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This is the Day:
Reclaim Your Dream. Ignite Your Passion. Live Your Purpose.
by Tim Tebow
with A. J. Gregory
The wisdom, insights, and inspiration in Tim Tebow’s This is the Day are timeless, but I think it is particularly appropriate that it popped up in my reading queue at the first of the new year when peoples’ thoughts turn to renovating their lives. I knew little about Tim Tebow, but I now know that although he is an athletic star, his goal is to help others and humbly point attention on Jesus.
This book will inspire you to be your best and find your path through the strength of Jesus. Tebow tries to walk out his life according to Biblical principles. He is all about following God, loving others, and doing his best. He is also realistic about life’s challenges.
Sometimes nonfiction can be a slower read than fiction, but that is not the case with This is the Day. Tebow intertwines his own background and anecdotes from his life with Biblical truths. He never claims to be perfect, make all the right choices, or have an easy life. He also doesn’t claim to have all the right answers for everyone else’s life. He does, however, know how to come alongside people from all backgrounds and situations and pray with them. He knows how to point people to his best friend, Jesus.
This is the Day does not really fit any category other than nonfiction. Sports aficionados will love it. People, like me, who give a “deer in the headlights stare” when someone mentions the name of a sports team will love it. This book is for men, women, and teens. It is for Christians and those seeking God. It is for people at the top of their life game and for those suffering, struggling and wondering why life is the way it is. I recommend this book for everyone. I think you’ll be amazed and surprised at the wisdom and truths found in the inspirational This is the Day. It can be a life changer for you.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality
Notes: The memorable lines highlighted in This is the Day greatly exceeded the number I usually mark, so consider the ones mentioned below just a tiny taste of the inspiration to be found in this book.
Publication: November 25, 2018—WaterBrook
God gives us today as a gift. He wants us to pursue it, not just for selfish ambition but to do something meaningful with it. To use it to grow, to love others well, to help someone, to pursue a dream He’s put on our hearts.
…part of living this way means being confident that regardless of what happens in life or with our pursuits, God’s going to use it. He will use for the good our failures, our mistakes, our detours, and our U-turns, just like He will use our successes.
When you keep wondering what could have been or what you should have done differently, here’s what happens: you miss the present moment and cripple your potential in the future.
Our Gift-Giving God: A Devotional
by Andrea Levin Kim
In Our Gift-Giving God, Andrea Levin Kim centers the devotional around eight gifts from God to us, each paired with a traditional Christmas symbol. The author suggests beginning on the first day of December and learning about and meditating on each gift for three days. Each gift and supporting Bible verses are followed by questions and a prayer. The book concludes with the gift of Christmas. Alternate schedules are provided for those who would like to associate the gifts with Hanukkah or with the use of particular Christmas symbols throughout the season. Regardless of how you choose to use Our Gift-Giving God, you will be blessed as you prepare for Christmas by studying Scriptures that focus your thoughts on the role of Jesus in your life, not only as a child in a manger or a humble miracle-working man, but as the Savior of the world who sacrificed his own life so that you can have eternal life.
Our Gift-Giving God is sweetly illustrated by Carissa Robertson with simple line with watercolor pictures. The symbols are traditional for Christmas but may be associated with a gift you might not have anticipated. For example, a decked out fireplace is paired with new beginnings and angels with the concept of mercy. Andrea Levin Kim makes her points quite well, and you will come away with a deeper understanding of God’s love, provision, and sacrifice. I recommend this book for a scripturally based devotional with a fresh approach to the Advent season.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lucid Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Religious
Notes: 1. The purpose of this book is not to address the historical origins of various Christmas symbols, but to help prepare the reader’s heart for a celebration of the birth of Christ.
2. The suggested timelines for reading the book are truly only suggestions. I worked my reading of it into my schedule and was blessed by it.
