but that didn’t give much insight into Fiona herself.

I will be interested to see the movie when it is released. I’m sure the movie will be a tearjerker, as it shows the horrible living conditions that Fiona is accustomed to. I enjoy real life movies, inspirational films about people who come from a rough past and overcome huge odds to make something successful of themselves. Hopefully Fiona is able to rise above her circumstances as well. It seems too early to really tell.

Much thanks to The ravū Collective Team for a free copy of the book in exchange for my opinion. All thoughts are my own.

King’s Folly – a book review

The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers–everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father’s superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

Kings Folly

I am really not sure how to review this book. Overall, I was extremely frustrated. But as I outlined my complaints to my husband, he told me that everything I am describing is normal for the fantasy genre. As I rarely read fantasy, I’m not used to these particular characteristics.

1 – The plot is massive. There are many events going on at the same time and it was difficult to keep everything straight in my mind.

2 – There are way too many character POVs. The characters kept changing. There were even a couple chapters written from the perspective of very minor characters, simply to present a minor detail that could not be shown from another character’s perspective.

3 – The book had no ending. The story just cut off! It is clear that this is intended to be a series. I read plenty of series and each book is usually a complete story in itself. The next book usually continues with the same characters or tells another story about a minor character from the previous book, that minor character now being a main character in the current book. King’s Folly, however, cannot be read on its own. If you want to know how the story ends, you have no choice but to buy or borrow the next book.

My final complaint is one that is independent of the fantasy genre. This book was published by Bethany House, a Christian publishing company. However, the book is not Christian in the slightest. Other reviewers have written that it is an allegory, but I don’t see it. It’s not like either Narnia (allegory) or LotR (religious themes). Maybe the second book will contain “conversion scenes” that turn this into a Christian story. But King’s Folly (in my view) was not a Christian book. I was disappointed.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Traces of Guilt – a book review

Traces of Guilt

Yet another great Dee Henderson book! I was excited to read Traces of Guilt because it is about a woman who tries to solve cold cases, those that beg for closure after years of being unresolved. The story was told well, several plot lines woven together to create a very interesting time line. Like all of Henderson’s novels, the writing is fantastic.

Even after all this time, I still have the same complaint about Henderson’s books. All of her characters are too perfect. Sure, they have “flaws.” But the flaws are more like quirks rather than true struggles. All of the struggles are external, man versus environment or man versus man. I really wish I could see more man versus himself (or herself!). I can’t really relate to any of the characters because they don’t struggle with anything real. The occasional character doubts himself, but that’s it. Most are confident, talented, multi-faceted, and everyone loves them!

Even with this complaint, I will continue to read Henderson’s novels as they are published. Why? Great stories!

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Reading challenges – first quarter

I received an email from Goodreads with a summary of the first quarter of 2016. As of March 31, I had already reached 65% of my reading challenge, which is to read 60 books in 2016. I think my goal was a bit too low! When I set the goal, I had no idea that my daughter likes to read constantly. We’ve been doing a good job keeping her in Chinese books and my hope is that someday she’ll be motivated enough to start reading in English. Then the whole library will be open to her.

Last week I finished The Lord of the Rings! The whole family read the series together. My daughter finished first and I finished a few days after her. My husband is still plugging along but he has that pesky thing known as a job, which distracts him from much more important pursuits like reading and playing Animal Crossing.


I have tons of thoughts about TLoR but haven’t had any time to write them. Hopefully once we get the taxes sorted and school meetings arranged and caught up on correspondence and…

Life with a teen is hard. Life with an adopted teen is even harder. Life with an adopted teen with a trauma history is exhausting. So happy that we can read together every day.

Next up? No idea. I’m reading some fluffy Christian historical fiction right now. I want to read
The Count of Monte Cristo
but my husband wanted to read it with me and isn’t ready to start. I’ll probably finish a couple fluffy books and then dive back into my to-read list.

2016 Reading Challenge

I love reading challenges. Toward the end of 2015, I seriously contemplated searching for a couple of challenges but never found the time to wade through hundreds of websites. So I created my own!

Here’s what I’m reading this year:


(The brown books are The Count of Monte Cristo).

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’ve already finished a number of these books in the first two months of the year. So far I have finished:

The entire Anne series
The first five Narnia books
The Hobbit
The Fellowship of the Ring

Frankly, I am shocked that I have already read so many books in just two months. My daughter loves to read so we often read during meals. We visit the library several times per week and will just sit and read. So she and I are both plowing through books.


Recently, we started reading the same books. Mine are in English and hers are in Chinese. She’s been reading Narnia and today started reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Baba is currently reading The Hobbit! When we’ve finished reading the books, we will watch the movies. I’m so grateful that our entire family has an interest in books.

Tonight I’m going to start reading the sixth Narnia book. If I continue reading books as quickly as I have been, I’ll have to add to my 2016 reading list. Jane Austen? Yes!

Christmas Time – a book review and giveaway!

