Title: The Hiding Place
by: Corrie Ten Boom
This is a book that reminds us to be Christ-like & "grateful in every circumstance." The Ten Boom family, a Christian family living in Holland, take it upon themselves to help the Jews trying to escape the oppressive Nazi occupation during World War II. Corrie & her sister Betsie teach some of the most tender lessons about how to love & forgive our enemies, and how to show gratitude for every little thing. Also, there isn't any language in this book, & although it's a wartime book, it has such a positive spin on it that it differs greatly from many other WWII books.
"God's viewpoint is sometimes different from ours-- so different that we could not even guess at it unless HE had given us a Book that tells us such things. God values us not for our strength or our brains, but simply because he has made us."
This psalm lends credence to the title- "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, & a light unto my path... Thou art my hiding place & my shield."
"Happiness isn't something that depends on our surroundings..it is something we make inside of ourselves."
"This was evil's hour; we could not run away from it. Perhaps only when human effort had done its best & failed, would God's power alone be free to work."
"There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety."
"If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!"
Lale The Tattooist of Auschwitz
by: Heather Morris
The horrors of concentration camp life (from imprisonment, physical & sexual abuse, manual labor to illnesses & death in the crematoriums) during World War II are adequately portrayed in this historical fiction. We follow the lives of Lale & Gita most closely, although most of the third person point of view details Lale's life. Lale & Gita fall in love at the concentration camp, where life is not a guaranteed certainty from day to day. They both suffer illnesses, (typhoid) but are spared from the death wagon. As Lale points out, they all do what they have to do to survive; he becomes the camp Tattooist or "Tatowierer," even though it pains him to defile the skin of his fellow Jews (especially the women.) Lale is a good, determined man, though, & he is very resourceful; that is what allows him to make his escape from the Vienna camp.
"Work makes you free."
"Choosing to live is an act of defiance, a form of heroism."
"The twinkling of stars overhead is no longer a comfort. They merely remind him of the chasm between what life can be & what it is now."
My Rating: 4.5 or 5 stars! So good!!!
by: Rainbow Rowell
First of all, you can't help but love the protagonist and main character, Lincoln (the IT guy at a newspaper office) who still lives with his mom, but realizes it's time to move out & get his own place. And he hasn't had a serious girlfriend since college; Sam, who was an interesting, manipulative character comes back into his life after they separate too. He's also the guy that loves playing Dungeons & Dragons most weekends, although he occasionally goes clubbing with his friend Justin (looking for a girl.)
Lincoln doesn't love his job; while he thought he was going to be dealing with firewalls as the IT guy, he instead deals with flagging and reviewing inappropriate emails between coworkers. Checking these emails leads him to virtually meet Jennifer & Beth, and Lincoln ends up falling in love with Beth; he thinks she's so clever and funny. But she has a live-in boyfriend, who plays in a band his friend Justin loves, so Lincoln doesn't think there's a chance he will ever get with Beth. And how could he tell her he fell in love with her because of his writing? Wouldn't it seem like he was snooping on her personal life?
While everything goes a little topsy-turvy towards the end, I would say the story has a happy, albeit a surprising ending.
"Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can't plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don't happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?
"I didn't know love could leave lights on all the time."
Title: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
by: Lori Gottlieb
A fascinating backstory (Lori goes through broadcasting & medical school before she decides to become a therapist) leads to many insights and a successful practice as a therapist. While Lori's relationship with Boyfriend is how we're introduced to the story, it thankfully is not what the entire book is about & only gets referenced throughout in a relatable way.
The famous stages of grief are shared in the text: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance and stand as a reminder of our humanity; everyone suffers grief in their lives. How you tolerate or cope with the grief is what makes you distinct, and some people need a therapist to hear them out and talk them through better life decisions.
She has a lot of interesting anecdotes and quite a few entertaining clients, & it's somewhat enlightening to see her start meeting with a therapist, while she continues her sessions as a therapist to others. I thought it was profound that many presenting issues that come up in a therapy session are rarely the root of the problem.
"There is a continuing decision to be made as to whether to evade pain, or to tolerate it & therefore modify it."
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." - Einstein
"The opposite of depression isn't happiness, but vitality."
"Regret can go one of two ways: it can either shackle you to the past or serve as an engine for change."
"Sometimes people can't identify their feelings because they were talked out of them as children."
"Avoidance is a simple way of coping by not having to cope."
"You can't mute one emotion without muting the others. You want to mute the pain? You'll also mute the joy."
"Whereas Freud believed that people are driven to seek pleasure & avoid pain, Frankl maintained that people's primary drive isn't toward pleasure but toward finding meaning in their lives. ....
Between stimulus & response there is a space. in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth & our freedom."
My rating: 3.5 (a pretty raw & real read; some language, especially when quoting her patient John.)
