Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: The Chords Of War by Christopher Meeks and Samuel Gonzalez Jr.




I'm very excited to be a part of this Book Tour for the book The Chords of War by Christopher Meeks and Samuel Gonzalez Jr.! When you're finished reading about this recently published book, feel free to take a few minutes to look around by accessing the buttons at the top of the page or scrolling down the right side of the page and checking out some of my other book reviews and posts. Enjoy and remember....it is "Only~A~Little~While" that we are given to walk around down here on planet earth...so find your purpose!


PUBLISHERS DESCRIPTION


The Chords of War is a suspenseful & eye
opening novel for a mature audience! 
Inspired by Sam Gonzalez's true story, The Chords of War is the tale of punk rock teenager Max Rivera from Florida, who seeks purpose as he tries to understand why his life always teeters between music and mayhem. After he's kicked out of his band on tour, he joins the Army to change his life. It's after 9/11, and he finds himself under fire in Iraq, part of the surge in Baquabah. In order to deal with his teen angst and raging hormones among daily patrols, coordinated battles, and women fighting alongside him, Max creates a new band with soldiers. Will Max and his friends make it?



PRAISE for THE CHORDS of WAR


"The Chords of War brilliantly shows that the chaos, destruction, and terror of war can spawn primal desires, not only to survive, but also to love, to create, and, if you've got a guitar and the chops, to rock the hell out."
Graham Yost, acclaimed writer and television showrunner (Justified, The Americans, The Pacific, Speed)
"The Chords of War is a compelling read that paints those who fought in Iraq as real, honest people, rather than the cliched versions we're often given. It's not your usual war-novel, and that's good--that's why it should be read."
Michael Anthony, U.S. Army, Author of Mass Casualties, and Civilianized: A Young Veteran's Memoir
"The Chords of War breaks clean of Vietnam and World War II war-writing traditions by incisively portraying the war experience of millennial-era men and women agonizingly stalled between adolescence and adulthood."
Professor and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Peter Molin, U.S. Army, Rutgers University
"Music comforts and guides Max as a millennial taking his turn on stage in the forever war. But the overture of his former life does little to prepare Max for the melee of modern war: the forte-piano highs and lows, the crash of life and death stakes. A very compelling coming-of- age story representative of many from Generation Y who have answered the call-to- arms to defend our nation."
Dario DiBattista, Editor of Retire the Colors: Veterans and Civilians on Iraq and Afghanistan

MY PERSONAL REVIEW

The Chords of War by Christopher Meeks and Samuel Gonzalez Jr. is a suspenseful and eye opening fiction novel! It is definitely out of my usual genre for a book choice, but I am thrilled that I branched out of my comfort zone. I was not disappointed. 

Right off the top, I must mention, that if The Chords of War were a movie, it most certainly would be given an "R" rating for profane language, violence, and sex. These elements are a disturbing part of the book, but I felt a necessary addition to enhance the authenticity of the characters. With that key piece of information to steel yourself as you begin turning the pages, you most definitely should read this important work. 

I chose to read this book, because I wanted to learn some of what our men and women in the military experienced while serving in the Iraq War. My goal is to have a better understanding of what they have endured, so that I might contribute to a helpful dialogue of encouragement with our veterans. The last thing I ever want to do is sweep their horror under the rug. In loving and in living, there is no room for dismissiveness toward another's pain. Collectively, if we are informed, we can become increasingly relatable to this latest generation of veterans who have returned home to our doorsteps. This is not the time for ignorance or cowardice. As an American, I honor them by getting to know their story.

Christopher Meeks & Samuel Gonzalez Jr
While the book is fiction, it is noted that The Chords of War is inspired by the true story of Samuel Gonzalez Jr. during his deployment in Iraq. The smooth transition from his life before deployment and his life while in active duty in Iraq is phenomenal. Not only is this novel entertaining, suspenseful, intriguing, and fun, but conversely heart wrenching and difficult to comprehend. It has been a very long time since I have actually cried while reading a book, but this one had me in tears during several sections. The connection the reader feels to the characters is firmly constructed.  

As Max Rivera, the main character, narrates his way through the pages, the reader sees the struggles of an independent young man trying to reach for a life of security and intention. His enlisting in the armed services to improve his life station, becomes a step in his process of trying to grasp at his life purpose. One of the catalysts to igniting his voluntary sign up occurred during a viewing of the movie, Platoon. He explains that the film was "...neither 'pro-war' nor 'anti-war'". That description of the theatrical portrayal of the Vietnam War in Platoon is exactly the way I feel The Chords Of War is designed. The book immerses the reader into the war itself, where the events seem to take on a corporeal existence. That's quite a feat in an of itself, but in addition the author is able to take it a layer deeper to a spiritual level. While there are no clear calls to a belief in a divine existence, there are a handful of mentions of God and Jesus Christ. The developing storyline and talented writing naturally leads you to ponder what lies beyond this physical body.

