Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris // Book Review

Length: 349 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (October 1, 2019)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: PG 13 (for many graphic scenes, including rape and injuries; as well as heavy language)
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience. 

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her. 

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.


MY REVIEW:

Before I start out my review on Cilka’s Journey, if you have not read my review of The Tattooist of Aushwitz (book one in this mini-series), please take the time to read it here.

Okay, and now onto my review…

If you listened to my advice and read my review on The Tattooist of Aushwitz (which I know you probably didn’t–you naughty thing), you will know that I absolutely loved the book, the story, and the author. That being said, when I saw Heather Morris had a sequel to it, I immediately purchased it!

This author sure knows how to write a compelling historical novel! In The Tattooist of Aushwitz, we were briefly introduced to a young lady named Cilka. We weren’t given much information on her…just that Gita and her became fast friends and morally helped each other through the long months that they were held in the camps. We were also informed that Cilka was very beautiful, and therefore, caught the eye of a Nazi officer who decided to use her as a sex object. Without going into much detail, we just got the idea that she was raped every single day by this officer. When the war finally ended and the camps were liberated, many prisoners rejoiced because they regained their freedom, however, unfortunatley, this was not the case for Cilka. She was captured by the Russians and put into yet another concentration camp–this time with the conviction of “sleeping with the enemy”–and was sentenced to 15 years of labor.

I am going to stop my retelling of the synopsis right there, because, you have to realize, that Cilka had just survived several years at Auschwitz! AUSCHWITZ!! Also known as the death camp. And yet after surviving and fighting through such a terrible ideal, she is placed into yet another. And still she doesn’t give up. I mean if Rachel Platten was alive back then, Cilka’s life theme song would have been “Fight Song”. This girl was a fighter. And she fought hard.

Her story doesn’t end there though, because she was given a job as a nurse at the Russian camp, and because she put her whole effort into her work, she quickly escalated to gain a lot of trust between fellow workers, and even soldiers. This girl is just amazing.

This is not your typical series, as the second book did not follow the same main characters as the first book did. However, it was actually quite captivating, because I loved hearing more about Cilka–whom we were only briefly intorduced to before.

In The Tattooist Of Auschwitz , we were only told enough about Cilka to want to hear more about her story. Therefore, it was wonderful to get so much more detail. However, I was a bit confused on how the author would transition between The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, because they are supposed to be a series. I was worried that The Tattooist of Auschwitz would end, and the transition to Cilka’s Journey would be awkward, as we readers are trying to adjust to the new story line and characters.

However, this was fortunately not the case at all as Heather Morris did a phenomenal job at switching between the books. Cilka’s Journey picked right up where The Tattooist of Auschwitz had ended, and the transition could not have been cleaner. The reader was already familiar with the character of Cilka, as her friendship with Gita was an important part of The Tattooist of Auschwitz so it wasn’t like we were trying to adapt to completely new surrondings.

Not only that… throughout Cilka’s Journey, the author wrote flashbacks of Cilka’s life that answered questions and explained aspects of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, so it was almost like Cilka’s Journey was also finishing up the story of Lale and Gita. In The Tattooist of Auschwitz, like I said earlier, the author briefly described some scenes with Cilka, but they did leave me wondering what the whole story behind them were. It truly was great to settle these unknowns.

I can not think of any critiques I have for the book. Usually, I would complain on the amount of language and sex/rape content, but in this series, i honetly don’t believe I can do that, because Cilka’s journey was based on a true story during WWII. I mean this hell really did happen, and it was war, so obviously the content can not be picture clean and pristine. War was (and is) dirty. Dirty things happen Horrific things take place. And I honestly think there is a time and a place for language–during war is one of the very few times–therefore, I personally can not condem it.

In addition, the rape was a true thing. It really happened to Cilka. If I am going to be so sensitive about things like that, I might as well not read books about war, because as unfortunate as these events are, they really took place. Honestly, I think it is extremely vital for all humans to read books like this because this stuff really happened. In our day and age, the Holocaust is being forgotten, and these victims’–like Cilka’s–stories are being buried. Yes, Cilka’s Journey is a work of fiction, but the person, Cilka really did live, and really did fight like heck to survive. Her legacy–and thousands of people like her–should never be forgotten.

I give it to Heather Morris for re-awakening these individuals’ stories and delivering it in such a touching and passionate way. I absolutely loved this books, and 100% reccomend them to all readers out there.

If I’m being honest, I prefered Cilka’s Journey over The Tattooist of Auschwitz. However, don’t let me give you an opinion–make one for your own, by joining the journies of Lale, Gita, Cilka, and the millions of people who fought and suffered along side them.

Unqualified Success by Rachel M. Stewart // Book Review, Giveaway

Length: 259 pages
Publisher: Independent Publisher (April 24, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1733692509
Genre: Non fiction, Information
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

The secret to achieving the life you always wanted is found in this book. No matter who you are or what your circumstances are, Unqualified Success will give you practical and real tools that can be implemented today to achieve your goals. BE AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS.