Publication: November 19, 2018—Lucid Books
Accepting this gospel gift of approval humbles us and fills us with a deeper desire to love and serve the Giver with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love others out of that secure place of the covering of His approval. He will never love you less and He cannot love you more because His love and approval are perfect…
God’s words about real joy are like notes that together sing of the truth of a gospel gift that cannot be drowned out, that never lies, that is never upstaged or outshined by an emotion or circumstance, a song that never gets old or outdated but invites us to dance in step with Him. His word reveals a joy that is not only catchy, but catching, not only memorable, but lasting; not only uplifting, but a reminder that the Savior raises us up and seats us with Him.
The secret ingredient of the Lord’s gift of joy is the Lord Himself—God with us, Immanuel. It’s not what He can do for us or the multitude of blessings He delivers, although they are certainly good.
Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard
by Tracie Miles
I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t encountered some difficult circumstance or season in their life. In Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard, Tracie Miles offers a different perspective on life for the person struggling. She walks the reader through many aspects of looking to enjoy the life you have even if it is not the life you hoped for. This is not a list of tips and tricks, although each chapter does end with a challenge, questions to reflect on, an action item, a prayer, and an invitation to smile.
Tracie comes alongside you as a friend, one who has experienced the depths of desperation herself. She encourages you to recognize Satan as the enemy and to fight back by drawing closer to God. She shares the importance of loving and valuing yourself and reaching out to help others. She advocates forgiving yourself, if needed, and forgiving those who have wronged you. As you work through the book, Tracie will help you focus on God and the people God puts in your path. She will show you how to turn complaining into praising and convert stressful thinking into thankfulness. Tracie Miles is not offering an instant remedy, but she is sharing a road to contentment through faith in Christ and by drawing close to his sheltering love.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction
Notes: written primarily for women
Publication: August 1, 2018—David C. Cooke
Sweet friend, you don’t have to search for a different life in order to enjoy life; you simply have to embrace the one you have by putting Christ at the center and asking Him to help you enjoy life, despite life.
There came a time I had to accept that my life had not turned out the way I thought it would and no amount of wishing it were different was going to change it.
All too often we think our enemy is society, people, circumstances, or hardships. But the reality is that Satan is our enemy, not people or circumstances. While he is not in control of this world and what happens, he can wage war on our hearts and minds. He can convince us that we have a right to be grumpy and no reason to be joyful. He can feed us nagging lies to keep us discouraged, angry, unforgiving, or without hope.
by Becky Kiser
I’ll admit it: I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. My efforts to achieve a Norman Rockwell holiday a la Pinterest are integrated into the midst of a mishmash of emotional chaos and wonderful childhood memories. Sacred Holidays caught my eye as I realized Becky Kiser had written a book dealing with some of the issues I and many others have with the holidays. She aptly subtitles her book Less Chaos, More Jesus. This is in many ways a reference book designed to be adapted to the reader’s choices about holidays. it should be written in and referred back to during the year and over the years.
First, Kiser talks to the reader about her own journey at simplifying the holidays and putting the focus on Jesus. She stresses the need to change your mindset about the holidays before you begin, in the second part, to baby step your way through individual holidays and decisions about how and why you choose to celebrate the way you do. Lastly she addresses “common struggles” people face. She discusses how to have a Jesus focus without losing the whimsy that makes a holiday special for both children and adults. Other topics include grief during the holidays, realistic expectations, and budgets and generosity. She talks openly and honestly about the Santa Claus dilemma for Christians. Spoiler alert: there is no one right answer! It’s a decision you need to prayerfully make for your family.
As a reader preparing to review the book, it seemed top-heavy with Scriptures, BUT if I were studying a particular holiday trying to ferret out the traditions I would most like to choose for my family, I think they would be valuable. What appeals to me most about this book is the emphasis on creativity. Readers bring to the table traditions they might want to continue, but they can also use suggestions from the book or create new traditions all on their own. The place to start your planning is probably not the 50 pins you scored on Pinterest last night. Simplifying and being able to say “no” are key tools in making memories for your family’s holidays.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to B & H Publishing Group for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Crafts & Hobbies
Notes: This book is not just for families, but can be used by singles equally well. It is for those with and those without kids.
