Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Price Of Privilege


Price of Privilege is the third and final book of the Price of Privilege trilogy by Jessica Dotta. I was on pins and needles waiting for this last book to be released so I could finally find out how Dotta was going to wrap everything up in the end, and see what would happen to the characters that have grown to feel like friends. I was super excited to get it in the mail and started reading it immediately, and couldn't put it down! The back cover reads:

"Having finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter—and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet."

Truly, this was possibly my favorite book in the series. The first one was incredible as well, the second was great but only a 4 star in my opinion. Books one and three are definitely 5 stars. It's difficult to review this book without giving away spoilers as to how the story comes to a close, but suffice to say that Dotta continues her trend of suspense, unending twists and turns, and intrigue. Just when you think you know what's going to happen, another twist throws you for a loop. I love her style of writing. I believe we've seen Julia grow from a petulant little girl to a strong woman throughout the overarching storyline. I highly recommend this book, but if you haven't read the first two in the series yet, you must read them first to understand this one. Jessica Dotta is one of my new favorite authors, and I can't wait to see what she has coming next for us now that her Price of Privilege series has come to an end. I'll be anxiously waiting her next release.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Without You, There Is No Us

As soon as I saw Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim I knew it was a book I had to read. I've always been fascinated by North Korea and the stories of people who have been there and people who escape from there. The picture painted of life in North Korea is at the same time fascinating, terrifying, and heartbreaking. Suki Kim's book was so compelling because she had an inside view of how people in North Korea live - not just the tour they take people on. The description reads:

"A haunting memoir of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign

Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has accepted a job teaching English. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them to write, all under the watchful eye of the regime.

Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs not only from her minders but from her colleagues—evangelical Christian missionaries who don't know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn't share their faith. As the weeks pass, she is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. At the same time, they offer Suki tantalizing glimpses of their private selves—their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished. She in turn begins to hint at the existence of a world beyond their own—at such exotic activities as surfing the Internet or traveling freely and, more dangerously, at electoral democracy and other ideas forbidden in a country where defectors risk torture and execution. But when Kim Jong-il dies, and the boys she has come to love appear devastated, she wonders whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.

Without You, There Is No Us offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world's most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls "soldiers and slaves."

I have to say that this is one of those books that is extremely difficult to put down. I couldn't stop reading it because I just had to know what was going to happen next, but at the same time it was heartbreaking and sad to read. The plight of the people of North Korea is devastating and overwhelming, and unfortunately it doesn't seem that there's much we can do to help them. I'm hoping this book at least raises awareness of what they are going through and what's really going on behind the scenes. This is one of the most compelling pieces of journalism I've read in a long time. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book and learn what's going on in North Korea.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Bracelet


The Bracelet by Dorothy Love sounds like one of those books you just have to read. It has southern charm, intrigue, history, and suspense all blended into one. The description reads:

"The mystery surrounding Celia's home in Savannah threatens her family reputation . . . and her very life.

Celia Browning is counting the days until her childhood sweetheart Sutton Mackay returns to Savannah after two years in Jamaica looking after his family's shipping interests. She's certain he will propose marriage, thus joining two of the city's most prominent families. But just as Sutton returns, an unsavory newspaper reporter arrives in town, determined to revive interest in the secret tragedies that occurred in the Browning mansion on Madison Square when Celia was a child.

A series of mysterious notes arrives at the house, followed by an anonymous gift--a bracelet imbued with a sinister message. Is it merely a coincidence, or is someone out to harm her?

As war clouds gather over Savannah and her beloved father's health worsens, Celia determines to uncover the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Inspired by actual events in one of Savannah's most prominent 19th-century families, "The Bracelet "combines romance, rich historical detail, and breathtaking suspense as one young woman embarks upon a dangerous quest to free herself from her family's tragic past."

