Books · Honest Reviews

Famous Father Girl: Book Review

My favorite genre to read of all time? Memoirs.

There are so many interesting things in the world we live in, aren’t there? I find that there isn’t much more interesting than a person and the life he or she has lived. Everyone has a story, a unique story. I enjoy celebrity memoirs but also “plain, ordinary people” memoirs. This one is sort of a mix of both.

Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein is written by famous musician Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie. She gives a peek into the life of someone who was in the spotlight for years and years, and vividly paints how that affected life for her, her mother, and her siblings.

Again, as I do with all of my book reviews, I don’t want to spoil anything here. This book starts with Jamie’s birth and continues up past her father’s passing. You will learn of her relationship with her father, as well as her parents’ unique relationship. You’ll read more about the rumors and taboos related to Bernstein’s private life, as well as Jamie’s mother’s battle with illness. You’ll meet their friends, as well as “brush shoulders” with some of the celebrities they shared life with. You’ll read about a girl just trying to have a normal childhood, then a normal life (going to college, etc.), but who’s constantly feeling like she can’t fully do just that. A private, normal life is something that the children of most celebrities and geniuses cannot attain.

When I started out, I wasn’t sure I’d really like this book, but I devoured it in just a few short days. I know much more about Bernstein and his struggles, demons, and triumphs. I learned more about the Jewish faith and its traditions, and how all of that was woven into this particular family. I learned a bit more about music. And I simply….just enjoyed the story. Thank you, Jamie.

You can purchase Famous Father Girl from HarperCollins directly, via Amazon, or wherever books are sold near you.

 

Disclaimer: Muse Reviews was provided with this item at no cost in exchange for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are exclusively my own and are not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SaveSave

Books · Honest Reviews

Barracoon: Book Review

One of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. A truly moving read. A unique perspective and long-ago voice much awaited. A heart-rendering true story. A treasure.

These are all things I could say about the just-released Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” Zora Neale Hurston (author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God”) submitted her manuscript for Barracoon to a publisher almost 100 years ago. It was rejected because it was written in “black dialect.”

The manuscript was finally published last month via HarperCollins, and it’s like a rare gift from the past.

Hurston was an author, yes, but she was also a historian, folklorist, and anthropologist. When she set out to interview her subject in 1927 rural Plateau, Alabama, she knew that the human race had very little time left to seek out the last surviving slave trade victims and get their stories. She did just that.

Though 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis was a bit difficult to pin down, Hurston was able to convince him to let her interview him with promises of company….and little gifts (many in the form of agricultural bounty). The stories of his life began to pour out of his mouth, little by little, and Hurston captured it all in his own dialect, beautifully and amazingly.

In this book you will follow Cudjo as he is at first at home in his native land, then to the raid that caused him to be forced on board a slave ship as one of the last Atlantic slave trade cargo.

I won’t spoil it too much for you. Though a short read, it’s packed full of parables, heartache, love, and loss. My heart broke with Cudjo as he described some of the great sadnesses of his life.

When he fully realizes what Hurston is there to do, he graciously allows her entrance into his private thoughts and life, but with one condition: “I want you everywhere you go to go tell everybody whut Cudjo say, and how come I in Americky soil since de 1859 and never see my people no mo’.”

You can purchase Barracoon directly from the publisher, from Amazon.com, or wherever books are sold near you.

Disclaimer: Muse Reviews was provided with this item at no cost in exchange for our honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are exclusively my own and are not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Books · Honest Reviews

Seven Amazing Stories of Rescue

From bestselling author Jim Cymbala (with Ann Spangler) comes a short, easy-to-read-in-one-afternoon book of seven true stories of miraculous rescues from dire circumstances.

The Rescue: Seven People, Seven Amazing Stories is a brand new book from Zondervan that will seek to inspire anyone who’s had a rocky past or currently undergoing trials of some kind.

In The Rescue, you’ll meet Lawrence Punter, Timiney Visser and Rich Crissali, Robin, Kaitlin Pinkleton, Alex Colon, and Dr. Toni Gines-Rivera. (Two people are listed together because their stories intertwine.) They are all friends of pastor Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, and each one carries with them a unique and seemingly futile life story…at the beginning. Through their willingness to be raw and vulnerable, they share their stories one at a time and show that their stories don’t end the way they began. With each story, you’ll see in a real, fleshed-out way how God reached into people’s lives and makes beauty out of ashes, hope out of hopelessness.

This book has an introduction and a wrap-up chapter that ties the meanings of each of these stories together, but what I do like about this book is that the stories aren’t 100% wrapped up, perfect story endings. These are real people, like you and me, whose stories are still being written. Giving their lives to Christ was the catalyst that set them all on a new and hopeful path, but not every story over. The way each story ends makes them more believable and relatable, since none of our stories are ever perfectly sorted out and made perfect the instant we become Christ followers. There’s still life to live, there’s still forgiveness to seek and hand out, and there’s still some consequences for past decisions. BUT overall, the theme rings true and is woven throughout each life here — that God can take a mess and create a masterpiece. A WORKING masterpiece….one that’s constantly evolving and changing and being purified.

Jim Cymbala poses the idea that he wishes he could be sharing these stories with the reader over a cup of coffee in a living room instead of broadcasting them from printed pages, but in a way, I feel as if he somehow is. These stories feel open and honest in a very down-home way, and they are stories that stick with you long after you shut the book cover.

You can purchase The Rescue from ChristianBook.com from Amazon.com, or wherever Christian books are sold near you. You can also watch a handful of the stories on video on Zondervan’s website/product page.

