Category Archives: Biography

Blaze of Light

Title: Blaze of Light
Author: Marcus Brotherton
Publisher: Waterbrook
ISBN: 978-0-525-65378-3

“To really live, you must almost die. To those who fight for it, life has a meaning the protected will never know,” Gary is told in Marcus Brotherton’s biography, Blaze of Light: The Inspiring True Story of Green Beret Medic Gary Beikirch, Medal of Honor Recipient.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-seventy-two-page book is based on the true story of Gary Beikirch, a Medal of Honor recipient who was a Green Beret medic during the Vietnam War. Targeted toward those who like real-life accounts of dealing with the fog of war and overcoming the emotional distraught of it, topics of alcohol/drug use, dying, death, and war may not be appropriate for immature readers.

In this factual tale based in the 1970s, twenty-two-year-old Gary finds himself in Dak Seang, Vietnam, protecting the Montagnards, who he has come to value and love, from the NVC who surprisingly attack their village of indigenous fighters, women, and children. Even after being seriously wounded, he arduously tries to save the injured until he is helicoptered to a nearby hospital to heal. When he arrives back in the States, his emotional state is fractured and broken more than his body, and his only redemption is resolved when he turns to the Almighty.

~ Why ~
This is a hard read of the sacrifice and suffering a soldier makes for his country, especially when he returns back to America, only to be mocked and ridiculed. I appreciate Gary and any other serviceman who went to Vietnam and am greatly thankful for their commitment. Gary’s life story is full of confusion, disappointment, and tragedy, yet it shows how God’s hand was always there, protecting him and keeping him safe.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ may not appreciate the read that confirms God is the answer. Some may not like reading about the surgical procedures, detailed destruction, injuries, or deaths that are sad and heartbreaking.

~ Wish ~
Since I received an uncorrected proof of this book, I hope photographs of Gary and his family are included in the final print. I prefer all pronouns of God capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you enjoy stories about the physical survival during war and emotional and spiritual redemption, this would be a great book to read or pass on to someone struggling with their purpose in life and how God is in control.

Thanks to the Waterbrook & Multnomah Launch Team for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

#BlazeofLight #GaryBeikirch #MarcusBrotherton #WaterbrookMultnomah

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/3aQsAwG

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Star of Persia

Title: Star of Persia
Author: Jill Eileen Smith
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3471-8

“Why did she think for a single moment that God cared for a lonely young woman in a foreign palace in a foreign land,” Esther ponders in Jill Eileen Smith’s Biblical fiction novel, Star of Persia: Esther’s Story.

~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-sixty-eight-page paperback targets those who enjoy an enhanced version of the Biblical story of Queen Esther and her oftentimes lonely relationship with King Xerxes. Containing no profanity or explicit sexual scenes, topics of execution and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. An author’s note, acknowledgments, biography, and advertisements complete the book.

In this retold story taken from the Old Testament, King Xerxes banishes his favorite wife when she would not show herself at one of his banquets. Forlorn, depressed, and quick to make rash decisions, the dictator trusts the wrong people continually but finds new love in young Hadassah, a Jewess who has been unwantedly chosen as his new queen. As she falls in love with a Persian leader who is almost two decades older than she, the renamed Esther must not only deal with her secret of being a Jew and solitude lifestyle but also a vicious, scheming wife, an over-achieving advisor, and others.

~ Why ~
The book of Esther is one of my most cherished stories in the Word of God, so I was excited to read this rendition. I like the secular history interjected throughout the story as it relates to palace politics, interaction with guards and servants, and family-related dynasty outcomes. The trustworthiness and sincerity of young Esther are well developed and promoted between her relationship with the king and her cousin, Mordecai.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like fictionalized Bible stories may pass on this one as the author has used ample liberties to enhance the story. With Vashti having met Esther when the younger girl was only six years old, parts of the story are fabricated. Some may find the mix of secular history blended into Scripture confusing, but it does help comprehend Persia’s military and kingdom nances.

~ Wish ~
I liked the detailed descriptions of palace life in Susa during Old Testament times. I wish the novel was more accurate to the Bible and included the full story (however, the author does explain why parts are omitted). With a plethora of characters, it would be helpful having a list at the beginning of the book of which ones are fictional.

~ Want ~
If you enjoy learning about Esther’s rise to becoming a queen and how she had to stand up for her belief in God and her people, this is an intriguing read that has plenty of fiction added.

