Deep Conviction by Steven T. Collis

Cover Art of Deep Conviction by Steven T Collis

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Book Review of Deep Conviction by Steven T. Collis

I have to admit that on a normal, daily basis, I do not usually think about the freedom of religion. I definitely take it for granted. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I go to church on Sunday and I read scripture and pray throughout the week. I take full advantage of religious freedom, but yet I never really think about it. It’s just something that’s always been there. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t ever really thought about what it has taken to secure that freedom throughout the years. I fully acknowledge how blessed we are in the United States to be able to enjoy that freedom. There are still places around the world that do not have the same privilege, and to them I am sorry. I promise that I will no longer take this freedom for granted. Deep Conviction by Steven T. Collis brings the importance of religious freedom into the light and recognizes some of the sacrifices that have been made in order to secure that right.

Blurb:

Deep Conviction features four ordinary Americans who put their reputations and livelihoods at risk as they fought to protect their first amendment right to live their personal beliefs. Though these individuals couldn’t be more different, they share a similar conviction and determination.

  • In the winter of 1813, in rural New York City, a Catholic priest faced prison after a grand jury subpoenaed him for refusing to divulge the identity of a criminal who admitted his guilt during the sacrament of confession.
  • In the summer of 1959, an atheist pushed his attempt to become a Maryland notary public all the way to the United States Supreme Court because the state required him to sign an oath that said he believed in God.
  • In 1989 a Klamath Indian man walked into the highest court of our nation supported by legions of members of the Native American Church to plead for the freedom to practice his beliefs after years of oppression.
  • And, finally, in 2017, a Christian baker in Denver had his beliefs and actions scrutinized by the Supreme Court after he refused service to a gay couple who wanted to purchase a custom wedding cake.

These stories were specifically chosen for the universality and for the broad principles they represent. Most importantly, the notion of religious freedom for all, truly cherished, allows justice and protection for everyone, religious or not.”

My Book Review:

I was a little hesitant to read this book because I thought reading about court cases might be a little boring. Let me tell you how wrong I was. Steven T. Collis has a gift with words. He took these old court cases and brought them to life. I was enthralled! I couldn’t put it down! The law is not my thing—I teach sixth grade—but Collis held me captivated. As he described the laws and the courtroom scenes, I felt like I was there. I could feel the tension in the room, and I think I held my breath as I waited to hear the final decisions. He has a gift for storytelling.

I loved the writing style of this book. Seriously. It’s easy to read and understand, it flows well, and it draws you in. I did have to go back and reread a few paragraphs because I’m not used to reading the technical language of law, but that was my own fault. Collis’ descriptions of the people, their histories, and their lives make you feel like you have known them for years. The way he describes the courtroom scenes allows you to see a glimpse into the past, and to feel like you were there to see it happen.

When the law burdens one faith group—including atheists or agnostics—over another, it is only a matter of time before the unfavored group gains power. Once it does, it will use the law for its own ends. This results in factions vying for government power and turning it into a spear they can use to promote only their beliefs. (p. 163)

If the government is permitted to attempt to influence religious beliefs and commitments, each religious faction must necessarily seek to conrol or at least influence the government so the faction’s members will be more benefitted than harmed. Even if government is permitted only to express views about religion, religious factions will seek to control or influence the government so that they can control or influence the religious views that it expresses. (p.155)

When religious liberty is truly valued, government may not punish anyone for their beliefs, no matter who happens to control the reins of power in that particular moment. (p. 165)

The importance of religious freedom cannot be downplayed or forgotten. It must be protected and fought for. Sacrifices must be made in order to keep government in check. I have never met the people in these stories, but their sacrifices and suffering have paved the way for all of us to keep our religious freedom. Whether you go to church every week or do not believe in God at all, freedom of religion protects us from one group persecuting another or forcing the other to believe something.

At first I was worried that this book would be boring or dry, but it is not. I truly could not put it down. It held me captivated for chapter after chapter. This principle is so important. I loved this book and highly recommend it!

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13+ (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book, but there are some graphic descriptions. Mostly, I think younger readers will not understand, appreciate, or fully grasp the concept of this book.)