I received an email offering to let me review a new Christmas book titled Christmas Time – It’s All About Jesus!. Since my daughter is newly home from Taiwan, I thought it would be fun to have a children’s book about Christmas to read to her.


My favorite part about this book is the illustrations. The cover is beautiful and each page is colorful and cute. It’s definitely a warm feeling book. The little mouse on each page was a cute touch! The story is simple while still covering all of the basics. The angel’s visit to Mary. Mary visiting Elizabeth. Joseph’s dream. Travel to Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth. The shepherds hearing the angels’ song and visiting baby Jesus.

My daughter seemed slightly interested in the story. When the book arrived, she pointed at the cover and said “Jesus.” She’s not a Christian and recognized that this is a story about the birth of Christ. She listened as I read and followed along. The word choice was too complex for her, though, as she is still learning English. Miracle, wonder, engaged, greeting – all words too hard for her. She was more interested in the illustrations than the actual story.

I wish the publisher had chosen a simpler font for the text on each page. It’s kind of hard to read. The R’s and N’s look very similar and a couple times I had to pause to make sure I was reading the text properly.

I will try rereading this book to my daughter closer to Christmas, as I’m sure her English will improve between now and then. Maybe she’ll enjoy it more once she can understand more of the story.

Aneko Press was kind enough to provide me with an extra copy to give away! Just leave me a comment and I will draw a winner on Tuesday, November 17th.

Nightstand – Taiwan style!

I really wanted to participate in this month’s Nightstand post, even if my reading plans are a bit unorthodox. I am a die-hard library user, preferring to lose myself in the stacks and smell all the books. I love being surrounded by hardcovers and paperbacks and shelves and shelves of books.

Well… I’m headed to Taiwan tonight to pick up my daughter. I have a luggage weight limit and cannot afford to take a bunch of books. So, I have bit the bullet, pulled up my big girl panties, and succumbed to an e-reader. If I have to be honest and admit that there are positive aspects to an e-reader, I suppose I can do that. The biggest advantage is that I can take as many books as I want. So, I borrowed the max that my library will allow and took screenshots of what is loaded on my Nook.






I also downloaded a few public domain books from Project Gutenberg. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pygmalion, A Woman of No Importance, Around the World in Eighty Days…

I am under no delusions that I will read all of these books, much less finish more than one or two. Traveling to Taiwan to pick up your child is not a vacation. However, there are two VERY LONG flights and I desperately need something to read. With all of these options, I can try a book and ditch if it isn’t engaging on a 12 hour long flight or sitting in a hotel room. Most of these books have been on my to-read list for a long time so I will revisit them at some other time if I don’t get to them on this trip. However, I love having options!

Happy reading!!

Break my heart, Lord, for what breaks Yours

Awhile ago, I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His. That’s a very dangerous prayer. If you can honestly pray that prayer, you have no idea what God will do. He has broken my heart again and again. When my heart was first opened toward adoption and orphan care, I had no idea where God was going to take me. But over the past two years, He has shown me story after story after story of children who desperately need a family. Children who desperately need to understand what unconditional love is. Children who need to know that they are loved. Valuable. Priceless.

I recently came across a description for the book titled Ghost Boy (Martin Pistorius, Nelson Books). I thought it would be an interesting book to read and review but had no idea it would move me to tears repeatedly.

In January of 1988, Martin Pistorius came home from school complaining of a sore throat. He never went back. Within a year, Martin had degenerated into a mute quadriplegic. By his fourteenth birthday he was a hollow shell, unseeing and unknowing; he spent his days at a care center, sitting blankly in front of the television while his family waited for him to die.

And then his mind came up for air.

For an unimaginable ten years, Martin would be completely conscious while trapped inside his unresponsive body, secretly aware of everything happening around him and utterly powerless to communicate it.

Ghost Boy is a memoir written by Martin after he learned how to communicate again. His story is absolutely heartbreaking. It is terrifying to hear the things that people will say or do to someone they can overpower. Because Martin didn’t have control of his body and was unresponsive when talked to, people believed he was brain dead. So they abused him both verbally and sexually.

It was an incredibly hard story to read because it happened. It’s reality. Martin is now safe from such abuse but these atrocities still happen every day to people like Martin. To children and adults who are unable to defend themselves. These events tell the victims that they are worthless, that they don’t matter. And yet they do matter. They are human beings, someone’s son or daughter or mother or father. And they are children of God.

There’s a song by Hillsong called Hosannah. The lyrics say:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me

Break my heart from what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause

I know that God called us to adopt Cin-Ru, to make her part of our family. We have many hopes and dreams for her but one of them is to give her a haven. She’s an orphan no longer and will always have our protection. Be careful when you ask God to break your heart for what breaks His. He’s broken my heart and I have no idea where He’s calling us next.

Taken – A Book Review

Earlier this week I received a rather interesting email from Goodreads.

