Kidnapped by the Taliban by Dilip Joseph, MD with James Lund

Book description:

On December 5, 2012, American medical doctor Dilip Joseph and two colleagues are driving back to Kabul, Afghanistan, after serving villagers that morning at a rural clinic. Suddenly a man waving an AK-47 blocks their path. More armed men jump out of hiding. For Dilip, it is the beginning of a nightmare—he’s being kidnapped by the Taliban.

Dilip and his friends endure a nine-hour march into the mountains, gruesome images of torture and death, and repeated threats of execution. Four days later Dilip is freed in a daring and deadly rescue that claims the life of a SEAL Team Six operator. Yet this is more than a story of desperation, survival, and loss. It is also a tale of surprising connection, compassion, and inspiration. As Dilip begins to view the Taliban not as monsters but as men, both he and his captors are challenged to reexamine everything that matters: courage, sacrifice, hope, and faith.

My review:

Every day there are news reports of people being kidnapped or executed by extremists.  Some days there are news reports of people being rescued after having been rescued.  In this book, we get a first person perspective on both.

I thought Dr. Joseph’s story of kidnapping, being held hostage for ransom, and his eventual rescue was very interesting.  I always love it when a book makes me either gasp out loud or exclaim “Oh no”, mostly because it freaks my family out!  This book did both.  It really does read like an adventure film.  At several points during the book I had to tell myself, “He lived to write the book, everything will be ok.”  Now that is a suspenseful book!

The description of the terrain and the hours of hiking was so real, I could really imagine what it looked like.  I could also imagine the fear and terror Dr. Joseph experienced, along with the peace he described as he viewed his experiences through eyes of faith.

There were some unexpected things in this book that I particularly enjoyed.  Dr. Joseph shared information about the culture and people of Afghanistan.  He shared information about ordinary people in Afghanistan who are simply trying to make a living and provide for their families in the face of others that take what they have worked so hard to grow and care for.  In one of the more bizarre segments of his story, readers get a glimpse into a family forced to provide a dinner party for the Taliban and the hostages from the food they have for their own family.

I also thought the interactions between Joseph and his captors were interesting.  From one perspective, it seemed as if Joseph wanted to offer a living testimony of his faith.  However, at times I have to admit to wondering if he was experiencing Stockholm syndrome.

My favorite part of the book was what happened after Joseph was rescued.  I had no idea of the process that rescued hostages underwent.  I always imagined they were rescued, put on a plane, and returned to their families and their lives.  Apparently that is not the case.

If you are interested in current events or are interested in reading a book about the experiences of a Taliban hostage, this is one that will have you biting your nails and gasping out loud.  It is also a great book to remind us to live our lives as a living testimony to our faith.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Guess Who Noah’s Boat by Matt Mitter

Book description:

Children will love this interactive new telling of the Noah’s ark story. With fun, rhyming text, each spread asks kids to guess which animal is heading toward the ark. The answer is revealed under the cleverly designed flap. With eye-catching illustrations and easy-to-understand text, Guess Who Noah’s Boat is sure to become a favorite.

My review:

The recommended age range for this book is 2 – 4 years old, which is a good guideline.  It is a very sturdy board book that will stand up to little hands opening and closing the flaps many times!

There are many things to love about this book.  The illustrations are colorful and the text is written with nice rhymes that appeal to children.  Open the flap books are great to hold the attention of younger listeners.  I think this book would be primarily a read-aloud for this age range.  Although some children as young as 3 or 4 are beginning to read, some of the words and blends in this book will probably be problematic.

I only have a couple negative comments.  First of all, I would have liked to have seen more of the story of Noah included.  The only mention of God was on the very last page, where creatures were referred to as God’s creatures.  I felt like it was a missed opportunity to educate children about God.  Second of all, it would have been nice if the flaps were in a different location on each page so that children could have searched more for where the flap was.  My children loved lift the flap books, especially when they had to find them and if there were several on one page to find.