Age Recommendation: 16+

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2EmLAFd

 

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Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard Women of the Blue and Gray by Marianne Monson
 
 
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Invisible Heroes of World War II by Jerry Borrowman

Invisible Heroes of WWII by Jerry Borrowman

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Book Review of Invisible Heroes of World War II by Jerry Borrowman

I have read a lot of books about World War II. Some fiction and some nonfiction. Many of them are told from different viewpoints: prisoner of war, concentration camp survivor, little girl, soldier, and even death. This book is different in that it doesn’t follow a storyline. There’s no plot. This book details the experiences of several individuals or groups during World War II. Some of them are men and some of them are women. I especially liked hearing the women’s stories because it doesn’t seem like there are as many out there as there are for the men. Some of the experiences are on the battlefront, and some of them are closer to home. Each story gives you a little more insight into what people went through during the war. It’s always good to remember the past so we don’t need to repeat it. I hope you enjoy my book review of Invisible Heroes of World War II  by Jerry Borrowman.

Blurb:

Invisible Heroes of World War II documents the largely untold true stories of a diverse group of soldiers and noncombatants—men and women—from all over the world who fought with the Allies during World War II. These heroes made significant contributions in the war effort, but often went unnoticed by historical accounts.

Some were frontline soldiers who were captured by the enemy and endured horrific conditions as prisoners of war, others were ordinary citizens who fought in the French Resistance and provided vital operations to undermine Nazi occupation, while others were engineers, industry workers, or war correspondents and photographers. All served with valor and distinction as part of the massive Allied forces who fought to free the world from tyranny and oppression.

  • Features people of diverse backgrounds in age, race, ethnicity, and social status.
  • June 6, 2019 will be the 75th anniversary of D-Day.”

My Book Review:

Each of these stories is so compelling. The first story jumps right into the story of a prisoner of war. It’s a vantage point I have read before, but it starts in the Philippines, which I know I haven’t read about previously. I really had no idea what went on in the Philippines, so it was interesting to read about in detail. After reading Pat Patton’s experience, I can understand why some people had such harsh feelings against the Japanese. Like Louis Zampirini, Pat Patton suffered because of the brutality of his Japanese captors.

Another section of the book talks about Rosie the Riveter and how she came to be.  I liked learning about the different women who worked in plants and factories. It’s interesting how attitudes towards women working outside of the home have changed in the years since World War II. Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl and Charlcia Neumen were just a couple of women featured. They did very different jobs—one making guns and the other riveting planes—but each was an important job that made a big impact. Afterward, Charlcia said,

“It was a very good experience for me because of the challenge of doing something like that, to prove to myself that I could do it…I didn’t think I could do it. So I found out I could do it; it was the type of thing that I could do, that I liked to do.”

I loved learning about the Navajo Code Talkers, the Purple Heart Battalion, Dickey Chapelle, Joseph Medicine Crow, and the engineers and builders. Ok, I really loved reading about all the people in this book. Seriously. It’s so good! The people and groups discussed in this book truly were heroes, and I think it’s imperative for all of us to really think about who we look up to and consider heroes. I added a few heroes to my list after reading this book. 

These are just a few of the remarkable people featured. We can learn so much from each of their experiences. I love that the people and groups spotlighted weren’t necessarily famous or well known.  Normal, ordinary people can achieve amazing things. (Why do we like hearing this? I think we all want hope that we can make a difference in the world even though we don’t think we’re special.) Each story is well written, compelling, and shows a part of the war that we need to remember and learn from. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about these heroes, and I think you will too!

invisible heroes blog tour

Content Rating RRating: R (War-time atrocities–some of them quite graphic.)

Recommendation: 16+ 

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2PNVdBc

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the book thief by markus zusak Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
 
 
 

Review of Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear

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Book Review of Atomic Habits by James Clear

I swear, everywhere I turned, James Clear was there talking about his book. I heard him on several podcasts, heard other people talking about it, and then I kept seeing his book everywhere. Well, it worked. All that promotion definitely caught my attention. I reserved Atomic Habits at the library and then waited. After a brief wait, I checked the book out and brought it home. I was super excited to read it. Then life happened—school, kids, house, other books—and I kind of forgot I had the book. That was, until I got an email saying it was due back to the library. Oops! I hadn’t even started it yet. Guess what I did? I started the book. Yep, I didn’t take it back. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I just finished the book. Ummm…yeah, I’m going to have quite the fine, but I had to finish! If you haven’t heard anything about this book, check out my book review of Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Blurb:

“No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for getting 1% better every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves not because you don’t want to change but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. In Atomic Habits, you’ll get a plan that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be readily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic god medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to vault to the top of their fields.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and give you the tools and techniques you need to transform your habits—whether you are an athlete looking to win a championship, a leader hoping to optimize an organization, or an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, and achieve success that lasts.”