The difference between those who achieve massive success and those who only wish they could is not qualification. Instead, everything you need to live the life of your dreams already exists inside of you and can be harnessed and developed through practice. THE CATALYST TO ACT.

This book teaches the principles and gives you real-life tools to put your own power into action. In doing so, you will have the skills to accomplish anything you want in your life. No matter if you are wanting to take the next massive leap in your career or need the courage to act towards the dream you have been waiting to pursue, this book will help you get there.

“As a business leader, the principles in Unqualified Success resulted in tens of millions in growth, positioned me as a leader in my industry, gave me the courage to launch a technology company, write a book, and more importantly, have fun and confidence doing it.” “Rachel Stewart has absolutely nailed the #1 foible in mind management—how we undermine and discredit ourselves—and teaches specifically what to do about it! So genuine, so accurate, so doable! This is the best, most well-written book on personal success thus far in the 21st century. 100% Unqualified Endorsement.”

Dr. Dennis R Deaton, author The Book on Mind Management http://www.unqualifiedtools.com

AUTOR BIO:

If I could give you the best snapshot of myself, I would tell you that I grew up with six brothers. Why is this so significant? It means I am scrappy. I fight hard for what I want. I am passionate, driven, and don’t give up. If I don’t know something, I will figure it out or find someone who does.

That’s how I ended up writing a book. I attribute every success I have ever had (building a business, founding and growing a software company, running an ultra-marathon, being a parent to four beautiful children…the list goes on) to the principles in Unqualified Success and wanted to share it with anyone and everyone.

All of us who are (or want to be) on a trajectory of growth, are unqualified for the next stage. Unqualified Success is about what it takes to do it anyway. The real-life examples, tools, and exercises are pretty awesome and allow you to make measurable progress daily. You can visit unqualifiedtools.com to find out more.

Seriously, get it! And then write a lovely review.

-Rachel M. Stewart

MY REVIEW:

Unqualified Success progressed in a logical fashion that was easily followed. I did not have any problems following the author’s train of thought. She was very clear and articulate.

The author’s purpose in writing the book was to bridge the gap between where the readers are and where they want to be by changing their mindset. She accomplished just that. She explains that the main sticking point for many people is their own thinking. Their thoughts are what is keeping them from accomplishing great things. As a great author once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.

The author added a story of a man named Mango, who went from basically nothing to a very successful nurse practitioner. She followed along with his story in every chapter. This added a bit of fun relation as the readers could see that if someone from Brazil can go from poverty to success, we have no excuses. Mango’s story proved that one’s level of success is completely based on one’s thinking. Each and every person is only as successful as they want to be.

The target audience for Unqualified Success is PG13 only because an older audience would appreciate and practice the principles more. The book’s greatest value is its simple yet compact content. It was very easy to read and follow, yet it packed a lot of information into such a short book. All of the 259 pages held valuable keys to accomplishing success.

GIVEAWAY:

Jay Got Married by James Robinson Jr. // Book Tour

Length: 142 pages
Publisher: Independently Published (September 6, 2019)
ASIN: B07WQQ28WW
Genre: Non-fiction / humor
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

Jay Got Married consists of 9 humorous and, at times, poignant essays chronicling the ironies of everyday life in word and picture. Take for example the lead essay, aptly titled, “Jay got Married,” where I find myself mired in a horrendous dream. 

In the fantasy, my aging father–dressed in his favorite Champion t-shirt with stains covering the front–marries my wife and I like he did 42 years ago but, this time around, the my 92-year-old ex-clergy dad forgets his lines causing me to coach him through the event with hints like: “ask for the rings, ask for the rings.” All the while, my best man sings Sonny and Cher’s, “I Got You Babe.” 

Finally married, my wife and I end the ceremony with a kiss. But as I turn to exit, my eyes catch a glimpse of the bridesmaid who is no longer my wife’s best friend but now Gal Gadot from Dell Comics and Wonder Woman Fame. She is dressed in full Wonder Women regalia and looks totally shocked by the whole affair. 

My mother turns to my father (now in the audience) with a quizzical look and says, “Dad, look at that bridesmaid. Isn’t that Superman?” She doesn’t get out much. 

As we exit the church, and the bubbles fill the air–no one uses rice anymore—my wife ignores the limo and takes off on a sleek motorcycle, leaving me in the lurch—hence the cover. 

Sure, it’s sounds crazy. But, in truth, isn’t the world of marriage crazy these days? In my case, what would one do when faced with the prospect of losing their beloved wife after 42 years? At age 67, would they remarry? Would they even want to remarry? These and other marital tidbits are discussed with humor and as much reverence as I could muster.  

P.S. The author pairs up with Wonder Woman again in a final bit of photo wizardry Why? How? How are tricky copyright infringement laws avoided? Read Jay Got Married and find out.

