Uncommon Marriage by Tony & Lauren Dungy

Book description:

What does it take to build a marriage that will last? Tony and Lauren Dungy have together known the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. They fell in love, built a family, and made sports history when Tony became the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl. Yet they’ve also gone through difficult, relationship-testing setbacks, including job loss and devastating personal tragedy. In a culture where it seems harder and harder to make marriage last, what has kept the Dungys strong through it all? In Uncommon Marriage, Tony and Lauren share the secrets that hold them together, revealing what they’ve learned so far about being a good husband or wife; getting through times of loss, grief, or change; staying connected despite busy schedules; supporting each other’s dreams and goals; and helping each other grow spiritually. They offer encouragement and practical advice to equip your marriage to survive tough issues and flourish with joy, purpose, and partnership—in other words, to be a marriage that is truly uncommon.

My review:

I like to read books about lifelong successful marriages because I’m always interested in getting tips on how to grow closer through the years. This was a nice book and interesting story about the Dungy marriage. However, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I really felt like any couple could have written the book. It didn’t seem that uncommon to me. The book description is accurate in describing that the Dungy experienced relationship-testing setbacks such as job loss. However, again I felt that other couples could have written it and perhaps even better. Some couples in America have had to cope with job losses that lasted for much longer times. This is just one small example from the book that I found lacking.

I just wanted more from this book. As I reflect on my disappointment in this book, I realize that the title mislead me and heightened my expectations. I just didn’t view it as illustrating an uncommon marriage. It demonstrated a loving, committed, and successful marriage, but not necessarily uncommon. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it had been titled The Story of Our Marriage. It seemed to me that is what the book was about.

Next on my reading list is the companion study book. I’m hoping that the companion book offers more information on improving and deepening “common marriages”.

Despite the overall negative tone of my review, I do think there are a lot of readers out there that would really enjoy this book. If you are a fan of football, or are already fans of the Dungys, then you would probably enjoy this book more than I did. If you are looking for a book that inspires you to improve your marriage, I think that others out there that are more effective.

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Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge & Michelle Cox

Book description:

After the tragic death of Butch Browning’s wife, Jenny, four families begin to realize how precious—and fleeting—their time together is. Each is at a different stage in life: Butch is facing single parenthood. The O’Reillys are expecting their first child. The Andersons are approaching an empty nest, and the Buckleys are so focused on providing their children with everything that they’ve forgotten what they truly need. With just eighteen summers before their children are grown, how do they make the most of that time when life so often gets in the way?

As summer flies by, each of these parents must learn about guilt and grace . . . and when to hold on to their kids and when to let go.

My review:

Wow, what a book! This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. I laughed, I cried, and I was sad when it was finished. It was the best book I’ve ever read at capturing life. The struggle all parents face is balancing the demands of life with the desire to spend time with our children, all while fighting the ticking of the clock of time, moving us forward to that day when our children are adults. This book captures the struggle perfectly.

I don’t typically enjoy books where the story is told through the eyes of different characters, especially when the relationships between those characters are tenuous. For example, friend of a friend type thing. The great thing about this book is that the different perspectives flow seamlessly together.

Gutteridge and Cox completely captured parenthood – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I couldn’t stop laughing at the characterization of Daphne, the soon-to-be-first-time-mom. I totally related to all the baby-proofing steps and the manic parenting book reading. I probably would have done the pool noodles as well, had I thought of it. It was so funny to read the interaction between Ava and Daphne. However, the most important thing was the message. We can prepare and fret and worry and obsess over the safety of our children, but God is the one holding them and carrying them through this life. We ultimately have to rest in that.

This book is a must read. It is just so very, very good. It isn’t often that I come across a book that won’t leave my bookshelf to travel to a friend’s house, but this is one of them that stays with me!

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Abraham by Charles R. Swindoll

Book description:

When we rewind history back to Abraham’s era, we encounter people who concocted false superstitions to explain the unexplainable. Powerful kings claimed to be gods, building massive pyramids to achieve immortality. Out of this mass of misunderstandings, one man emerged. The man we know today as Abraham not only claimed that one true Creator existed but also staked his entire life on this belief. Why, thousands of years later, are we still discussing the faith of this desert nomad? One of America’s most popular Bible teachers, Pastor Chuck Swindoll, answers that question and many more in this compelling and insightful biography that will inspire your own faith.

My review:

This is the most in depth book I’ve ever read about the life of Abraham. We can read through his story in the Bible and understand the change of his name from Abram to Abraham. We can think about how strange it might be to hear that your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky when your wife is well past child-bearing years and you have no children. We can even draw on our own experiences of stepping out in faith and imagine how Abram might have felt in following God’s will. However, what Swindoll does so well in this book is to bring all of those events alive for readers.

When reading this book, readers get a clearer picture of the culture that Abram lived in and why his packing up and leaving his land was such a leap of faith. I loved the way that Swindoll described what that experience might look like for us. I really enjoy books that make the people and stories in the Bible more alive for me and this book definitely does that. I also really enjoyed the chapter on prayer and Swindoll’s discussion about unconfessed sin and how it might impact your prayer life.

The only crticism I would have about the book is the cover. I read this book as part of the Tyndale Summer Reading program and saw only the thumbnail image of the cover on the reading list and on Net Galley. I did not see the subtitle and did not get a clear look at the picture on the cover. I make it a habit of not reading descriptions of books because I find that the descriptions sometimes give away too much of the book. With all that said, I started reading this book under the mistaken assumption that it was about Abraham Lincoln! For some reason, the thumbnail of the cover looked like Lincoln to me and I was all geared up to learn about the faith of Abraham Lincoln. So I started reading and Swindoll was talking about Abraham and I kept waiting for him to draw comparisons to Lincoln! My mistake is not a reflection of the quality of the book, I just had to share my funny story. I might have to decide to read descriptions, at least on non-fiction books.