Disclaimer: Muse Reviews was provided with this item at no cost in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are exclusively my own and are not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Books · Honest Reviews

Book Review: The Saboteur

Are you looking for a WWII nonfiction book to read this winter that doesn’t fit into the typical “mold” of WWII nonfiction? Maybe a book about someone on the side of the US’s allies vs. a US soldier? Paul Kix’s The Saboteur is just the ticket.

The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando is an adventure like no other. Harper Collins released it this past December. It starts out setting the scene of what dove Robert de Rochefoucauld into action: Watching his family home get taken over by the Nazis at the start of Europe’s involvement in WWII, all the while knowing that the enemy held his father captive elsewhere. He couldn’t sit idly by and let these things continue. What follows is a chronological account of his becoming involved with the French Resistance.

Starting off by being trained by Churchill-approved British Special Operations Executive, Rochefoucauld learns the ins and outs of spy tactics, survival training, and skill sets. He returns to France to join forces with the Resistance. His letters and diaries are expertly picked apart by the author and a very probable play-by-play of Rochefoucauld’s adventures ensue.

Starting off slowly with minute details of the subject’s draw into the war effort, the book quickly escalates into hold-your-breath action sequences, daring feats, and extremely narrow escapes. It is truly a side of the war I have never read anything much about other than a broad covering by overall history texts. I love reading about the personal adventures of one person, since the war involved many just like him. The willingness to forsake and leave behind all of the comforts of his aristocratic background in order to serve the greater good was amazing to me. The Saboteur truly showed that it was the combined efforts of many others like Rochefoucauld that helped the Allies win this conflict in the end.

You can order The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando from Amazon (in both hardback and softcover) or wherever books are sold. Digital copies also available, of course.

Disclaimer: Muse Reviews was provided with this item at no cost in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are exclusively my own and are not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Books · Education · Honest Reviews · Multimedia · Parenting & Kids · Tech

Epic! Reading App Review

I’m super excited to share with you today our take on a well-stocked app full of popular, fun, and educational books for kids ages 12 and under! The app is called Epic! and you can download it via their website to a variety of devices, or you can access it and use its full features via their webpage after logging in. Either way you choose to subscribe, just $7.99 per month gives your child(ren) access to over 25,000 well-known and high quality book titles in a variety of formats.

The first step is to set up a parental or educator account. After that’s done, you can add children’s names/profiles as desired. Epic! keeps track of each child’s progress and sends weekly update emails to the parent or educator’s email inbox. Each child can create a customized profile by selecting colors and a fun profile avatar. (Select features and colors can be unlocked by completing more books and receiving more award badges.)

Once logged into his or her profile, your child can search for books by title, author, or keyword. Once a list of available titles appears, your child can further narrow down the selections by limiting them by age or reading level, as well as format (read alone, read-to-me, audiobooks, or educational videos).

Curated lists (such as this one, “Not So Spooky Books for Kids”) are available for exploration.

One of my favorite features is the “Library” tab (on the left side or the top, depending on the device you’re using). It allows your child to add his/her favorite books to the library for safekeeping and easy access, as well as add books they would like to read next.

Logged into the parent or educator profile, several options unfold. One, you can add books to the library and assign them to one or more children. The next time your child logs in, he or she will see these books in his/her “Mailbox” and will know you desire those books be read. There are also quizzes that your child can take after reading a book to ensure comprehension and solidify what he or she just read.

A large number of Spanish book titles are available on Epic!, as well.

Here is a video review where we show you Epic! in action!

Look like fun? Try Epic! for one month free and see if it’s a good fit for your family or classroom! I’m thrilled that high-quality, comprehensive apps such as this are available to get more books into the hands of our children! Bravo, Epic!

 

 

Disclaimer: Muse Reviews was provided with a 6 month subscription to Epic! in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are exclusively my own and are not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

 

Books · Honest Reviews

Do you feel loved? Do you feel ADORED?

One of the things many people would say is lacking in our world today is LOVE.

It’s something we all probably try to do more of: Love others. But how can you truly and effectively do that if you’ve never really felt loved and valued yourself?

I was approached about reviewing a new devotional book by Zondervan for young women called Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women. The first thing that caught my eye when I opened the box was the gorgeous color. Dark navy blue, white, and light blue floral designs with gold leaf accents? Old-fashioned and beautiful. Just holding it in my hands made me feel it was a special book!

Inside I found exactly what it promised: A devotional for each and every day of the year. Each numbered day has its own page, and is announced with a whimsical blue bird that carries the banner showing the day. (There are no dates….just days numbering 1 to 365….so you can start at any time of the year….no need to wait until January 1st!)

A relevant Bible verse starts out the reading, and it’s followed by a real, honest, practical devotional excerpt to read, think about and ponder as you go about your day. At the close of each page is a handful of blank lines for you to jot down your thoughts or a simple prayer. The pages are thick and will hold up to inks.

Want to see a sample set of pages from Adored? Simply click this link and see it for yourself in an interactive format. You can even print the sample out.

This devotional will speak to young women relating to several different subjects: Dating, friendships, bullying, fear, freedom, self-esteem, and most of all, realizing how much you are loved and adored by your Heavenly Father.

I can’t think of anything that would make this devotional better other than maybe a ribbon attached to the spine to serve as a bookmark. (Those are always handy for me, at least!)

You can purchase Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women  from a variety of retailers:

Barnes & Noble
Amazon
ChristianBook.com
Parable
Lifeway
Zondervan

It retails for just $14.99.

 

Disclaimer: Muse Reviews was provided with a free product in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are exclusively my own and are not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

 

SaveSave