Publication: October 16, 2018—B & H Publishing Group
Holidays can be especially tricky to navigate as a Christian—wanting to celebrate and focus on Christ yet being pulled into the chaos or whimsy of each holiday.
Let’s stop living life in survival mode, constantly on the defense, a victim of our schedules and the expectations of others. Instead, let’s live sacred—holy and set apart—with our holidays having less chaos, and more Jesus.
I am better for the choices I’m learning to make. I am doing exactly what I feel most called to do, and it’s because I am learning to say no to all the little good things that may not be my best things.
So let’s take our eyes off of what everyone else seems to be doing and focus more on what God says we should be doing.
The Escape Artists
by Neal Bascomb
War is such a horrible thing—vicious, destructive, and despicable. It brings out the worst and the best in man. We see both in Neal Bascomb’s true recounting of the largest escape of WWI by the British at one time—twenty-nine officers of whom ten actually made it out of Germany to Holland without being recaptured.
Bascomb’s well-researched tale The Escape Artists is divided into four major sections. In the first, “Capture,” he provides a glimpse into the personalities and lives of some of the major players in the escape, their role in the military, and the circumstances of their capture.
The second section, “All Roads Lead to Hellminden,” describes a number of interment camps but focuses especially on notorious twin commandants, Karl and Heinrich Niemeyer. Both prisoners and commandants could be transferred at whim in Germany and being transferred could be positive or negative for a prisoner. This section details life in the camp and shows a better situation for officers than that experienced by enlisted soldiers who were put in labor camps. Officers, instilled with the patriotic drive to do whatever they could to hinder the enemy and return home to fight again, spent a lot of their energy devising and executing escape plans. If their attempts were unsuccessful or they were recaptured, the punishment was generally a long and uncomfortable time in a small isolation cell—dark, very hot or very cold, dirty, overrun with vermin, and little food. This trial on the body, mind, and spirit might last several days, weeks or months. Nevertheless, instead of deterring escape attempts, it prodded the officers into yet more clever tries.
“The Tunnel” describes the huge group effort spearheaded by an officer named Gray to construct a very long tunnel and plan how to proceed once outside the walls of Holzminden. All of the background material in the first two sections was essential, but at this point the story really takes off and you will want to keep reading until finished. The last section. “Breakout,” shares the actual escape attempt.
To write this book, Bascomb read a lot of books on the escape and the interment camps, interviewed descendants of the officers, and relied greatly on primary documents including memoirs and letters from the time. His narrative style is effective and the subject matter is interesting. Having read several books on labor and death camps, it was interesting to read about the British officers, drawn from all over the globe. Many of them were young pilots from exclusive schools and families. They had little training, but were very patriotic and had a honed sense of duty and honor. One surprising detail for me was that the imprisoned officers were able to write to their families and receive packages and money from them. Not everything went smoothly in that process, but they were better off than those in labor camps. They even had orderlies from the enlisted ranks of prisoners to make their beds, etc. This was not a luxury situation by any means, and the men were quite bored and frustrated whiling away time when they felt they should be fighting.
Neal Bascomb is a former journalist who turned to writing nonfiction books full-time in 2000. He is the award winning author of nine books for adults and three for young adults.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication: September 18, 2018—Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The greatest resistance of all would be to escape.
None of the diplomats gathered in The Hague in 1899 or 1907 could have anticipated the vast populations of prisoners that would come out of industrialized total war—nor the challenges this would involve. In the first six months of World War I, 1.3 million soldiers became POWs across Europe.
The arrival in December of Harold Medlicott had bolstered the mood throughout the camp. The officers believed that if anybody could escape Holzminden and humiliate Karl Niemeyer, it was Medlicott. A legend even to the German guards, he had broken out of nine camps already, never using the same method twice.