This is a great book that is very well-written. If you are interested in learning more about the life of Abraham to draw closer to the Lord, this is the book for you.

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

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Love Letters from the Edge by Shelly Beach and Wanda Sanchez

Book description:

Millions of women in the United States battle with after-effects of suffering so great they’ve developed post-traumatic stress disorder—the same suffering experienced by soldiers who’ve gone through war. Sexual and physical abuse, catastrophic accidents, abandonment, natural disasters, invasive medical procedures, and many other painful and overwhelming events can trigger symptoms they are little equipped to deal with and hard-pressed to recognize.

Love Letters from the Edge provides a voice for those struggling to express this pain and reveals intimate encouragement for those in desperate need to hear God’s words of love and deliverance. This heartfelt devotional focuses on the profound laments in the book of Psalms. Each meditation begins with a letter from someone in the throes of despair and then offers a tender response to their pain from God’s perspective.

Fresh, honest, and intimate, Love Letters from the Edge will reach readers who never expected to hear good news from where they are and point them toward the hope and healing of Christ.

My review:

One thing we are promised is that in this life we will have trials. This book offers readers a source of encouragement to meditate on during those painful times. It is based in Scripture and focuses readers’ attention on God, who can heal all wounds.

My favorite thing about this book is that it is easy to use and offers readings on many different situations. It isn’t necessarily a book that one would read straight through. Instead, I think it is nice to skip around and find readings based on what situation you might be experiencing at a given time. Not all reading will apply to everyone, but the message from each one can.

The length of each reading was perfect. They immersed readers in a situation, offered questions to meditate on, and ended with a prayer. I think it is a great book that could benefit many people.

If you are looking for an encouraging book to support you in the struggles of this life, this is a great choice!

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

Love Letters from the Edge is offered for free on July 21st and only $2.99 from July 22nd through the 25th. Check out the link below:
Love Letters from the Edge on Sale!

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The Vanishings by Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye

This is the first book in a series that is based on the best-selling adult Left Behind series. The difference is that readers will see the Rapture and Tribulation through the eyes of four kids who have been left behind.

I’m a big fan of the Left Behind series and was interested to read this one geared for kids. I thought it was really, really good. I was impressed with how Jenkins and LaHaye were able to take the ideas from Left Behind and change their writing style to make it interesting and engaging for teen readers. I think they also did a great job with capturing teen characters that readers can see themselves in.

I continually struggle with finding books for teens that are engaging and will make them want to read for recreation in the midst of all the required reading they do for school. This book is a very quick read that would fit easily in a weekend afternoon, or perhaps over several nights during the school week. I think it is interesting enough to hold the attention of even the most resistant reader.

If you are looking for a great end times book for teens, this one fits the bill!

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Problems in Plymouth by Marianne Hering & Marshal Younger

Book description:

The Imagination Station Adventures continue! Patrick and Beth’s next adventure leads them to Plymouth Plantation in 1621. There they meet William Bradford, Miles Standish, and Chief Massasoit, who are trying to establish peace between the Pilgrims and the Indians. Things are anything but peaceful, however, when a musket is stolen and the Pilgrims conclude the Indians are planning war. Only Patrick and Beth know who the real thief is—the traitor Hugh—and it’s up to the cousins to find him and stop him from causing trouble. When the cousins hear a gunshot during the first Thanksgiving feast, their worst fears are realized. They rush to the Mayflower and try to set right history, even as Hugh desperately tries to change it.

My review:

I continue to love this series! It offers younger readers an interesting look at history in a way that parents can feel good about. I love the way Hering and Younger combine real and fictional characters to bring history to life.

In this book, Patrick and Beth visit Plymouth and readers gain knowledge of the Mayflower, as well as well-known pilgrims. The illustrations add to the prose and the chapters are short enough to hold the attention of even young readers during a read aloud time.

This series continues to deliver a positive alternative to the Magic Tree House series, which I love. I have yet to read any of these books that I haven’t enjoyed. On a side note, although this is a series of books, they do not need to be read in order. Each one stands alone.

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The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin & Alex Malarkey

Book description:

In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think that Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels who took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just terrible to a six-year-old. And most amazing of all . . . of meeting and talking to Jesus. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the New York Times bestselling true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.

My review:

I found this book fascinating. Obviously the description of how the accident happened and the extent of the injuries to Alex was horrific and very difficult to read, but the rest of it was completely captivating.

There are many lessons to be learned from this book. First of all, life can change in a heartbeat. One minute Kevin and Alex were heading home from church and the next, they were separated – one in a helicopter and the other in an ambulance. However, the most important is the belief in the power of prayer. I loved reading about the prayer warriors and the results of their prayers. It was chilling reading about the lies Alex encountered and the battles he endured. It is amazing for a child to experience what Alex has and have the ability to communicate it to others.

I can always tell it is a good non-fiction book when I look at the photographs included in it and I get teary. I kept referring back to the photos time and again because it made the story that much more real to me. I also appreciated the honesty Kevin shared about the effect the accident had on the Malarkey marriage. I think it is something that couples coping in similar circumstances can identify with and find encouraging.

This is a great book, and one of the best I’ve read with this similar topic. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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