My Book Review:

I know you’re asking…was it worth the big fine at the library? In a word, yes! I have never thought about habits in this way. It is clearly a new way of thinking, and it takes a bit of a shift in perspective. However, once that shift is made, I think it will be difficult to go back to the old way of thinking. Clear makes it seem so easy!

This book is very well written. His writing is clear and to the point. His writing style is easy to read and understand. The book has a great progression from small to big-picture, and each chapter is well thought-out and full of ideas. I like the chapter summaries at the end of each chapter that give the reader quick bullet points to remember what was taught. There are also diagrams throughout each chapter that do a great job of illustrating his points.

I love the examples that Clear uses to show and explain his thoughts and ideas. He uses Olympic athletes, professional sports coaches, and important business people’s routines and processes to show how it all works, and it makes it seem so simple! He’s not naïve, though. Clear knows that it’s harder than it seems, so he does a good job explaining how easy it is to fall off the habit-train. What’s great is that he gives you ideas on how to make it easier to start, follow, and continue habits.

I feel so ready to start some habits! I’m pumped, and I’m also ready for the long-haul. This truly is a remarkable book. It’s filled with a new way of thinking about habits, and a simple shift in perspective that will allow people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to improve their lives. This book aims to make people the best they can be, and I’m excited to get started!

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There’s no profanity, “intimacy,” or violence in this book.)

Age Recommendation: YA (13-18+) and Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2TcCtLO

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the seven habits of highly effective families by stephen r covey The Compliment Quotient by Monica Strobel does change have to be so hard
 
 

Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton

Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton

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Book Review of Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton

Wow! What an adventure! I grew up boating—on lakes. I love it so much. I’m a pretty good slalom skier, and I love the feel of the wind as you cruise on top of the water. However, when the weather turns nasty, I want to be as far away from the water as possible. The big waves scare me. A lot. It scares me so much that I won’t even go on the cruise my husband wants to go on. You know, the one on the really big, fancy boat. There is absolutely no way you’d get me in a 38 ft. catamaran that I’d have to sail. Through the Caribbean. With my four kids. And the Ortons have five kids. They are brave and adventurous! I admire their sense of family, and am kind of jealous of some of the lessons they learned together, but I think I’d rather learn some of those lessons on land. Learn more about their book, and their adventure, in my book review of Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton.

Blurb:

“Working the night shift as a temp in a high-rise cubicle, Erik Orton knew something had to change. He felt the responsibility of providing for his wife and their five children—the youngest with Down syndrome—but craved a life that offered more than just surviving.

Watching the sailboats on the Hudson River during his sunset dinner breaks, Erik dared to dream. What would it be like to leave the hustle of the city and instead spend a year on a sailboat, somewhere beautiful, as a family? Despite having no sailing experience, his wife Emily’s phobia of deep water, and already stretching every dollar to pay rent and buy groceries, the family of seven turned their excuses into reasons and their fears into motivation. Sure, they would miss their friends, they could go broke, they could get injured or die. Worst of all, they could humiliate themselves by trying something audacious and failing. But the little time they still had together as a family, before their oldest daughter left for college, was drifting away. The Ortons cast off the life they knew to begin an uncertain journey of 5,000 miles between New York City and the Caribbean, ultimately arriving at a new place within themselves.

A portrait of a captivating and resilient family and a celebration of the courage it takes to head for something over the horizon, this is a deeply compelling story—told alternately by Erik and Emily—for all those who dream of leaving routine in their wake.”

My Book Review:

I just have to say that they are way braver than I am! There is no way my husband could ever talk me into doing something like this. I’m way too scared of the ocean. I don’t mind playing in the waves if the water is warm, but I’m scared of going on a cruise on a big, fancy boat. Yeah, no way. However, I do greatly admire them. I have a 17 year-old who will be a senior next year, and I would love to do something like this, but on land. I’d love to have my family all to myself for just a little while.

This book is well written. I liked the writing styles of both Erik and Emily. Sometimes I had to look back to see which one of them had written that chapter, but it was usually obvious by their writing. As a woman, I thought it was interesting to read Erik’s point of view. It’s not often we women get to delve into a man’s brain like that. I definitely related more to Emily, but it’s always great to hear the other point of view. Each of their chapters were well thought-out and full of emotion.

