Saturday, October 31, 2015

Miracle Drug by Richard Mabry, M.D. {Excellent Murder Mystery & Political Thriller}

If you enjoy murder mysteries and political thrillers, Miracle Drug is a great choice! I've always enjoyed this genre, but as I've gotten older I'm appreciating more books where language and sexual content don't overwhelm the novel--part of my reasoning is I want to read things I can then recommend  and share with my teenage son & daughter. Miracle Drug fits my desires for my reading, as well as being able to give it to my kids to read.

The novel begins immediately with a murder, followed by suspense and the reader's desire to know more. I appreciate the medical details and depth within the novel, but I especially enjoyed how I was left guessing for the entire novel as to who were the "good guys" and the "bad guys" as a former President of the United States' life is in jeopardy. It's clear that Dr. Josh Pearson is the main protagonist, but the majority of the characters remain in a 'gray area' throughout the novel--and those unknowns make it hard to stop reading! I enjoyed this novel, and I now plan to read more of Richard Mabry's works.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.*

Miracle Drug (Abingdon, September 2015)
Overcoming these odds will take more than a miracle drug—it will take a miracle.
The infection wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. The treatment was supposed to take care of it, but it didn’t. Then Dr. Josh Pearson discovers why—his patients, including the former President of the United States, have been dosed with a different strain of the original virus, one that is universally fatal. The only chance for survival is treatment with an experimental drug, but the manufacturer might already have discarded its supply.
As if treating the President of the United States isn’t stressful enough, the situation goes from bad to worse when Rachel Moore, a nurse Josh is falling in love with, falls ill. With the nation’s eyes on him, Josh must pull off a miracle to save a man who holds a good deal of power and the woman who holds his heart.

Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician who writes “medical suspense with heart.” His novels have won multiple awards: a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel; finalists for the Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice Award; and both finalist and winner of the Selah Award. "Miracle Drug" is his ninth published novel. He and his wife live in Frisco, Texas.

Friday, October 30, 2015

'Halo Found Hope. ~A Memoir' by Helo Matzelle {Book Review}

Helo Matzelle has never written a book prior to Halo Found Hope, nor had she grown up having aspirations to become a writer. Those two things make her book all the more real. More authentic. It's a diary from the heart that shares her process of learning she had a brain tumor, the surgery required to remove the tumor, the long hospital stay that followed, and the rehabilitation journey to her 'new normal.' Helo was not alone in her journey--the sweet relationships she has with her husband, children, brother, parents, and doctors is ever-apparent within her writings. But above all other relationships, in the times she is struggling, scared and frustrated, HOPE is present. Helo's personal relationship with Christ and the way she relies on a trusts Him through everything is at the heart of her narrative. My desire is that others will read this book and gain a deeper understanding of the beauty that occurs within us when we allow God to be part of our everything.

I loved the insight found within Halo Found Hope. A few years ago, I left the job that will always hold a dear place in my heart. I LOVED my job, my coworkers, and all the craziness the job entailed. My title? Patient Care Liaison. And I worked on the Neurological Intermediate floor OSF St. Francis, and the floor is part of the Illinois Neurological Institute. My training took place on the Intensive Care and General floors as they prepared to open the new Intermediate floor. I answered phones, prepped charts, talked to and comforted families, watched patients' vital signs via monitors at my desk, and grabbed the crash cart if a Code Blue were to occur. Some patients would be admitted and discharged very quickly. Others would find themselves staying much longer than was ever anticipated. Some days swung back & forth between thinking a patient wasn't going to make it through the night, to them opening their eyes and communicating a few days later. What Helo describes in her book, both from her own personal awareness and experience, to relaying things her family and medical staff shared with her provide a very clear, accurate picture of her hospital stay and the difficult process of physical therapy and rehab.

To my neuro friends: thank you for all you do. From neurosurgeons to surgical nurses, to the nurses, techs, liaisons and other staff on the floors, you are incredible. The brain is amazing, and the task of removing a tumor and then helping patients and families recover from that is not an easy road. May Helo's book help you realize how much you are appreciated. 