Title: The Happiness Paradox/Paradigm
by: Richard Eyre
Eyre outlines the keys to finding our happiness paradigm and on the flip side (there are two sides to the book) identifies those factors that keep us from finding true happiness. He presents control, ownership & independence are the three deceivers & the alternatives: serendipity, stewardship, & synergicity.
I like the idea that you start with the negative (paradox) side & then switch to the other side & end on a positive note, learning about how to create a happiness paradigm. It's one of the best self-help books I've read in a long time! And I love his tips for creating an anti-planner to combat the need to always stay busy & achieving.
"The deceiver of ownership refers tot he prideful form that forgets both the source and the nature of our gifts. The term stewardship is the accurate acknowledgement of where it all came from and whose it all is."
"The problem is that,in the big game of life, we try to control timing, but actually have so little ability to manage it. A whole, giant industry has grown up called "time management." But we don't actually manage time-- we only hope to manage ourselves within time, trying to make good use of our time & to spend it on important things."
"Stewardship is the understanding that we really own nothing & that things merely pass through us & through our lives-- things we can care for, take responsibility for & find joy in."
"Setbacks & failures happen more frequently & are more exposed to others than ever before. Everything we can't control & even everything we have to admit that we need, undermines our self status & can edge us toward discouragement & depression."
"Good askers are good listeners; they are willing to watch and wait."
"And the unfortunate thing is that most of the false paradigms that we carry with us and pattern our lives around were not consciously and analytically figured out personally by each of us; rather, they were adopted from the 'norms' around us."
My rating: 4.5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
by: Roxana Robinson
This is a complicated plot; it mostly follows the perspective of Julia, (mother to Steve & Jack & ex-wife of Wendell) who had an affair, divorced her husband for the same reason, & then moved in to take care of her parents in their old age. Her dad, a former neurosurgeon, is the one she's most like & thus she butts heads with him quite a bit & her mother, Katharine, is losing her mind due to Alzeheimer's. She has to be reminded of things, even important events like Jack's intervention. Harriet, Julia's sister, only comes around mid-book; she and Julia were estranged as young girls & have an awkward relationship.
Julia's younger son, Jack, has been living in New York City & he's a heroin addict. He kept asking his parents for large amounts of money, claiming he was in a band. (He used to be a musician but he turns into a total junkie.) When he is really in heroin's clutches, his parents decide to have an intervention & hire a man named Carpenter, who helps bail Jack out of jail for petty crimes once he escapes the hospital, in pain from the withdrawals of heroin.) It's a pretty heavy book; there are some major gems as far as quotes & takeaway messages, but ultimately, it's very heartbreaking what Jack's addiction *costs* the entire family.
"People were so ready now to give up, throw everything away, but divorce was the solution to nothing."
"Now of course, you were taught that any exchange between colonials and indigenous tribes was inequitable, but Julia chose to see the scene as benign. Blankets for furs was not a bad trade, and the blankets were heavy, warm, handsome. She chose to see the exchange through its beauty, and wasn't this the way you defined your vision of the world?"
"You had to create your own balance, your own certainty. You had to find your own faith, you had to stand up for it against the assaults of logic and fear and the articulations of the whole critical world. You had to close your eyes to everything else, repeating your personal creed, reminding yourself of what you were doing, why you were doing it."
"You were judged all the time, by the critics, by your colleagues,your peers, your family. Your work & your life. You were judged as a person as well: there was some code, moral, ethical that underlay everything. She understood that she was always striving to be good, to be virtuous; she could not have said for whom."
My Rating: 3 stars (mostly due to explicit language)
Title: The Shoebox Effect
by: Marcie Keithley
All of us keep shoeboxes of some kind; mental ones or physical ones. Often, they are a key to our past complete with trinkets & symbols ...a Pandora's box, if you will. "The Shoebox Sherpa" (Marcie) asks questions & provides tips at the end of each chapter, based on her experiences. Marcie has some difficult things happen to her in her life; a loveless marriage (which she ends up calling a divorce on), a child out of wedlock who she then gives up for adoption, and a lonely lifestyle.
Marcie chooses to become an advocate for state's having an open birth certificate policy & working against birth mother confidentiality, since it took her & others so long to get in touch with their biological children. While she hadn't been ready for a baby in the moment her lover left her, she spent many years of regret trying to find her daughter, & she eventually did. It's nice that she points out that we all have to face or open our shoeboxes at some point; we cannot run or hide from the truth that is our lives.
"Though our instincts tell us the opposite, gathering courage & honestly dealing with what we've tried to ignore is the secret to lasting freedom from what haunts us. This is true even when our greatest pain comes from choices & situations we brought upon ourselves."
"The shoebox effect starts long before we gather memorabilia to put inside--it begins with the decisions that create our memories."
"Expressing my thoughts & feelings in words 'for my eyes only' did make me feel better. It also made it easier to review my past, process my present, & prepare for my future."
"As close as we were, we never talked about the shoebox effect, and how we'd used ours to try & survive our excruciating situations. We felt desperate to escape it, so we hid instead of healed."
