Never Give Up

Author: Bear Grylls

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fans of Man vs Wild will not want to miss this book!

Bear Grylls is known by many for his adventures in the hit television show Man vs. Wild.  His grit, tenacity, and ability to get out of a sticky situation resonated with many while others were just shocked at what he was willing to put his body through.  In his previous book, Bear told his life story and mostly omitted the many adventures he had on the small screen because he wanted people to know who he was as a person.  After popular demand, he has documented the best of the best (and worst) of these adventures into another book to share with the world.  Focused largely on the television series, viewers and readers alike will continue to be awestruck and shocked at what all he went through to bring his world into your living room.

I’ll admit, I never really got caught up in the hype of the show Man vs. Wild, but I have watched a few episodes and heard Bear Grylls talk about some of his adventures, so I had some background before diving into this book. But even if I hadn’t, this would have been such a fun read!  It goes through many of the most extreme things that he had to do and it’s amazing that he lived through all of it.  It is also interesting to read about how the show was filmed and what they had to do to make it work, especially when the crew were dropping like flies.  He sprinkles in a lot of great life lessons through this and breaks it up with several chapters so that it is not a daunting read.  Probably going to be one of my favorite biographies for the year.  There is some language as well as some pretty gross things, so take caution before you jump in!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

As Fast As Her

Author: Kendall Coyne

Publisher: Zonderkids

Release Date: January 18, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast story with an inspirational and powerful message for young readers. Even those not into hockey will get a lot out of this one!

US Olympian Kendall Coyne brings a message about never giving up on your dreams no matter what obstacles you might encounter, and she encountered many of them. When she was young, her brother was into hockey and as she got old enough to put on skates her parents put her in figure skating. It didn’t take for her to figure out hockey was where she needed to be even though there weren’t many girls playing. This would be a problem all throughout her time playing hockey, the inequality between the men playing and the women. One thing that set Kendall apart from the others was her speed, she was even able to keep up with the men in a national competition she almost won. Even though she was always told, “you’re not enough,” she started to believe it but not long enough to let it pull her in the wrong direction.

Throughout the pages of this book, readers will find inspiration and encouragement to stay the course and follow their dreams no matter how many people tell them they should give up or that they aren’t good enough. It is something that we all hear from time to time, and it can be easy to buy into the lies and let them hold us back from our full potential.

I started this book even though I am not a hockey fan and had honestly never heard of Kendall Coyne. This was an inspirational story from start to finish with great moments from her family and harsh moments with teammates and rivals. Throughout every moment and difficulty encountered, Kendall showed that it would have been easy to give up, but it wasn’t what she was meant to do. Not once did she give up and she finally made it to achieve her dreams and if we will believe in ourselves the way Kendall did over the years anything is possible.

Beyond Possible

Author: Nimsdai Purja

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Release Date: January 4, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A great biography for overcoming obstacles in your path set at the highest of altitudes!

Nimsdai Purja has set goals all his life to achieve.  Growing up in Nepal, he wanted to be a Gurkha soldier, just like his father.  Through perseverance, he was able to achieve this goal.  Then he wanted to be more than just a soldier, but an elite warrior, so he set his sights on becoming a member of the Secret Boat Service (SBS) for the British military during the war on terror.  During his years of service, he was given the chance to climb Mount Everest and he was bit by the climbing bug, to say the least.  Wanting to do what everyone thought impossible, Nims developed Project Possible, a mission to climb the fourteen highest mountains in the world in only seven months, which is seven years faster than the world record.  What Nims learned about himself and fellow climbers throughout this mission is shared for readers to discover that they too can conquer the impossible.

Young readers who love action and adventure will love this autobiography of Nimsdai Purja with his pursuit to climb all fourteen death zone mountains.  The first half of the book is geared towards his life up to the point he decides to make the lifestyle transition necessary to climb all fourteen peaks.  The second half is dedicated to a chapter-by-chapter description of each mountain and what occurred while he and his team were climbing.  They had to overcome several obstacles on the way up and the way down.  Just because you have achieved something doesn’t mean you won’t face something on you journey back!  There is quite a bit of climbing lingo, but with enough context clues, readers will be able to understand what is going on.  Very exciting book for young readers!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Conquer Your Deliverance

Author: John Rameriz

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In Conquer Your Deliverance, evangelist John Rameriz shares his personal story of being ensnared by the devil and how he was shown the truth and freed!  This is written in a very plain manner that readers can use the information to apply to their personal lives.  If someone is struggling with their belief system or understanding what is happening in today’s world, this book is a key resource to help them either get their life on track or back on track. 