Helo also is blessed with an amazing family, and her gratitude for getting to spend more time with them has caused me to assess my life and realize I can't take special relationships for granted! I've lost family members due to brain tumors, have watched just within the past couple years as a friend has had a tumor removed not once but twice, and I continue to watch a family walk the road of their young son having an inoperable brain tumor. Even now, my sister-in-law's sister is in the initial stages of recovering from brain tumor surgery and is beginning her treatments. I know Helo's book will resonate with many specifically because of brain tumors, and it may hit those readers in ways that bring sobs. But all struggles are real, authentic "felt-needs". Regardless of the family support system in place or the type of struggle, Helo does a wonderful job of writing in a way that will touch any reader.

Lord, I pray you can use this book of Helo's to help others find or renew their hope in you. No one can take your place, and I can't imagine the helplessness that comes from going through the toughest times in our lives without you. Thank you for being present in my life, and may I begin to share of you  more & more!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from CelebrateLit in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 23, 2015

{More than simply a} Book Review for 'Just Show Up'

Every so often, you read a biographical work that completely draws you in because you can picture you and the author being friends. Whether it's your personalities, shared life experiences, similar beliefs, or even your approach to life, you are drawn in by the comfort of a kindred spirit.

The epitome of an author with whom I'm certain I could share a friendship is Jen Hatmaker.

But now, through the process of reading Just Show Up, I feel that same connection and desire with its authors Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. Kara is no longer here on earth; this book was her final writing as she faced the end stages of her terminal cancer diagnosis. But her personality and brightness come through in such a sweet, sweet way that the tears you wipe from your eyes while reading Just Show Up is due to your heart saying, "Goodness, she was a wonderful friend." As for Jill? Well, her honesty about her more reserved nature, her hesitations of when should she pour into someone else, and the times in which she second guesses how she could best walk alongside Kara resonated with me and my personality on nearly every single page. When Jill states that taking meals to others is a weak area for her (insert my word, which is 'stressful'), I truly said aloud, "THANK YOU!" because I have always felt weak and incompetent through the fact that--for me--taking meals is not my natural area for showing up for others (I have a hard time coming up with and planning ahead for meals for my own family). There's just something about ladies vulnerably sharing their own weaknesses that can help you no longer feel like an island; it's a very comforting and rewarding connection.

The book in and of itself is not a listed "how to walk alongside someone who is suffering". Rather, it reveals the shared experiences of two friends who had to learn to allow others to show up for them and also how to best show up for others. Great insight is found through their examples that make you stop and ponder:

  • Where is my place in the circle for showing up for a person going through a difficult time? (We are NOT always called to be the inner circle! And many times, we are called to be the person who is available to the close friends and family who are supporting the person going through the main struggle.)
  • Could the words I desire to say come across as empty or even hurtful? (Often, it's just our mere presence that will bring comfort to the person who is hurting.)
  • Is God challenging me to step forward and help meet someone's needs? Am I seeking Him as I desire to care for those around me?
  • Do I need to give others permission to show up and fill needs within my own life and circumstances?
Beyond the relationship Kara & Jill share, the book reminded me of the various ways I do show up for others (even when I feel like a 'meal-taker' failure). I love to make my friend Mari laugh. Mari, who is going to nursing school full-time, raising 6 kids, and had her house burn down last year. Our lives and our crazy schedules that come from each of us raising 6 kids doesn't allow us many coffee shop moments. But a sideways glance at church, or a comment I know will make both she & I chuckle, or a quip I text her when I know she's at school studying is my way of letting her know I'm thinking about her. My friend Tiffany, who is in the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy and has a demanding full-time job, loves reading Christian fiction at night to help her unwind--when I realized how much she enjoyed me loaning her one book, I began making it more of a priority to loan her anything I own that I think she'd like to read. It's such a small, insignificant act on my end, but it allows her to relax and sleep better at night. I love that we can show up for friends in unique ways!

Full confession: When I received Just Show Up from David C Cook publishing with the sole purpose to read and review it via Litfuse Publicity Group, I was excited yet slightly nervous. I had contacted my friend Sue, who is first and foremost a decades-long friend of my mom's, because I was fairly certain she and Kara had been friends. Sue's response, "Yes! And Jill is a friend of mine, too!",  added a little more pressure to my desire to write a detailed and honest review. At that moment I sincerely prayed, "Dear God, let me like this book." 

