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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The One O’Clock Miracle by Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri

Book description:

Second in the new Tales that Tell the Truth series comes The One O’clock Miracle. Based on the healing of the official’s son in John chapter 4, this wonderful storybook will teach children about the instant power of the words of Jesus, and that they should trust Jesus because he is God’s Son. Stunningly illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, author and illustrator of several bestselling children’s books, including Monty’s Christmas, as well as the first two storybooks from The Good Book for Children, Alby’s Amazing Book and The Christmas Promise. Written by Alison Mitchell, author of The Christmas Promise and several of our children’s tracts. This book is perfect for children aged 3-6 years old and makes a beautiful gift.

My review:

I’m a fan of Echeverri’s colorful illustrations and the funky fonts that I have grown familiar with from her other books.  This one delivers just as strong of a visual punch as the other ones.  The pictures hold the attention of young readers and non-readers alike and the relationship between the number of words on the page and the interest of the picture is perfect.  In some children’s books, the child has grown bored of looking at the picture and is ready to turn the page before the reader has finished everything.

Not only are the illustrations wonderful, but the writing is also child-friendly.  I loved the way Mitchell used repetition with the “walked and walked – and sometimes ran”.  Children love that kind of writing and it really demonstrated Mitchell’s understanding of her target audience.

The story of the book is not one of the most well-known in the Bible.  I really appreciate Mitchell and Echeverri taking the story of the royal official’s son and putting it into the hands of young children through their engaging book.

If you are looking for a beautiful book with an accurate Bible story, this is a great choice.  I think any young child would enjoy exploring the pictures and hearing it read to them.

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

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Funny Friday

Funny Friday.

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More Than Just the Talk by Jonathan McKee

Book description:

The old ways of having the “sex talk” just won’t cut it anymore. Sadly, the number one place today’s young people go to for answers about sex is Google. Meanwhile, kids view nearly 14,000 sexual references a year on television, and 70 percent of teenagers have encountered pornography on the Internet. If we want our children to know the truth about healthy sexuality, we need to create a comfortable climate of continual conversations.

Jonathan McKee will show you how to move beyond the initial awkwardness of this subject into an ongoing communication with your kids about God’s amazing gift of sex. He equips you with what you need to talk openly about dating, temptation, porn, and purity, and you will find answers to tough questions and relevant Scripture on sexual issues.

It’s normal for kids to be curious about sexuality, and they need to know that their parents are the most reliable source of information. Be the one your kids turn to on this crucial topic.

My review:

McKee hits a home run with his straightforward, no nonsense approach to talking to our kids about an uncomfortable topic.  Everything about this book is relevant, from the back story of what kids are seeing and doing these days, to concrete steps to take when approached by your children with questions, and finishing up with common questions.  Some of the questions he spent an entire chapter on, such as Why Wait? and How Far Can I Go?

There are two things about this book that I really liked.  The first is that McKee backed up each of his positions with biblical references and support.  I also liked the tips about what to do when your children ask you something and you are completely taken aback.  McKee helps us to buy a little bit of time to frame an appropriate and thoughtful response.

The only thing that I was hoping to see in the book that wasn’t there was more information about how to initiate the conversation.  My children don’t ask a lot of questions, but I still want to be there go to person.  McKee offers strategies, but I was hoping for more advice.  However, I’m hoping that by utilizing his suggestions, more questions will be forthcoming.  This is too important of a topic to “hope for the best.”

If you are looking for a straightforward book that will help you open the doors of communication with your children about sex, this is the one for you.  It is down to earth and realistic.

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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You Can Hear the Voice of God by Steve Sampson

Book description:

When you talk to God, do you ever feel as if you are not getting through?

You’re not alone. At some point, most believers find themselves grappling with difficult questions like Would God really talk to me personally? and How do I know it’s truly God talking, and not my own thoughts?

But here’s the good news: Hearing God is simpler than you think.

It’s possible to have a relationship with God that involves both speaking and listening. In fact, it’s God’s desire; He wants to talk to you.

In this revised and expanded edition of a classic work, author and teacher Steve Sampson shows you how to pray not just wishing you’d hear God’s voice–but expecting to hear it.