Harvey might not get another chance to escape, but in aiding Cartwright, as in countless other efforts to help his fellow prisoners, he found freedom within. In his own way, he was a breakout artist.
The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America
The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America
by Heather Won Tesoriero
Heather Won Tesoriero spent a year in Andy Bramante’s science research classroom. Andy, a former analytic chemist, left the corporate world to become a teacher, to make a difference. He and his students are award-winning, and The Class gives an in-depth look, not at what he does in his classroom as a model for cookie cutter programs across the nation, but at the teacher Andy and how he cares about his students and helps them be independent, creative thinkers in science and in their personal lives.
Andy’s students have to apply to be in his class which is centered around independent research and participation in multiple science fairs. Success in the science fairs can result in prize monies and affect college admissions. Along the way, the students learn advanced science (often in multiple fields), self-discipline, how to use professional scientific instrumentation, research methodology, and presentation skills.
The students in The Class live in tony and highly competitive Greenwich, Connecticut. Most would be considered nerds and most, but certainly not all, are from upper-class families. Many are children of immigrants and those parents are highly motivated to see their children succeed. Many of these very intelligent teenagers are also talented in other areas such as athletics and music. They will all go to good colleges.
The Class is formatted according to the school year with chapters about various students and Andy as they move through the seasons. We read of the students’ personal struggles as teenagers as well as their attempts to find a topic for research and bring their project to fruition. It doesn’t take long to become engaged in their struggles and begin to root for a good outcome.
This book has widespread appeal partly because the author seems to be invested in the subjects of her writing and makes them come to life. I learned a lot about the current world of college admissions. I must admit that the science involved in many of the projects was beyond the scope of my science background, but was explained well. I recommend The Class and wish Andy and his students well in their future endeavors.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Nonfiction (Adult), Science
Notes: 1. Some casual swearing throughout the book by both teacher and students.
2. The author made several snide slurs about the current presidency. Those remarks seem unnecessary and politically motivated. They are supposed to reflect conversations she heard, but they certainly seemed couched in her language, especially a disparaging comment about the First Lady. A writer selects what to share from the many words and events that pass before her. I think in this case she should have asked herself two questions as she put pen to paper: Is it necessary to tell my story? Is it kind?
Publication: September 4, 2018—Random House (Ballantine)
Andy would have it no other way. To him, the whole reason he got into the teaching business was to work side by side with kids, to develop the relationships and let the science unfurl in all of its glorious unpredictability.
“All day, we’re telling the kids, do this, read this, use this—and if you don’t, you fail. They need a space where it’s okay to fail.” —Nancy Shwartz, Cos Cob school librarian and creator of Maker Space, a place at her school where creativity is prized
“We’ve moved from education, teaching people how to think, to training, teaching people how to bark on time. And highly structured curriculum and even scripted curriculum in some places—the teacher reads the lesson. Those are not places where someone is being educated. It can’t be… Which is more valuable to the person and to the society? I can memorize something and give it back to you in an orderly fashion, even in a comprehensively well-expressed fashion. Or I can think. To me, it’s not even a call.” —Thomas Forget, Ph.D., professor and Andy’s mentor
Ireland the Best
by John and Sally McKenna
Ireland the Best, a travel guide, is written in the same format as Scotland the Best, albeit by a different author. I looked at the Amazon listing for that book briefly, mainly to see if the sample book contained pictures. This series of travel books is composed of well-organized lists and does not show off each locale with pictures but does include links so you can easily see the attraction, restaurant, etc. for yourself online.
Given the style of this book, understanding the organizational format is of prime importance, and so the authors begin their guide book with…a guide to the book. They want to transmit to you the best that Ireland has to offer based on their 30 years of exploring the island. To help you search in the book you can use the index, categories in the Table of Contents such as “The Best Places to Eat and Stay in Ireland’s South West,” or the map to view items in a particular locale.