Thanks to Revell for this complimentary book that I am not obligated to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2I6YPvi

#StarofPersia #JillEileenSmith

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Spies, Code Breakers, and Secret Agents

Title: Spies, Code Breakers, & Secret Agents
Author: Carole P. Roman
Publisher: Rockridge Press
ISBN: 978-1-64611-101-5

“Spies appeared out of nowhere in many cities during World War II. Where did they come from, and where did they learn to be spies?” begins the second chapter in Carole P. Roman’s children’s book, Spies, Code Breakers, and Secret Agents: A World War II Book for Kids.

~ What ~
This one-hundred-and-fifty-two-page paperback targets children ages eight to twelve years old who enjoy books about secret intelligence and the rogue side of war that includes spy biographies. With no profanity and a few adult situations, several black and white illustrations are added.

After an introduction, this is a collection of six chapters regarding mostly undercover intelligent agents for the Axis Powers and Allied Forces during World War II. It discusses the spies on both sides, their missions, gear, secret armies, super spies, code breakers, and spies today. It ends with a glossary, resources, bibliography, and index. There are “Did You Know” and “Espionage by the Numbers” sidebars with information. Over fifty words are highlighted in the book and explained in its glossary.

~ Why ~
As the years go by, the sacrificial events of World War II are slowly ignored and forgotten, so this book confirms how spies from opposing viewpoints showed their patriotism by secretly serving their country. I loved how the writer explains the devastating history of the massive war that had over one-million Resistance fighters in underground armies plus over thirty-two-hundred British women, who were often recruited through social and athletic clubs, trained at Camp X in Canada, became code breakers and talkers, and learned how to use coal grenades, limpet mines, and hide maps in playing cards.

Some of the male and female short biographies include:
Josephine Baker
Morris “Moe” Berg
Eddie “Fritz” Chapman
George Dash
Tor Glad & John Moe (Mutt & Jeff)
Christine Granville
Virginia Hall
George Wood
Takeo Yoshikawa

~ Why Not ~
Some of the technical information may be above the reading level for some children. Others may not like the topic of war,  yet the book does not contain too much graphic content about abuse, torture, or death.

~ Wish ~
Although I greatly appreciate this book that focuses on spies and how they were recruited, trained, and served their countries, I wish photographs of the tools and people were added instead of drawings.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a wonderful book that not only teaches young ones about life during World War II as a spy but also has stories and sidebars, this would be the perfect gift for those who are fascinated by the topic or need to write a report about an interesting time in history. I think the author was spot on by ending the book with her teaser that “There are countless numbers of spies out there. If you pay attention, you may spot one yourself!”

Thanks to Callisto Publisher’s Club and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2MaYpGF

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The Horses of My Dreams

Title: The Horse of My Dreams
Editor: Callie Smith Grant
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2718-5

“But when that animal intelligence meets up with our human intelligence, wonderful things can happen. And stories are born,” Callie Smith Grant writes in the introduction to her book, The Horse of My Dreams: True Stories of the Horses We Love.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-twenty-four-page paperback contains thirty-two brief stories about horses and how the majestic beasts changed the writers. After an introduction, the four-to-ten page tales are written by a myriad of contributors who are writers, authors, editors, bloggers, professors, and animal lovers. The book ends with notes, contributors’ biographies, editor’s biography, and acknowledgments.

This is a quick read that focuses on how horses can change our lives, from a young girl dreaming for a pony and an actor trying to control a one-minded horse to a gal participating in a pageant on a horse she never rode before and an enthusiastic seventy-year-old rider to name a few. The reader learns how the relationship between a horse and its owner encourages empathy, understanding, and patience, forming an unforgettable bond. A few highlighted inserts are added about horse facts and Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee’s horses.

~ Why ~
Having two dear friends who own horses, I have always had a respect for equine yet have always been afraid of them. I appreciated how the love for the cherished animal grows over the decades of grooming, riding, and taking care of the animal. It is fascinating to know how the creatures are sensitive to a person’s moods, have a sixth sense, or can be easily injured or inflicted with the Potomac Horse Fever.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like stories about horses may want to pass on this short book, but it may help someone who is fearful of the one-thousand-pound animal. Others may wish the tales were longer, more in-depth, or were written by well-known writers.

~ Wish ~
Although I liked the concept of one remembering their beloved pet and how it changed lives, sometimes relating it to God, I wish there were more Christian aspects inserted that would bring Him the glory for creating such a fine creature. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you are a horse lover and like an eclectic compilation of stories about writers’ favorite horses, this is a lovely casual light read about the amazing animals. It may be a nice present for a young want-to-be horse owner.