BOOK EXCERPT:

JAY GOT MARRIED

I had a frightful dream. I was standing at the altar with my wife and 400 guests in attendance. It seemed to be a repeat of our wedding in 1976. My now 95-year-old father performed the ceremony for my wife and me the first time around, and that’s how old he appeared to be in this vision. He kept forgetting the lines and was forever looking at me for support. At one point, I was whispering, “The rings, the rings.” I kept reaching for them, but they were disappearing before I could grab them.

Albie, my cousin and best man from my first wedding, was singing Sonny and Cher’s, I Got You Babe. Normally, he can’t sing for shit, but in this scenario, he had his hand on his chest and his head back, sounding like Luciano Pavarotti. What was this all about? 

My father, the minister, wearing his trademark Champion sweatshirt, with coffee stains on the chest portions, pronounced us man and wife. I turned to kiss my new bride and caught a glimpse of her bridesmaid. But instead of her best friend who was her attendant back in the day, it was Gal Godot from DC Comics and the movies. 

She was wearing her Wonder Woman garb, but she didn’t seem primed for a wedding. In fact, she appeared to be totally shocked by the whole affair. What kind of dream was this?

My wife and I ended the ceremony with a kiss. My mother turned to my father (who was then in attendance in the audience) with a quizzical look and said, “Dad, look at that bridesmaid. Isn’t that Superman?” 

She was close. She doesn’t get out much.

Oh, and then, though neither of us would be caught dead on a motorcycle, in this weird musing, we were apparently bikers. Instead of a limousine waiting for us at the curb, there sat a racy motorcycle with cans in tow. It looked like this one:

a person riding on the back of a motorcycle: The ground-up redesign for the S1000RR could catapult BMW to the pointy end of the literbike class.

I Googled it. It’s a BMW S1000RR—sleek, fast, and flashy.

But before I could get on the bike, she pulled off without me, as the cans tied to the wheels of the hot machine banged on the street, while her gown billowed in the breeze. She had left me standing in the street like a lost soul.

True, I shouldn’t have been drinking the caffeinated tea before bed, but more to the point, maybe, just maybe, this crazy vision was a warning, a forecast, an omen. Maybe it was God’s way of telling me that Wonder Woman could show up at your wedding without even paying her an appearance fee. Or even more to the point, perhaps it was to make me appreciate what I have. 

What if the unthinkable happened to my wife? What if she succumbed to a disease, or was killed in a terrible auto accident? Or worse, what if her life were cut short in a vicious pit bull attack? 

I jest. But you never know.

MY REVIEW:

I will start off with my negative review of the book…

Memoirs are usually my favorite genre; however, I am not usually a fan of memoirs in multiple short-story format. I prefer to read books in chronological Real-life events. When I saw this book, I hoped it would be different than the many other books, I have read in this format because, it had added humor to the genre. Unfortunately, I did not think it was.

I did not think the humor was very humorous–it was more absurd. I understand that the absurdness was the whole point for the humor, so if you are a fan of this type of genre, than I totally recommend this book. However, I am not a fan of absurdness, so I did not enjoy the humor that much. The only time I laughed in this book, was when I was laughing out of the pure ridiculousness of the stories–and it was not because I thought it was funny. I would have liked if the stories made me laugh because they were actually funny–not absolutely ridiculous. I think the author should have added genuine humor to the book–the type that makes yu laugh until your sides hurt.

All that being said, now on to my positive review…

I thought the author had a great writing style–and even though his stories were not very funny–he knew how to tell a good story. His stories were absurd but I have to give it to him, because he did a great job of telling them. He sure keeps the reader entertained and waiting to see what absurd thing is going to happen next. The stories are light reads but full of insightful nuggets about history and life that are nostalgic and fun. He also wrote the type of experiences in his own life that made you think “Yay, I’m not the only one who does that or thinks that way!”. I could relate to several of his stories–and thought they were so true. I did enjoy that he related to the reader a lot.

Overall, I am only taking one star off for the content–just because I think a humorous book, should have been just a bit more humorous–but I think the book really earned the other 4 stars. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy short, “humorous” reads. I personally did not think it was very funny, but I read several review of other readers who thought it was hilarious. So you never know! You should give this book a try!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Robinson, Jr. is so formal; call me Jim. People have also referred to me as James, Jay, Jayzer, and even Jimbo. (You can thank my middle daughter for the Jimbo thing. Kids have no respect for authority these days.) I’m a sixty-year-old father of three, thirty-plus daughters and grandfather of four who has been battered by gravity unmercilessly (see Fighting the Effects of Gravity). I was late getting into the writing game. Mainly because I was busy having children and trying to keep them fed.

I have written and published most of the books that you see here since 2012. My first book, Fighting the Effects of Gravity, was a long-term project that I started long before the digital revolution. My next book, Death of a Shrinking Violet, consists of 13 essays including the memorable entry, “Damn You Sam’s Club!” My latest work, a novella, is my first foray into the world of fiction. Along the way, I have managed to take home two Five-Star Readers’ Favorite Reviews and become an Indie Excellence and Readers’ Favorite Award finalist.