Goodreads Challenge

According to my logs, I have read:
76 books
18,348 pages
with a 2.88 average rating

That rating is not very good. I’ve read a few amazing books this year but a slew of books that I determined weren’t really worth reading. The second half of the year will be better than the first half, right?

One of the books I accepted for review has slightly boosted that average rating.


Anything by Dee Henderson is almost guaranteed to be a four star read and this book was no exception. I believe I have read all of Henderson’s books and this one was fantastic. What makes it so unique is that the entire book takes place after Shannon escapes from her kidnappers. She seeks out Matthew, a private investigator, and slowly shares her story with him as they both attempt to right wrongs that have taken place over the last twenty or thirty years. I really appreciated how this story unfolded as Shannon and Matthew use the information she provides to track down the kidnappers so that justice can be served.

As I read the story, I was surprised to find something that may help with my parenting. We are traveling next week to adopt a 13 year old girl who has had a history of loss. She lost both her parents at an early age and now she’s losing her birth country, her caretakers, her language, and everything else that is familiar to her. We will be doing our best to help her feel safe and loved from day one but I am sure she will eventually share stories with us that will break our hearts. In the novel, Matthew is offered some advice about how to best help Shannon as she shares her very emotional history. He is told, “But I’d stay with the basic three rules – listen, try not to react, and keep your reply at the same emotional tone she sets” (59).

This advice really makes sense to me. When my daughter shares something emotional from her history, I have to first listen to her. Truly listen. I have to try not to react to the story she shares because otherwise I may unintentionally discourage her from sharing more details. And I need to respond with the same emotional tone she uses to share. I don’t want to burst into tears if she matter of factly drops an alarming detail while we’re playing a game. If that happens, she may feel that she’s a burden or that I cannot handle what she’s sharing.

In a later section of the book, Shannon shares some of how she feels about God. She attempts to answer the age old question of why God allows suffering. I thought her explanation was rather insightful.

He did [allow the kidnapping]. And I wondered for a time if God still loved me… I’d like a featherbed world where falling out of a tree didn’t break a bone, where a guy couldn’t land a blow on someone smaller than himself, where no one ever got to touch me without my consent. That’s the world I would have created. But God decided to create a world where free will was more important than no one ever getting hurt. There must be something stunningly beautiful and remarkable about free will that only God can truly grasp, because God hates, literally abhors, evil, yet He created a world where evil could happen if people chose it. God sees something in free will and choice that’s worth tolerating the horrifying blackness that would appear if evil was chosen rather than good. I find that utterly remarkable…

God gave Adam and Eve that free will and a choice. He gave them one warning: eat of any tree that is here, including the wonderful tree of life, but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I wish Adam and Eve had thought more about what knowledge meant. … But how do you really know something? You experience it. … The sad thing about evil, we did this to ourselves. It wasn’t God’s plan. God expected, fully intended, for Adam and Eve to obey what He had said, to leave the tree of good and evil alone. We’re Adam and Eve’s children, reaping their decision. We chose the knowlege – the experience of good and evil – and we found out just how bitter and dark evil really is. We experience it now. That’s our reality. There’s probably not a person alive who wouldn’t want to go back and see that decision changed, now that we have tasted how bad it turned out to be. My faith survived because I realized God didn’t want this for us, He never had (107-109).

Definitely a thought provoking summary of free will.

I am so glad that I accepted this book for review. My only complaint with the novel, and it’s a flaw that I feel runs throughout Henderson’s books, is that the characters are too perfect. They have challenges, yes. Bad things happen to them. But overall, they handle life perfectly. Even when they make a mistake, they bounce back immediately and learn deep, valuable life lessons that they are able to apply from that moment forward.

Still, it was a fantastic read and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to read and review Taken. Many thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity. All thoughts are my own!

May Nightstand – full of books!

What's On Your Nightstand
It has been ages since I’ve participated in a Nightstand post but I finally remembered to write up a post on the correct day!

I have two shelves full of library books. The top shelf is mostly adult books whereas the second shelf is full of kids’ books that I am previewing for my future daughter. I’m slowly starting to build up a personal library of children’s books but want to make sure they are quality books.

This first book is one I am most excited about – Dinotopia. I’m not familiar with it but a friend recommended it. We’ve flipped through it and the artwork is fantastic! I can’t wait to read the story.

Kisses from Katie has been on my to-read list for ages and I finally borrowed it from the library. Hopefully I can finish it before it’s due next week.

This last book is one I definitely need to buy. You’re Loved No Matter What has been powerful and I’m only 50 pages in. I have struggled to feel worthy of love as far back as I can remember. I’m still trying to find my worth as a daughter of the King and hope that this book helps a bit.

Last but not least, I’m working my way through Christy, this month’s Reading to Know bookclub selection. I definitely won’t be finishing it by the end of the month but I’m glad for the chance to reread it.

What have you been reading lately? I’ll be taking a flight to Taiwan later this summer and am in need of a good book, something engaging but that doesn’t require a lot of thought. It’s a 12 hour flight so a thick book would be great! Anything you’d highly recommend?