I found it interesting that you could feel the tension between them in some of the chapters. It wasn’t always easy. They made sure the reader knew that it was a hard journey. Living in a little boat like that with seven people for that long would be very difficult, and I appreciated their honesty. I know how frustrated I get sometimes when we’re camping for a week. Haha! Living on a boat would be so hard. I think they all had to learn how to read each other and give space, if needed. They also had to learn how to individually handle their personal struggles so they didn’t turn into a complete meltdown.

I loved learning about their journey! The strength and growth of the children was amazing to see. What an amazing memory and story they’ll always have to tell. I’d love to read about this journey from their perspectives as well. Some of the lessons they learned will be invaluable in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although I’d never want to do it on the ocean, I may need to make time for a similar land journey. Maybe travel across the country, or something. I highly recommend this book. It’s fun to read about people reaching and fulfilling their dreams. It allows you, as the reader, to dream and plan too.  

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any violence in this book, and there are only one or two swear words. However, there are two occasions where they mention that they, “Make love.” There aren’t any details or descriptions–that’s all it says.)

Age Recommendation: Young Adult (14+) and Adult

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Ux1D9p

 

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  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
 
 
Featured Image Credit: Goodreads.com
 

Book Review of Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard

Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard

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Book Review of Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard

I have to admit that I have been naïve. I’ve heard of things going on, but I always thought that it couldn’t really be true. People can’t really be that evil, right? It only happens in the movies, right? Unfortunately, it does happen. Too often. And not necessarily in some faraway land; it’s happening all over the world. Children and women are being sold into slavery. But this slavery is a different kind of slavery from what we’ve learned and studied about. These women and children are being sold, yes sold, into human trafficking. It’s absolutely horrifying. Find out more in my book review of Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard.

Blurb:

“In the 1800s American South, Harriet Jacobs is enslaved and tormented by a cruel master. He relentlessly attempts to force her into [an intimate] union, and, when rebuffed, he separates her from her children and spends a lifetime trying to coerce her and then recapture her when she escapes to freedom. Jacobs outwits her tormentor and eventually reunites with her children, works in the cause of abolition and reform, and helps newly freed slaves with education and aftercare.

In 2009, Timothy Ballard encounters a grieving father in Haiti whose three-year-old son has been kidnapped and sold into slavery along with thousands of children who were orphaned after an earthquake devastated the country. He pledges to track down the missing child and leaves his job at the Department of Homeland Security to establish Operation Underground Railroad to infiltrate black markets in human trafficking, liberate victims, and provide a comprehensive aftercare process involving justice and rehabilitation for survivors.

Slave Stealers alternates these two riveting stories, weaving them together to expose the persistent evil of trafficking and sexual exploitation that has existed for centuries—and inspiring us to find a way to end it. Filled with heartbreaks and triumphs, miracles and disappointments, hair-raising escapes and daring rescues, this gripping book provides insight to this terrible evil and the good that can be done when caring people step up and stand in the light.”

My Book Review:

Wow. I read this book in two days. I couldn’t put it down. It pulls at every piece of humanity, motherhood, teacher, Christian, and sister that I have. And then some. I’ve read quite a bit about slavery and the Civil War, and I’m astonished every time by the brutality and inhumane treatment that the slaves endured. It’s incomprehensible. And then I learn that it’s happening today. Yes, today. And not in some place far, far away, but way too close to home. It may look slightly different, but there are many similarities between the transatlantic slavery of old and modern-day slavery.

I loved how Timothy Ballard wove the two stories together. It was seamless. It was powerful. Like everyone, I’ve heard of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas. I have learned about Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Unfortunately for me, I have not been as well acquainted with Harriet Jacobs. What a story! I loved hearing her story and learning about her. She was an amazing woman who inspires me to never give up, to stand up for my beliefs, and to take a stand against slavery.

Timothy Ballard also has an amazing story. He has seen and experienced so much. I also enjoyed learning about his story. He is such a good example of being a good citizen, of being compassionate, and of being aware of the needs of others. I love that he has dedicated his life to resurrecting the Underground Railroad. He uses many of the same principles today that the people who ran the original Underground Railroad used in the 1800s. His writing style just sucks you into the story. It brings the story to life.