My takeaway from this book is multifaceted. First, I believe it points to the fragility of life. We are, after all, here for "only~little~a~little~while" and then we are not. How you process that information and what you believe happens after the "we are not", is mentioned as a teaser a few times within the novel. Second, the relationships that we are so privileged to experience in this world are what is significant. Albeit indirectly, the book teaches that it is not our bank accounts or our material wealth, but rather the people that we have been blessed to form bonds of friendship and trust with that should consume our attention. 

The Chords Of War expanded my comprehension of the war that the United States and Britain fought in Iraq. It helped to define the conflict in my mind as to why we engaged initially and how our troops found themselves increasingly in the midst of a civil war between Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The novel clarified how the confusion of the Iraqi people, created by massive amounts of propaganda against the U.S., placed the American & British soldiers in increasingly precarious situations. 

Finally, Christopher Meeks and Samuel Gonzalez, Jr's book, The Chords Of War brings a spirit of hope. Yes, it is one man's journey through the battle zone, but he is determined to find that solitary thing that will help himself and others to survive. His answer is music...it is his "oxygen mask". What is your "one thing"?

Thank you to White Whisker Books (Los Angeles) for this review copy of The Chords Of War
by Christopher Meeks and Samuel Gonzalez Jr. While I was required to read this book in it's entirety, I was not made to give a favorable opinion, but simply an honest assessment of the written work.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Helicopter Mom: Stop hovering over your children and lift! by Bethany L. Douglas


So I answered, “I’m coming. I read in your letter what you wrote about me, And I’m coming to the party you’re throwing for me.” That’s when God’s Word entered my life, became part of my very being.Psalm 40:8 MSG




PUBLISHERS DESCRIPTION


This book teaches you how to lift
and live in fierce freedom
through application of the
Word of God! 
I’ve seen things, bad things. Things that make mother’s grip their children tighter and awaken with nightmares in their beds. I know fear- at 3000 feet and going 150mph- I stand in its face and say “no!” I’ve learned to take fear by the horns and wrestle it to the ground; will you join me and learn how to as well? We’ve all heard the term ‘helicopter mom’- parents who ‘hover’ over their children in an attempt to keep them happy, safe, healthy, and alive. They hover because they fear. Helicopter Mom directly addresses the real life terror that all parents face with fearing for their children. Specifically designed for mothers, it gives a Christian, Biblical perspective on how to overcome these fears from the unique point of view of a helicopter flight nurse and mom who has vast experience in ‘hovering’. It takes lessons learned over my years as a flight nurse and puts them into practical, every day, Christian applications. There are anecdotes, stories, aviation information, and more that all knit together to bring about Biblical lessons and encouragement that all parents can easily relate to. Each chapter takes helicopter and EMS/nursing stories and knits them into an ongoing narrative that slowly paints a full picture of how to overcome fear. It is a sassy, funny, in-your-face, yet spiritually grounded journey that will have people laughing and learning spiritual truths all at the same time. This is a totally different approach to ‘self-help’ books, strap in and get ready to lift!

MY PERSONAL REVIEW


Helicopter Mom by Bethany L. Douglas is a must read for anyone experiencing fear in their life. This book speaks to the weakness all mother's inherently have, regardless of their background, which is the tendency to give into fear for the lives of their children. The author specifically addresses the "what if'" notions that have an inclination to plague us as mothers, however, everything in the book can be seamlessly applied to any anxiety situation presenting itself in one's life. If you are a parent, you owe it to yourself to read the nuggets of truth that are found in the Word of God that Douglas illuminates in this book. If you battle worry in any form, this book is for you as well.

Helicopter Mom is a unique work that delivers a powerful punch to the fear that is affecting many of us in epidemic proportion today. Because the author is a Mom of three children, including one with special needs, her resume is sound. In addition to being a mother herself, she is also a flight nurse, so she sees life and death situations on a regular basis. The extremely frightening experiences Douglas faces during her nursing job serve as a segue into the nightmare scenarios we conjure up about our kids. 

With literary talent and seemingly effortless transition, Douglas brings the reader to a place of  profound understanding of the terror that might be the driving force behind hovering and controlling parental moves. Somehow, despite the weightiness of the subject matter, the author interjects humor at points that literally had me laughing out loud. Helicopter Mom also encourages a reflective spirit and Biblical study as the book helps to uncover the hidden issues that may lie within the reader. A foundational message presented throughout the book is the reminder that God is sovereign and because of this single fact, we can let go of our fears and place them in the hands of the Lord.