Thankfully & truthfully, I did enjoy Just Show Up. It is a wonderful testimony and challenge of what friendship should look like. It was a precious book for me to personally read, too, as I began my marriage in Colorado Springs and could picture many areas described in the book. And maybe someday, when I return to visit our family who still lives in Colorado Springs, I'll have the chance to attend one of Jill's book signings and tell her, "thanks for hitting 'publish'".

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thank You, Mr. Vernon {the act of a hero}

"Mom, something is going on at the library!"

It was Tuesday afternoon, and we were driving home from the grocery store. I looked to my left, and Kaitlin was right--something was going on as police cars, ambulances, and a fire truck all sat right in front of the building.

Heart attack?
Child hit by car?
Electrical issue?

Whatever it was, it did seem like it was big. And then Connor hollered, "Those guys look like they are in tactical formation! I wonder if someone is attacking--it would be easy to get into one of the small rooms and take over."

Of course, Kaitlin told Connor that couldn't be the case, as moms and kids were coming out of the building. And I didn't want to jump to any conclusions myself--but the way people were exiting the building had me thinking something didn't look quite right.

The next morning, after the kids headed off to school, I opened my Facebook page and saw an article. "Oh my goodness, Mike, look at this!"

Connor was right.

A 19 year old man had gone into the library and entered the room where a homeschool group was participating in chess club. He held hunting knives and hollered that he was going to kill some people. Instead, the 75 year old chess instructor got everyone out of the room and suffered cuts to his own hand as he stopped the teen. With the exception of the instructor and the assailant, no one else in the room or in the library was physically harmed.

When I picked the kids up from school, they entered the van with the words, "I know what happened at the library!"

And this is where we--as parents--have the chance to properly pour into the raising, training, and releasing our kids.

  • My discussion with Kaitlin & Connor was not based on fear. Fear has no place in raising up our kids.
  • Our thoughts were with the families who had directly experienced this attack, as well as for the others within the library that afternoon. Praying for others puts a good focus on our concern for them and not ourselves.
  • We discussed the heroic actions of the chess instructor. Examples of selflessness are what I want my kids to remember as they become adults.
  • And we talked briefly about the teen who had been intent on harming others. Gossip and hatred don't have a place in raising up my kids. But recognizing a life that is completely lost and dark? It opened up the door to mature conversation about mental health as well as what it means to live in a broken world.
But the best part of the conversation--the whole point of me even putting this into a blog--was based on a simple exchange between Connor & me that I truly think will affect his entire life:

"Mom, if I had been one of those officers, I'd have gone right in and taken care of things!" ~Connor.
"Connor, I want you to be the 75 year old man." ~Me.

You see, Connor wants to grow up and join the Armed Forces. He is "only" 13, but we have already researched a little about the National Guard, ROTC, and wondering what he could accomplish before graduating high school. More specifically, Connor has shared his desire to be a nurse within the Army or National Guard. The fact he can attend nursing school while being a part of the ROTC is exciting to him. He has plenty of time to change his mind, desire and dreams, but a few things are certain:
  • Connor is an excellent shot. There is a giftedness that is revealed when he shoots clays that can't be ignored.
  • Connor is agile. He can scamper rocks and swing his body to places like no one's business.
  • Connor excels in math & science (the 2 reasons his mama isn't a nurse and instead wound up as an English Major).
  • Connor loves helping others, and justice has always been something he seeks within situations.
But I want Connor to gain more--to transition from a child who is protected to the adult who is the protector. The adult who sees an eternal perspective to life, which opens up the richest, BIG PICTURE perspective he could ever have. And it's my job to instill that within him and help mold what is already ingrained in his makeup. Be it as a soldier, an EMT, a nurse in the Reserves, or a retired Chess Instructor.