Overall this is a great book for young children.  If you are looking for a sturdy, visually appealing book for little ones to look through and listen while you read aloud, this one will not disappoint.  Just be aware that they will not learn much more about Noah other than the fact he had a boat with animals on it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Skinny Gut Diet by Brenda Watson, CNC

Book description:

The 100 trillion bacteria that live in your digestive tract—which make up 90 percent of the cells in your body—are the real reason you gain or lose weight. When those microbes are out of balance, chronic health conditions can occur, including irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, and obesity. By balancing the good and bad bacteria, you can finally achieve your ideal weight—for good.
In The Skinny Gut Diet, New York Times bestselling author, public television icon, certified nutritional consultant, and digestive health expert Brenda Watson offers an insightful perspective on the little-known connection between weight gain and an underlying imbalance of bacteria in the gut, or what she calls the “gut factor”—the overlooked root cause of weight gain. Drawing upon the latest scientific research, Brenda illuminates the inner workings of the digestive system and provides instructions for achieving a healthy bacterial ecosystem that spurs weight loss by enabling the body to absorb fewer calories from food, experience reduced cravings, and store less fat. The premise is simple: curtail sugar consumption (and its surprising sources) and eat more healthy fats, living foods, and protein to balance the gut bacteria. The result? A skinny gut.
The Skinny Gut Diet centers around an easy-to-follow diet plan. A 14-day eating plan, dozens of delicious recipes and sage advice help you achieve—and maintain—digestive balance and sustained weight loss. With inspiring real-life stories of ten individuals who transformed their health on the Skinny Gut Diet, Brenda empowers you to become your own health advocate so that you can finally shed unwanted pounds and enjoy optimal health and vitality.

My review:

I was interested to read this book because I have a few friends who frequently talk about “leaky gut” issues and know many, many people who take probiotics daily to balance their gut.  I wanted to learn more about the connection between gut issues and health.

I thought the discussion at the beginning of this book was really interesting and I learned a lot about the science behind probiotics and prebiotics.  Sometimes reading the science behind a specific way of eating can be pretty dry, but I was interested in what Watson was sharing with readers.

As far as the actual eating plan goes, the best part of it is that it balances using juices and smoothies with a low-carb lifestyle.  I like the idea of juicing to increase the amount of green vegetables, but it can be hard to maintain when you want to eat real food.  Watson offers a balanced approach.  Watson’s formula for tracking sugar intake is easy to use.  It helps you find hidden sugar you might not be aware you are eating.

However, I had a really big problem with this book!  One of the best things about reading a diet book is to get new recipes for healthy eating.  I was reading this book as an ebook and without exception, all of the quantities of ingredients in the recipes were cut off the page!  I minimized the font to the smallest size in hopes that it would show the measurements on the page.  It worked, but then the font was so small that it was hard to read.  The recipe titles did not show up when reading in the day setting as they were obscured by a bold black line.  It was frustrating to have to fiddle around with the settings just to read the recipes.

Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in improving their health.  I think it is very helpful in adjusting your lifestyle to healthier eating.  However, I would not recommend the ebook.  I will definitely get my hands on a print version of this book to check out the recipes!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Littlest Christmas Kitten by Leona Novy Jackson

Book description:

In this re-telling of the Christmas story, children can experience the excitement of the animals in the stable. Here a mother cat is searching frantically for her little lost kitten. Before the night is over there is the crying of a baby and angels singing the praises of the birth of a Savior. The night’s events leave a lasting effect on all the animals, especially the cats. It’s a refreshing approach to the Christmas story, with a strong, smooth plot, and yet teaches a beautiful lesson.

My review:

I think this is a very cleverly written book about the night Jesus was born through the eyes of a mother cat.  It is a great way for young children to begin to learn the story of Jesus’s birth, and gain a clear understanding of what it means that he was laid in a manger.  I think this book makes it really clear that Jesus was born in a barn and laid in a food trough.  Sometimes we say the words, but it seems so sanitary and distanced from what the reality was.

The illustrations are great, too.  They are vibrant and colorful, with bold lines and interesting expressions on the faces of the animals.  Sometimes young children have a difficult time paying attention when reading aloud if there is not enough visual stimulation to hold their interest.  These illustrations will hold their interest and give them a lot to look at and observe while listening to the story.

The font is also great because it is very large.  The older I get, the more I appreciate letters that are large enough to see comfortably!  I can imagine that other older readers such as myself might choose to read frequently because the font is so comfortable to read!