Author Links:

Instagram : Facebook : Amazon

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:

1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

My most dramatic literary pilgrimage has been my lifelong journey from babe in the woods (in literary terms) at age 43—the year 1995–when I began writing in earnest to now as I write my 7th book. As I look back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come and how little I knew when I first began writing. 

When I began writing at age 45, there was no digital media—no internet, no email, no Kindles or Nooks. I wrote query letters to agents and included a self-addressed, stamped envelope. I went through 4 agents without getting a book deal. I put out my first Kindle book in 2012 at the age of 60–it took me 15 years to get the right cover and content–and entitled it: Fighting the Effects of Gravity: One Man’s Journey Into Middle Life. 

I’m on my 7th book since then including three fiction books but nonfiction seems to be my thing. As they say, It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.

2. What is the first book that made you cry?

Since I’m a fan of non-fiction genre, especially satire and humor, I’d have to say I’ve never really cried while reading a book. Sorry.

3. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Since I self-publish, I haven’t found too many unscrupulous practices in that industry. Early in my writing career when I was soliciting agents, they would sometimes ask for a reading fee before they would look at your manuscript even though such fees were strongly forbidden. I’m not sure if this practice is done anymore. 

With my first book, I joined a company called iUniverse just to take advantage of the new digital publishing craze that was taking place. They helped to improve my book. They editor whose services I purchased, really changed my life. But when I tried to get out of their group, I found out that they essentially owned the rights and I had to buy my way out.   

4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. Working on a first draft or the initial stages of a book or other work is exhausting. Working on a piece that I’ve already put the hard work into is exhilarating. Especially when dealing with humor. 

5.What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Thinking that your writing is the best that it can be without professional editing. Offer up the best that you have, hire a professional editor, and get ready for a long period of editing. Thinking that you will make a great deal of money with your writing. I only know of a few people that do. Work hard getting your books out there to readers and be happy with whatever few books that you manage to sell.

6. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

A passion for writing, a willingness to learn, and hard work are the basis for a good writer. An ego helps nothing. A person with a large ego would probably think more of their writing than they should and refuse advice.

7. What is your writing Kryptonite?

I would have say that first drafts are like Kryptonite to me. Sometimes my initial drafts are so bad that I don’t see the need to go any further. “This will never amount to anything,” I say to myself. But I keep on plugging away and that horrible duckling using turns into my version of a swan. 

8. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

I am inflicted with reader’s block. People can’t understand how I can be a writer and read so little. I think I worry that it will ruin my originality. Sometimes I think that I just don’t have the patience. I am also a lover of movies and that  takes away from reading time. I will, however, diligently read a friend’s book and leave a review and they will do the same for me.

9. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I actually have considered it. I thought it might be fun. A couple of my writing friends do it. But I think it’s mainly for romance authors and I’ve never been able to come up with a good name. What would I call myself? How about Jerome Alexander? I’ll keep trying.

10. do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

My only goal is to be original. Have you ever heard the song, “I gotta be me…? Well, I can’t be anyone but myself. I’m sure I could write romances if I wanted but I hate the stuff. I have this warped sense of humor. When I sit down to write, that’s what comes out. It would be nice if readers enjoyed it but, if not, oh well.

Merry Christmas!! Happy Day SEVEN of Blogmas!

Brave Surrender by Kim Walker Smith // Book Review

Length: 192 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (April 2, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0310353998
Genre: Non fiction, memoir
Buy On: Amazon

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

SYNOPSIS:

Kim Walker Smith’s passionate performance of “How He Loves” helped transform Jesus Culture into a global worship movement. Brave Surrender is the story of how Kim journeyed from a place of shame and fear to stages around the world where she boldly proclaims the unconditional love of God. Through her own story, Kim inspires us to experience true freedom and healing with Jesus.

Coming from a painful childhood, Kim struggled to believe that God could heal her heart or bring any sense from her past. Yet when faced with the choice to hand her struggles over to God and receive His love in return, everything began to change. On the other side of surrender, Kim began a journey of looking at one painful memory at a time with God and exchanging her perspective for His truth – a journey in which God rewrote her story of pain into a story of redemption and hope.

If you are longing to experience God more than the shame or hurts of your past, the pressures of your present, or the fear of your future, Brave Surrender offers a soul-healing path forward. As Kim learned in her own life, the first step – and the bravest step – is letting go. Once we let go of anything that gets between us and God, we are freed to take hold of the life that truly matters. As Kim writes, “When we encounter God’s love, it changes the way we see. And when we learn to see what He sees, we will never be the same again.”