Sampson’s uncomplicated, practical perspective will help you cultivate the two-way conversation with God you’ve always longed for. Before long, you’ll hear Him speaking into your circumstances and relationships, expressing His love for you and showing you the next steps to take in your life.

Don’t settle for a one-sided conversation with God.

Break through this barrier and develop a sensitive heart that hears–and responds to–God’s still, small voice.

Uncomplicated, unique, and incredibly practical, this book prepares readers to enjoy two-way conversation with God; now revised and expanded with even more real-life instruction.

My review:

I’m always a little hesitant about choosing to read non-fiction books, especially ones that are characterized to help readers do something.  It seems like a lot of them either do a really good job of explaining why readers should do something, but not how.  Other books do the opposite, they describe how, without fully investing readers in the why.  It is a very rare non-fiction book that delivers the why and the how, but Sampson does it.  Perhaps he didn’t have to sell me on the why, but he explained it very well.

The best part about this book is how concrete Sampson is in dealing with an intangible subject.  I’ve never thought it was particularly easy to hear God, but as I read through the book, I thought several times to myself, “I’ve had that happen” or “Oh yeah, I should pay more attention to that.”  It made this a very exciting book to read.  I usually don’t describe non-fiction books as exciting!

I really liked the way Sampson dealt with the idea of hearing God through dreams without getting psychoanalytical about it.  His tips are very easy to assimilate into daily life.  However, the best chapter for me was the one about hearing God  in your spirit.  It is easy to second guess what you think God might be saying to you in your thoughts or impressions.  It was in this chapter where I got the most information about checking whether the thoughts are coming from God or somewhere else.  It is something I have always wondered about and now I have a toolbox to check where it is coming from.  That chapter alone makes the entire book worth the price!

If you are looking for a book to help you discern the voice of God, this is a great one.  I found it very useful and I think many other readers would, too.

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

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All You Want to Know About the Bible in Pop Culture by Kevin Harvey

Book description:

Somehow, it’s hard to picture pop culture and Christianity going hand-in-hand, but maybe we simply aren’t looking at things the right way. All You Want to Know About the Bible in Pop Culture reveals places where readers may be surprised to find redeeming values and gospel messages in today’s movies, music, popular TV shows, and much more!

When you look closely, past the outrageous outfits and the antics of teen pop-sensations, it’s easy to see that from the big screen to the small screen and right down to the radio waves, God and His stories are still prevalent in pop culture today. There are movies and television shows that speak eternal truth, reality show families who represent believers well, even fictional Christians portrayed in a positive light. And if you listen closely, musicians are still conversing with God as the original songwriters of the Bible did. For the reader searching for meaning in media today, All You Want to Know About the Bible in Pop Culture is the perfect choice.

My review:

I’ve often noticed biblical themes or phrases in secular books or movies, so I was excited to read this book and see what Harvey had to share.  I enjoyed this book, even though I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with all of the television shows he mentioned.  However, he devoted an entire chapter to the show Lost, so that makes it a five star book automatically to me!  That was my favorite chapter.  Obviously Lost was all about good versus evil and finding the meaning of life as well as sacrificial love.  Harvey pointed out things about Lost that I had never thought about before, which proves to me I need to go back and watch the entire series again!

Generally speaking, I really enjoyed the chapters and sections that talked about shows, movies, and songs that I am familiar with.  I didn’t find the other ones quite as interesting, although a couple of the movies I thought I should watch.  I was anticipating more details about specific scriptures and lessons, but I still enjoyed the book.  I thought the mazes, crosswords, word searches, and other activities in the back of the book were a lot of fun, too.

If you are looking for a fun book, with interesting insights into some popular movies, shows, and songs, this is a great book for you.  It is a unique book that is different from any other book I have read before!

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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Better All the Time by Carre Armstrong Gardner

Book description:

Seraphina Darling has always struggled to stand out. With her weight issues at the forefront of her mind, Sephy prefers to place herself comfortably in the background. But when Sephy’s best friend and older brother announce their engagement, she vows to make a permanent change in her appearance and her life.