If you are looking for a lovely book to use as a tool to share the Christmas story with young children, this one is a great choice!  I think many readers will fall in love with this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Book Crash in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

Book description:

Weary of the expectations imposed on her by her strict upbringing, eighteen-year-old Mazy Pelfrey prepares to leave her home in the Kentucky mountains for the genteel city of Lexington, where she’ll attend secretarial school. She knows her life is about to change—and only for the better. Everything will be blue skies from now on.

But business school is harder than she thought it would be and the big city not as friendly, until she meets a charming young man from a wealthy family, Loyal Chambers. When Loyal sets his sights on her, Mazy begins to see that everything she’d ever wished to have is right before her eyes. The only hindrance to her budding romance is a former beau, Chanis Clay, the young sheriff she thought she’d left firmly behind.

Danger rumbles like thunder on a high mountain ridge when Mazy’s cosseted past collides with her clouded future and forces her to come to terms with what she really wants.

My review:

This is the third book I’ve read from Jan Watson and is definitely my favorite so far.  I thought the character of Mazy was endearing and enjoyed reading how her personality developed throughout the book.

In fact, the characters are what make this book so enjoyable to read.  There is a nice mix of characters; some are good-hearted and are trying to live a good life, while others are searching for meaning to their life, and others are mean-spirited.  It was nice to root for some characters and secretly hope for some of the characters to get their due.

Although I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it as a nice afternoon light read, I did have some issues with the plot.  Some of the secondary story lines just stopped without a satisfactory conclusion.  I’m hoping that Watson will revisit the characters that were left hanging in a future book, but you can never be sure.  I’m still shaking my head over another plot line that really came out of nowhere and still doesn’t make much sense to me.  I can only assume that perhaps Watson wanted to share a message of forgiveness and becoming a new creation in Christ, but it threw me for a loop.

Despite my criticism of some aspects of the plot, the characters make this book a worthwhile read.  I will definitely read another book by Watson in the future.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Book description:

Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly declutter your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Whereas most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, the KonMari Method’s category-by-category, all-at-once prescription leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have been repeat customers (and she still has a three-month waiting list of new customers!). With detailed guidance for every type of item in the household, this quirky little manual from Japan’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help readers clear their clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home–and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

My review:

I enjoyed reading this book.  I could identify a lot with Kondo as she shared her lifelong pursuit of tidyness and order.  I also like to organize and tidy and like to have a place for everything and everything in its place.  In fact, one of the best parts of Christmas for me is that week after Christmas where I have an opportunity to organize all the new stuff and cull out the old stuff.

This is vastly different from any other cleaning, household management, or organizational book I have ever read.  Kondo’s approach is easy to follow and understand.  Her philosophy of physically touching each and every item in your home as you decide what brings you joy and what you can live without was rather revolutionary for me.  I never would have approach tidying up like that, especially with clothing or books.

Overall, I think this is an excellent book and approach to home organization that could benefit many people, particularly here in America where we are blessed with a plentiful bounty of “stuff”.  I think anyone could read this book and immediately make positive changes in their home.

However, in the interest of an honest review, I have to admit there were things that I found a little odd in the book.  The author expresses many times the idea of talking to your belongings and thanking them for what they do for you.  She also encourages readers to greet their home when they come home.  For me, I would never do that.  It is also obvious that she practices a religion in which followers set up shrines in their homes.  She never states which religion it is, but I suspect the anthropomorphizing of her belongings stems from that.  I enjoyed the book despite the differences in our beliefs, but other readers might not.

I also took some issue with Kondo’s philosophy of throwing away all items that readers deem fit to cull from their homes.  It is possible that in Japan they do not have the thrift stores or other places to donate gently used merchandise, but in America we have so many worthy charities that can utilize secondhand merchandise.  I would personally encourage people to donate their extra “stuff” instead of simply throwing it away.  In some cases, Kondo stated that her clients threw away dozens of trash bags filled with stuff.  There are a lot of people that can benefit from donated clothes and such.