MY REVIEW:

I first heard Kim Walker Smith on the radio, but I didn’t hear enough of her to get an opinion. Later that same year, I attended a Christmas K-love concert, where she was one of the lead singers, and I heard a whole lot more of her voice and songs. Overall, I thought she was a great singer, so when I saw that she had written a book, I couldn’t wait to read it!

I always love reading the behind-the-scenes of public figures, and Kim Walker Smith was no different. I really enjoyed reading about what she was like behind the camera, as well as what led her up to being a singer for Jesus culture. Her story is broken, but beautifully unique.

I enjoyed her book, and thought she had a great writing style. She kept me intrigued into her story, and made me want to read it again. I thought a few parts of her story were a little weird–but that is my own opinion.

I would recommend this story to anybody who has heard Kim Walker Smith sing, as well, as to any readers who like learning about the behind-the-scenes of public figures.

Merry Christmas and Happy Day SIX of Blogmas!

WINNER of “Rough Way to the Highway” GIVEAWAY!

First I want to thank Arianna who graciously reposted the original post on her blog to get some more contestants. Make sure to check her blog out!

And now the moment you have all been waitiing for…

THE WINNER OF AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF “ROUGH WAY TO THE HIGHWAY” BY KELLY MCCOY IIIISSSSS…..



ANNEKA FROM https://annekareyne.wordpress.com/



CONGRAGULATIONS!!!! And thank you so much to everyone for your patience and for participating in this giveaway! Stay tuned because I have more giveaways coming!

Until then…HAPPY NOVEMBER!

Ani

Breakthrough by Joyce Smith // Book Review

Visit Amazon for more info.

Disclaimer: I watched the movie “Breakthrough” before reading the book. So some of my opinions might come from both.

SYNOPSIS:

When Joyce Smith’s fourteen-year-old son John fell through an icy Missouri lake one winter morning, she and her family had seemingly lost everything. At the hospital, John lay lifeless for more than sixty minutes. But Joyce was not ready to give up on her son. She mustered all her faith and strength into one force and cried out to God in a loud voice to save him.

Miraculously, her son’s heart immediately started beating again.

In the coming days, John would defy every expert, every case history, and every scientific prediction. Sixteen days after falling through the ice and being clinically dead for an hour, he walked out of the hospital under his own power, completely healed.

Breakthrough is about a profound truth: prayer really does work. God uses it to remind us that He is always with us, and when we combine it with unshakable faith, nothing is impossible.


MY REVIEW:


What an amazing story! I have heard and read many stories similar to this one—of people defeating the odds—but this one was by far the most miraculous. I literally had goose bumps pretty much the entire time.
Told through the eyes of a mother who’s powerful faith and undeterred love held her family together through the most difficult time of their lives, Joyce Smith takes the reader deep down into the story of her son in Breakthrough. The author uses vivid explanations to describe the terrible day of the accident. She writes the scene so well, that the reader can almost feel the bite of the cold and the sharp edges of ice. I could picture in my mind the desperate search to bring John’s body above the ice, and the worry edged on every bystander’s face. Joyce also takes the reader into the days and weeks after the accident and all the thoughts that were racing through her mind. She lets the reader experience what it would be like to have a child experience such a terrible accident, and not know what is going to happen. However, even though Joyce knew John’s life was in God’s hands and He would decide whether John died or lived, she never lost her faith that God would heal John. Joyce’s example of faith is an inspiring example to always have faith in God through thick and thin. Not all stories have happy endings in our eyes, but like Joyce says in her book, every story is different and unique and God is writing each and every story specifically for that person. True faith is trusting that God is writing your own story uniquely for you and it is neither better nor worse than any other story.


Ani

Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done by Ray Barnett // Book Review

Disclaimer: This book was requested for review by Lydia Sherwood. She provided me with a free copy without expecting a positive review. All thoughts are my own.

SYNOPSIS:

As a young boy struggling to find his way through the immense poverty, secrecy and war-time suffering that gripped his life in Northern Ireland, Ray Barnett dreamed of a life of adventure and travel like that of his hero: famed missionary-explorer David Livingstone.
As an adult, he has lived that life–leading a human-rights based ministry that has brought hope, healing and humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
In this riveting autobiography that spans eighty years, Ray takes readers on a rollercoaster journey through his childhood in the rough, working-class neighborhood of Killowen–a childhood marked by loss, abuse, severe learning disabilities, rejection, and the crushing discovery that the family who raised him was not his own.
Ray’s life makes a sudden U-turn when, at age 13, he turns his life over to God. Spurred by the scripture, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23), Ray sets out to accomplish what seems like the impossible–from securing the release of Hezbollah-held hostages and imprisoned Christians, to launching the world-renowned African Children’s Choir, to unraveling the lifelong mystery surrounding his identity.nd
Don’t Tell Me it Can’t Be Done is an inspiring testament of the miracles that can transpire when we put our faith in God and take action; believing if we do everything that’s in our power to do, God will take care of the rest.


