Summer by Summer by Heather Burch

Book description:

When Summer took a job as a nanny for a couple vacationing in Belize, she imagined it would be a fresh start before starting college in the fall. And while she adores her charge, Josh, she can’t say the same for her employers’ oldest son, Bray. He’s cocky, inconsiderate, and makes her feel she’s a chore he has to put up with. In short, he’s everything she dislikes in a guy.
Bray had a plan for the summer: party, hang out with friends, and forget all the responsibilities waiting for him back home. But every time he’s forced to be around Summer, her dour, serious mood sets him off. Not to mention she has a habit of picking up on what he already knows is wrong with him.
Then the two find themselves on a dive trip gone wrong, stranded on a remote island. As they focus on survival, their differences melt away, and they find being together may be what both needed all along.

My description:

I have mixed opinions about this book.  On one hand, the premise and a couple of twists made for an interesting book.  On the other hand, the execution of the plot and characters were flawed in some ways, in my opinion.

First the positive:  I was really intrigued by the potential conflict of two people that didn’t like one another that were forced to cooperate to survive.  I enjoyed a couple of surprises throughout the book that I wasn’t expecting at all, such as some dangerous situations they encountered on the island.  I thought some of the ways that Bray and Summer encountered provisions were cleverly written.

However, I didn’t particularly enjoy the shifting perspectives.  It isn’t my favorite type of writing, in general, but some books successfully weave different perspectives together into one seamless story.  This one fell a little short.  In my opinion, this book wasted a little bit of time by sharing the same experience from two different viewpoints when more detail could have been given if the story was from one character only.  Because of the title and the ending of the book, in particular, it would have been more effective to hear the story from Summer’s perspective exclusively.

I also would have enjoyed the journey of the book if more time had been given to the conflict between Bray and Summer initially, a more gradual thawing of their relationship on the island, and which could then develop into a romantic relationship.  It all just happened too quickly.  Teenage emotions do change quickly, I realize, but it was a little bit too much of a stretch the speed of which their feelings toward one another change.

One final negative aspect of the book was the extent of description given to physical experiences on the island.  It was all kept PG-13, but I would have rather read more detail about the conflict and the change of their relationship, instead of details of them touching one another.

Overall, I am torn about this book.  It could have been an amazing book, if only some selective editing had been done.  The bones of a great story are present, it just wasn’t fleshed out in a super-satisfying way, in my opinion.

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

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The Hiding Place (Young Reader’s Edition) by Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth & John Sherrill

Book description:

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God’s chosen people. For 35 years millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God’s love will overcome, heal, and restore.

My review:

I read The Hiding Place several years ago and really loved Corrie Ten Boom’s story, so when I had the opportunity to read and review the young reader’s edition of this book, I was really excited.

I found this book to be every bit as good as the original edition that I read.  Sometimes when you read a young reader’s edition of a book, it is so watered down and simplistic that much of the content is lost or the arc of the story leaves much to be desired.  Not so with this one.  The Sherrill’s did a magnificent job keeping the details of Corrie’s story intact, while still giving young reader’s all the necessary information.

I can’t wait to pass this one along to my daughter to read, especially since she just finished studying about WWII.  Unfortunately her school removed all copies of this book from their library because it has too many references to God, which I think is a disservice to the students.  This book is unlike many others of the genre because it draws attention to people who helped the Jews survive the Holocaust at a terrible personal cost.

It also is an inspiring read because of Corrie’s struggle with forgiveness.  I still get goosebumps when I read about her meeting up with the SS guard after the war.  It challenges all readers to forgive others as she forgave the guard.

If you are looking for a book to introduce young reader’s to WWII, or to supplement their study of WWII, you can not go wrong with this one.  It teaches readers about history and provides an amazing character study and lesson at the same time.

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

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A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

Book description:

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

My review:

This is the first book I have read in the Porter Family Series.  I’m wondering if I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the first two in the series.

Wade did a great job introducing the characters in the novel for those readers that had not read the first two books.  In fact, I didn’t even realize it was the third book until late in the book.

However, this book just didn’t ever grab me.  It took me about four days to get through it, which is very unusual for me.  Obviously in romance books, the guy is probably going to get the girl in the end.  They all tend to be a little predictable.  With that in mind, I always look to the characters and the conflict to pull me in.  Unfortunately, I never got to the point where I cared about Jake or Lyndie.

At the beginning, I had high hopes.  Jake’s struggle with PTSD and Lyndie’s family with a grown child with disabilities and a grandparent living with them after the death of a spouse had so much potential.  I wish that Wade had done more with any of those sources of conflict, but there just wasn’t much.