This book does what it says it will do – it gives readers tools to declutter their house once and for all.  It definitely encourages a shift in thinking in terms of clearing out unnecessary items from your home.  I have already tackled one closet and have viewed the process with fresh eyes!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Get Up & Go by Jennifer Flanders

Book description:

Do you have trouble fitting a workout into your busy schedule? Are you looking for fresh ideas for getting your children up and moving?Are all the individual fitness routines tearing your family life apart? Then it sounds like you need a little GET UP & GO!

My review:

This book is a great resource for those families that are looking to be physically active and physically fit without taking time away from their families.  A lot of families spend most of their days away from one another; the kids go to school, Dad goes to work, Mom goes to work, etc.  On top of that, we cram our lives with extracurricular activities such as youth group, volunteering, sports, lessons, the list goes on and on.

It can be difficult for parents to find time to go to the gym, and even then, when it takes even more time away from the family, do you really want to?  I know I’ve found myself thinking – Do I want to be thin, or do I want to spend time with the kids?  The kids win every time.  A lot of gyms offer kid’s clubs, but that doesn’t really count as spending time with them does it?

Flanders reminds readers that physical fitness doesn’t have to only be pursued in the walls of a gym.  We can be active while spending time with those we love best and reinforce to our children that physical fitness is important.

The best thing about this book is how Flanders arranges it by seasons so readers can find an activity for any time of the year, in any part of the country you live in.  She also gives a lot of variations on old school games such as tag.  Some I was already familiar with, but she also reminded me of some I had forgotten since childhood and others that I had never imagined.  I can’t wait to share this book with the PE teachers at the school I teach at.  I’m sure they will find many ways to incorporate the ideas Flanders puts forth.

With the rate of obesity in the country continuing to rise, for children and adults alike, can we afford not to pursue physical activity as a family?  Check out this book and be inspired to get up and go with your family!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Book Crash in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Green Prince and Son of Hamas Book Giveaway

Set against the chaotic backdrop of recent events in the Middle East, Nadav Schirman’s THE GREEN PRINCE retraces the details of a highly unprecedented partnership that developed between sworn enemies. In the style of a tense psychological thriller, this extraordinary documentary recounts the true story of the son of a Hamas leader who emerged as one of Israel’s prized informants, and the Shin Bet agent who risked his career to protect him.

As a defiant teenager growing up in Palestine, Mosab Hasson Yousef’s fervor against Israel was unquestionable, ultimately landing him in prison.  Shaken by Hamas’s brutality within the prison’s walls and a growing disgust for their methods, particularly suicide bombing, he had an unexpected change of heart and began to see Hamas as more of a problem than a solution.  Recruited by the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency) and given the code name Green Prince,” he spied on the Hamas elite for over a decade, constantly risking exposure and certain death while grappling with the perception that he had betrayed his own family and people. Along the way, what started as a cautious alliance between Mosab and his Shin Bet handler Gonen Ben Yitzhak grew into an enduring loyalty that no one could’ve ever predicted.

Based on Mosab Hassan Yousef’s bestselling memoir Son of Hamas, THE GREEN PRINCE exposes a complex world of terror, betrayal, and impossible choices. Through exclusive first-hand testimony, dramatic action sequences, and rare archival footage, decades of secrets come to light in this unflinching exploration of a profound spiritual transformation and the transcendent bonds of friendship. THE GREEN PRINCE will challenge much of what you know about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

From the Academy Award® Winning Producers of MAN ON WIRE, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN and ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER.

Tyndale House Publishers published the book Son of Hamas.

Son of Hamas BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!!

Book description:

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. The oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of Hamas and its most popular leader, young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status . . . and power. But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader. In Son of Hamas, Mosab reveals new information about the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization and unveils the truth about his own role, his agonizing separation from family and homeland, the dangerous decision to make his newfound faith public, and his belief that the Christian mandate to “love your enemies” is the only way to peace in the Middle East.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, please complete the following steps:

1. Sign up to follow my blog (if you are already a follower, continue to step two).

2.  Follow me on Twitter @JillSmithIvy

3.  Leave a comment to this blog post letting me know you’re signed up, following me, and also share a comment about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One winner will be notified by email on November 1, 2014.

Good luck!

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Their Name is Today by Johann Christoph Arnold

Book description:

There’s hope for childhood. Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that are robbing children of a healthy childhood, courageous parents and teachers who know what’s best for children are turning the tide.