MY REVIEW:

Ray Barnett’s story is very intriguing. He did so much in/with his life. He had a zeal for God and showed it in the way he lived out his life.
After becoming a Christian at age 13, he really sought to live his life to the fullest—for God. He put God first in everything he did. During his search for his biological family, after he found out the real truth of his family history, Barnett relied on God to bring him the answers in His timing; and he had faith that the answers would be the answers God gave to him. Even after his long search to find his biological mom ended in the worst way he would have though possible, Ray continued to love and serve God. He realized that he couldn’t change the past. What was done was done and he could not do anything to change that. However, what he could do is change his future. He knew, if he dwelt on the past, he would never be happy, so he trusted God and moved on to the next phase of his life.
Traveling abroad to places like Lebanon and Somalia, Barnett crossed dangerous territory to bring aa light to a dark world. He risked his life many a time to live out God’s Word. He knew that if David Livingstone was brave enough to be attacked by a lion and continue to share God’s message of hope, he was brave enough to tolerate dangers set in his path. Not only did he seek to help Christians and servants of God, he sought to help people of all type and religion, who were in need. When he discovered Hezbollahs being being held hostage along with the Chistians who were imprisoned, he devoted himself to giving them both their freedom. Working long and hard, Barnett gave more than just his time and energy—he gave his all.
When he traveled to Africa and experienced the extreme poverty most of the children there face, he founded the African Children’s choir to give these poverty-stricken children a chance. A chance to get find hope. A chance to find love. And a chance to find education. Ray Barnett did not just found this great organization, he lives it. He doesn’t just oversee the children in his care, he loves them. He treats them like his own. And he gives them the start of a new life.
Don’t Tell Me It Cant Be Done Was the perfect title for this book. It really was Ray Barnett’s philosophy. If someone told him it couldn’t be done, that was basically a command for him to go do it. He always accomplished what everyone thought was impossible. He did not care what others thought was impossible because he knew that with his God everything was possible.
The story of Ray Barnett is a story full of sadness and tragedy, but also one bursting with hope and bravery. Experience one man’s amazing strive to make a difference and relive his inspiring life in this unique memoir of Ray Barnett—Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done.

I apologize for the short review, but I have been very busy lately!

Ani

Speak Truth in Your Heart by Sarah Mally // Book Review

Visit Amazon for more info.

SYNOPSIS:

Many girls try to change their wrong actions, but never learn to discern the wrong thinking behind the actions. In this new book, Sarah Mally challenges girls to identify lies which are root issues behind struggles they face. Including thought-provoking cartoons, stories, biblical teaching, and practical steps of action, this book teaches girls to replace lies with the truth and align their thinking with God’s Word. When a young lady learns to speak truth TO herself, she is planting her feet upon an unshakable foundation that will resist even the most powerful attacks of the enemy. She will see how God’s Word will transform each area of her life as the truth sets her free!


MY REVIEW:

Too many teenage girls are swamped with the lies that the world throws at them. They are too heavy, too skinny, eat too much, do not eat enough, have too much this or that, etc. Because they are always told these lies, they start to believe them and the lies begin to control their lives. This then results in disabilities like anorexia which can then turn to suicide. If you are a teenage girl, don’t fall into this trap—or if you already have, now is the perfect time to come out of it—Speak Truth in Your Heart explains how to replace these lies with God’s truths. I definitely struggle with falling into this trap all the time. I am constantly thinking about my body shape and size, and worrying that it is “not pretty enough”. I feel fat and ugly, and it makes me want to stop eating. However, I need to remember that my God is gracious, and merciful, and all powerful, and He has an answer to all of my problems. Sometimes, it can be hard for me to believe this, because I can not physically see God, but I can see myself in the mirror every morning. I give myself over to God, but then the next morning when I look in the mirror again, all those lies start flooding back. Every girl—including me—long for a safe refuge. Somewhere to go where they feel beautiful, wanted, and perfect. This is where many girls fall off the right path though; they turn to the wrong places to find this refuge. When this starts to happen, however, we need to remember that Christ is the only true place for this comfort. It is Him that is the only place where we can feel truly loved. When we are filled with God’s grace, and His word, Sarah Mally tells us that the lies of the world will begin to flee, as there is no room for them in the presence of God. The author writes this book in a very clear and precise manner. I very much enjoyed her writing style, and would recommend her to all Christian teen girls. She lists a lot of lies that many girls struggle with, and then replaces them with a truth that we can tell ourselves instead. Overall Speak Truth in Your Hear was very encouraging and inspiring, and it helped me to look at myself a bit different from now on. I appreciated how the author did not just condemn all the girls who struggle with these lies, but brought them under her wing, and showed them how they can be free from them. Even Sarah herself said that these lies will not be forever gone. She is not offering some magic potent to erase them all away—what she does offer is someone to fill in these lies and give you the strength to stand up to them when they do come. Speak Truth in Your Heart was beautifully written, and is the perfect book for all girls who struggle with these lies. Don’t let the Devil’s lies keep you down anymore! Learn how to conquer them with Sarah Mally’s Speak Truth in Your Heart.