While it does read as a manual, it is also probably the closet thing to an autobiography for Rameriz to understand his past and why he is so passionate about what he does!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Greenlights

Author: Matthew McConaughey

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Matthew McConaughey’s biography is “Allright, Allright, Allright!”

Matthew McConaughey is well known for several romantic comedies as well as a leading actor in multiple dramatic films.  He even won best actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club.  But who is he?  How did he get his start?  What makes him tick and how did he get from here he was to where he is now?  In other words, how did he find his Greenlights to show him when to hit the gas and not the brake?

I’ll admit that I really didn’t know much about Matthew McConaughey before I read this book.  I had some preconceived notions of who he is, but I really had no idea.  I didn’t know he was a writer, straight A student, foreign exchange student, etc. etc.  I knew he hailed from Texas, but not where he got his start.  Needless to say, it was interesting to learn more about him.  I enjoyed getting to find out his version of himself.  I’ve seen several of his films and it is easy to put him in a certain category, but when it comes down to it, he’s not really that different from any of us.  That’s what is so great about memoirs, you really find out their true character. 

This is quite a bit of harsh language throughout the book as well as some implied sexual activity, nothing overly graphic.  I recommend this book for mature audiences that have an interest in McConaughey or enjoy personal biographies/memoirs.

Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in Anxious World

Author: Jamie Grace

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Our world is loud and crazy right now which makes finding a quiet moment very difficult. Jamie Grace delivers a wonderful addition to anyone’s library of little ways to find quiet when it seems impossible.

The world we live in today is loud. There is no getting around it, there is noise all around us, external and internal. How do we find quiet when we are constantly being bombarded with noise? Not only do we have outside noise but there is also so much anxiety we live with today. Jamie Grace is a singer, songwriter and storyteller with hits on the radio and breaks down what it’s like to conquer her own anxiety in this loud crazy world, all while living with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. With these struggles, it has been even harder for Jamie Grace to find the quiet she needs to reset and recharge in order to survive and thrive in the world. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of her diagnoses and spiraling down a “woe is me” mentality, she remembers that God is leading her on this journey and uses each moment as a lesson to grow and work on herself and help others through her music and other platforms.

So many of the things written in this book resonated with me. It can be really hard to take the time to just sit and be quiet. With so many avenues of entertainment and connectivity around us, we are rarely able to find that quiet. Smart phones and technology are a great thing, when used right. However, we can find ourselves going down a rabbit hole on social media and instead of enjoying ourselves we become depressed by what we see and hear and compare ourselves to these images. It can be a very detrimental thing to our mental health. At one point, Grace talks about taking an intentional break from social media and how good that can be for all of us. I loved the way she pours so much of her life experiences onto the pages and helps readers see that no matter your struggles it is okay to step back, take a minute for yourself and make sure you are okay before moving on. That moment of quiet, inner reflection can do better than almost anything else, and it is seldom taken advantage of like it should. Whether you are an introvert, or an extrovert, quiet time is essential to enjoy all other moments of your life. Readers that have enjoyed Jamie Grace’s music and even those that have never heard of her but are looking for thoughts on helping deal with an anxious heart would benefit from reading this. I recommend readers to take the time to work through this book and let it work for them as it is meant to. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Brothers of Auschwitz

Author: Malka Adler

Publisher: One More Chapter

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story that cannot help but bring about emotion from anyone who reads it!

Dov and Yitzhak are brothers in a Jewish family that live high in the Hungarian mountains.  They are isolated from society outside of their small village, but one day in 1944 changes everything.  They knew that a war was going on in Europe, but they weren’t really affected by it.  When the Axis troops show up, they entire family suddenly finds themselves on a train bound for Auschwitz.  Shortly after arriving, all members of the family find themselves separated, some never to be seen again.  Dov and Yitzhak are sent to different work groups and experience the horrors of multiple concentration camps.  After reuniting, they have kept quiet about their experiences until now.  Told to a family friend, the stories and horrors experienced both during the concentration camps as well as after their liberation are told. 

The stories will cause readers to experience a sea of emotions while reading the text.  These are stories that should not be forgotten to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.  Several of these experiences are generalized in historical fiction, but when it’s truly biographical, it touches the readers soul!  This time period has always been of interest to me, but I haven’t felt this way when reading about the concentration camps since I read Schindler’s List over 20 years ago.  Just knowing that its true brings about a different level of comprehension.  I read this in just a few hours over a couple of flights and found myself talking to random passengers about it after I finished. 

