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 Cash Valley by Ryan K. Nelson

Cash Valley by Ryan K. Nelson

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Book Review of Cash Valley by Ryan K. Nelson

I graduated from Utah State University—Go Aggies!—which is located in beautiful Cache Valley, Utah. It really is beautiful. There are mountains on both sides of the valley with many fields and lots of open space. It has grown significantly, even since I attended school there. My husband and I wish we could have stayed, but there weren’t enough jobs. When Ryan Nelson contacted me earlier this year about reading his book, I had a long list of books I had already scheduled to review. Knowing it was about Cache Valley, though, I couldn’t resist. It’s taken me awhile, but I finally read it. I hope you enjoy my book review of Cash Valley by Ryan K. Nelson!


Utah-State-University-aerial-small  Utah-State-University-Old-Main-vertical-small  

 

Blurb (from Goodreads.com):

 

“When FBI Agent Alex Travis receives an anonymous phone call on a September morning in 1954, with a tip concerning the now cold case of the Cache County Bank robbery, it has his undivided attention. The tip leads Travis to the top of the secluded Green Canyon in Logan, Utah, where a young man named Jack Pepper proceeds to tell a story. It spans the two years from the time of the robbery, when he and his girlfriend, Kate Austin, stumbled upon the crime of the century for the Cache Valley. Travis must decide if he is dealing with the suspects or the victims of one of the largest bank robberies in U.S. history.

To get the answers, it will take one more trip up the canyon, to the entrance of the Spring Hollow Mine, where the daylight ends and the cold dark begins.”

 

My Book Review:

This book hooked me from the beginning. Agent Travis of the FBI receives an anonymous phone call. The caller says he has a tip about the Cache County Bank robbery, which is Travis’ case. The caller doesn’t give any information except to tell him where to meet this mysterious person. Agent Travis is perplexed. Should he trust this caller? Does he need to take back-up or is he ok to go alone? In the end, he decides to go alone.

I like Agent Travis’ character. He seems like a good, hard working, decent guy. His character is well developed and likable. I did think the part in the beginning where he is telling his wife the history of Sardine Canyon (the canyon you drive through to get to Logan from Salt Lake City) was cheesy and unnecessary. When Agent Travis meets Jack, the whole thing is still a bit mysterious, which I liked. As a reader, you don’t know if you should trust Jack or not.

Jack’s character is a bit more mysterious to start off. As you learn his story, you begin to trust him. However, in the back of your mind you’re still wondering if you should trust him or not. I liked how he was written in that way. Then later, when Kate comes into the picture, you start to see more of the full story. I liked how the plot unfolded like that. I also liked Kate a lot. Her character is also well developed, likeable, and realistic.

The whole plot line seemed mostly realistic. There were a couple of parts that I thought were a bit of a stretch, but they made it more exciting to read. I liked how it all came together in the end; everyone kind of ended up where they should have.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked reading about the canyons; it made me want to take my kids up there and do some exploring! And if you’re ever up on the USU campus, make sure you get some Aggie ice cream; it’s the best!!

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG-13+ (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy.” There’s some violence, though. It includes murder, an almost-rape, fighting, and the death of at least one character.)

Recommendation: 16 years-old and up

My Rating: 3/5

3 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/2LTAsVt

 

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Book Review of What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

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Book Review of What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

If I could go back in time and live for a week anywhere I wanted, I’d choose Victorian England. Of course, I’d be picky and choose to be a wealthy person. I’d love to walk the sprawling gardens of the grand estates. It’d be amazing to dance at the balls and wear the beautiful gowns. Just for a week, I’d love to write with a quill pen and ride in carriages. What do you think? Where would you go? I love the Jane Austen era, and am so excited about this book! I hope you enjoy my book review of What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean.

Blurb:

England, 1813 – Nineteen-year-old Catherine Bennet lives in the shadow of her two eldest sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, who have both made excellent marriages. No one expects Kitty to amount to anything. Left at home in rural Hertfordshire with her neurotic and nagging mother, and a father who derides her as ‘silly and ignorant’, Kitty is lonely, diffident and at a loss as to how to improve her situation.

When her world unexpectedly expands to London and the Darcy’s magnificent country estate in Derbyshire, she is overjoyed. Keen to impress this new society, and to change her family’s prejudice, Kitty does everything she can to improve her mind and manners – and for the first time feels liked and respected.

However, one fateful night at Pemberley, a series of events and misunderstandings conspire to ruin Kitty’s reputation. Accused of theft – a crime worse almost worse than murder among the Georgian aristocracy – she is sent back home in disgrace. But Kitty has learnt from her new experiences and what she does next will not only surprise herself, but everyone else too.

Based on Jane Austen’s much-loved characters, this is the story of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the obstacles of her time and place and truly find herself.