Thanks to Revell for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

#Revell #HorseStories #CallieSmithGrantEditor

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2V5GynN

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Barbie Forever

Title: Barbie Forever
Author: Robin Gerber
Publisher: Epic Ink
ISBN: 978-0-7603-6577-9

“Since her debut in 1959, Barbie has been breaking boundaries and highlighting major moments in art, fashion, and culture,” the inside jacket announces in Robin Gerber’s book, Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy.

~ What ~
This oversized one-hundred-and-seventy-six-page hardbound targets those interested in the Barbie doll that has been around for sixty years and is still sold successfully worldwide. The large coffee table book begins with a foreword by Ibtihaj Muhammad and introduction, followed by eight chapters, and ending with a bibliography, acknowledgments, author’s biography, image credits, and historic timeline.

With full color, large photographs of design models of the iconic Barbie, the eight sections cover how the doll has been inspiring fans since 1959, her profitable marketing strategies, breaking toy boundaries, the evolution of her female shape, creation of her lifestyle, how she affects fashion and art, global attributes, and the magic she has provided to many doll owners.

~ Why ~
Being in my early sixties, I enjoyed seeing a couple of the old Barbies that I grew up with and still own, so I was familiar reviewing this book. I found the history of Mattel Creations, Ruth and Elliot Handler’s designing Barbie, and Charlotte Johnson’s fashion clothing interesting.

~ Why Not ~
Those who never owned a Barbie doll or do not care about the iconic figure that has enamored girls for decades and will probably continue to do so will not appreciate this book. However, it does show the progression of culture, events, and fashion that the well-known doll captured. Some may not care for a doll proportioned with unrealistic body measurements.

~ Wish ~
With so much historical content in the book, I wish an index was included so one could look up a topic.

~ Want ~
If you love the iconic Barbie doll and are looking for a beautiful tabletop book, this would make an excellent choice. It would be an ideal gift for the Barbie collector too.

Thanks to the author, Bookpleasures, and Epic Ink for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

#BarbieForever #RobinGerber #EpicInk #Bookpleasures

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/31EerP4

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What They Meant for Evil

Title: What They Meant for Evil
Author: Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba
Publisher: FaithWords
ISBN: 978-1-5460-1722-6

“I am no longer a lost girl, for I have been found,” Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba ends her memoir, What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering.

~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-four-page hardbound targets those who like true stories that promote the grace and mercies of God while one struggles through a life of war and upheaval. With no profanity, topics of adult situations, physical abuse, murder, and war may not be appropriate for immature readers. Using the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, the beginning includes a preface, followed by five parts, author’s note, acknowledgments, and the authors’ biographies.

In this quick read, Rebecca Ajueny Nyanwut de Deng de Awel was four years old when the South Sudan’s second civil war began to take the lives of most of her family members. Fleeing one location to another, she was forced to escape with other family members when her mother died and her father was a soldier in the SPLA. Once orphaned, she became one of eighty-nine refugee girls sent to America to start life over. By learning about Jesus and His protection at a young age, the women who saw and experienced war and its terrors learned survival by facing her fears, depression, and heartbreak losing her family.

~ Why ~
This is a touching, emotional, and raw story of a young girl growing up in the midst of the violence of war. While her mother, sister, grandmother, father, uncle, or other family member became victims of civil conflict, this tender-hearted but determined individual fought to live free from her tragic past, especially when it was God’s redemption that saved her.

~ Why Not ~
If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may not like this book, yet it may also be one that brings peace and comfort if struggling through a tragedy or deep loss. Others may not appreciate reading about the constant war cry to flee physical, sexual, and mental abuse and the continual impoverishment in disgusting living conditions that so many refugees suffered and continue to suffer.

~ Wish ~
It would have been thoughtful if maps and photographs were included. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you like reading about a woman who recalls her horrible memories as a young casualty of war and survives, this is a heart-wrenching read that makes you want to reach out and hug a refugee who is dealing with potentially the same issues.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for this book that I am under no obligation to review.

More about this book can be found at https://amzn.to/2Zt55n6

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Dear Grandchild, This is Me

Title: Dear Grandchild, This is Me
Publisher: WaterBrook
ISBN: 978-0-525-65283-0

“Your tale is your own, as unique and special as you are. Modify–or skip–any questions that do not fit your distinct journey,” the instructions state at the beginning of the book, Dear Grandchild, This is Me: A Gift of Stories, Wisdom, and Off-the-Record Tales.

~ What ~
This eighty-page hardbound targets grandmothers and grandfathers who want to share their pasts and memories with their grandchildren. With trees as the main design throughout the pages, it is divided into four sections with the ending including a family tree and stickers to use. Each division has several pages of questions with lined spaces for answers, off-the-record memories, places for photos, and an envelope for a keepsake or special letter.

