Book Review: The Martian Wars

Every so often, I decide to read a book that is outside my normal favorite genre choices. I don’t normally read science-fiction, however, I was willing to give the genre a try with the book, The Great Martian Wars by Jake Beebe. Up until now, I don’t know if I had every read a book about life on Mars.

A young Prime Minister. A new marriage. Big dreams. A status quo challenge. An age-defying vaccine. Life on Mars. War.

This book has it all.

The main character of The Great Martian Wars is a man Penn Horton is now the Prime Minister for what is formerly the USA, but is now the land of Nova. He is newly married to Sarah, and his closest friend is  his trusted advisor. When they decide to move away from the council that controls the country, Penn is met with great resistance. Not to mention, what was once a great accomplishment – people living on Mars, has become a a horrific scenario of bondage. This is an action packed, and multi-layered story! Readers will have a hard time putting it down.

If you like a modern old world/new world futuristic tale, you will enjoy  The Great Martian Wars. I appreciated how the main character, Penn, isn’t afraid of new ideas. As a powerful leader, he has a singular focus on listening and taking care of the “common folks”.

The characters in The Great Martian Wars are engaging; author Jake Beebe does a great job of developing characters so you feel you really know them. Reading and “watching” Penn and Sarah’s relationship and how they leaned into each other in a new marriage that is formed before Penn becomes a prime minister made them even more endearing. Even the secondary characters, the ones that only show up occasionally, are so well developed that you feel connected to them.

The Great Martian Wars is the first volume in a series. So, there is more to come from Jake Beebe!

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Book Review: Avalanche

If you like the YA genre, then I have a book for you. I recently read Avalanche by K. Vann O’Brien which is full of teenage romance, turmoil and angst, but also full of hope and redemption.

The author says that the title Avalanche is not only a literal description of what happens in the book, but also a metaphor for how the character develops in the story.

In Avalanche by K. Vann O’Brien, we meet Alice Bass. A former cheerleader, fashion obsessed teenager who has recently gone through quite a change. She quit the cheerleading squad, gained weight, and dyed her blonde her jet black. She exchanged high heels and high fashion for black shirts, and baggy sweatshirts. Her mom, concerned over the dramatic change of her daughter, sends Alice off to drug camp. But, Alice isn’t on drugs. So why is she at a drug camp? We do meet a lot of kids who do have addiction issues at the camp. They are marked by their past, the addictions that hold them back, and the people in their lives who have made them feel abandoned. The camp is nestled in the snowy mountains in the state of Washington. Campers spend their days enjoying hiking, skiing and more. When an actual Avalanche hits the camp, Alice must choose between being honest with herself and addressing the secrets of her past, or helping her new friends.

In the book, Graceful Wind is the name of the drug camp, and even though it’s advertised to be “Christian based”, the campers do not find Christian values.

Reading Avalanche hit really close to home for me. In fact, you could say my reaction felt like an Avalanche. My husband runs a recovery program for teenage boys who have substance abuse addictions. It is also Christian based. I was so sad for the characters in the book, because they only encountered hostility at Graceful Wind. I kept comparing the fictional drug camp in Avalanche to the very real program my husband runs. The two could not be more different. My husband  and his staff work hard every single day to show the young meant in the program what it means to follow Jesus. They also work with them to uncover what got them into a lifestyle of addiction.  As they work through that, they experience true freedom.

Despite the fact that I really struggled with the camp (in comparison to  to the program my husband runs), I continued to remind myself that not all drug/behavioral programs are run like the one my husband runs. Some of them really are like Graceful Wind in Avalanche.

There are a lot of intense situations that are either directly addressed or indirectly implied in Avalanche. This is a book for teenagers/adults, so it is not a book you want to use a read aloud for growing readers. The book addresses drug use, suicide, losing a parent, and rape. I felt like the author did a great job of introducing these intense issues and allowing the characters to work through them. I usually hate bringing up potential spoilers, but because I recommend a lot of chapter books with read aloud potential, I want to make sure you know: Avalanche is a great read, but it has adult content.

I read Avalanche in two days. It was a great book. I had a hard time putting it down. If you need YA LIT genre book to read, this is a great book to pick up!

You can find Author K. Vann O’Brien on Facebook and her website. On Facebook and her website, you will find information about K. Vann O’Brien’s other books.

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Book Review: The Heir of Kembarius

Do you want to know a secret? When you raise readers, sometimes, it can take you down roads you didn’t expect to take. The unexpected twists in a family’s reading journey elevate books and reading to an incredibly unique journey.

