Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly

I've always been interested in the medical field, so as soon as I saw The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year by Matt McCarthy, I knew it was a book I'd want to read right away. The book touts itself as being an inside look at an intern's first year at a busy hospital in New York. For some reason I was expecting a much smaller book, so I was surprised (but definitely not disappointed!) to receive a big, fat, hardcover. The book description reads:

"In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor—the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician's journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy's one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year adviser he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the Charles in Charge star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk, and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly offers a window on to hospital life that dispenses with sanctimony and self-seriousness while emphasizing the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practice?"

This is one of those books that you just can't put down. At times it's hilarious, at other times it brings tears to your eyes. There are heartwarming stories, sad stories, and funny stories - everything you'd expect from working in a hospital. I loved how Matt wrote this book in a tone that makes you feel like you're reading a journal or blog, or even a magazine article. Its easy style is very compelling and realistic. He has a way of making you feel like you're in the hospital with him. I really didn't want this one to end! My only complaint about this book is that it has quite a bit of profanity in it. Not necessary in my opinion, but the meat of the book was great. Definitely recommend.

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson is one of those books that you pick up and read the back and think "okay, this is probably a dry history lesson". That was my first thought when I first saw it, but something about it piqued my interest, so I read several reviews of it. The reviews convinced me that this book was a must-read, and I wasn't disappointed. The book description reads:

"On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history."

Larson has managed to take this sometimes forgotten, but incredibly important and interesting event, and turn it from what could have been a dry history lesson into an amazing, epic, sweeping tale. He effortlessly brings the cast of characters to life, and manages to make you feel like you're right there in the midst of the story, even though it happened so many years ago. In general, I'm not much into war history nonfiction books. However, every once in awhile I find a great one, and this is definitely one of them. I highly recommend this one - you'll feel like you've been transported back in time. My only complaint - and this is why I took off one star - is that there are no pictures included. I'd have loved to seen some pictures to get a more vivid mental picture of the events.

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

On Shifting Sand

On Shifting Sand by Allison Pittman was one of the best historical fiction books I've read in quite some time. The first person narration of Nola is haunting, compelling, and ultimately beautiful. This book is set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which was an extremely interesting time period to learn and read about. The book description reads:

"Long before anyone would christen it “The Dust Bowl,” Nola Merrill senses the destruction. She’s been drying up bit by bit since the day her mother died, leaving her to be raised by a father who withholds his affection the way God keeps a grip on the Oklahoma rain. A hasty marriage to Russ, a young preacher, didn’t bring the escape she desired. Now, twelve years later with two children to raise, new seeds of dissatisfaction take root.

When Jim, a mysterious drifter and long-lost friend from her husband’s past, takes refuge in their home, Nola slowly springs to life under his attentions until a single, reckless encounter brings her to commit the ultimate betrayal of her marriage. For months Nola withers in the wake of the sin she so desperately tries to bury. Guilt and shame consume her physically and spiritually, until an opportunity arises that will bring the family far from the drought and dust of Oklahoma. Or so she thinks. As the storms follow, she is consumed with the burden of her sin and confesses all, hoping to find Russ’s love strong enough to stand the test."

This was such a surprising book in so many ways. Nola is a preacher's wife, although she doesn't relish the role. She comes from a very difficult background. Her and Russ, her preacher husband, became pregnant before their wedding. She has low self esteem and feels like a tainted woman unworthy and unwelcomed as a preacher's wife. However, I got the impression that some of this rejection was imaginary on her part due to her low self esteem. Nola is lured into an affair with an old friend of Russ's, who is now a drifter after the war and stops in for an unexpected (to Nola) visit. On Shifting Sand covers so many different aspects of life: premarital sex, out of wedlock pregnancy, adultery, church life, the Dust Bowl, anorexia, sin, forgiveness, redemption, loss of loved ones, and more. This is a shockingly raw and honest book that deals head on with so many of life's issues that others are afraid to tread on. I couldn't put this book down and it kept me up late at night turning page after page to see where the story would go next. Many women will be able to relate to the struggles Nola faced. Ultimately, this is a beautiful book showing a redemptive picture of a marriage. My only complaint about this book is that I'd have loved to seen more of what happened after Nola and Russ repaired their marriage, and their life after that point. I'd enjoy this novel receiving a sequel. I'd also like to mention that the cover was absolutely stunning - very attractive and inviting. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Loved Back To Life

Loved Back to Live: How I Found the Courage to Live Free is a courageous, honest memoir/self help book by former 700 Club host Sheila Walsh. She's now currently a Women of Faith speaker and author of several other books. To be honest, I'd never heard of Sheila or her story before picking up this book, but after reading the description, knew it was a book I needed to read. The description reads:

"Join Sheila Walsh on her journey from despair to joy

Beautiful and talented, Sheila Walsh was at the pinnacle of her career, appearing daily on television as co host of The 700 Club. One day she found herself walking away from it all and checking in to a psychiatric hospital, where she stayed for a month.