Meanwhile her younger sister, Amy, lands her dream job: coordinating the restoration of the community theater’s arts programs. As the deadline for the project’s completion approaches, Amy continues to run herself ragged, struggling to delegate and trust anyone but herself.

As the Darling sisters move through tragedy and triumph, between shadows and the limelight, each must find a path into the freedom of who God intended her to be.

My review:

I loved the first book in the Darling series by Gardner and this one was just as good.  It was wonderful to revisit the characters of Nick and Ivy and their adopted children to see how they are doing, and I loved getting to know more about Sephy and Amy.

Without a doubt, the best part of this book (and the series) is the characters.  Gardner does an excellent job in portraying a family and describing family dynamics in a normal family.  They don’t always get along, sometimes they downright dislike each other, but they always love each other.  It is a realistic look into life as a family; sometimes, despite being raised in the same atmosphere, by the same parents, children go off on their own and choose to not participate in the family’s life.  We see this in the character of Laura.  The other family members try to include her, but she is still working through her own choices.

The plot was interesting, but it seemed to jump around a lot.  I would have enjoyed more focus on Sephy’s story and less on Laura’s and Amy’s story.  In these kind of family series books, I think it is nice for readers to have each book focus on one story in the family, while we see glimpses of the other family members on the periphery.  There wasn’t enough information about Laura’s story and Amy’s story wasn’t finished.  I’m sure we will see them again in a future book, but it made this book a little scattered.

I feel obligated to mention some topics included in the book in the interest of a balanced review.  Gardner includes topics such as drug addiction, alcoholism, homosexuality, and smoking in the book.  For example, Amy hires a homosexual choreographer for her theater production.  I can imagine that some readers would take offense to that.  Also, there is some drinking at the family’s celebrations, which other readers might not agree with.  In my opinion, it doesn’t detract from the book and I don’t have a problem with it, but other readers of Christian fiction might.  Gardner treats all these subjects in a matter-of-fact manner, without promoting or attacking any view, but readers should be aware of the inclusion of the topics so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to read the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the next one to come out in the Fall of 2015!

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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Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci

Book description:

On her wildly popular blog, Inspiralized, Ali Maffucci is revolutionizing healthy eating. Whether you’re low-carb, gluten-free, Paleo, or raw, you don’t have to give up the foods you love. Inspiralized shows you how to transform more than 20 vegetables and fruits into delicious meals that look and taste just like your favorite indulgent originals. Zucchini turns into pesto spaghetti; jicama becomes shoestring fries; sweet potatoes lay the foundation for fried rice; plantains transform into “tortillas” for huevos rancheros.

Ali’s recipes for breakfast, snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads, casseroles, rices, pastas, and even desserts are easy to follow, hard to mess up, healthful, and completely fresh and flavorful. Best of all, she tells you how to customize them for whatever vegetables you have on hand and whatever your personal goal may be—losing weight, following a healthier lifestyle, or simply making easy meals at home.

Here, too, are tons of technical tips and tricks; nutritional information for each dish and every vegetable you can possibly spiralize; and advice for spiralizing whether you’re feeding just yourself, your family, or even a crowd. So bring on a hearty appetite and a sense of adventure—you’re ready to make the most of this secret weapon for healthy cooking.

My review:

My favorite part of this book is the first section.  Maffucci spends a lot of time explaining how to select the best vegetables to spiralize and explaining how to do it.  I thought to myself that the company should have hired her to write the user’s manual!

The best part of this book for me was the idea of making “buns” out of compressed veggies.  It was a new idea for me, but one that I will definitely incorporate into our diets.  I also got a lot out of the “rice” dishes.

It would have been nice to have a picture of each recipe.  As our family is making the necessary transition to gluten-free eating, some recipes would be automatically refused on the grounds of “looking weird”.  It would be so helpful to look at the final product so that I could try the less “weird looking” ones first.

I think this cookbook offers something for everyone who is wanting to eat more healthfully.  There is a nice range of recipes that would appeal to many different palates.  I can’t wait until it is zucchini time again!

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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