This was the case of author Sarah Stehlik. A mom of three boys, Sarah and her kids have read countless books. Until, finally, Sarah decided it was time to introduce the book world to her book. The Heir of Kembarius by Sarah Stehlik is book 1 in the Tales from Winderlawk. For fans of books like Lord of The Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and The Green Ember, get ready! You are going to love The Heir of Kembarius. The Heir of Kembarius is for ages 8-12 years of age, but if you love a good story, you will want to read The Heir of Kembarius.

The Heir of Kembarius is a fictional book about Kingdom Heir who was kidnapped; this act of treason caused the kingdom to divide. The heir was never found, and divisions have only grown. A select group, the five elders, are given the seemingly impossible task of finding the heir.

The entire story premise of The Heir of Kembarius demands a clear explanation of the kingdom’s history. I love that the first chapter carefully explains it. This is not a boring history lesson! You are literally sucked into the story, and the more you read, the more questions  you have. Never fear. Author Sarah Stehlik is a reader who writes for readers. She understands the need for a great balance of intrigue and explanation. Sarah delivers too! Ya’ll, I flew through the chapters. In fact one time, I thought I was still in chapter 4, only to discover I was starting chapter 7. That is the best sign of a good book; when you have no idea what chapter you are in, because you can’t get enough.

There is such mystery in the storyline of The Heir of Kembarius. I loved how you will think you know where the story is going, until it changes and then you have no clue. Those storylines, the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat, are seriously the best. My goodness. I couldn’t get enough. The characters are awesome. I loved how developed they were. There is friendship, mysterious leaders, even more mysterious and threatening “bad guys”.

Be sure to grab your copy of The Heir of Kembarius; it will make a great summer read!

I’m excited to see what Sarah Stehlik does next! She is a talented writer and has incredible grasp on a telling a good story. You can find Sarah Stehlik on her website.

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Book Review: Holding Hands With Happy

I really believe in self-care. You know, taking time to take care of yourself. The activity of self-care always varies for me, but the purpose is always the same: to relax and take care of myself. I’m not talking about errands or tasks, I’m talking about a quiet cup of coffee or taking myself to dinner, or sitting on the front porch to listen to the birds, or getting a pedicure. Sometimes, just going to the gym is good enough. But self-care helps me be a better person, a better wife, and a better mom. As a Christian, I value spiritual self-care as well. Which is why I spend time praying, journaling, and reading the Bible. Those acts help refuel my soul.

All of it is needed. But sometimes, if you are out of practice of self-care or you just want to start, it can be extremely overwhelming. I know there have been times where I have thought, “I need to do something for me!” But I’m so overwhelmed with how neglected my self-care priority has been, that the act of implementing self-care seems monumental.

In Holding Hands With Happy by D’Lisa DarLuz, D’Lisa leads her readers through an easy to follow guide towards happiness. She offers a simple focus, and then follows it with a easy “homework assignment”. Even though the focus on the book is happiness, the word I kept thinking of is: self-care. Sometimes, when you know you need to work on self-care, it can be difficult to know where to start. D’Lisa makes that easy for you. Whether it’s the pursuit of happiness or the pursuit of self-care,  D’Lisa leads the way! Armed with humor, D’Lisa will guide you towards taking better care of yourself. Step by step, in 15 activity filled chapters, Holding Hands With Happy makes it easy for you.

This is the type of book you could read with a journal in hand. You will want space to fully complete the homework. Then, you want time to be able to reflect on what each chapter and the corresponding homework talked about. Taking notes as you read and show you the progress you have made from start to finish of Holding Hands With Happy.

At one point in the book, there was mention of all people being gods. As a Christian, I don’t agree with that. However, the very next sentence in the book talks about how valuable we are; how each individual has worth and purpose. I TOTALLY agree with that. So many times, people feel like they have no worth or value. That is simple not true! YOU MATTER! YOU HAVE VALUE!

I really appreciated how Holding Hands With Happy does not avoid hard subjects like pain, unforgiveness, etc. We will never be truly happy until we work through the pain of our past. That is so true and so powerful.  Holding Hands With Happy will guide you to taking better care of yourself. The book will help you begin the process of releasing whatever is holding you back, and identifying what you need in your life to pursue happiness. This is an easy to read, quick book and you will feel empowered by the end of it.