Johann Christoph Arnold, whose books on education, parenting, and relationships have helped more than a million readers through life’s challenges, draws on the stories and voices of parents and educators on the ground, and a wealth of personal experience. He surveys the drastic changes in the lives of children, but also the groundswell of grassroots advocacy and action that he believes will lead to the triumph of common sense and time-tested wisdom.

Arnold takes on technology, standardized testing, overstimulation, academic pressure, marketing to children, over-diagnosis and much more, calling on everyone who loves children to combat these threats to childhood and find creative ways to help children flourish. Every parent, teacher, and childcare provider has the power to make a difference, by giving children time to play, access to nature, and personal attention, and most of all, by defending their right to remain children.

My review:

Every so often a book comes along that challenges readers to make real changes in their day to day lives.  This is one of those books.  Everyone talks about the assault on childhood and all the problems parents face in raising children in our technology infested culture.  This book goes beyond identifying the problems to really challenge anyone who interacts with children to make real changes in their interactions with children.

I found it fascinating that Arnold is related to Froebel, who developed the concept of a kindergarten.  He shared his philosophy that play is children’s work.  It isn’t a new concept, but with schools decreasing recess time or in some school cutting it out entirely, it makes one wonder why.

It isn’t often that I read a book and think, everyone should read this book.  However, this is one of those rare books.  Everyone should read this book.  Every parent, every educator, every youth pastor, everyone can get something out of this book.  Some of the stories are heartbreaking and difficult to read.  However, I will never forget the story Arnold shares of the boy who participated in the Roots of Empathy program and asked, “Do you think it is possible for someone to be a good father if no one has ever loved him?”  How many young men in our society shy away from fatherhood and abandon responsibility for their families simply because they are afraid they are incapable of being good fathers because no one has ever loved them?  It probably isn’t true in all cases, but it really makes one wonder.

This book is filled with facts, stories, and information that will make readers think about how they interact with children and what they can do to make childhood better.  I know I will share it with fellow teachers at my school in hopes they can see past the disruptive children that “make it harder to get through the lesson plan” into the heart of the child.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  It holds the power to change a life within the pages.  I got a lot out of it and hope that others will too.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Handlebar Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Other books by Johann Christoph Arnold:

Rich in Years

Why Forgive?

Sex, God & Marriage

Why Children Matter

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The One Year Devotions for Active Boys by Jesse Florea and Karen Whiting

Book description:

This fun devotional includes 365 upbeat devotions, each with a special twist or dose of humor to keep active boys engaged. The devotions combine Scripture and a spiritual message with jokes, riddles, puzzles, and hands-on activities to engage tween boys. The devotions help boys find how real people interacted with God and help them discover solutions to contemporary issues. Each devotion will help guide a young man in developing a lifetime habit of learning from the Bible. Themes include how to navigate the Bible, make good choices, discern God’s will, use good and uplifiting language, avoid temptation, choose good friends, trust God, etc.

My review:

We really enjoyed reading this book together.  The length of each reading is perfect for a family on the go and I found that some of the readings sparked discussions that were insightful and thoughtful.  The kids really enjoyed the activities, which vary from riddles, to information about holidays around the world, to weird facts about weather, and all the way to hands-0n activities we made together.

Despite our best intentions, it is sometimes difficult to carve out time for a structured devotion time.  We utilize this book on the drive to school, which was perfect!  The children all took turns reading, which was an additional benefit.  It also helped the driver (me) have a more charitable attitude toward other drivers along the way.  Sometimes in Southern California traffic I need all the help I can get!  It also had the added benefit of keeping boys focused on something other than the sounds their brother was making or where his hands were at in relationship to his sibling.  Obviously the hands on activities had to wait until we returned home in the afternoon, but it was nice to have something to look forward to on those days.

On a side note, although this book is geared toward boys, my daughter also enjoyed the discussions, activities, and readings.  If you are a family with a mix of boys and girls, don’t shy away from using it with the girls, too.

I can’t say anything negative about this book.  It is everything it claimed to be and is a great choice for any family thirsting for a devotional book to use all together.  Give it a try and see if it is a good fit for your family.  It is perfect for ours!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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