From the outside everything seemed fine, but on the inside Sheila was in trouble. In her journal she wrote, “Lord, please hold me. I’m falling into a dark well. I feel as if I am disappearing a little more every day. I am so angry inside that I am afraid of myself. I feel so alone.” How did this happen? What brought her to her knees?

Loved Back to Life takes readers on Sheila’s journey of the soul from hopelessness to joy as she finds that although the road was scary, at every turn God beckoned her to follow and trust Him. And He did not let her down."

Now, I feel this is such an important book for Christians today. Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders are nearly taboo in Christian culture at large. Many, many Christians believe that mental illness is not real, a purely spiritual problem, caused by sin, or any number of other reasons. I have personally suffered from depression and anxiety. I have sat in meetings to train Christian counselors where the speaker stated she refuses to counsel anyone who takes antidepressant/anxiety medication and won't go off of the medications. Considering how many Americans take these types of medications, I doubt I was the only one sitting in that room currently taking an antidepressant and feeling like they were inferior to everyone else in the room.

Frankly, I think this is not just a travesty, but dangerous. A counselor is not a doctor, and good Christians are being made to feel like they are "less than" or that there is something inherently wrong or sinful about them if they suffer from any type of mental illness and seek medical treatment for it. Recently there's been more of a pushback and people are finally starting to realize that mental illness is a real illness that needs real treatment. I think that the more books that are written like this, the better, because people are finally starting to sit up and listen and become open to changing their minds and attitudes about these important issues.

Now onto the book itself, it was excellent. Sheila's story is compelling, raw, and honest. I picked it up and was hooked from the first page. I read this book in less than a day, and honestly it's one you could read in one sitting if you were so inclined. This is a rewrite/update to her previous book, Honestly. Sheila takes us through those dark days 20 years ago and then updates her story to include where she is today, how her journey has gone, and includes updated information in the field of mental health. I highly recommend this book not only to Christians who have suffered from mental illness, but to every Christian. Christianity needs much more understanding and compassion for the issue of mental illness and how to deal with it in the members of its churches. I commend Sheila for putting herself out there and being willing to share her story and journey.

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Pharaoh's Daughter

I was immediately intrigued by the cover of The Pharaoh's Daughter by Mesu Andrews. I've never read any books by Andrews before, but I've enjoyed reading biblical historical fiction in the past, mainly by Francine Rivers (her Mark of the Lion series is excellent, for example). I've also read some very enjoyable biblical historical fiction by other authors as well. That said, I wasn't sure what to expect from Andrews, but was hoping for the best. I wasn't disappointed. Please note that I received an uncorrected advance copy for review and the final copy may have changes when published. The book description reads:

"“Fear is the most fertile ground for faith.”

“You will be called Anippe, daughter of the Nile. Do you like it?” Without waiting for a reply, she pulls me into her squishy, round tummy for a hug.
I’m trying not to cry. Pharaoh’s daughters don’t cry.
When we make our way down the tiled hall, I try to stop at ummi Kiya’s chamber. I know her spirit has flown yet I long for one more moment. Amenia pushes me past so I keep walking and don’t look back.
Like the waters of the Nile, I will flow.

Anippe has grown up in the shadows of Egypt’s good god Pharaoh, aware that Anubis, god of the afterlife, may take her or her siblings at any moment. She watched him snatch her mother and infant brother during childbirth, a moment which awakens in her a terrible dread of ever bearing a child. Now she is to be become the bride of Sebak, a kind but quick-tempered Captain of Pharaoh Tut’s army. In order to provide Sebak the heir he deserves and yet protect herself from the underworld gods, Anippe must launch a series of deceptions, even involving the Hebrew midwives—women ordered by Tut to drown the sons of their own people in the Nile.
When she finds a baby floating in a basket on the great river, Anippe believes Egypt’s gods have answered her pleas, entrenching her more deeply in deception and placing her and her son Mehy, whom handmaiden Miriam calls Moses, in mortal danger.
As bloodshed and savage politics shift the balance of power in Egypt, the gods reveal their fickle natures and Anippe wonders if her son, a boy of Hebrew blood, could one day become king. Or does the god of her Hebrew servants, the one they call El Shaddai, have a different plan—for them all?"

This was an absolutely excellent book. It was compelling and interesting from the first page, and difficult to put down. I love how historical fiction writers can breathe new life into biblical stories we've read hundred and times and make us feel like we are truly there inside the story. It really helps me visualize and connect with the story and gives me a deeper desire to go back to the Bible and study the story even more. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys biblical fiction.