Furthermore, I never quite understood why Jake and Lyndie couldn’t just pick up their friendship where they left off before Lyndie and her family moved away.  They were best friends at 12, never had a falling out, and experienced a fairly typical fading away of their friendship through letters as they developed other friendships.  Granted, Jake experienced a great trauma as he served in the Marines, but it their unease with one another never made sense to me as they renewed their acquaintance.

Finally, Lyndie’s solving the “mystery” of Silver Leaf was a little thin in my opinion.  It was just too unbelievable that after working with him for a short time, she would solve the problem of why he wouldn’t run to his potential.

Overall, Wade did a good job technically with this book and crafting a stand alone novel in her series.  The plot was just a little too thin for me.

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

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Freedom Tools by Andy Reese and Jennifer Barnett

Book description:

What do you say to someone who is hurting?

How many times in everyday conversation do we struggle to comfort others in a troubled world? Christians should be “first responders,” say Andy Reese and Jennifer Barnett, yet we lack the tools and confidence to reach out. We end up frustrated by our own inability to connect meaningfully and make a difference.

But what would happen if we had the ability and courage to speak out in love?

In these pages Andy and Jennifer give you the practical understanding and simple tools to do just that. You can fill even your casual conversations with the gentle yet transforming power of Jesus Christ. Here is what you need to confidently step out to bring peace, give grace and help others experience renewal.

Visit http://www.freedomprayer.org for more information.

My review:

I enjoyed this book very much.  There is a lot of information covered in the 304 pages, but it is a quick read.  It is one of those books that make you want to read a little and then spend a couple of days mulling over what you read and what it means to your life.  For me, those are the best kinds of books.

I really enjoyed reading the first section of this book about the Ten Foundations.  In fact, I thought they were so interesting and thought-provoking that it could be an entire book on its own.  Reese and Barnett spend a great deal of time explaining each foundation and examples of what they look like in real life.

Some books are good about explaining information and others are good about giving advice on changing the way you look at things and live.  This book gives good information and then very specific information on how to apply those ideas in our daily lives.  It is the best kind of non-fiction book!

Whether you agree with the ideas in the book or not, this is a very thought-provoking, revolutionary book.  It is one that will be on my shelves for a long time and one that I will read again.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Woods Edge by Lori Benton

Book description:

At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both—Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

My review:

I really enjoyed this book on several levels.  I was excited to read another book by Lori Benton, because I thought her novel Burning Sky was great!  Benton delivers another home run with The Woods Edge.

It is hard to choose what the best part about this book was.  The attention to detail and craftsmanship of novel is impossible not to mention.  I particularly appreciated the fact that Benton included words that I had to look up.  I haven’t done that while reading a book in years!  In the end, for me, it is all about the characters in a novel.  It is hard to finish a book if you don’t really care what happens to the characters.

Benton has a gift for including a large cast of characters in her novel and writing them in such a way that you care about every one of them.  There is also a lot of growth in her characters.  Just when you think you have them all figured out and written them off as the good guy or the bad guy, they surprise you (kind of like people in real life).  Benton writes characters that reflect humanity.

The only negative thing I could say is that the book started off a little slowly for me.  There was a lot happening at the beginning and I was trying to get a sense of what was going on.  However, it picked up and the momentum continued until the end.

This is definitely a book to be savored.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, especially Native American fiction, you will enjoy this book.  After reading my second Lori Benton book, I can safely say that I am a fan!  Such great writing!

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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Thick as Thieves by Susan K. Marlow

Book description:

Fourteen-year-old Andrea Carter would rather ride her beloved palomino, Taffy, than do anything else. But life on the Circle C ranch in 1882 is busy. Between school and chores, Andi is left with little time to prepare for Taffy’s first foaling. Then when the event finally arrives, it nearly ends in disaster.

Returning to school keeps Andi hard-pressed to find time for foal training. And she now has a new problem on her hands–Macy Walker, who has been assigned as Andi’s seatmate. The new girl’s crude manners and cruel behavior bring storm clouds into Andi’s life, as does the news that cattle rustlers have moved into the valley.

When the cattle rustlers turn to stealing horses and strike the Carter ranch, Andi’s only hope for recovering her precious colts lies with Macy. Can Andi trust this wild girl? Does she have a choice?

My review:

This book delivers a little bit of everything, a look into history, character lessons, action and adventure, interesting plot, and endearing characters.  It was a little slow for me at the beginning, but once Macy entered the picture, the rest of the book flew by!

The best part of this book was how real it is.  Marlow demonstrates the closeness that the Carter family shares, but also shows how even close families can be affected by stress and difficult times.  Andi misses the companionship of her brothers while they are struggling with the rustlers, but readers see how the family pulls together in the end.

Marlow cleverly intertwines the different plot lines without giving too much away too soon.  Some of it is predictable and readers might suspect what is coming, but not in a way that it is impossible to keep reading.  Some books readers can see the ending coming a mile away, but this one offers so many extras in the relationships with the characters that the predictability of the plot takes a back seat.