You can find D’Lisa on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Book Review: Killing Wonder Woman

Do you ever feel like Wonder Woman? I know I do. With all the demands on women as we balance work, family, activities, calendars, it can be a lot. Sometimes, it can feel like we aren’t enough. That we haven’t done everything we needed to do or everything we should be doing. It’s so much. Sometimes being “Wonder Woman” doesn’t feel empowering, it feels like I’m always coming up short. This imaginary list of expectations I carry can sometimes feel like I’m about to be suffocated by them instead of managing them.

Killing Wonder Woman by Tenaya T.J.Tison addresses this very thing. Letting go of the lies and expectations we seek as we pursue our “Wonder Woman” identity. I love how the first thing the author talks about is – we don’t have to do it this way. I wore my copy out (as seen in the picture above), that’s no mistake! I took Killing Wonder Woman everywhere as I read it.

Tison immediately assures us we don’t have to be Wonder Woman. As a Christian, Tison dives into the truth in the Bible to show us that our identity is not found in our checklist, but in God. As we pursue HIM, the demands of our checklist no longer hold us captive. We are “A new creation in Christ”.

Throughout the book, Tison leads her readers to the Word of God as the source for killing Wonder Woman and becoming who God meant for us to be.

I loved the little “Let’s Be Honest” segments in each chapters. These little nuggets of truth directly address a lie we may be believing and shuts that lie down in a Tweet-worthy power punch phrase.

Killing Wonder Woman is divided into four parts – Identifying Wonder Woman, Being Set Free, Winning at Work, and Soaring in Faith. Through each part, Wilson breaks it down so it’s not overwhelming, but it is slammed-pack with real talk and truth from Scripture.

This isn’t a self-help book that skirts around issues facing women today. Instead, Tison kindly addresses each obstacle we face and points us to Jesus.

I was encouraged by Tison’s words. I was also really challenged to reflect on the lies I believe about myself. Being challenged to self-evaluate is never easy, but it does make us (me) a better person when I can identify lies, and crush them by seeking truth found in the Word of God.

Killing Wonder Woman is not a thick book, but don’t misjudge it’s size. It may be slim, but it is overflowing in content.  Grab your copy today! You will be glad you did!

Follow Tenaya T.J. Tison on Facebook and her website.

 

Book Review: No One Needed To Know

April is National Autism Awareness Month. As a mom, I greatly admire my friends who juggle therapist appointments, doctor visits, school meetings, teacher communications and more for their special needs children. However, aside from admiring my friends, I’m not sure I’ve given autism any real thought. That’s a painfully honest admission, but it’s true.  When D.G Driver approached me to review her book, No One Needed To Know, I agreed because I realized I needed to be better educated. This middle grades novel tells the story of a brother and sister relationship; it’s quirky, loving, there is tension, and it’s complicated too.

In No One Needed To Know, we meet 11 year old Heidi. The book is written in first person. Heidi is very athletic and no nonsense. While her friends are interested in make up and boys, Heidi doesn’t get caught up in that stuff. Heidi has a secret: her 16 year old brother, Donald is autistic. Fiercely protective and an attentive sister, Heidi is still a middle school girl who struggles with the awkwardness of understanding her brother, but having friends who REFUSE to get to know him for who he is. This turns brutal as both Donald and Heidi are bullied; they do the best they can. Heidi tries to defend her brother. Donald always sees the best in people; even when they are mean to him without cause.

This book is heart-wrenching. D.G. Driver pulls you in immediately. You see Heidi try to process what is happening. We use the complication of protecting her brother. She works hard not to embarrass him. Heidi loses friends because they misjudge Donald. I admired how much Heidi sees the loss she is experiencing, she sees the unnecessary bullying she is enduring, but she does not back down from defending her brother. I love a strong sibling relationship and No One Needed To Know has done such a good job.

The story takes a turn I didn’t see (I hate spoilers, so I won’t share), but I will say: I cried. As soon as the book ended, I immediately wrote D.G. Driver and thanked her for her book. It’s beautifully done.

While this is a middle grades book, I think parents should read this book. It’s a great way to discuss being kind to friends and their family members. Autism, as well as other special needs should not be seen as “problems” (a teacher in No One Needs To Know addresses this), but as people who can grow our hearts with compassion, empathy and FRIENDSHIP.

 

Book Review: Are My Kids On Track?

I’m always worried I’m not doing a good job as a mom. I think this is something that all parents worry about; what could be improved? What needs to change? What am I doing good? These questions are always in the back of my mind. I don’t use these questions as a way to create self-induced guilt. However, I do use it as an opportunity to look for ways of improvement. I’m always looking for ways to be better as a parent.