My Book Review:

Oh, how I love Jane Austen! I know several friends who cannot stand her writing (you know who you are…), but I love it. I love the crafted language. I love the detail in the characters and their descriptions. It may bore some people, but I love that the stories are NOT action-packed. The people are the main focus, and I love how the stories play around the people and their experiences and thoughts.

What does that have to do with today’s book review? Well friends, I think we may have found a book that is as close to a Jane Austen as we’re going to get in today’s world! Today’s books are marked by action. My own kids have been sucked in, much to my chagrin! If it’s not one action scene followed by another, it’s boring. Well, they’ll be bored if they read this book, but I loved it!

The language was very well crafted. I read it on my Kindle and it turned out to be a good thing because of all the definitions I had to look up. My kids asked if I felt stupid needing to look up so many words and I definitely said, “No!” I loved it! They think I’m weird, for sure. I may not be the “cool” or “hip” mom anymore, but that’s ok with me. I’m smarter because of it.

The time Ms. Kablean took to develop the characters showed off. Each of them were well developed, realistic, and unique. Each had his or her own personality that was different from everyone else’s. They had their own voices. And they each had their own journey to take in the story. I loved watching them grow and come into themselves as the story went along.

I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books, and have loved them. This book comes as close as I think I’ll get to more Jane Austen stories. They may be Carrie Kablean stories, not Jane Austen stories, but the feeling is the same. The crafted language is very similar, and the attention to detail is mighty close. The only thing I didn’t love was the title. It was not my favorite; I think it could have been better. Other than that, I loved this book. I just got caught up in the feeling of the story, the language of the story, and the characters’ lives.

If you like Jane Austen books, and even if you don’t, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s not fast-paced or action-packed. It’s not about the superhero that swoops in to save the day, or the super powers, it’s about life and the people in it. It is about truth, friendship, trust, love, care, concern, honesty, values, and family. It’s about falling in love and having your heart broken, and it’s about picking yourself up, learning from it, and moving forward. Life. I loved it.

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy” in this book. There is some brief sibling fighting, along with talk of gambling and stealing. One character does die-you don’t see it, you just hear of it after.)

Recommendation: YA (12-18) and up

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I received 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/2lCwZeW

 

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This book review is dedicated to my good friend Andy who passed away this week after a six year battle with brain cancer. He leaves my dear friend Betsie and their three beautiful daughters behind. He was an amazing guy and will be greatly missed. Love ya Andy! 
 
 

Book Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Book Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

People ask me all the time what my all-time favorite book is. Well, here it is! I have LOVED Les Misérables for many, many years. I saw the Broadway play when I was younger, and it hooked me. I’ve read this book at least three times. The unabridged version, of course (1,463 pages)! I love, love, love it. Please enjoy my book review of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Did I mention that it’s my FAVORITE book??

Blurb:

“Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.”

My Book Review:

Wow! Where to start? This book is amazing. Simply amazing. It is my all-time favorite book! I LOVE this book! The character development is unsurpassed. Each character comes to life on the page. Hugo’s attention to the details about the characters allows them to become a part of your life. They become beloved friends, hated enemies, and family. These characters don’t disappear with the closing of the book, either. They stay on your mind for days and years after. You wonder about them, long to see them again.

There’s a lot of history in this book. To some people it may be too much, but I love every word of it. I thoroughly enjoy learning about the French Revolution and its key players. Hugo somehow manages to make it exciting. Now, if you’re not really a fan of long history lessons, you may enjoy the (gasp!) abridged version instead. I, however, love the history and the descriptions of the time period. I love the intricacy and craft of Hugo’s writing. No one writes like that anymore, and I wish they did.

Les Misérables is filled with emotion. As you read you’ll feel the whole range of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get angry, and you’ll begin to see your own life differently. You’ll look at how you treat people, and how others are treated. You will feel gratitude for your blessings and circumstances. Yes, there are still unkind people and there are still unjust circumstances, but overall, living conditions have drastically improved since then.

If you want a new friend, one that will be with you for awhile, then this book is for you. You’ll have this friend with you for the rest of your life. It takes a long time to read this book, but while you read it becomes a part of you. I cry the last 200 pages. Seriously. I don’t ever want it to end. Please read this book then call me so we can talk about it! I love this book so much and I highly recommend it!

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG-13+ (There are war-time atrocities and themes along with prostitution. Some characters die, and there are other adult themes.)

Recommendation: 16+ years-old

My Rating: 5/5

5 Star Book Review Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here:

 

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This review was first published on 09/24/09; updated on 6/18/18.
 

Book Review of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

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Book Review of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Have you seen the movie? Then you need to read the book! It’s better, of course! Dan Brown is so good at creating this world where you get caught up in the suspense and the mystery. He masterfully connects the mysterious to the symbolic, and then adds just enough reality to make you really wonder. Is this true? If you’re looking for a fast, entertaining, suspenseful read, then this is the book for you. I hope you enjoy my book review of The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

Blurb:

“An ingenious code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci.

A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe.