This book is a solid choice for any tween reader that enjoys historical fiction and for any adult that wants to offer a tween reader a good book with solid values and character lessons.  It is even an entertaining read for adults!

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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Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson

Book description:

Your Grace-Filled Guide to Relationships

It’s hard, sometimes, to get over that thing your husband said weeks ago; or to resolve that tension with your colleague at work; or to fix a lifelong friendship that’s taken a bad turn. The biggest problem with relationships is they always seem to involve sinners–including ourselves. So how can we form strong, resilient bonds with people who, like us, are bound to mess up?

Thankfully, it’s not all on us. Through stories and biblical teaching, Jessica Thompson helps us move beyond trying to “fix” the people we interact with, and shows us a better way. Though our relationships may be marred by tension and frustration, because we are welcomed and known by Christ, they don’t have to stay that way.

My review:

This is a nice book, but not one that I am super excited about.  I was really intrigued at the beginning, where Thompson states she will not be giving advice about relationships, but showing us how to be alive in relationships by invigorating our soul.  I enjoyed reading her thoughts about how we view relationships, which was really spot on.  I personally tend to “keep score” and think, “I did all this, the least you can do is ______”.  Not pretty (or fair), but honest!

This book did provoke self-assessment and reflection, which is the best thing a book about relationships can do for us.  However, I found that as the book went on, I was less engaged and less challenged for that self-reflection that I enjoy in nonfiction books.  It might have been the structure of the book that created the disengagement.  For example, I would have enjoyed more examples of grace in action when confronted with that person that you want to avoid when you see them at the supermarket, rather than a chapter on dealing with difficult people in our lives.

I did particularly enjoy the chapter on relationships with our co-workers.  Thompson’s thoughts on the idea of the American dream and finding our passion was really refreshing.  I’m still mulling over some of the ideas that she shared and have incorporated them into discussions with my children as they are at the age where they are frequently asked, “What are you going to study in college?”  Any book that stimulates discussion is one with value!

The best part about this book is that it really provoked me to thoughtfully consider the meaning of grace and challenged me to extend it more to the people in my life and myself.  It is an area in which I have always fallen short and have a lot to learn.

Overall I have mixed feelings about this book.  It definitely has value and encouraged self-reflection.  However, it didn’t excite me or ever give me that moment of “I have to tell _____ about what I just read”.  If you are currently experiencing a lot of turmoil in your relationships, you might benefit more from this book, but it just wasn’t that exciting for me.

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

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Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius

Book description (from the back cover):

In January of 1988, Martin Pistorius came home from school complaining of a sore throat.  He never went back.  Within a year, Martin had degenerated in to a mute quadriplegic.  By his fourteenth birthday he was a hollow shell, unseeing and unknowing; he spent his days at a care center, sitting blankly in front of the television while his family waited for him to die.

And then his mind came up for air.

For an unimaginable ten years, Martin would be completely conscious while trapped inside his unresponsive body, secretly aware of everything happening around him and utterly powerless to communicate it.

Ghost Boy is Martin’s story, as written – shockingly and triumphantly – by Martin himself.  With unflinching candor, Martin describes the chilling details of life as a secretly lucid vegetable – from the perversion of some who believed him to be brain dead, to the grace of those who sought recognition in his eyes.

For an age when prolonged illness and misdiagnoses are too common, Ghost Boy is the hopeful story of a discarded life awakening from passivity to action, despair to hope, captivity to freedom.

My review:

This is my must-read book of the year!  It is an unbelievable story with a rare perspective of what it is like to be considered a vegetable, yet be fully aware.  This is a compelling story on so many different levels.  Certainly anyone who has worked with or is currently working with people with severe or profound disabilities should read this book.  Anyone who has a family member with disabilities should also read this book.  Martin’s story is certainly unique!

There are so many things to like about this book.  Who doesn’t like a feel-good story about someone who overcomes amazing obstacles?  It is a success story, not just about Pistorius, but also about his family.  What dedication it took for them, especially his father, to care for him for over a decade.  Pistorius shares the good and the bad in an honest way that doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of how difficult it is to provide care for a person who is unable to care for themselves.

Parts of this book were very difficult to read.  The abuse that Pistorius experienced at the hands of caregivers is reprehensible and sickening.  He doesn’t say in the book whether the perpetrators were prosecuted or not, but I personally hope they were.  It is a nightmare scenario for anyone who has someone they love in a vulnerable position in a long term care facility, especially if the person in non-verbal.  I’m not sure I needed as much specific information about the abuse that Pistorius described, however, I can understand why he might have felt the need to describe it the way  it was.