I am very thankful Bethany House Publishers gifted me the book, Are My Kids On Track? by Sissy Goff, David Thomas and Melissa Trevathan for review. Written by three counselors who have years of combined experience, Are My Kids On Track? addresses twelve different milestones your child needs to reach regarding Emotional, Social, and Spiritual. The book breaks down those three categories into specifics addressed with an individual chapter. Topics like Perspective,  Empathy, Ownership, Boundaries,Identity and Meaning are covered with their own chapters.

As a mom of three children under the age of five, I was a little concerned that Are My Kids On Track? Would not apply to me. It feels like it’s written towards parents with children who are middle schoolers. But as I read, I decided that this book was actually perfect for parents of toddlers and preschoolers as well as parents with older children.  It gives you mile markers to check. The authors guide you into the conversations you should be having with your kids, the ways to redirect them, etc. I loved how the focus is not on helicopter parenting, but on helping your children become well-adjusted adults. The topics in Are My Kids On Track? Are subjects that you may not think about until there is a problem. Like creating healthy boundaries without getting taken advantage of; or helping them identify who they are with confidence. But by being aware of those milestones ahead of time, you can empower your child to grow in those areas.

Sometimes, when I read Parenting books, I get really turned off by the author’s tone. It feels like I’m being scolded. I hate that. Sissy Goff, David Thomas and Melissa Thevathan are not like that. They aren’t scolding parents with a long To-Do list served with guilt and anxiety. Instead, they are gently leading you; think of it like the parenting equivalent to getting a notification that the cost of apples went up. It’s helpful and beneficial. As I read Are My Kids On Track? I felt like I was having a round table discussion with the authors. That’s how conversational-written the book was; it was a gentle flow of experienced counselors giving you a heads up.

I’ve already recommended this book to several of my friends. I love when I read a book and I can’t stop talking about it. That is a good sign the book left a good impression. Are My Kids On Track? Is a great read for all parents. Grab your copy today!


Book Review: Sea Glass

In college, I had a really good friend tell me I spoke in story form. I was fascinated by this comment and the idea behind it. Upon further reflection, I realized my friend was right; when I talk, I tell stories. I can’t help it. I love stories. I especially love people’s life stories. As a child, I read a lot, but I mostly read biographies. I loved it. I loved reading about people and the lives they lived. This is something that hasn’t changed. I still like hearing people’s stories.

Author Mary Ellen Thome recently sent me her memoir, Sea Glass. In it, Mary Ellen shares her life story. With graciousness, she shares hard, painful moments in her life (an alcoholic father, losing her brother at an early age).

Mary Ellen has a background in counseling; specifically, as a school counselor. As she told her story, Mary Ellen would often reference counseling terms regarding her childhood struggles. I found Mary Ellen to be incredible self-aware. What really impressed me was how she was quick to share how her experiences as a child, along with her counseling background, enabled her to help the students she encountered. Several times throughout the book, Mary Ellen mentioned how she has been able to reconnect with her students through social media. That demonstrated her incredible care of her students to seek them out and cheer them on in their successes.

Mary Ellen became a Christian as a women in her late forties. Her love for the Lord shown brightly throughout her book. This is a woman who loves the Lord. As she shared how she came into a relationship with Jesus, she acknowledges the people she met in her life before becoming a Christian shaped her life. She specifically mentions the influence of her college roommate, Laura Jean. I loved hearing about how Laura Jean planted a seed of faith in Mary Ellen. It was a beautiful reminder that, we plant the seeds, and Christ does the work.

One of the tensions in writing a memoir about one’s life is that it is never a solitary account. Other people are intertwined within the fabric of your life too. When you think of those people in your life, you have to tell your story with great consideration of them. Mary Ellen does this; when she discusses her divorce, the priority is respecting her son and his father and their privacy. I really admired this; she was sensitive of everyone involved as she shared.

Mary Ellen Thome has a special gift for the world; her faith in Christ came at an older age. That encouraged me greatly. It reminded me that it’s never too late or hopeless for someone to decide to follow Jesus. If you are praying for someone’s salvation, the subtitle of Sea Glass is A Testimony of God’s Restoration. That should encourage you. It’s never too late!

 

Book Review: Talking With God

Several months ago, my kids and I were talking about how you pray to God. They asked, “What do you say?”. I realized then that the act of prayer can feel awkward. That doesn’t diminish it’s value, but in a time  where we text and (usually) get an instant response, pray can feel one-sided.