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Breaker's Reef

Breaker's Reef is book four in Terri Blackstock's exciting Cape Refuge series. I was excited to read the conclusion that wraps up this suspenseful series. I love this series and book four definitely didn't disappoint!

The book description reads:

"Murder and mystery continue in Book Four of the Cape Refuge series A famous mystery writer has just moved to Cape Refuge when a teenage girl is found murdered. Sheila Caruso–ex-con, mother to Sadie and Caleb, and resident of Hanover House–is working for the writer when she discovers that a scene in one of his novels matches the crime scene. When Police Chief Cade and Blair Owens discover a second dead teenager–mirroring a murder in another of the eccentric writer’s books–Cade is drawn into a web of trickery and deceit. Evidence turns up in Cade’s own truck, and suddenly he becomes the number-one suspect. Cade tries to clear his name, but when eighteen-year-old Sadie Caruso disappears, tensions mount to a fever pitch. Can Cade find the real killer before Sadie winds up dead? Is the novelist a demented killer, or a hapless victim? And what does Sadie’s own mother have to do with the crimes? Secrets are uncovered, while lessons are learned about the sins of the father being visited upon his children. Will the consequences of Sheila’s life be fatal, or is there redemption and mercy for her and her children? “Chief Matthew Cade rarely considered another line of work, but news of the dead teenage girl made him long for a job as an accountant or electrician—some benign vocation that didn’t require him to look into the eyes of grieving parents.”

I highly recommend reading books 1-3 before picking up this book. You will have much more enjoyment from the conclusion if you've read all the previous stories. Terri weaves the threads of each story together and brings everything to a very satisfying conclusion. This book is one of the best in the Cape Refuge series! It's packed with suspense, twists and turns, and action. But best of all, Terri brings in a big dose of redemption for her characters. I love that she makes redemption a major theme in all of her books. She has the unique ability to thread Christian themes throughout the story without seeming forced or awkward. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian suspense!

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Visits to Heaven and Back: Are They Real?

I was immediately intrigued when I saw the book Visits to Heaven and Back: Are They Real? by Mark Hitchcock. I have followed the explosion of books on personal visits to Heaven and have been somewhat leery of the sudden boom in the publishing industry of people claiming to have visited Heaven and returned to Earth. I, admittedly, have even been caught up in reading a few such books and found them intriguing, but also in parts lacking or even heretical. Therefore, I was anxious to read this book, which promises to take a closer look at such experiences. The book description reads:

"What will heaven really be like?
Today’s bestseller lists are filled with stories of those who have claimed to experienced heaven firsthand. Curiosity about what will happen after we die is as strong as ever in the twenty-first century. Yet, each book contains a different story about what we will experience in heaven.

What are we to believe? What is true?
In Visits to Heaven and Back: Are They Real? Mark Hitchcock, a respected Bible teacher, sorts out the facts. He chronicles the recent phenomenon of “heaven” books, comparing and contrasting the ideas presented in these books and revealing the discrepancies and contradictions. Then, Mark turns to the Bible, laying out clearly the teachings about heaven and experiences in this life of another world. The Bible does reveal that there is a world beyond this one, but it also contains clear warnings and amazing promises.

Discover today God’s clear and certain promises concerning heaven."

This book is a short, quick, accessible read that I finished in just a few hours. It's definitely something that can be read in one sitting. I was so intrigued by the subject that I didn't want to put it down. This book is divided into topical chapters: Heaven Can't Wait, The ABCs of NDEs, "I Thought I'd Died and Gone to Heaven", Your Best Afterlife Now, Dead Wrong, Heaven Is for Real - Is It for Real?, Trouble in Paradise, To Hell and Back, What Is Heaven Like?, and How to Be Dead Right (a gospel presentation). There's also several Appendices, including answers to common questions about death and Heaven, in a Q&A format.

I really appreciated Hitchcock's easy, understandable format. He lays out different "experiences" people have had, and then compares them to God's Word to see if they stand up to the test. In some areas, I thought the differences he pointed out were a bit nitpicky or splitting hairs, but overall he gives fair treatment to these books and testimonies. I feel like this is an extremely important book that every Christian should read in light of the current booming trend of heavenly experiences being published. I hate to discount people's experiences, but on the other hand we need to measure every "experience" against the Word of God to make sure it adds up. As Hitchcock points out, we'd be naive to assume no one makes up stories to ride the wave of the latest trend in order to obtain financial gain, status, or popularity. I highly recommend this book to every Christian.

What do you think? Have you every had a "heavenly" experience, or do you know anyone who has? What's your take on NDEs and visits to Heaven and back? I'd love to hear from you!

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