Although old and modern-day slavery are heavy topics, Timothy Ballard does a great job of pulling out the inspirational moments. Instead of feeling weighed down and depressed after reading this book, I absolutely felt inspired. I want to help. I cannot imagine what those children and women have to endure, and Mr. Ballard has such a way with words that he broaches hard things and turns them into teaching moments. His writing is full of energy, it’s authentic, and it is bold. He doesn’t mince words, but it’s not off-putting; in fact, it has the opposite effect.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the modern-day conductors of the Underground Railroad. Their stories are also powerful and vulnerable. It’s very telling how highly Mr. Ballard thinks of them. Once again, it’s inspiring to hear what many of them have overcome, and how they have reacted to those heartbreaking situations.

I loved this book so much! I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read and review it. I highly recommend Slave Stealers by Timothy Ballard.

Content Rating RRating: R (There isn’t any profanity in this book, but it’s discussing human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. It is full of adult themes.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2xdnE2P

 

Slave Stealers Blog Tour

 

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Women of the Blue and Gray by Marianne Monson

Women of the Blue and Gray by Marianne Monson

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Book Review of Women of the Blue & Gray by Marianne Monson

When I was in high school, I took AP history from an amazing teacher. Her name was Kristie Pitts. Because of Mrs. Pitts, I passed the AP history test. Not only did she teach me about American history, she served as an example of an amazing woman. Mrs. Pitts was intelligent, engaging, compassionate, and caring. After I took her AP history class, she opened a new class. I am proud to say that I attended the very first Women in History class at my high school. It was an amazing class! We spent hours reading about the accomplishments of women in American history. There were women I had never heard of that accomplished so much. I loved that class, and I still look back at that time with fondness. I wish we had had this book back then! It would have been a great addition to the class. If you’re out there, Mrs. Pitts, this book review of Women of the Blue & Gray by Marianne Monson is dedicated to you!

Blurb:

“Hidden amongst the photographs, uniforms, revolvers, and war medals of the Civil War are the remarkable stories of some of the most unlikely heroes—women.

North, South, black, white, Native American, immigrant—the women in these micro-drama biographies are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends whose purposes ranged from supporting husbands and sons during wartime to counseling President Lincoln on strategy, from tending to the wounded on the battlefield to spiriting away slaves through the Underground Railroad, from donning a uniform and fighting unrecognized alongside the men to working as spies for either side.

This book brings to light the incredible stories of women from the Civil War that remain relevant to our nation today. Each woman’s experience helps us see a truer, fuller, richer version of what really happened in the country during this time period.”

My Book Review:

I have always loved learning about history, especially American history. The Revolutionary War is my favorite, but I also enjoy learning about the Civil War. I haven’t ever read a history book devoted solely to the contributions of the women of that era. When I heard about this book from the publicist, I immediately jumped in. Yes, of course I’ll review it!

I’m so glad I did. It is such a good book! I read it almost all in one day because I couldn’t put it down. I found it fascinating to learn about each of the women portrayed in the book. Although some women helped in conspicuous ways, others served in the background, never gaining recognition for her service. Some women worked as nurses and tended to the wounded, and others sacrificed their homes to the armies. I found it fascinating that women disguised themselves as men and fought on the front lines.

This book is very well written. The stories are engaging, and the women come to life on the page. There are some well-known women like Harriet Tubman and Clara Barton, and then there are lesser-known women like Anna Ella Carroll or Cornelia Peake McDonald. I love that women of all backgrounds, colors, and sides are discussed. It doesn’t matter whether the woman is from the North or the South, is black or white, or is Native or an immigrant, each played an important role.

I learned so much from this book! It was fun, and yet sobering, to look into the lives of each of these women. The amount of research Ms. Monson must have done is staggering. This book is well thought-out, well researched, and well written. Women of all kinds are highlighted, and there’s no judgment regarding her viewpoints.

I highly recommend this book for all junior high and high school American history classes, and for personal libraries. It’s important to remember the past so we don’t repeat it. And it’s important to hear voices from all sides. I loved hearing from these women! I’ll end with a quote from Ms. Monson because I think it sums everything up quite nicely:

…people on every side often need, more than anything else, an opportunity to be heard. They need to be heard even if they don’t look like us, think like us, and especially if they disagree with us. They particularly need to be heard if the dominant discourse tends to ignore their voices.

Sometimes, I think one of the most important acts of kindness we can do for one another is to listen—really listen—to each other’s stories.      

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (No profanity and no “intimacy.” This is a book about the Civil War, so there are stories of atrocities, death, disease, fighting, etc.)