The only criticism I have about the book is that I would have enjoyed reading more about the misdiagnosis aspect of it.  It wasn’t clear to me what the specific diagnosis was (other than a degenerative disease) and I never understood what the doctors determined was the actual diagnosis.

I think this book could revolutionize the care industry, especially for people that display the symptoms Pistorius had.  It should be required reading for new hires in every long-term care facility in the world.  I’m not saying that I believe every person who exhibits the same symptoms Pistorius had is as aware as he was, however, how can anyone be sure.  I’m also not saying that their care should be different depending upon whether they are aware of not; the care people who are disabled should receive should be of the highest standard, regardless of their functioning level.  I just think that this book would be a great supplement to the training of people providing hands on care.

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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No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches by Jeff Davidson

Book description:

What if the challenges, struggles, and trials in your life turned out to be God’s stage for the biggest blessing of your life? What if the circumstances that bewildered and frustrated you the most brought you the closest you had ever been to God? When Jeff Davidson became the father of a child with special needs, he thought God had wrecked his life. He would discover though that God had given him an amazing gift. God had, in fact, given him a masterpiece.

As the author states, “God sent a broken child into a broken world, to a broken father, so that together they would find God in their brokenness. The world sees a little boy who cannot walk or talk, and requires 24/7 care with his every need. I see God painting his story of unconditional love, grace, and beauty on a human canvas.”

This book is the story of a father, a son with special needs, and their journey with God. Written from the perspective of a man trying to come to terms with being the father of a child with profound special needs, this book will move, inspire, and encourage anyone struggling with their circumstances and trials.

My review:

This is such a beautiful story of the love of a parent for their son and the struggle of raising a child with special needs.  Throughout the entire book, it was clear that Davidson loves his son just as much as every parent should love their child.  However, he is very honest about the emotions that occur when your child has special needs.  He views his son as a gift from God, but also explains the journey to a new “normal”.

This book is a great source of encouragement.  Although it deals specifically with a family adapting to life with a child with special needs, I think there are great lessons for anyone to read who has ever been disappointed with the hand they were dealt.  When reality does not meet our expectations, we need to adapt and find the lesson and the blessing, even if we have to look really hard.  For that reason, I think this book would be great for anyone who has ever been disappointed in life.

What I found most interesting about the book was when Davidson talked about his feelings when other parents “compare” their children or share developmental milestones.  It really made me think about how difficult that must be for parents whose children may never reach a certain milestone.

If you or someone you know has a child with special needs, or if you would like to become more aware or more sensitive to families with children with special needs, this is a great book.  I think it would be particularly helpful for fathers of children with special needs to read, because it is from a father’s perspective.

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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When Sinners Say “I Do” Video Series by Dave Harvey

Description:

Marriage is the union of two people who arrive at the altar toting some surprisingly large luggage. Often it gets opened right there on the honeymoon, sometimes it waits for the week after. The Bible calls it sin and understanding its influence can make all the difference for a man and a woman who are building a life together.

In this eight-session video series, Dave engages his audience with humor and honesty as he speaks about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it. He opens the delightful truth of God’s word and encourages the reader to see more clearly the glorious picture of what God does when sinners say ‘I do.’

Sessions: 1. Sin Part 1; 2. Sin Part 2; 3. Design; 4. Contentment; 5. Mercy Part 1; 6. Mercy Part 2; 7. Sex; 8. Stubborn Grace

My review:

This is an excellent resource!  Whether you are newly married, married for a few years, or married for a lifetime, this DVD can change your marriage.  Each section is short enough that you can easily find the time to watch it nightly for a little over a week, or spread it out over a couple months.  There is also a guide you can download to use to follow along while watching the DVD that summarizes each section.  You can find the study guide here:

http://www.shepherdpress.com/product/when-sinners-say-i-do-dvd/

Right from the beginning, Harvey challenges viewers to change the way they view the sin in their partner.  It is super easy to look at your partner and see only the way they sin against you, however, Harvey reminds us that all sin is against God.  It takes away a lot of anger and opens viewers to listen to the lessons that follow.

Some of the stories Harvey shares are sad, some are funny, but I could identify with a lot of them.  Sometimes it is helpful to be reminded that others have walked (or are walking) in the same path we are.  Watching this series with an open heart and mind creates an attitude of thankfulness and contentment, not only in your marriage, but in your whole life.

In my opinion, this DVD series is helpful whether you watch it alone or with your partner.  I think it is great to watch each section separately and then with your partner.  Even if your partner doesn’t want to watch it with you, it can still have a positive impact on your marriage, because it reframes expectations.

Whether your marriage is happy, unhappy, energized, or monotonous, this is an awesome resource to improve where you are at.  It can breathe life and hope into your marriage.  I can’t wait to read the book!

I received a complimentary copy of this DVD in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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