After an ownership page and introduction, the book begins with a lined-page to write a letter to a grandchild. The first chapter done in green contains questions about being a baby, heritage, childhood, and high school years. The next section in yellow is about college, jobs, marriage, kids, trips, and food recipes. The orange third section is more personal with the indulgent years, facts, history, and technology.  The final area in light blue is about beliefs, faith, reflections, advice, and wisdom.

~ Why ~
This is an ideal way for a grandparent to tell one’s life story their way, in their terms without having to feel awkward about the past, mistakes, or regrets. I love the colored layout and the varied type of questions asked, and I appreciate there are a few Bible verses added. Since I am a grammy, I may have to buy several and duplicate them for each grandchild.

Here are some of the questions per each section:

What is your full given name? Why was it chosen?
What book(s) do you remember having to read in high school?
What was your craziest injury? How did it happen?
What is a favorite story from your travels?
What kinds of mischief did your kids get into?
When did you know you wanted to marry each other?
What heirlooms do you have that are meaningful?
What’s your favorite quote or Bible verse?
What was your first experience with video games?
What are five skills you think everyone needs to have?
What are your thoughts about colonizing Mars?

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like to journal may not want to spend the time and effort with this book dedicated to a great-offspring. There are some questions that may be too personal or cause pain for some to answer. If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may not want to answer some faith-based questions.

~ Wish ~
The family tree only has the writer’s side and not their spouse’s going back to their great-grandparents. It would be nice to have one complete side, but there may not be enough room on the page.

~ Want ~
This is a creative book that starts the process of not only thinking about one’s past and upbringing, but it also gives the perfect opportunity to pass down the stories, personality, and wisdom that may be cherished decades later by a grandchild.

Thanks to WaterBook and Multnomah Book Launch Team for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2HlvGfE

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363 Days in Vietnam

Title: 363 Days in Vietnam
Author: Michael Stuart Baskin
Publisher: Primedia eLaunch LLC
ISBN: 978-1-64570919-0

“It may sound weird to say this, but I think lots of guys like to witness and/or trigger explosions, and I’m one of them,” Michael Stuart Baskin admits in his book, 363 Days in Vietnam: A Memoir of Howitzers, Hook-Ups & Screw-Ups from My Tour of Duty 1968 to 1969.

What ~
At two-hundred-and-fifteen pages, this paperback targets those who are intrigued reading about the personal experiences and memories of a United States serviceman who served during the war in Vietnam. With some profanity, the topics of drugs, prostitution, war, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. After a dedication page, map, and briefing, the short-chaptered book ends with a debriefing, taps, and the author’s biography. Black and white photographs grace the pages in chronological order.

This is a quick read that shows the multi-faceted sides of a young man who was drafted in the U.S. Army and went to Vietnam for almost a year in the 1960s. With detailed memories, the writer explains the good, bad, and ugly of how he survived a war ten-thousand miles away from home. From the mundane of KP,  R&R, and comic books to humorous tales of unauthorized tent awnings, a snake consuming a black rat, and doorless five-minute showers visited by Donut Dollie, it also includes the blatant depression, awkward loneliness, and ever-growing fear of Charlie when there was a sapper invasion.

~ Why ~
War is not pretty, and this short book focuses on how U.S. Army Specialist 4 Baskin had the wherewithal to get through what were probably the worst days of his life. Written as somewhat of a diary by listed numbered days in the service, the stories are not all gloom and doom but have added irony, sarcasm, and wit trying to survive another day at a job the writer felt, at times, was unnoticed and unappreciated. The short inserts are funny, sad, somber, and cathartic as awkward M14s are shot, heavy howitzers are explained, an Aussie mercenary squad is saved, and the VC enemy attacks. I was impressed by the many photographs and details since it has been over fifty years since the author’s service that I thank and greatly appreciate.

~Why Not ~
Those who do not like discussions and viewpoints about war, Vietnam, methedrine depression, and the frustration of the United States’ involvement in the overseas military engagement may not like this book. Others may wonder if there was any “God moment” Baskin had when facing a tragic situation or the possibility of his demise.

~ Wish ~
While I enjoyed reading this personal story of one man’s wartime experiences, I wish more of the actual dates were included so I could correlate them to what I was doing at the same time when I was eleven years old in America. The book would be perfected if it was professionally edited and some of the photographs were lightened.

