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.

The Last Girl

The Last GirlAuthor: Nadia Murad

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

You sure you want to know the truth about ISIS? Read this and find out about inhumane trafficking.

Nadia Murad is a Yazidi who spent her entire life in the village of Kocho in Iraq. She was from a large family who worked as farmers.  The families had to be large to have enough children to help work the farms.  The more kids you had, the larger of farm you could handle.  Still, she went to school and learned the material placed into Iraq’s educational systems, which also wasn’t fully truthful.  Yazidis have been persecuted for several years by several different groups.  They are different in that they have no holy book such as the koran or a bible, but keep their religion alive by passing stories down between priests for centuries.  However, they have also survived alongside Sunni Arabs and Kurds without any problems, until ISIS came.  The day they came into town, everything changed.  The routes out of town were cut and nobody was allowed to leave.  Fear drove people to stay inside their homes, but nothing happened to them until the day they told the people to either convert to Islam or be taken to their holy mountain.  Hopeful, everybody came to the schoolhouse to be taken to their holy mountain only to have all of the men and older women slaughtered.  Young boys were sent to an ISIS training compound and the young women were forced to become sex slaves for ISIS militants.  Nadia was bought, sold, raped, and abused in a sickening cycle that is condoned by the caliphate.  Miraculously, She was able to finally escape to safety and tell her story.  Nadia has been featured in Time magazine and told her story in front of thousands including the United Nations Security Council.

These are the stories that never make it to the news in the United States. Stories that you can’t believe are true, but know they must be.  Stories that make you sick when reading them.  Stories that make you cry for the women that have gone through this and are going through this right now.  Stories that make you believe in human rights activism because someone told her story.  Someone wants it to stop.  That someone is Nadia Murad and her story is sad, yet incredible.  How this can happen in today/s society is truly bewildering.  Living in the United States can be easily taken for granted.  News stories are centered around rating points rather than what is going on in the world.  Nadia’s story inspires me to make a difference.  To help others.  To put an end to the violence and sex trafficking.

I hope if Nadia reads this review, she will know she has an ally a world away to fight for her.

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

The Missing Matisse

the-missing-matisseAuthor: Pierre H. Matisse

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A breath-taking memoir that accounts many hair raising escapades during World War II in France.

Pierre Matisse was born into an artistic family. Many people know of his grandfather, Henri Matisse, who was a famous artist.  Pierre loved his parents and his younger brother, but once the war started, his family began to be torn apart. He was forced to take another name to become Pierre Leroy and was no longer part of his family, at least on paper.  This began a personal vendetta against Adolf Hitler and the Germans so that he could one day finally be reunited with his family and no longer be missing.

Pierre’s memoir recounts his time as a young boy in France as well as Spain including the Spanish civil war led by General Franco. He then returned to France with his family as the German Nazis started to occupy France. He was part of the evacuation of Paris and even helped his father in some of the French underground’s activities.  He was transferred between boarding schools in his mother’s attempt to keep him safe and was eventually sent to Normandy to live with his “grandparents on paper” just days before D-Day and the Allied forces arrived.  Needless to say, trouble finds Pierre without a problem.

This book was a really interested look at World War II history from the French side. The majority of the book is based around the WWII time frame, but does have some time before and after.  Needless to say, Pierre was a very interesting person.  The history that is presented really takes you to the time and place.  There is a lot of raw emotion of tragic events that befall Pierre and his family, so beware before reading.

I felt like the end of the book was a little rushed. There was a lot of time spend from 1939 to 1946 and then very little devoted from then until present day.  I bet he had a lot of grand adventures, but just had trouble figuring out which ones to share with everyone.

I recommend this book for anyone who loves history or memoirs!

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

Al Capone

al-caponeAuthor: Deirdre Bair

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Many have heard of Al Capone, but never the whole story as told here!

Al Capone’s name is one of the most recognizable in history. Even more so than some of the United States presidents and movie stars.  It is recognized in several countries several decades after he died.  Why is that?  Why do people remember the name?  How does it get past on? Why do children still play cops and robbers with the ringleader being Capone?  Deirdre Bair dives into Capone’s life to explore who Capone really was.  From the early years to his teenage years and onto his height as a gangster in Chicago onto his demise in Alcatraz.  She explains how he was raised and why his parents immigrated to America only to discover that it was not all rainbows and unicorns as they had hoped.  If you are interested in the whole story, not just snippets, then you should pick up a copy of this book.

I probably fall into the category that most people fit in when it comes to Al Capone. I know the name, I know about some of his time in Chicago, and I know he was sent to Alcatraz.  In fact, I probably wouldn’t have picked up a copy of this book had it not been for a 2:00 AM program on PBS about speakeasies in the 1920s that had a large segment dedicated to Al Capone (all thanks to have a six month old little boy at the time).  But that program really sparked an interest into learning more about who Al Capone was.  Then as if by fate, this book suddenly popped up in a possible too read offer.  Needless to say it was easy to pick it up and read it.  I really appreciate all the history and research that Bair brought to the table.  There were several parts of the book that enlightened me, but also made me understand Capone’s personality more.  This is the first book about Capone that I have read, so I can’t judge it against any others, but I can sure pick up another book that Bair has written.

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