Ani

Childish Spirits by Rob Keeley // Book Review and Author Interview AND Giveaway

*Disclaimer: The author of Childish Spirits, Rob Keeley, provided me with a free ebook copy of his book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own, and I was not required to post a positive review.

The Giveaway has ended!

CHILDISH SPIRITS
Rob Keeley

JULY 28, 2019


*Kindle edition information

Publisher: Matador (May 8, 2019)

ASIN: B07RLDX7Q1

Length: 119 pages

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

When Ellie and her family move into Inchwood Manor, Ellie quickly discovers strange things are happening. Who is the mysterious boy at the window? What secrets lie within the abandoned nursery? Who is the woman who haunts Ellie’s dreams – and why has she returned to the Manor, after more than a century? Ellie finds herself entangled in a Victorian mystery of ghosts and tunnels and secret documents – and discovers that life all those years ago isn’t so different from the world she knows today… Rob Keeley’s first novel for children brings out all the ingredients of the classic ghost story within a recognisable modern world setting. Readers of his short story collections for children will find in Childish Spirits the elements which made his past books such a success – strong and contemporary characters, inventive twists on traditional themes, and a winning combination of action, suspense and humour.


My Review:

Wow–Childish Spirits certainly had it all: fantasy, historical fiction, fiction, young adult, spirits, suspense, friendship, and plot twists. I was surprised at how much content was packed into such a short book. Childish Spirits was not a very long read–only 119 pages–but it had as much plot content as most long novels have.

Don’t let the “mysticisim” scare you off. I was leery of it at first as well, but the author assured me that there was no horror or “halloweenish” twists to it, so I finally decided to read it. I ended up being very pleasently surprised. It was not at all what I was expecting. I did not think it was creepy or horror”ish” at all. I actually REALLY enjoyed the book. I would even read it again. I loved it!

Rob Keeley told me that he had intended Childish Spirits to be for a younger audience–age 8 and up–however, I thought it was so well written that the age range could be from 8 to 80. I that really any type of audience could read and enjoy it.

The book was written from a Ellie’s, a young teenager, point of view. The plot was easy to read and follow and the author’s dialouge was very well written. Edward, the young “ghost” that Ellie befriends, is the other main character in the story but is not told from his point of view. The friendship between Ellie and Edward was very humerous and intriguing, but also very unique. I thought Rob Keeley did an awesome job balancing the human/ghost friendship, and didn’t blure the lines too often.

The author described each and every scene expertly and made me feel like I was in the story the whole time. I could picture each scene in my mind and could picture it almost as good as movie.

I enjoyed each plot and twist in the story, and it definately kept me guessing the whole time, and attached to the book.

Like I said earlier, I would defiantely reccomend this book to all audiences. Even if you are someone like me, who does not typically like “ghostly” or fantasy stories, I suggest you try this book–you will probably be surprised!


Author Interview:

What were your schooldays like?
They were fragmented, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and utterly bananas. I use a wheelchair and was first put into a special school at three years old, which I hated. Then they started to introduce me gradually into mainstream education, but I didn’t get into a mainstream primary school full-time until I was ten. So for a few years I was spending mornings in one school and afternoons in another. At one point my special school was going to another mainstream school – where my mother was Deputy Head – one morning a week for Science lessons. So at that time I was in three schools in one day!
Another time the kids in wheelchairs at my special school formed the Bicycle Reflector Club, with membership depending on acquiring free reflectors for your spokes from cereal packets. I would get all the kids at the afternoon school to save up their reflectors for me, so I soon had more than anyone else without having to eat any cereal! One day I’ll make that into a short story.
And then at eleven I was sent to a high school miles away from home, where I had a very rough time indeed. But in those days it was the only mainstream high school in the entire area that was equipped for disabled kids. Thankfully things have improved a lot. All these experiences gave me plenty of material to draw on for my school stories, published in The Alien in the Garage, The (Fairly) Magic Show and The Dinner Club collections.

Did you have a mentor?
I never had a mentor in the literary sense but did have one at high school. Thanks to my fragmented primary education, my Maths was all over the place when I started secondary. Then in my second year came Mr Moore, a fabulous young teacher and a very nice guy, who was one of very few people who listened to and understood me, alongside helping me with my work. Thanks to him, I was in top set for Maths a year later. I’m pleased to say he’s now Head of a school in London, where he’s invited me to give author workshops at some point.