~ Want ~
If you do not know much about how our U.S. boys arduously served in the Vietnam War, this would be an excellent reminder that portrays one’s personal fortitude, rampant loneliness, and continual attempts at normalcy while trying to survive the bloodshed, depression, and loss during the fog of war.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2WwuZdk

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She Spoke

Title: She Spoke
Authors: Kathy Macmillan and Manuela Bernardi
Illustrator: Kathrin Honesta
Publisher: Familius LLC
ISBN: 978-1-64170-131-0

“No matter who you are, you have the right to speak up. The world needs your voice,” the introduction states in Kathy Macmillan and Manuela’s children’s book, She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World.

~ What ~
This thirty-two-page hardbound with a built-in battery-operated recorded speaker targets children ages six to eight years old who are interested in women who made a difference in history by speaking out. With no scary scenes, the colorful portraits and illustrations show women who are noted for taking a stand. Due to complicated wording, the book would be best read out loud to beginner readers.

This oversized-book covers fourteen mostly-American women who have made a difference. With their portraits on the left side of the pages with quick facts, the right sides include biographical paragraphs, readable quotes, and sidebars promoting how the reader can speak up. The far right side has thumbnail pictures of each woman that, when pressed, vocalize their quotes. Women included are Mary Mcleod Bethune, Dolores Huerta, Maya Angelou, Jane Goodall, Shirley Chisholm, Suzan Shown Harjo, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Leyman Gbowee, Temple Grandin, Sonia Sotomayor, Tammy Duckworth, Joanne Liu, Amy Wambach, and Malala Yousafzai.

~ Why ~
Showing young girls can be empowered by learning how other women spoke out or made a statement is important in raising our children. I appreciated the eclectic group of women covered from doctors, lawyers, and politicians to educators, activists, writers, and athletes.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like books about history and women may not like this read. Some may not be aware of some of the women or feel the selection does not have other more-popular females who are listed at the back of the book such as Susan B. Anthony, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Serena Williams.

~ Wish ~
The biggest issue I had with the book is the voice recording bar as it cannot be turned on or off or changed in volume. Due to the raised plastic section, its placement makes it easy to accidentally engage the speaker’s loud voice.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a children’s book that promotes speaking up to be heard, this one that contains not-so-well-known individuals with their audible quotes may be helpful for a book report.

Thanks to Familius and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2F6GSep

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Filed under *** OK - Don't Love It, Don't Hate It, Biography, Book Review, Childrens

Breakthrough

Title: Breakthrough
Author: Joyce Smith with Ginger Kolbaba
Publisher: FaithWords
ISBN: 978-1-5460-1060-9

“I believe in a God who can do miracles! Holy Spirit, I need You right now to come and breathe life back into my son!” Joyce Smith declares in Breakthrough: The Miraculous True Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection, a book she wrote with Ginger Kolbaba.

~ What ~
Made into a motion picture, this two-hundred-and-fifty-six-page paperback targets those who like true stories that promote God and the power of prayer. Containing the word hell once, its topics of a life-threatening accident, medical procedures, dying, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. Using the English Standard and New International Versions of the Holy Bible, the beginning includes a foreword by the main character while the ending has an afterword by an involved pastor, the author’s notes, Scripture references, a doctor’s letter, acknowledgments, and the authors’ biographies.

In this quick read, mother Joyce Smith writes mainly from her personal experience when her son, John, falls through the ice in a Missouri lake and his heart stops for an hour. While in the emergency room, she openly and boldly prays to God. When her son’s heartbeat reappears, she is convinced her son will be made whole and complete through prayer. After spending sixteen days in the hospital, John is miraculously healed.

~ Why ~
A firm believer in the power of praying to the Almighty God, I enjoyed reading how focusing on God can get one through tough times and tragedy. I appreciated how the authors conveyed that our Lord is the one always in control and knows the outcome and reasons why we face challenges in this life. Showing the dedication and faith as well as the faults and inadequacies of Joyce and others verified God’s endless mercies and grace.

~ Why Not ~
If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may not like this book, yet it may also be one that brings peace and comfort if struggling through a tragedy. Others may not appreciate the plethora of medical terms, diagnoses, and procedures. Some may find the writer to be controlling, stubborn, opinionated, and determined, often showing righteous indignation when dealing with medical staff.

~ Wish ~
At times, I did not like Joyce and her pushiness, but perhaps it is because she reminded me of myself. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence. I found the font too small.

~ Want ~
If you like reading about a mother and her husband, pastor, and Christian community who arduously call upon God to save and completely heal a fourteen-year-old boy using the power of prayer, this will show how miracles happen, even in the medical field because it is God’s will. It is the type of read that forces you to seriously consider your own prayer life.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for this book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

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