I’ve been a Christian for so long, I value prayer and I don’t question it.  I know it works. Even when situations are hard and difficult, I’ve seen the Lord answer prayers. In the midst of my deep pain, I’ve seen God work. In the Bible, Jesus talks about praying should be as simple as The Lord Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth as It is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amen. But, what about if you don’t speak Old English like in the King James Version?

Adam Weber’s book, Talking With God came out this week. In his debut book, Adam tackles the topic of prayer in a way that makes you feel like you are having coffee with a friend and the subject of prayer casually comes up. Adam’s conversational tone is consistent throughout his book; this takes the intimidation factor down a notch. Adam makes prayer applicable and walks you through it carefully. He is deeper than, “ya just pray”. He divides prayer into three topics – Who We Talking to, How We Pray, and The Way To Pray. With personal stories, a great sense of humor, and a lot of honesty, Adam walks readers through prayer. He weaves in quotes from great theologians, examples of prayers to pray, and stories of his devotion to the Cincinnati Bengals. Talking With God is the perfect balance of Christian Self Help/Beginner’s Theology book.

As you read, don’t be surprised if you burst out laughing. I was surprised that I was laughing while reading a book about prayer, but I think that is the point Adam is trying to bring home: prayer should be a joyful conversation with the Our God. Even if the topic is difficult, we approach The Lord with thankfulness that we can trust Him with our sorrows. Adam shows this clearly by inserting humor.

Adam is the lead pastor at his church, Embrace. As I read his book, I got a good sense of the community at Embrace. This community was mentioned thoroughout Talking With God. That’s a great reflection of how a church treats it’s people – especially when a book blogger in Georgia wants to visit a church in South Dakota because their pastor has been bragging on them.

Be sure to grab Talking With God. It’s a great book; perfect for new and old Christians alike!

Follow Adam Weber on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Website.

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Book Review: Stuff Dutch Moms Like

I’m an American mom. I think I differ somewhat from my peers in that I embrace dirt (I love for my kids to be outside playing in the dirt or mud or forest); I’m not afraid for my children to come inside soaking wet from playing in the water or dirty from dirt. But apart from that and lots of reading, I’m still an average American Mom. I have no idea what that actually means (I can’t think of an accurate description of “American mom”), but I know I am: 1) American and 2) A Mom. So there you go.

When I was approached to review the book, Stuff Dutch Moms Like by Colleen Geske, I agreed because the title alone is intriguing. What DO Dutch Moms LIKE? With a good mixture of satire and truth author Colleen Geske breaks down the responsibilities of motherhood and explores what Dutch mom think. Covering topics from pregnancy to sleep schedules to mom guilt to education, Dutch Moms all have an opinion.

I read this book in one sitting; it’s a small, thick book, but the format includes eye catching graphics and cute little cartoonish “mom” characters, making the entire read fun and informative. There are also lots of pictures of Dutch parents interacting with their children. The subtitle says, “A celebration of Dutch parenting and why Dutch Moms have it all!”. That certainly catches one’s eye!

Stock full of information, I did take away a few gems from the book. One, was the lack of helicoptering by Dutch Moms. Children are allowed to be little and to explore the world. This is not negligence, this is giving children a safe place (home/parents) to return to after exploring with the parents hovering. I also loved the extensive talk about Daddy Days. Dutch Dads regularly schedule entire days to spend with their kids. WHAT A GIFT! That is a treasure of time for those children. My husband does this and it makes me so grateful for the way he intentionally builds into the lives of our children.

I did notice that a lot of the comments by the Dutch moms comparened their parenting philosophies to those of American Moms in the book. I didn’t think they were being mean in their comments, I just think it may have been the only other nationality that they knew to compare their philosophies to (one mom mentioned American mom bloggers). They talked about how foreign “Mommy wars” seemed to them. One comment, in particular stuck out to me. A Dutch Mom discussed how they had moved to the USA and their child’s teacher was talking with the parents about the child’s test score results. Finally, the Mom asked the teacher, “Is my child happy?” The teacher was astonished, but the Mom went on: “I have found children learn and thrive when they are happy. Is my child happy to be in your classroom?” I have spent a lot of time thinking about this; shifting the focus away testing abilities to how is the child thriving makes children less of a statistic and more of a thriving and growing little human.

A lot of parenting books tell parents what they should and shouldn’t do. Stuff Dutch Moms Like weaves in humor with how the Dutch parent. It’s funny, but with a kick too. If you are looking for a lighthearted parenting book, I recommend Stuff Dutch Moms Like!

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