My takeaway after reading Helicopter Mom by Bethany Douglas is extensive. I'll try to be brief, but there is so much goodness in this one, that it's going to be hard for me to sum up. I'll do my best. First, I have to mention the cover, because it is beautiful and has a colorful artistic flare that cannot be missed. Next, I believe this book will resonate within the depths of your heart as the sincerity from the author is palpable. The candor within the pages creates an ability to be honest with yourself about struggles that are warring within you. Third, this book begs to be revisited frequently and would make an excellent choice for a Women's Bible study. Finally, Helicopter Mom reminds us that our ultimate pilot is Christ, so we mustn't panic on the journey, but rather we should apply the word of God to every fearful situation. The intentional action of scripture application in the midst of fear will shift our perspective to the strong arms of God and allow us to LIFT (Living~Intentionally~Fearlessly~Truthfully) above the fear. Excellent read!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review: The Father Effect by John Finch with Blake Atwood

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. 

Publishers Description



A wonderful hope filled book!
Based on the feature film of the same name, THE FATHER EFFECT is a must-read for the millions of men and women who have lost their fathers through divorce, death, or disinterest.

John Finch always struggled after his father committed suicide when he was eleven, but it wasn't until he was raising his own three daughters that he truly understood their futures relied on his coming to terms with his difficult past. To move forward, he needed to forgive both his father for choosing to leave, and himself for not being the best father he could be.

This journey led to THE FATHER EFFECT, a book containing practical help for anyone, man or woman, with a deep father wound from losing a dad through divorce, death, or disinterest. Through positive lessons on forgiveness and approachable advice on how to change your legacy as a parent, partner, and person, THE FATHER EFFECT is the ultimate healing tool for anyone who has suffered the absence of a dad.


My Personal Review


The Father Effect by John Finch with Blake Atwood is a beautiful transparent work filled with hope and healing for those who find themselves living with the wounds created from a fatherless home. John Finch writes with a great deal of candor and vulnerability as he reveals the story of his life beginning in his early years with his father's suicide and continuing to current day where he now makes it his life ambition to provide guidance to those who have experienced a "father wound."

The Father Effect has received much praise from the fields of Christianity and psychology. The work expounds upon the author's life, drawing from first hand experiences regarding the  extreme emotional wounds that were created from his father's absence. The beauty of the book is the way in which John Finch uses his journey of distress and suffering to explore potential areas of similar hurts within the reader. Not only does Finch assist in uncovering your pain from a missing Dad, but he takes it a few steps farther as he gives sound advice on how to deal with the reader's personal injuries through the application of forgiveness. 

John Finch redirects frequently to remind those with a history of  a missing father, that their heavenly Father is the perfect role model. The book is consistently reassuring the reader that Jesus Christ holds the key to powerful regeneration. Mr. Finch gives very specific suggestions on how to break the cycle of feeling rejected. His encouragement that it is possible to change one's life legacy from a continual sense of alienation and abandonment to an accomplished life with amazing relationships is believable, since he has gone through similar situations and come out on the other side with health. Finch warns, however, that without change, the fatherless will almost certainly find themselves in a cycle of serious depression.

I loved that this book compassionately discusses depression and addresses the misinformed attitude of many people who act as though the depressed person can "will or hope their way out of depression." Finch describes it this way, stating, "Trying to free yourself from depression is like building a ladder out of toothpicks when you're stuck at the bottom of a hundred-mile-deep hole. No matter what you do, the hopelessness of your situation only worsens." This analogy speaks of a complexity of understanding beyond what could be contrived from someone who has not suffered with depression. How refreshing it is to see a courageous author in the Christian world give validity to the real illness of depression, and attempt to provide tools to help eradicate it.  

After reading, The Father Effect, I have a greater empathy for the people in this world who are suffering from a missing father in their lives. I now comprehend that those affected by a missing Dad, might be men or women. The message is very clear from this book, however, that you do not need to be the victim. You can, and in fact must, if you want to have an abundant life that the Lord intended for you, step out in faith and forgiveness to break the chains of helplessness and hopelessness. This debut novel provides an avenue of confident expectation and concrete direction for an audience of lost and hurting people. Throughout the pages, John Finch educates, encourages, and equips men and women to make a daily choice to fulfill the roles that the Lord has placed before them. It is an essential read for anyone who loves the Lord and is suffering in silence due to a missing father. The Father Effect is also for anyone who would like to grasp a greater knowledge of what this population is experiencing, so that they may then reach out in love to help them renew their life.

Thank you to FaithWords Publishing for this review copy of The Father Effect by John Finch and Blake Atwood. I was not required to give a positive review, but only asked to give an honest review of my assessment of the book. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: The Awakening of HK Derryberry~My Unlikely Friendship with the Boy Who Remembers Everything by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin

Matthew 25:40

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION

The Awakening of HK Derryberry is the inspiring story of how one man was willing to step out of his upper middle-class world into the life of a young, disabled boy with a dismal future. Little did Jim Bradford know the transformational potential of that friendship—for HK and himself.