Joy TITLE: Lovely War
by: Julie Berry
I couldn't recommend this book to anyone more, especially if you like historical fiction! It is definitely the best book I've read to date! I think I will be reading more of her works if they're all this good. It's hard to read about war times, but she did a masterful job; it wasn't too gruesome, yet it still painted a very realistic picture. One character (Collette) has her entire family ripped away from her by the Germans. (By the way, this takes place during World War I, & I haven't read much WWI literature.)
The love stories of 4 mortals (Hazel & her beau, a soldier named James) & a black soldier named Aubrey who is also a very talented pianist falls in love with Collette is told by the gods; the god of war (Ares), God of death (Hades--who has a different sort of presence in this book), goddess of love (Aphrodite), god of music (Apollo), & the god of blacksmith/forgery (Hesphaetus, Aphrodite's husband who calls together the court to try his wife, who he catches being intimate with Ares.)
A beautiful & heartwrenching story is told of darling Hazel as she goes off to volunteer in the YMCA to provide music (on the piano) which is how she meets Collette (also a volunteer.) James is a sweet gentleman, who like many in the war, is greatly impacted by it. He becomes a sharpshooter & suffers a lot of mental anguish from all the terrors of war he experiences in the trenches.
The value placed on physical appearance & scarring becomes an important theme in this book as Hazel later tries to convince James that she's unlovable & ugly after a shell hits their train. James reminds her of how he was when he was sent to a hospital to recover after seeing his good friend get slaughtered in war; he had even pushed her away when she tried to come visit him & continued to distance himself. Their love story was very raw & perfected over time; it made me cry. SO good! I would definitely befriend a woman like Hazel; she's an amazing, resilient & loving individual. And in the end of the book, the goddess of love herself unfolds more of her personal story & background than the reader could have possibly understood in the confusing beginning of the story.
"The first casualty of war is the truth."
(After Collette glimpses Aubrey in her home, after believing him to be dead)- "Joy can do that. It can hurt as much as pain."
"I am so often moved by souls whose first concern is not for their own lost years, but for the grief their passing will cause to those they love. It's more common than you might think. The most ordinary mortal bodies are housed by spectacular souls." (Hades)
MY RATING: 5 STARS!!!
Thriving is considered the third metric of success for the life we want; money & power are the first two metrics. There are four pillars of thriving:
I liked the views expressed in her text about mindfulness & meditation; they are truly components for success & increased well-being..not so much "New Agey" anymore. Also, she discusses the importance of the sleep factor (famous author of the Sleep Revolution) in our well-being & counsels you to stop treating it as a flexible item that counsels you to stop treating it as a flexible item that can be moved around for work. She suggests starting with just adding 30 minutes a night by going to bed earlier.
And then there's the discussion of the "hurry sickness" that we allow to creep into our schedule & we start pushing it off on our kids. Children are much more cognizant of being present in the moment than adults.
"Death is not the sine qua non of life. As soon as we're born we're also dying. The fact that our time is so limited is what makes it precious."
My rating: 4 stars
Title: Slave Stealers, by: Timothy Ballard
Timothy Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) goes back in time to visit slavery in the American South during the 1800s & then forward to present-day slavery. It is very much still an issue, even in the United States. "Slavery today is a big business. To illustrate just how big it is, imagine this: with the money made in human trafficking every year, you could buy every Starbucks franchise in the world, every NBA team in the nation, and every Target store across the globe."
You will be amazed & appalled by the story of Harriet Jacobs & what she was willing to do to escape slavery & her awful master, Norcom.
Ballard also became personally involved in rescue missions for children wrongfully stolen from their parents to be sold into slavery, when he met an influential father who lost his 3-year-old boy in Haiti. Tim Ballard left behind his job at the Department of Homeland Security & has since dedicated his life to rescuing children & women who have been sold into slavery & then delivering them to aftercare services to help these individuals heal & recover. It's truly an inspiring story, but it's also heart wrenching & disgusting that so many sex predators are out there in the world. We have to put a stop to this awful epidemic & you can help!
Visit ourrescue.org/ to learn more <3
"The original Underground Railroad is what inspired me to retire from the government and start a rescue foundation. After hunting traffickers and liberating children around the world for over a decade, I realized something. We can't do this alone. The problem is too big & growing too fast. We need everyone."
"Sometimes heaven's medicine is not pleasant, but if it is given, it is necessary."
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke
"The Declaration of Independence was the Founders' majestic interpretation of the Universe. This was their lofty & wise & noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image & likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, & degraded & imbruted by its fellows." -Abraham Lincoln
"Let's not wait until darkness hits us (like it did the Union soldiers) before we start seeking the light. Let's serve each other now, find peace now, enjoy happiness now. If we do, perhaps the darker parts of history won't repeat themselves. Perhaps we will stave them off. Lincoln and the abolitionists created the medicine and began applying it to the wound- & it had great effect. I fear we have stopped applying the medicine and the national wound, rather than healing, is opening back up."