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

The initial article published about the library situation didn't give the hero's name or background--in fact, it said he was 76. But when the hero--James Vernon--was interviewed, it was revealed that he is an Army veteran. He used the knife-fight training he'd learned in the army 50 years prior to protect the children and  stop the assailant.

Do you know the light that entered my thirteen year old's face when he discovered the hero, the "old man" his mom wants him to become, is an Army Veteran? 

Mr. Vernon, we don't know you at all, but your actions this week did so much more than save and protect those within your care; they sparked admiration and desire within my 8th grader. And for that, I am very, very grateful.

Here is the link to the Journal Star story published about Mr. James Vernon, which you most definitely want to read:

Great, Practical Resource {book review for Pass It On}

Pass it On is a good book in helping you gain some "hows" in passing on a Christian legacy to your kids. I specifically liked the "Rites of Passage" that each chapter provides starting with kindergarten and finishing in 12th Grade. This isn't the first book of its kind, but it is a great resource within this genre. It incorporates Biblical examples, as well as step by step ideas and guides that ultimately lead to you releasing your kids into the world with a foundation laid so they are trusting their own faith and not just standing in the shadow of their parents' faith.

This would be a great book for adult believers who didn't grow up in Christian homes themselves and want a good guide for how they can train up their own kids.

One terrific part of Pass It On would make it an excellent resource for Children's Ministry training, childcare workers, and others who spend time with children (in addition to parents) is that each chapter contains a "What you need to know about {that specific grade for each chapter}". Here you find information that states where this age of child most likely lands physically, emotionally, relationally & spiritually. While I really appreciate the insight and milestone/rites of passage moments for every age, I definitely will continue to look at the book to see that I'm truly meeting my kids at their individual stages of development.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*

About the book:Pass It On (David C. Cook, September 2015)

Parents often experience a "freak out" moment when they realize their children's view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home.
Most parents spend more time helping their kids succeed at academics or athletics than infusing shared spiritual experiences into the rhythm of everyday family life.

While the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual Rites of Passage Experiences contained in Pass It On make it easy for your family to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation. Forever change the direction of your family's spiritual legacy . . . starting now!

Purchase a copy:
About the authors:

Jim Burns is president of HomeWord and executive director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. He has more than 1.5 million resources in print and a radio broadcast heard on 800 stations a day. Jim resides in Southern California with his wife Cathy and their three daughters.

Connect with Jim onlinewebsiteTwitterFacebook

Jeremy Lee is the founder of ParentMinistry.Net, a subscription-based service for children and youth ministry workers. He was on the writing team for the Simple Truth Bible from Group Publishing and the Ignite Study Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Jeremy lives in Nashville with his wife and children.

Connect with Jeremy online: 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Review of Rick Barry's 'The Methuselah Project'

I recently finished reading The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry, and I enjoyed it! It is a great combination of historical fiction and science fiction. I'm not typically a science fiction reader, but our family loves the storylines found in Marvel comics; from the description of the novel, it looked like The Methuselah Project would have a Captain America feel to the plot and dialogue. Thankfully, the novel remained very original even though the hero Roger underwent experiments during WWII and cannot age--which is very similar to the experience of Captain America in the Marvel Comics.

The chapters within the novel jump back and forth between two story lines; the first is Roger Greene's, which begins in 1943 as he flies a fighter plane over Hitler's Germany. His plane is shot down, and Roger becomes a POW. As this storyline progresses, Roger discovers he isn't a 'regular' POW and is part of a secretive experiment & plan of Hitler's and Roger is now a key component of the Methuselah Project. The second storyline belongs to Katherine Mueller, a young woman living in Georgia in 2014. She is receiving military-type training from her Uncle Kurt and they are both part of the Heritage Organization--Kurt having been part of the organization for a very long time, and Katherine still in the early stages of her training and knowledge. While you know there must be something that will connect the Heritage Organization back to Roger's imprisonment, you are left wondering throughout most of the novel exactly how they connect and if your various guesses will be correct. The anticipation made it hard to put the novel down to do other things!

Ingrained within both storylines you will find strong character development & mystery, experience empathy, and anxiously await the collision of the two storylines. When is does occur--in March 2015--you get drawn into a whole new level of action & suspense.