HK Derryberry came into the world with the odds stacked heavily against him. He was taken from his unmarried mother’s womb three months prematurely when she was killed in a car wreck. After ninety-six days of seesawing between life and death, HK’s grandmother took him home.


One Saturday morning Jim Bradford, a successful businessman in his mid-fifties, happens into Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits and sees a nine-year-old’s head pressed down against a black plastic boom box with a crooked antenna and three strips of silver duct tape stretched across the battery cover. He can’t help but notice the long, white plastic braces on each of the child’s legs. Mr. Bradford learns that HK’s grandmother is forced to bring him to the fast-food restaurant where she works, leaving him to sit alone all day at a small table, with only his boom box for company. On subsequent Saturdays Jim feels drawn back to the restaurant to meet with HK and begins spending every weekend with him.

Eventually it becomes apparent that buried beneath HK’s severe disabilities is one spectacular ability. He is diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), which involves superlative powers of recollection that enable him to remember everything that has happened to him since the age of three. Less than one hundred people have been diagnosed with HSAM, but none of them have the physical disabilities of HK Derryberry.


My Personal Review


The Awakening of HK Derryberry by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin is a unique work that will both inspire and enlighten you! It is definitely a book to be read by all those who have the privilege of working with people who have special needs, anyone who has a child with extra challenges, as well as anyone who would simply like to understand some of the complexities and mountainous battles that this population tackles on a daily basis.

I enjoyed the narration of this book, immensely. As I read it, I felt as if I were sitting at the table having a cup of coffee with the author as he tells the story about meeting and doing life with his friend, HK Derryberry. Before the book is complete, the reader feels like they personally know both Jim and HK. I think this is because the author's tenderness and compassion are tangible! As HK's physical challenges are unveiled, I found myself feeling protective of him and completely encouraged by his zest for life. 

In addition to the wonderful narration, reading The Awakening of HK Derryberry is an educational experience. I appreciated learning about the latest computerized reading device to assist readers with braille, called Braille Lite, as well as developing a new awareness that people with cerebral palsy often react the opposite ways in highly charged emotional situations. HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) was another area of completely new information to me.

Finally, and what makes this book a winner in my mind, is the tenacious spirit of HK and his grandmother, Pearl. HK's life has been anything but simple and yet he choses to concentrate on joy and share it with others. HK focuses on what is good and pure about our human existence. He takes the raw painful things that humanity has thrown at him and flips it into an expression of love, hope, compassion, perseverance, ambition, and redemption. His optimistic spirit is contagious!! His grandmother modeling a selfless life filled with determination, courage, and grace is no doubt the catalyst that ignited the prevailing "can do" attitude that defines HK. Simply beautiful. 

I have never left a message for the characters in my books when reviewing them before, but there is always a first time for everything! 
I don't know if they will ever even read this review, but here it goes...

HK~ She would have definitely loved you!
Jim~Your sensitivity and obedience to the leading of the Spirit is bold!
Pearl~Thank you for stepping into the unknown!

Thank you to W Publishing Groups, an imprint of Thomas Nelson for this review copy of The Awakening of HK Derryberry by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin. I was not required to give a favorable review, but only to read the book in it's entirety and give an honest opinion of the contents.

Friday, August 18, 2017

God's Word Will Never Become Obsolete

Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed; I reverently ponder it all the day long. Your commands give me an edge on my enemies;
they never become obsolete. Psalm 119:97-98


The Word of God never needs an update!

I love when the Lord reveals His majesty through the beauty of nature! It's difficult to miss the connection to His creative spirit when I am running through a grove of trees in the middle of the forest. Nothing can clear my mind quicker and allow me to focus on the greatness of our God than moving through a quiet piece of the woods.

This physical setting brings to the forefront of my thinking, the enormity of our God and the complexities of His working in and through every situation in my life. Sometimes the Lord reveals His purposes...and other times He does not. I cherish the times when He does unveil His reasons, however, in those times that He remains silent and seemingly unwilling to explain His decisions, I must trust Him all the more. Those are the seasons of my life when following Him translates into the tangible faith of the scriptures. They are the times when I must believe without seeing. I must cling to His word and His promises and know that I have prayed...and He has heard. I must stand up...and when I fall back down...stand up again. As the verse above says...I must know that His words will "never be obsolete". I must breathe in and breathe out and stand firm on His promises.

Father God~
You are the beginning of all things. You are the end of all things. You have spoken us into being and we are Your children. May You continue to reveal your perfect will into our hearts so that we may accomplish Your purposes through our lives each day. Equip and empower us to carry through with Your plans with awe and reverence.
Praise be to the mighty name of Jesus!
Amen