The Big Three

Author: Michael Holley

Publisher: Hatchette Book Group

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Celtics fans and fans of pro basketball in general will enjoy this documentary.

How did the Boston Celtics go from being one of the league dominating teams throughout the 1980s to a general contender in the 1990s to their lowest point in history in the early 2000s only to regroup and rebuild in a single year to win the NBA Championship?  Michael Holley delivers an extraordinary documentary of how the Celtics were rebuilt over time centered around Paul Pierce and how they obtained Kevin Garnett from the Timberwolves and Ray Allen from the Sonics to become the new Big Three that would bring another championship to Boston!

While this book is about basketball, its not really about playing basketball.  Its about the business of NBA basketball and how general managers build a championship team and a coach that was able to take three superstars and help quash egos so that they played as a team and not three individual stars.  The Big Three gives a lot of insight into how trades are done, drafts are managed, and the personal life of coaches and players.  It’s easy to just think of basketball, but there is so much that goes on in the front office that is mind blowing.  I loved reading about how this process got started and how difficult it was for the players, coach, and manger when the fans weren’t happy but they knew that they would have it locked in for the next season. 

There is some strong language throughout the book featured in direct quotes from players and coaches.  I recommended this book for mature audiences that are lovers of the NBA and Celtics fans.

2020 Top Nonfiction

While 2020 gave us some great escapes into the fiction realm, it also produced a lot of nonfiction titles that were quite captivating! From biographies to histories, these titles are a great addition to any library!

The Fight to Flourish by Jennie Lusko

Jennie Lusko shared her struggles in her story that has been long awaited. As a well known figure for her work with husband Levi, she shows how she is still human and has the same problems as the rest of us!

Read the full review.

Fix Her Upper Christmas by Beth Duewel and Rhonda Rhea

While centered around the stress of the holiday season, this book still gives readers a great refreshed feeling mixed with humor. These two never disappoint us and keep us coming back for more with every Fix Her Upper edition.

Read the full review.

The Patriots by Winston Groom

Groom is widely known for his ability to bring history to life and keep it interesting and entertaining for readers of all ages. This book focuses on three of the founding fathers, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams, and their love for country and hatred for each other!

Read the full review.

Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in an Anxious World by Jamie Grace

So many of the things written in this book resonated with us. It can be hard to take the time to just sit and be quiet. 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!

Read the full review.

365 Ways to Love Your Child by 3

A perfect book that showcases all the little ways we sometimes forget can be used to experience love with our children.

Read the full review.

Fix Her Upper: Christmas

Authors: Beth Duewel & Rhonda Rhea

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: November 24, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fix-Her-Upper Christmas is a wonderful addition in this season, especially in the year we are all going through. Everyone can gleam something wonderful from this spectacularly fun book!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or the most stressful time for some. If this season of shopping, family, decorations is getting a tad overwhelming, you are not alone. Throughout the pages of this book, you will find story upon story from Beth and Rhonda of trials and struggles they have gone through and the way they worked through them with humor and faith to discover the real reason for the season was worth more than any gift they could buy. The message is clear, even in the frantic season we are in, our focus should be on Jesus, He is the reason for the season, and if we forget that, there really is nothing to celebrate. Less is more is a main theme throughout, and I love that. The devotions are spot on with just the right amount of humor and insightful tidbits to bring us joy and helpful holiday tips.

Anytime you pick up a Rhonda Rhea and Beth Duewel book you know you are going to be rolling on the floor laughing and come away feeling refreshed. This time of year, we could use with a little laughter and refreshing. No matter how hard this year has been, and for some it has been unbearable, we can all find some cheer within the pages and rely on the hope that Christmas is about the birth of our savior and nothing is more important than that. If we fix our eyes on Him, this could very well be the best Christmas we have ever had.

Walk Run Soar

Author: Dorina Gilmore Young

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

No matter your pace, whether you walk, run, or soar, this book will give you some insights for the path you are taking.

Dorina Gilmore Young, with her husband Shawn, bring a fifty-two-week devotional for people that like to be active at whatever pace.  Dorina is a runner, both for competition and for fun, and she shares many of the insights that she has gained by running.  She lost her first husband to cancer and spends time dwelling on that relationship throughout many of the devotionals.  She also spends time on learning to hear Jesus, serving his mission, and conditioning our bodies for his work.  Each chapter is provided with a short narrative called Faith Fuel, an action item called Faith Step, a short couple of sentences for Inspiration, and a word of encouragement from her husband, Coach Shawn.  I have spent time reading a devotional each day after my bible reading and have found it very uplifting.  Each devotional also gives a section to write down notes during each day’s workouts and/or runs.  My husband uses this as he is an active runner and it has helped him think through some things when he runs.

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

Jesus Freaks

Authors: D.C. Talk & Voice of the Martyrs

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An updated edition of the inspiring story of those who have stood up for Jesus and paid the ultimate price.

Around the world Christians are being persecuted for their faith; they stand for Jesus until their very last breath. The stories are inspiring can help each and every one of us in our own walk with Christ. Within these pages we can read about the first martyrs up to ones in the present day. Jesus Freaks is part of the Richard Wurmbrand’s Voice of the Martyrs organization showing faithful Christian leaders who suffered many years ago in Communist prisons. Wurmbrand has even testified before Congress showing wounds he received while being tortured for his faith. He, like so many others, have gone through hardships we can only imagine.