There was only one item that I really disliked throughout the book and that was how it was presented.  There is no differentiation between verbal dialogue and general description.  However, it wasn’t enough to take away from the book itself.  There is some language throughout the book, which is expected of the nature of the book.  I recommend this to mature audiences and those they have an interest in the time period.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Breaking Cover

breaking coverAuthor: Michele Rigby Assad

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A remarkable firsthand account of a woman’s role in the CIA in the Middle East post 9/11.

Michele Rigby Assad didn’t grow up with plans to join the CIA or have an interest in the middle east. In fact, she never considered even going to the middle east until she met the man who would be her husband.  Her husband, Joseph, is an Egyptian national who came to the United States after his family was persecuted for their faith and he couldn’t enter a university because of being a Christian.  At a career fair while attending Georgetown, she decides to go to a CIA career fair.  What happens as a result of that meeting puts a plan into motion that sends them over to extremely conservative Arab countries that aren’t women friendly.  But the challenges she faces continually prepare her for the next stage of her life.  Not only does she work as a clandestine operative, but after leaving the agency, she finds work as  a security consultant that ultimately leads to helping persecuted Christians out of Iraq.

This book was very exciting and fast paced. The story is told progressively and educational at the same time.  The concept of the CIA is fascinating, so when you have the chance the hear a firsthand account, it is always worth reading about.  Further, it was very educational to understand more about middle eastern culture and how both the United States is perceived as well as foreign woman.  This is going to be one of my top nonfiction picks for the year!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Laugh it Up

Laught it upAuthor: Candace Payne

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Everyone fell in love with Candace Payne with the video of her wearing a Chewbacca mask and loving every minute of it went viral. Now she has a book out that will make you love her even more.

Candace Payne had no idea that buying a simple Star Wars toy would lead to the life she has now. She is a wife and mother of two from Dallas Texas and has captured the hearts of nearly 200 million with her infectious laugh all while wearing a Chewbacca mask and recording a video on her phone for Facebook.  It quickly became the top viewed video at Facebook and lead to a slew of interviews and opportunities she might never have otherwise had. Laugh It Up tells the story of how she has found laughter in some of the most difficult circumstances and worked her way through to become the person she is today.

Like you, I can remember the first time I saw the video of Candace wearing the mask and couldn’t keep from laughing. There was just something about her laugh and wearing that masks that made me watch the video over and over just to put a smile on my face. Laugh It Up goes deep into what has made Candace Payne the woman she is today.  Without knowing the backstory, we can’t truly appreciate her.  Her words are both funny and heartfelt.  Just like most of us she has gone through her share of struggles and luckily has found a way to overcome those struggles and find something to laugh and smile about, which in turn, has made millions of others laugh as well.  There are going to be those that don’t like what she has to say, there always are.  But for the majority of readers they will hopefully come away with a better understanding of Chewbacca Mom and what truly makes her someone for us to look to and say there are good things in this life and things to laugh about, we just have to find them.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Fugitive’s Sister

Fugitive sisterAuthor: Linda L. Case

Publisher: W & B Publishers Inc.

Release Date: October 29, 2015

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A miscarriage of justice of an innocent sister sent to prison as a ploy to get her sister, the real criminal behind bars.

When Linda’s brother dies she promises him that she will take care of their mother and younger sister, Becky. Two days after the funeral, Becky’s company is found to be under investigation by the FBI, who shuts it down and convicts Becky of several white collar crimes looking at a possible seventy five years in prison. Becky, never one to stick around for a punishment, runs off and becomes one of America’s Most Wanted criminals. Shortly after she disappears, she makes contact with Linda for help. Linda is in a tough place; she wants to fulfill her promise to her bother and protect her sister but worries if she is doing the right thing. She soon finds out the FBI has been waiting for her to do something that can be used against her to bring her sister to justice. Linda finds herself where her sister should be, behind bars. While Linda struggles to survive and her family fights to free her, flaws in the justice system become visible and heed the warning of what happened to Linda could happen to anyone.

The true story of what Linda Case went through is one that could rival any crime novel out there. I never really felt like I was reading a biography because the story flowed so well. It was a story of what this family went through and not just a retelling of events, which I enjoyed. Linda had some really difficult times she had to endure and reading about her sister and the way she was treated by not only Becky but also the FBI and judges involved made me feel for her and the situation she was in.  You can easily say the things she went through were not fair, and the lack of remorse her sister showed for what she made everyone go through was enough to make her out to be a very good antagonist in the story. The ending was kind of abrupt to me. I wish there would have been a little more time spent following through on the characters and what happened instead of the ending it had (I don’t want to say anymore and give something away).  I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a good true crime story with elements that each family can relate to in some way.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.