I mean, how can you NOT want to read that book?! I know I did as soon as I read all that ... and I wasn't disappointed. This is an unputdownable read. Once I picked it up, I just had to know what was going to happen next and how it would all end. This was the first book I've ever read by Dorothy Love and I wasn't sure what to expect, but she's a wonderful author. I'm not normally too into historical novels, but this one was excellent. Yes, it's historical, but the main focus is on mystery and suspense, with a dash of romance thrown in. I don't want to give anything away, but I highly recommend reading this book.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Unplanned


After a long wait, I finally received my copy of Unplanned by Abby Johnson (co-written by Cindy Lambert). I was super excited to read this book after hearing so much about it. It sounded amazing - a dramatic conversion from pro-choice Planned Parenthood director, to pro-life advocate working with the Coalition For Life. The book is the story of Abby's life - from a naive college girl signing up to volunteer as an escort at Planned Parenthood, to directing that Planned Parenthood clinic she used to volunteer at. Along the way she had two abortions, a failed marriage, and a remarriage. Abby is very honest with her story and doesn't hold anything back. She describes her journey from fierce Planned Parenthood advocate to the day she was called in to assist with an ultrasound guided abortion procedure. After that day and viewing the procedure up close and personal, she decided to quit her job and ran to the local Coalition For Life for help.

This is just an amazing story. I couldn't put it down. In fact, I got several books in the mail yesterday and was planning to read another one first, but decided to read just the first chapter of Unplanned to see what it was like, and finished reading it less than 24 hours later. It's hard to believe Abby could have been in the pro-choice movement for so long. I appreciated the fact that she was so open with telling all the difficult details of her story, including the abortions she had had in the past. Parts of the book made me laugh and parts made me cry. I believe this is a very important book to read for people on both sides of "the fence". We really aren't that different, and in fact both sides want to help women. The one part I found a bit unbelievable is how her husband was very conservative and religious yet had no problem "depending on her income from Planned Parenthood" (his words). I feel like it was really a cop out on his part to marry a woman directing a Planned Parenthood and then rely on her "blood money" to keep up their lifestyle. I found that rather odd and inconsistent with how he lived his life in general and felt about abortion. However, I'm thrilled with the work God has done with Abby, her family, and the pro-life movement in general. I hope this book helps further the cause.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Inside The Criminal Mind

Inside The Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D is a very different look on criminals, their thought process, and why they behave the way they do. This book was originally written in 1984 and now is on its third edition, published in 2014. It's a groundbreaking look at the inner workings of the criminal mind. This new updated edition includes a look at new, modern topics such as computers, drugs and pharmaceuticals, video games, movies and TV, social media, and updated genetic and biological research. In this book he offers his solutions based on his many, many years studying this topic.

This is definitely not the typical crime book. Samenow's views contradict nearly everything we hear and read in popular media. Most people believe criminals are "born that way", or fall prey to influences completely beyond their control - poverty, abuse, etc. Samenow believes this is not true, that criminals have a certain thought pattern and can retrain their thinking to fix their behavior. This is definitely an eye opener. He draws on stories from his hands on research in the field. This is an extremely interesting book, and it's easy to read, as well. It's not written just for the academic, but for the layman. If you like to learn about psychology or read about true crime, this is the book for you.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Kidnapped By The Taliban

Kidnapped By The Taliban is the thrilling account of Dr. Dilip Joseph (co-written by James Lund). Dr. Dilip Joseph was working for an NGO, Morning Star Development. He traveled to Afghanistan on multiple occasions to oversee, provide medical care and train native medical workers to better serve the Afghan people, especially in rural areas with no health care options. The back cover reads:


"“Am I About to Die?”

On December 5, 2012, American medical doctor Dilip Joseph and two colleagues are driving back to Kabul, Afghanistan, after serving villagers that morning at a rural clinic. Suddenly a man waving an AK-47 blocks their path. More armed men jump out of hiding. For Dilip, it is the beginning of a nightmare—he’s being kidnapped by the Taliban.