I picked up Jesus Freaks on a day I was feeling sorry for myself and some of the things I was going through. Reading through these stories helped me put into perspective how grateful I need to be for all that I have, including my faith and freedom to live and express my faith freely. Across the world, others are not so lucky. They profess a faith in Jesus and get tortured and even killed for it, and they do so willingly in order to share the good news of Christ. To have a faith like that and be excited about prison, torture or death is hard to imagine. I believe but going to that level would be hard for so many of us. I strive to strengthen my faith each day and reading this while going through a difficult time was just what I needed. At first, it was hard reading about the difficult and painful times these believers went through, and I have so little to complain about, but as I read, I used their stories to help me gain perspective. There are places and people in this world that are not safe for believers to go, but those are the places that these believers go and preach and bring the lost to the lord. I for one am thankful for these stories, they remind me that no matter how bad things are, if I lift my eyes I’ll see where my help is. It’s not always easy, and when it’s the hardest that’s when we will see the biggest rewards.  I recommend this to all those going through a hard time and needing a reminder of no matter the cost our faith is worth it.

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

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 Patriots

Author: Winston Groom

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A phenomenal historical account of the structure of the American government system by three of the founding fathers.

The American revolutionary war took six years of fighting and another year of British occupation before the treaty was finally signed.  But the fighting was far from over.  Now it turned inward as the colonies tried to figure out the best form of government.  No one wanted a monarchy or a tyranny, but democracy seemed like a pipe dream that couldn’t be obtained.  Each state had their preferences, and no one seemed to want to have collective oversight.  Multiple plans were presented and dismissed before the founding fathers finally came to an agreement and ratified the constitution.

Three of the founding fathers were instrumental in this process.  Alexander Hamilton, who was an immigrant from the island of St. Croix; Thomas Jefferson, who was born into wealth and a widely known southern Renaissance man; and John Adams, the outspoken lawyer from Massachusetts.  All three men played heavy parts in the war, from Hamilton as General Washington’s top aide to both Adams and Jefferson as delegates to the Continental Congress.  But their interaction did not stop there.  They also played huge roles in framing the constitution and keeping their respective colony’s interests uncompromised.  While they each had visions of a great county, the visions could not have been more different, and the three men developed a hatred for each other.

Groom’s account is comprised of nine chapters, three dedicated to each person.  The first three chapters give an overview of each man’s upbringing and involvement in the revolutionary war.  The second three chapters describe their involvement during the framing of the constitution as well as their private affairs.  And the final three chapters close out their lives.  Groom’s histories are always very well received and interesting.  It feels more as though you are reading a story than a nonfiction historical account.  I couldn’t put the book down.  I haven’t read as much about these gentlemen as I should, but this book really brought their stories to light.  This will definitely stay in my collection.  I recommend this to history buffs as well as anyone who has an interest in how our country’s politics came to be. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

365 Ways to Love Your Child

Author: Julie Lavender

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A perfect book that showcases all the little ways we sometimes forget can be used to experience love with our children.

365 Ways to Love Your Child is a book written for all parents. Within its pages, readers will find encouragement to show kids each and every day how loved they are. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture, sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most. Write a letter to leave in their lunch box that says you are always thinking of them. Give them an extra hug, squeeze a little longer and a little tighter every chance you get. So many of the actions she gives as examples are so simple, I caught myself smiling and shaking my head as I read many of them thinking I should do those more often. In our world right now, we often find ourselves so busy even the smallest task added to our list can be overwhelming. When its those little tasks that can mean the most to our kids, and in turn leave a lasting impression on both them and us.

We only have a short amount of time with our children and if we don’t make the most of it, we will regret it. One thing the last few months of COVID and quarantine has taught me is to enjoy the time we have together. While things shut down and we had nowhere to go and nothing to do, playing games together and going for walks and bike rides became fun again. Eating together and talking about the day and all we had to be thankful was a nightly ritual and it didn’t go unnoticed by me or my family. Just telling someone you love them isn’t always enough, showing them by your actions and taking the time to do stuff together can often mean more than just saying the words. Lavender does a fantastic job of pointing out all the little things we forget can mean showing love to our kids. Something as simple as putting your phone away and looking them in the eye.  In the world we live in that is very rare and I think it is time we start doing more to show our kids they are more important than an electronic device to us, because when they get the electronics we know that is where there attention will be focused just as ours can tend to be. I would recommend that all parents pick up a copy of this book and highlight certain sections that are most relevant to them and can be best implemented in their daily lives together.

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.

Let Them be Kids

let them be kidsAuthor: Jessica Smartt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 9, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very practical guide to helping raise strong, well-mannered kids which also focuses on letting kids be kids and how to foster that childlike nature and fun within all of us.

Jessica Smartt crafts a well-balanced guide on raising kids that have values, good manners and also know how to have fun. It’s one thing to raise kids that are nice but also foster creativity and fun. Being a former English teacher and homeschooling mom of three, Jessica Smartt has spent years with young kids discovering the trial and error of what works and what doesn’t when raising kids. We don’t want to be the Pintrest mom or the Facebook mom who all we see is little snippets of their greatest moments, we have to be ourselves and let our kids see us as our true selves so they can be comfortable in their own skin.

Let Them Be Kids is a perfect read for parents, new and experienced. We can all learn something from the pages of this book. Being part story and part guidebook, readers will find great resources to help them in the trying times of raising young ones. I loved the way she talks about helping instill creativity in young children and how it is okay for them to be bored and learn to entertain themselves. That is so key; it would be easy to hand over a screen for entertainment these days but if we think back to when we were kids, we didn’t have near the options our kids do today for entertainment. I have to tell my boys a lot that it’s not my job to entertain them all the time. Several of the chapters give great advice on ways to entertain kids and help them entertain themselves. Never once does Smartt make us feel as if we aren’t doing a good job as parents, instead she gives us tools to help instill confidence in us as parents and ways to enjoy this time with our children. We only have a short amount of time with our kids and it would be a shame to look back and regret these younger years having not spent enough time together and enjoying the little moments. This is a book for all parents and parents to be, so many good take-aways that I will be pondering for days to come to implement in my routine with my boys.

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