The Methuselah Project ended in the best way I can convey as possible--my desire for Rick Barry to write a sequel! I really don't want to give any other details about this novel, because it's so much more fun to read a book and discover things for yourself.

* I received a complimentary copy of The Methuselah Project in exchange for my honest review*

Book info

About the book: The Methuselah Project (Kregel, September 2015)

Nazi scientists started many experiments. One never ended.

Roger Greene is a war hero. Raised in an orphanage, the only birthright he knows is the feeling that he was born to fly. Flying against the Axis Powers in World War II is everything he always dreamed---until the day he's shot down and lands in the hands of the enemy.

When Allied bombs destroy both his prison and the mad genius experimenting on POWs, Roger survives. Within hours, his wounds miraculously heal, thanks to those experiments. The Methuselah Project is a success---but this ace is still not free. Seventy years later, Roger hasn't aged a day, but he has nearly gone insane. This isn't Captain America---just a lousy existence only made passable by a newfound faith. The Bible provides the only reliable anchor for Roger's sanity and his soul. When he finally escapes, there's no angelic promise or personal prophecy of deliverance, just confusion. It's 2015---and the world has become an unrecognizable place.
Katherine Mueller---crack shot, genius, and real Southern Belle---offers to help him find his way home. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? Can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he's trying to flee?

Thrown right into pulse-pounding action from the first page, readers will find themselves transported back in time to a believable, full-colored past, and then catapulted into the present once more. The historical back-and-forth adds a constantly moving element of suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:
Rick Barry is the author of Gunner's Run, another World War II novel, Kiriath's Quest, and over 200 articles and fiction stories. In addition to being a World War II buff, he is the director of church planting ministries at BIEM, a Christian ministry operating in Eastern Europe. He holds a degree in foreign languages, speaks Russian, and has visited Europe more than fifty times. Rick lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Connect with Rick online: 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

'God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies' Book Review

I'm a mom to six kids, ranging in age from 15 to 1. I'm also a foster mom and a part of our Children's Ministry staff at church. So keeping kids safe is a big part of my life. That said, it can often be difficult to find the right words to talk to our kids about being fearfully & wonderfully made, while also discussing the fact our private parts as areas others shouldn't been looking at or touching. 'God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies' does an excellent job at assisting parents and affirming children!

DO NOT purchase this book and just hand it to your child to read alone. Read it yourself a few times, and then gauge the best way to read it to or alongside your child. It is also critical that you yourself become very comfortable in discussing private parts as well as their names--if you can't openly and honestly have a conversation, how will your child ever feel like he or she can really come to you with questions or concerns? Shame & embarrassment have no place within your verbiage. You MUST be proactive so that your child KNOWS you are 100% available in every way they might need you.

Ultimately, I think this book is even more for parents than it is for the child. But once the parent-or other safe adult-gains insight to the richness of this book, they will be able to teach their kids some fantastic Bible verses while opening up conversations that can be properly adjusted based on the child's age and comprehension.

This book is an excellent resource, and discusses a critical topic we so often avoid. I highly recommend it, and see it as a way to stop the silence and start the needed conversations so we can be the safe haven and advocate God expects us to be for our children.

* I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.*


God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies(New Growth Press, September 2015)
“God made every part of you!”
It’s easy to convey the message to children that their bodies—or particular parts of their bodies—are shameful. This misconception fuels confusion, embarrassment, and secrecy, and often prevents children from recognizing or reporting sexual abuse.
God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help families talk about these sensitive issues with two- to eight-year-old children. Because the private parts of our bodies are private, the home is the ideal environment where a child should learn about his or her body and how it should be treated by others.
God Made All of Me starts from the fundamental truth that God created everything and applies that truth—the doctrine of creation—to kids and their bodies. It equips parents to talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch of others. God Made All of Me allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes.
God Made All of Me is the first children’s book written by Rid of My Disgrace authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. Parents of young children themselves, the Holcombs regularly counsel victims of sexual abuse and are profoundly aware of the dangers kids face. Their simple and relatable story, designed to help children protect their bodies, will be an important resource for every family with young children.