Recommendation: YA and older

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2nRA9wr

 

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Book Review of Unshattered by Carol J. Decker

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Book Review of Unshattered by Carol J. Decker

I’m speechless. Seriously. This story is so amazing and inspiring. Carol went through the unimaginable and was able to overcome. For anyone going through a trial (Pretty much everyone, right?), this book is a must! As I read this book I found a profound sense of gratitude for those everyday things that I take for granted. My life has been changed for the better. I hope you enjoy my book review of Unshattered  by Carol J. Decker.

Blurb:

“On June 10, 2008, Carol Decker walked through the hospital doors a healthy woman with flu-like symptoms and early labor contractions. Three months later, she returned home a blind triple-amputee struggling to bond with a daughter she would never see.

Unshattered: Overcoming Tragedy and Choosing a Beautiful Life recounts Carol’s fight for survival against sepsis and its life-shattering complications. From excruciating skin grafts to learning how to function in daily life without lower legs, a left hand, or her sight, Carol takes us on a personal and raw yet inspiring journey. She travels through the darkness of trauma, anxiety, and depression to arrive, literally, at the peak of a mountain with a heart full of gratitude and love.

More than a story of triumph over tragedy, the book offers inspiring life lessons and insights that can help readers to do more than endure unimaginable pain and darkness in their own lives. This book can give them the perspective and strength to pick up the pieces of their own tragedies and choose a life of healing, purpose, and joy—a beautiful life.”

My Book Review:

Although I try to be grateful for all that I have, I know there are still so many things I take for granted. I have the ability to see, hear, walk on my two feet, and type with my two hands and ten fingers. Brushing my teeth is a piece of cake. When I need to go somewhere I hop in my car and drive there, or I walk or ride my bike. I get to see the beautiful faces of my husband and children all day long. Cooking dinner may not be my favorite thing, but I get to do it for my family each day.

Carol Decker doesn’t have many of these opportunities. The story she tells of her illness and consequential disabilities brought me to tears several times. I cannot imagine going through what she did. About the same time this was going on, my fourth baby was born 5 ½ weeks early. She was in the NICU for 15 days, and it was awful. I had three kids at home, and one of them had strep, so I couldn’t even enlist the help of babysitters. My husband would go see her on his lunch break and I’d go up to the hospital when he got home. This one thing was so hard for me, and this was only one small part of what Carol went through.

Her writing is engaging and well written. She just sucks you right into her story. It’s a fast, easy read, but there isn’t anything fast or easy about her story. It’s amazing. Seriously amazing. Her ability to pull herself out of this tragedy and find light and positivity is an example to all. It would have been so easy for her to give up and live life as a victim, but she chose to live instead. This is such a powerful lesson!

I loved, loved, loved this book! I will be recommending it to everyone I see, I’m sure. And my three oldest children will be reading this book for sure. This past year has been rough for my oldest, and I think he will really benefit from her positive attitude, hard work, and accomplishments. Unshattered is a book that doesn’t leave you when you close the final page. I finished it last night, but haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. In my prayers last night I thanked my Heavenly Father for all my blessings. I am so full of gratitude for all that I have, and I will not be taking the little things for granted anymore.

What can you learn from this book? So many things! Never give up, find the joy in the simplest of things, and have a positive attitude. Surround yourself with good people, it’s okay to ask for help, allow people to help you, and work hard for your dreams and goals. Life is hard and not fair—get over it and move forward with gratitude and hope. Family is everything.

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy” in this book. However, there are some graphic descriptions of medical procedures, and suicide is discussed.)

Recommendation: YA (12-18) and up

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here:https://amzn.to/2xL38Kf 

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I'm Possible by Jeff Griffin  Overcoming and Avoiding Illness by James Lilley
 

Book Review of Boying Up by Mayim Bialik, PhD

Boying Up by Mayim Bialik

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Book Review of Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant by Mayim Bialik, Phd

Ugh! The dreaded talk. You know the one. The talk that everyone should have with their kids. The one where you have to use real names for body parts and go into details about the birds and the bees. Yeah, I know that talk. My husband and I decided that he would talk with our boys and I would talk with our girls. We have two of each. He’s already talked with our boys, and I have had the talk with one of our girls. One more to go for me. This book is great for a follow-up of that talk. Here’s my book review of Boying Up by Mayim Bialik, PhD.

Blurb:

“Growing from a boy into a man is no simple feat. Bodies are changing, social circles are evolving, hair is appearing in places it never was before—and on top of it all, there’s the ever-present pressure to conform to the typical idea of what it means to be ‘manly’ and masculine. But it’s easier to Boy Up if you’re armed with facts.

