Sunday, September 7, 2014

Never Ever Give Up - The Inspiring Story of Jessie and her JoyJars by Erik Rees with Jenna Glatzer

11 year old Jessie loved to shop - fashion and sweets being among her favorites.  She was, for the most part, your typical "tween"....until she was diagnosed with an inoperable, incurable brain tumor.  Being diagnosed with this rare cancer wasn't what made her atypical as far as kids was the fact that despite being in the biggest battle of her life, she never once focused on herself.  Her focus was always on other kids suffering with cancer and how to bring true joy, hope and love to them.

Her life can be summed up in a simple question asked to her dad: "How can we help them?"

This simple question turned into an international movement called NEGU: Never Ever Give Up. 

Jessie began taking paper bags filled with treats and little goodies to children fighting cancer in the local children's hospital.  These simple acts of love, seeded with hope blossomed into JoyJars - packages filled with toys, games, goodies and love.  It didn't take long before these JoyJars moved beyond her local children's hospital and thousands of JoyJars were sent all across the U.S. and to over 27 countries.

This story is told through Jessie's dad, Erik.  He opens his heart and soul and allows readers to fully see, both the good and the bad, the joy and the heartache his family went through during Jessie's battle.  I think the most impressive part of Erik's telling of this story is that we see that even a Pastor...a man of with emotions, fears and worries, just like each of us.  Many tend to put Pastors on pedestals of faith that most 'ordinary' believers feel they never measure up to.  His words, his openness, has touched me deeply.  While this family was filled with a great amount of faith, the journey wasn't always smooth - even bumping heads on 'faith issues'.

Erik even speaks of his experiences with the family dealt with in this new modern 'social media' world we live in.

I felt drawn to read and review this book because I have spent a dozen years trying my best to bring love, joy and hope to cancer patients through weekly cards and letters....sometimes including a small gift as just 'take their mind off cancer' even if it's only for a few moments.  Even before I finished reading this book, I hopped on FaceBook and pulled up JESSIE REES FOUNDATION: NEVER EVER GIVE UP and began following them.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so my FB page is sporting the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month logo in it's iconic gold coloring.  To quote the mother of a child that I "angeled" through her journey of cancer several years ago (who to this day is still in remission - Praise God!), "Let's start a GOLD RUSH!"  I post this review in honor of all the children that I've supported, encouraged, and (continue to) all know who you are!

I wish to thank Zondervan (through Handlebar) for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.

"Oh, Brother..." by Samantha L. Morgan

This is first book in the 'Oh, Brother' series, by the very talented, young author, Samantha L. Morgan.

Olivia Walden, 13, is harboring a fear deep inside....methyphobia (the fear of alcohol)...and she thinks she's keeping it well under-wraps.  Olivia and her older brother, Dan are very close to one another.  Dan, (a former alcoholic), begins seeing unusual behavior in his young sister, he's not quite sure how to go about getting Olivia to open up and share what going on.  Will Dan be able to penetrate the fortress Olivia has tried to build around herself to protect her from her deep-seeded fear, or will Dan's past hinder Olivia in overcoming this fear?  Together, this tight-knit group of siblings and friends, with God's help will find out what it really means to trust in God and each other.

This novel is filled with humorous situations and tender moments, quirky, fun-loving, relate-able characters that will stick with the reader long after the final page is read, and leave you wanting to know more of what goes on in the lives of the Walden family.  

If you're a fan of the television shows 7th Heaven and Reba, you'll love this novel!

Oh, Brother is available for purchase at 
Book 2 in the Oh, Brother series, "Tough Love" will be available at the same web address this fall.

In The Shadow of Sinai by Carole Towriss

When I think of the biblical Exodus, I envision the beaten down slave working in the brutal sun, struggling to survive. I'd never paused to consider those with high-ranking or prestigious positions ... like Bezalel. With his artistic skill, Bezalel rises in prestige among the Egyptians, gaining the respect of Pharaoh himself, and yet, his gifting deprives him of what he longs for most--connection with his family and his people. Forced to work in the heat, the common slaves view Bezalel as a traitor. Trapped by his own gifting, Bezalel wonders if perhaps God isn't as loving as some claim him to be. His emotions are complicated further when the plagues brought about by God--those designed to bring liberation--hurts someone Bezalel cares for. Through Bezalel, we experience the plagues--the questions, the fears, the doubts--not only through an Israelite, but through the Egyptians, as well.

The road to faith is never easy, and sometimes we must hit what feels like an impenetrable road block, but in this beautifully crafted novel of hope brought from despair, we realize it is in our times of greatest trials that God triumphs.

This novel grabbed me from page one, and I truly loved each character presented. Carole Towriss' writing is fresh and engaging, and stirred my thinking long after I finished the novel. You don't need to love biblical fiction to enjoy this gripping story of redemption. Anyone who's ever shook their fists at God, anyone who's ever wondered how good could possibly come from their tragedy, anyone who longs to see God's love prevail, will thoroughly enjoy in the Shadow of Sinai. In the Shadow of Sinai is a beautiful novel of hope amidst despair, trust in the face of terror, and a love that binds. Debut author Carole Towriss turned a familiar story of liberation into an unexpected love story that resonates deep in the hearts.

Wow, incredible. A whole new meaning to the story of Moses and the 10 Plagues of Egypt! This behind the scenes look at Israel's slavery in Egypt is brought to life In The Shadow of Sinai. I felt as if I were in the thick of Bible times experiencing the 10 Plagues of Egypt firsthand. I had never read about the turmoil or anguish in such a way that you really felt sorry for the people. It makes you realize what a truly evil ruler Ramses was to allow his people to suffer so greatly.

I was spellbound as I read her gripping descriptions of the palace, and life back in those days, the slaves, the royalty, and the reactions to the plagues that both sides had. In the Shadow of Sinai is absolutely riveting and I couldn't put it down. I had to find out what happened with Bezalel and some of the other characters. I can't wait for more books by this talented author. If you like biblical fiction, you won't want to miss In the Shadow of Sinai.

 Through the eyes of Bezelalel, a Hebrew slave with a gift that makes him invaluable to the Egyptians but despised by his own people, we catch a glimpse of what life may have been like during the Exodus. In the Shadow of Sinai is a beautiful novel of hope amidst despair, trust in the face of terror, and a love that binds. Debut author Carole Towriss turned a familiar story of liberation into an unexpected love story that resonates deep in the hearts.

I highly recommend this novel!! Thanks Carole for sharing your talents with the world!

(I read this book well over a year ago...and have reread it since then...apparently, I had written this review prior to my hiatus, but had not posted it).

I'm Back!!!

Hello Again, Reader Friends....

After an incredibly long hiatus, this blog is back up and running.

There seems to be 'enough' in life with just with the 'usual routine', let alone adding additional "things/duties" to the mix.

I got so inundated with books that people wanted me to read and review for them, it soon became overwhelming.  While I love doing this, and I admit, it's hard for me to say no to anyone, I basically burned myself out.  It no longer became "fun" or "pleasurable" to read.  Add to all this the fact that I was studying for my Master's was made for the perfect combination to create "burn out".  So I decided I needed a hiatus for a while.  I never imagined, it would be 9 months long. 

There was also a long stint of health and family issues....most have been resolved, some are still 'active' but moving toward resolution, and others are in the beginning stages...but that's life!

While life has yet to slow down, at least my studies are complete, and I now feel ready to begin reading and reviewing books to share with all of you.  I'm pacing myself....trying not to take on too many at one time.  While I cannot guarantee how often reviews will be posted, it shouldn't take 9 months in between!

Stay tuned - the newest book review will be posted soon!

~Angel Linda~