Dilip and his friends endure a nine-hour march into the mountains, gruesome images of torture and death, and repeated threats of execution. Four days later Dilip is freed in a daring and deadly rescue that claims the life of a SEAL Team Six operator. Yet this is more than a story of desperation, survival, and loss. It is also a tale of surprising connection, compassion, and inspiration. As Dilip begins to view the Taliban not as monsters but as men, both he and his captors are challenged to reexamine everything that matters: courage, sacrifice, hope, and faith.

Flap Copy:

With a jerk of his rifle, the leader points up the mountain on the left. There is no path. I look higher and see more armed men at the top of a hill about two hundred feet above us.

Apprehension surges up in me like black oil from a well. These aren’t ordinary robbers. This is too systematic.

I’ve been kidnapped by the Taliban.

As we walk, I fear the worst—that when we reach the top, they will shoot us. God, however this is going to end, please don’t let them torture me to death. Let it be one shot and done.

It is amazing how quickly everything we take for granted can be ripped away. In the space of a few minutes, I have lost all control of my life. All I can do is take a step, draw a breath, and hope I will be given the chance for another.

Step.

Breathe.

Hope.

Kidnapped by the Taliban is a story of both terror and triumph. After reading this dramatic and inspiring account, you will never view Afghanistan or the Taliban in the same way again."


This was such an absolutely fascinating and fast-paced story that I literally read it in less than 24 hours. I could've read it in one sitting, if I had time. Dr. Joseph and Mr. Lund brought together the story seamlessly, and I was impressed by the level of detail that the story included. Many stories such as these are blurry on timelines and events, but not this one. I felt like I was there as the story unfolded. I loved how Dr. Joseph showed us the true plight of the Afghan people, and showed their humanity. Amazingly, he was able to connect with members of the Taliban on a very personal and human level - talking about such things as families, careers, dreams for the future, and more. It also showed that many in the Taliban are victims of their environment - poor, with no other options, and raised steeped in this culture. They had dreams of leaving Afghanistan and going to other countries to seek education and a new life. As strange as it may sound, I felt sorry for several of the Taliban members portayed here. I believe Dr. Joseph when he said he had planned to try to help them leave the Taliban and discover other options for their life, and was sad when they all were killed and he lost that chance. I can't recommend this book enough - not only is it a quick, exciting read, it will also help you learn more about the Afghan people and put a face on their plight. The villagers are living under the threat of death from the Taliban if they don't cooperate, and with little food, poverty, and no real access to medical care or education, but their future is hopeful. I was very impressed with this book.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just Babies


Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom is a little gem of a book. The cover is brilliant and is what initially drew me in to even taking a look at it. I really enjoy books about psychology, and this didn't disappoint. The description was really intriguing, so between that and the cover, I knew it was a must-read:

"A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone.

From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopaths into civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice.

Still, this innate morality is limited, sometimes tragically. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Bringing together insights from psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, violent psychopaths, religious extremists, and Ivy League professors, and explores our often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion, and race.
In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion, and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies.

Paul Bloom has a gift for bringing abstract ideas to life, moving seamlessly from Darwin, Herodotus, and Adam Smith to The Princess Bride, Hannibal Lecter, and Louis C.K. Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives."

This is a small little paperback (I was expecting a large, thick trade paperback style book due to the subject matter, and worried it might be a bit dry). Not including the notes, it's just 218 pages. It's written in an easy-to-read, entertaining, and engaging manner - it reads like a magazine article. It's a quick book to breeze through with tons of interesting content. I was especially taken by the experiments they do with babies - I had no idea studies like this were performed and found the results very interesting. As a precaution, Bloom does have some areas in the book that read as anti-Christian (homosexuality and Christians' beliefs and behavior toward homosexuals is discussed in a negative light). As another reviewer has mentioned, the best part to me is that much of the studies portrayed here and facts drawn from them corroborate what the Bible tells us about morality - we have the moral law of God written in our hearts ("But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." -Jeremiah 31:33 KJV), and sin nature - despite God's moral law written in our hearts, we have an innate sin nature passed down from Adam, and we are born with it ("The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." -Psalm 58:3 KJV; Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." -Psalm 51:5 NIV). I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books about psychology.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.