Codes are of great importance in this book and seem a little daunting at first, but as you use the references they quickly become familiar. They include things like “atmos” for atmosphere and “df” for dog friendly.
Tick or check marks (✓) are awarded for outstanding listings. There are indications of price ranges and difficulty levels of walks. Attractions are coded with map references also.
The meat of the guide begins with sections on the most famous attractions in Ireland, means of transportation, annual events, contributions of the Irish, and famous film locations. Next are sections focusing on Ireland’s four largest cities. They examine the lodging accommodations, style of cooking, restaurants, pubs, attractions, shops, walks, and views for each city. Next the guide expands to regional hotels and restaurants and sections that let the reader explore more specific topics like tea rooms (e.g. Miss Marple’s Tea Rooms), graveyards (e.g. Yeats’ Grave at Drumcliff Parish Church, Co Sligo), and Irish crystal and glass (e.g. House of Waterford). The last major section explores the many islands. Each attraction or feature in the book has a nice, short paragraph describing it.
I have not been to Ireland, but this guide book certainly inspires me to visit. I think this book would be an essential tool for me in planning a trip to the Old Country of my husband’s roots and then enjoying its features while there.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Collins Reference for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Reference, Travel
Publication: September 1, 2018—Collins Reference
Ireland has a fascinating past, sculpted by the great characters—knights, saints, writers, architects, freedom fighters, clerics, politicians, artists—who have shaped the nation, whether for good or for ill. We have loved discovering the castles and keeps, the graveyards and follies, the beaches and gardens that illuminate a picture of Irish culture going right back to pre-history.
Try a leisurely holiday with an Irish Cob horse, who will pull your home through the Wicklow landscape. Or go for a 7-day walk with a friendly donkey, who will walk beside you and carry your load.
The Shannon estuary is teaming with life, and Geoff and Susanne Magee run an informative tour of the river mouth running a Dolphin and Nature Boat Trip, on which you might see the bottle dolphins as well as grey seals and pelagic sea birds.
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir
by Jean Guerrero
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A. After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.
Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.
Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.
Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.
As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.
Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct. All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.
Publication: July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)
Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.
I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.
He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
How much can the human body, the human spirit, endure? Unbroken is the story of Olympic track contender Louie Zamperini as he is tested past the limits of endurance during World War II. His running career is cut short as he becomes a bombardier. The characteristics that made him a difficult child, always testing the limits, become the foundation of an unrelenting resilience in the face of life challenging circumstances. He endured horrors, but he was miraculously saved from death several times. Did God have a plan for Louie’s life? Could he be saved from his own destructive behaviors and the hatred dwelling in his heart?
Unbroken is a biography and so much more. It reads like a fascinating work of fiction. In fact, if more nonfiction maintained the interest level of Unbroken, there would be a lot more readers of nonfiction. This book is engaging and fast paced. Unbroken was thoroughly researched over seven years using archives and many interviews including seventy-five interviews with Louie himself. Very importantly, author Laura Hillenbrand found few discrepancies among the various reports.
I read and review a lot of books. I mentally gauge my review comparing each book within its genre. A five star cozy mystery is not compared to a five star book of poetry, for example. I must state, however, that Unbroken rises above a star rating system. Although emotionally difficult in places, it is a book that everyone should read.
Category: History, Biography
Notes: Thanks to my brother Don Lyons who insisted I borrow his copy of Unbroken. It was every bit as powerful as you said it would be!
Publication: November 16, 2010—Random House
In a childhood of artful dodging, Louie made more than just mischief. He shaped who he would be in manhood. Confident that he was clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any predicament, he was almost incapable of discouragement. When history carried him into war, this resilient optimism would define him.
“The other pilots act as though nothing has happened and speak of sending the other fellow’s clothes home as though it were an everyday occurrence. That’s the way it has to be played because that’s the way it is—it’s an everyday occurrence!”
This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind…Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live.