Want to know why your voice cracks like that? What you should eat to build muscle, or how to talk to someone you have a crush on? How about if someone bullies you or spreads rumors about you?

Using her own experience as a mom of boys and plenty of scientific information, Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist and star of The Big Bang Theory, talks about what it means to grow from a boy to a man biologically, psychologically and sociologically.

Want to be brave, bold and brilliant? You can! Start by reading this book.”

My Book Review:

This book is packed with great information! Mayim Bialik does not mince words. She speaks boldly and bravely about everything that happens when boys grow into men. The first thing she discusses is anatomy for boys and girls. There are even drawings to go along with it. It’s very straightforward and accurate. She uses the correct names for everything and says it like it is. I like that she even goes into the science of X and Y chromosomes and DNA.

Throughout the book, Mayim talks a lot about how everyone is different. She discusses how there isn’t one right way to be a boy. It’s so good to hear because there are stereotypes for boys just like there are for girls. She talks about how it’s ok for boys to like different things and look different from each other. Not all boys need to like cars and sports.

I love the section on how to take care of their bodies. I think all YA boys need to read this section. Seriously. I know they want to survive on soda pop and candy bars. Mayim goes into a lot of detail about how much water to drink each day, proper nutrition, and mindfulness when eating. She also talks about the importance of exercising. She gives lots of different ways to exercise; it doesn’t need to be football practice for every boy.

Mayim doesn’t stop there. I loved the chapter on how boys learn. She is a neuroscientist, so she has very detailed and interesting scientific facts. One thing I thought was really good was when she discussed the culture of media among boys and how they like video games and such. I guess there is actually science behind why boys get all competitive and like to win.

She does talk about why some boys are more bothered by violence and other things in media. I agree that there are different sensitivity levels. I also think that sometimes that is because children are desensitized by watching violence and more adult themes when they are too young. I don’t allow my children to watch PG-13 movies until they are 13. And even then, there are certain movies I won’t let them watch until they are older.

How boys love is the next chapter in the book. Mayim goes into intimacy, but intimacy as in getting to know someone well and making ourselves vulnerable. She talks about relationships with family and friends and how those can change over time. One thing she goes into more detail about is “Brotherhood” and boys as “their buddies, their bros, their homeboys, their dudes, their posse.” There are lots of different places that boys can find their peeps.

Then, yes, Mayim discusses the science of romance. I think it’s great to point these things out to boys so they understand what they’re experiencing. She talks about physical things that happen when boys are around someone they may be interested in. Things like sweating, dry mouth, and babbling. Ha! It’s good to know it happens to boys too. She goes into greater detail about attraction, dating, and courtship. This includes physical “intimacy.”

I know it’s hard for most parents to discuss this with their children. It is for me! It’s essential, though. Mayim goes into detail about it, of course using correct body part names and how it occurs. One thing she stresses is that it does feel good, but it is primarily to make babies. And that if you are doing it, you will most likely make a baby at some point. This is a good reminder for teenagers with raging hormones.

She talks about how waiting until marriage used to be the norm, but isn’t as common now.  We have stressed to our children that waiting until marriage is important. I think it’s important because it is so intimate. There are emotions and feelings that occur when people are intimate in that way, and being in a stable, strong relationship is important. Then, if babies come, there is already a foundation for that family. She also discusses that it’s a special thing; it’s not evil and you shouldn’t be afraid of it either. But use precautions. Be safe.

This book goes deep into many things that are difficult to talk about. It’s very informative. Although there is a lot of information, good and very detailed information, Mayim does a great job of making it accessible. Her writing is so easy to read; it’s not awkward or scary or anything. This book should be used as a companion to a parental discussion. It would be great to have your son read a chapter and discuss it, or discuss it at the end. Boys and dads could read it together. My boys might die if I read it with them.

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (This book goes in depth about human anatomy and physical “intimacy.” It’s the birds and the bees talk plus a whole lot more.)

Recommendation: YA (I would strongly recommend that parents either read it before or with their boys. Only parents know what each child can handle.)

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2LbCHAe

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Girls Who Code: Lights, Music, Code! (Book #3) by Jo Whittenmore the hundred dresses  To the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger
 
 

Review of The Nantucket Sea Monster by Darcy Pattison

The Nantucket Sea Monster by Darcy Pattison

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Book Review of The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattison

Lately it seems like there has been a lot of discussion about fake news stories. I don’t think I’d heard much about fake news stories until just a few years ago. Because they have been focused on, it makes it seem like printing fake news stories is a new thing. Apparently it’s not! Which sadly makes me feel better. In 1937 there was a story printed about a sea monster off of the coast of Nantucket. Was it real? Were the people of Nantucket doomed to live in daily fear for their lives? Find out more in my book review of The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattison.