An astonishing truth concealed for centuries…unveiled at last.

As millions of readers around the globe have already discovered, The Da Vinci Code is a reading experience unlike any other. Simultaneously lightning-paced, intelligent, and intricately layered with remarkable research and detail, Dan Brown’s novel is a thrilling masterpiece—from its opening pages to its stunning conclusion.”

My Book Review:

This is an oldie but goodie. If you can believe it, this is one of the first books I reviewed, way back in April of 2009! My reviews looked very different back then, so I’m updating it today in hopes of making it more readable and helpful. I really enjoyed this book. If you can remember when it came out, there were lots of History Channel documentaries about the Knights of the Templar and the theory behind this book.  I have to admit that I was enthralled. Is any of it true? Probably not, but it makes for a very engaging story!

This is a definite thriller that keeps you reading. The curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris is brutally murdered and positioned in a strange and symbolic way—in the Louvre. American professor Robert Langdon happens to be in Paris and is awakened by the French police at his hotel room. They ask for his help in solving the murder. Langdon goes to the Louvre and surveys the gruesome murder scene.

Unfortunately for Langdon, this is only the beginning of his adventure. The police turn on Langdon and accuse him of the murder; Sophie Neveu, a cryptographer, helps him escape. They go together to put the pieces of the mystery together. While trying to solve the mystery, they run into many twists and turns. They also learn why they were both picked for this adventure.

I really liked this book. I had watched the movie first, so some of the surprises weren’t surprises, but it was still really good. It’s so interesting how Dan Brown meshes the symbolic with mystery, reality, and the truth. He adds just enough truth to make it seem plausible. It leaves you wondering if he found some secret, ancient document that provided him with the information.

If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining, high-action book for summer, check out The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I think you’ll enjoy it! Have you already read this book? What did you think??

Content Rating PG-13+Content Rating: PG-13+ (There’s very little profanity and no “intimacy” in this book. There is, however, some violence including a gruesome murder, fighting, and the death of several characters.)

Recommendation: 16 years-old and up

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2Jm1ynm

 

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This review was first published on 4/28/09; updated on 6/7/18.
 

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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Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance by David Ahern

Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance by David Ahern

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Book Review of Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance by David Ahern

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, but it wasn’t the adventure I found in its pages. Wow! What a ride! I hope you enjoy m book review of Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance by David Ahern.

Blurb:

“A surprise role in a movie takes actress Derry O’Donnell to a romantic castle in the Scottish Highlands.  But romance soon turns to fear and suspicion.  Someone means to kill, and Derry, moonlighting as celebrity fortune-teller Madam Tulip, is snared in a net of greed, conspiracy and betrayal.

A millionaire banker, a film producer with a mysterious past, a gun-loving wife, a PA with her eyes on Hollywood, a handsome and charming estate manager—each has a secret to share and a request for Madam Tulip.  As  Derry and her friend Bruce race to prevent a murder, she learns to her dismay that the one future Tulip can’t predict is her own.

Madame Tulip and the Bones of Chance is the third in a series of thrilling and hilarious Tulip adventures in which Derry O’Donnell, celebrity fortune-teller and reluctant amateur detective, plays the most exciting and perilous roles of her acting life, drinks borage tea, and fails to understand her parents.”

My Book Review:

Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball and could predict the future. Wouldn’t that be nice? Then other times I’m happy to be surprised. If you could see what was coming would you do things differently? Would it change how you live your life, how you treat people, and how you react? Would it make you second guess yourself? A little deep, I know, but it makes me curious.

Derry is a fun character. I like how particular she is about her Madam Tulip costume and props. She has a cute personality. Derry is not particularly intuitive when it comes to herself and how others feel about her. She tends to miss major clues. When it comes to other people, though, she does a little better. Sometimes I thought she acted as a strong character, and other times I was a bit disappointed by her lack of action.

I am not one to believe in crystal balls or tarot cards. Unfortunately, Madam Tulip would not see me in her booth. She does make for a fun character though. The story line is pretty good. There were a few side stories that didn’t really add to the plot line, but I guess they gave you a little more insight into Derry’s life. It’s well written and exciting. There are some crazy twists; I thought one of them was a bit unbelievable, but by then I was into the story and couldn’t put it down.

I liked the writing style, the descriptions, and the character development. There were a lot of characters, though, and I could not keep them straight. Even at the end I had a difficult time remembering who certain characters were. I liked Bruce a lot, and think that maybe Derry should pay a little more attention to him.

Overall, this is a fun and entertaining read. I’d read more of the Madam Tulip books.

Content Rating PG-13Rating: PG-13 (There’s only a little bit of profanity in this book. There isn’t any “intimacy.” Although there is some brief violence, it isn’t overly graphic.)

Recommendation: 16+

My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2J1cvdr

Disclosure: I did receive a free book in exchange for my honest review. This did not sway my opinion in any way.

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the book thief by markus zusak An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
 

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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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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