How did you first get into professional writing?
I was fifteen and having a meal with my parents and then-girlfriend at a fabulous restaurant called the Alacadoo. One of my teachers from special school came in and she was involved with a local magazine for the disabled. She asked me to write an article on life for disabled kids at secondary school. I did it, it was edited without reference to me and I was never paid for it! But little by little I worked my way up via magazine articles, educational journals, and then started to have fiction published. I wrote part-time for about fourteen years and then took the plunge into full-time writing in 2011 when The Alien in the Garage was published and I began my Master’s in Creative Writing, for which the creative work was the book you’ve just reviewed, Childish Spirits.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve followed in the footsteps of Shakespeare with regular visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, also Wordsworth and Coleridge at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and Jane Austen in Bath. For my own work I’ve visited lots of stately homes, castles and country estates, which was good material for the various Journeyback houses and castles in the Spirits series.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book Childish Spirits?
I’ve been surprised by the number of media to which the story lends itself. It began life as a rejected idea for a TV series and I then turned the rejected script into the book – the first six chapters are effectively a novelisation of that script. I still have hopes it may appear on TV someday. It’s since been a paperback (longlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award and nominated for the People’s Book Prize), an ebook and is now an audiobook, read by the actor Sally Millest. So in a sense we’ve come full circle as it was originally written to be performed and now it has!

What was the most difficult scene to create in Childish Spirits?
Without giving too much away, it’s probably the scene where Ellie finds the old letters and the mystery of what happened at Inchwood Manor finally makes sense to her. I remember my uni tutor was concerned that these were “adults’ letters” and would be boring to a child audience. But I think I overcame that by placing Ellie, then a young child, right at the centre of the scene and showing her awe as the past opens up to her. It’s a pivotal moment and she then realises what she has to do to help Edward, the Victorian boy ghost.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes, sometimes – especially in the final Spirits novel, The Coming of the Spirits, which was published earlier this year. There’s a secret word hidden across the very start of each of the opening chapters, and at the time I posted a challenge on my Twitter which stated that the first person who sent me the correct word would receive a free signed copy of the book. But so far, no one has found it! The offer is still open – I’m willing to offer a free signed copy to readers within the UK, or a free download of the Childish Spirits audiobook elsewhere – to the first person who emails or DMs me that word!
There’s also a lot of bonus material on the Extras page of my website. For Childish Spirits there are deleted scenes, a writing activity and a quiz. And there are various Easter Eggs hidden around the site, with rare material and even a bonus short story concealed somewhere! See what you can find.

What do you think of modern children’s literature?
There are some very good authors out there and I particularly like Francesca Simon, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson. In some other quarters I’m concerned that ‘dumbing down’ has taken place and there’s a lot of crudeness and toilet humor in books for younger children. I’m a great believer in not talking down or writing down to them and I think they deserve better than jokes about underwear or bodily functions. People who write crudely for children always seem to cite Roald Dahl as their inspiration, not realizing there was so much more to his work than rude jokes – his stories are dark modern fairy tales in the tradition of European folklore. For myself, I will not use lavatorial humor or unsuitable material in anything I write for children.
My other current concern is this idea that’s got around that “children want to see themselves in books”. While it’s important for books to reflect the society we live in, and I try to make mine as inclusive and diverse as possible, I think it’s slightly odd to assume we can only empathize with characters who look exactly like us. This promotes division rather than
inclusivity, by compartmentalizing individuals into categories. There is so much more to people than their gender, race, cultural background or disability, and we need to show children those who are different from ourselves, or may appear to be, but underneath are fellow human beings with hopes, fears, aspirations and personal tragedies just like our own. I’ve a great distrust of the “tickbox” approach to inclusivity, knowing from personal experience that it only scratches the surface and does nothing to eliminate real prejudice and discrimination.

What does literary success look like to you?
Is that what this is?! That’s good to know. Seriously, I feel very fortunate, having first been rejected for the profession I trained for (the law) and then been made redundant three times, that I now have a job I love, which I can do from home, and which has had an unbelievable degree of success and brought pleasure to many children and adults.

What’s next for you?
I’m busy promoting The Coming of the Spirits in paperback and Childish Spirits in its new ebook and audiobook forms. Then after that I have my first standalone novel for older children ready and waiting, which I hope will be published next year. Meanwhile I’m about to start running a Creative Writing course for adults and have a school workshop booked for the autumn term. Visit my website and Twitter to find out all the latest news!


Giveaway:

For those of you who own an APPLE device, this giveaway is open to you! This giveaway is different and unique because it has new rules. The VERY FIRST person to answer this question correctly in the comments below will win a free eBook code emailed to them as well as the instructions on how to activate it.. Note: ONLY APPLE DEVICES WILL BE ABLE TO ACCESS THE CODE! Million-dollar (or more like eBook dollar 😉 ) question: How old was Rob Keeley when he did his first professional work as a writer? Please, only answer this question if you own an Apple device, so as not to spoil it for those who do. The answer to that question is found somewhere in this post. Look hard, and answer quick!

Special thanks to the author, Rob Keeley, requesting a review, being willing to do an interview, taking the time to answer the questions in depth, and for sponsoring this giveaway. Make sure to check out the awesome Childish Spirits, as well as, the rest of his books!

Ani