Blurb:

“Do you believe everything you read in the newspaper? Early in August 1937, a news flash came: a sea monster had been spotted lurking off the shore of Nantucket Island. Historically, the Massachusetts island had served as port for whaling ships. Eyewitnesses swore this wasn’t a whale, but some new, fearsome creature. As eyewitness account[s] piled up, newspaper stories of the sea monster spread quickly. Across the nation, people shivered in fear.

This nonfiction picture book is a perfect story to start discussions about non-political fake news stories.”

My Book Review:

I haven’t ever heard of this story before! I’m glad that Ms. Pattison has brought it to life for us to learn from. I think the story is well written. It explains the story well and is easy to read and understand. The fact that it’s a nonfiction picture book is great, of course.

The illustrations are a little different, but are bright colored and fun. It does have the feel of an earlier time; say maybe 1937? I think they’re well done, and I like the layout of the pages with the speech bubbles, the big headline font, and the quote boxes.

Reading this book to a class (or family) would be a great way to start a discussion about non-political fake news stories. It offers a safe way to discuss the pros and cons and the whys of fake news stories. I think it would be fun to split the class into two and have one half write real news stories and the other half write fake news stories. Then try to figure out which ones are which. It’d also be fun to have kids create their own sea monsters.

If nothing else, it’s a fun way to get kids interested in reading about history!  

Content Rating GRating: G (It’s clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2InM6D0

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Hail to the Chief by Callista Gingrich What are You Thinking by Valerie Ackley  Discover America by Katherine Lee Bates
 
 

Book Review of Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

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Book Review of Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I have heard so much about this book. It has been recommended to me several times. I put it on hold at the library and didn’t receive it for a few months–that’s how popular it is. And now I can see why. From the very beginning of this book I felt like it was written for me. It spoke to me! Seriously. Weird. It’s kind of creepy that Greg McKeown, the author, knows me so well. Of course he doesn’t know me at all, but wow, I think he wrote this for me. I hope it helps you as much as it has already helped me! Please enjoy my book review of Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

 

Blurb:

“Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?

Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?

Are you often busy but not productive?

Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist.

Essentialism is more than a time-management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.

By forcing us to apply more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy—instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing—it’s a whole new way of doing everything. It’s about doing less, but better, in every area of our lives. Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.”

My Book Review:

As I stated above, I have heard a lot about this book. It’s been recommended to me a few times, and I’ve heard about it on podcasts and from other people. Now that I’ve read it, I can see why it came so highly recommended. I’ve been converted to Essentialism for sure! It makes so much sense. The philosophy is truly life changing.

I’m a people pleaser and a rule follower. My husband is always getting on me because I can’t say no. I’ll take on whatever anyone asks of me, and then I get bogged down and stressed, and I don’t have enough time to do it all. Well, not anymore! This book has liberated me. It has given me permission to say no, and I’m going to use it! Honestly, it’s going to be hard. A lifetime of apparently bad habits will not be easy to change, but I am going to try really hard because I need to. For my family and me, this could be life changing.

The book is so well written. Greg McKeown has a way with words. It’s easy to read and understand, it flows well, and it is so inspiring. He makes it all seem so easy, so hopefully it will be. I love the formatting of this book. There are a few illustrations, and some pages are white on black. He uses really big fonts to highlight important points, and it’s eye catching.

The chapters are broken down into bite size pieces. Each chapter begins with a quote, which I love. Then he makes sure to state how an Essentialist would think in certain situations compared to how a Nonessentialist would think in the same situations. Ooops! I usually fit under the Nonessentialist way of thinking, but that is already changing. The writing is clear and concise and does a great job of illustrating his points.

As stated above, I got this book from the library, but I think I need to buy it because I want to highlight and bookmark almost the whole thing. I want to remember what he said because I know it’s going to take time to change my way of thinking. This is one of those rare books that I know I will want to reference time and time again. To be able to take back the control in my life will be amazing. What? I can choose? Seriously. How do we forget that we have agency? I love this book, and I highly recommend it. 

Content Rating GRating: G (It’s clean. There’s nothing inappropriate in it.)

Recommendation: 16+

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2HPdcCM

 

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