(Review) Choices: The True Story of One Family’s Daring Escape to Freedom by J.E. Laufer

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Publisher and Publication Date: Little Egg Publishing Company. May 15, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir, novella.
Pages: 116.
Source: Free copy from Little Egg Publishing Company and Smith Publicity.
Rating: Excellent.

A map of Europe is included for the time period of the 1950s.

Seven family photographs are located at the end of the book.

Choices is a novella, and a story for both adult and young adult readers.

For more information from the publisher about the book: Choices.

Summary:
J.E. Laufer has written a true story of her family’s escape from communist Hungary post World War II and the Hungarian Revolution. She was age two when the family left. She has an older brother named Gyorgy. Their parents names are Adolf and Kati Egett.
The story centers on the love and sacrifice the parents made for their beloved children.

The time period is the mid 1950s. Adolf and Kati Egett are aware of people leaving the communist country of Hungary. Some of the people leaving are known to them. People are afraid to tell anyone they are leaving. Some people leave with only the clothes they wear. Adolf and Kati contemplate leaving. They want a safe and secure future for their children. They hate to leave family, friends, job, and home. The escape itself is difficult and risky.

My Thoughts:
I love big books. I love long stories. I love a well-developed story and characters. Choices is a small book. A small package with 116 pages of written material. Before I began reading, I wondered, will Laufer be able to share this important story in so few of pages? The answer is yes!
I love this story!
I did not know anything about life in Hungary post World War II and after the country became communist. I have been given a glimpse of what the people endured.
Several reason led me to give Choices an excellent rating:
1. The story builds with anticipation as to what Adolf and Kati will do. Will they leave Hungary? How will they escape?
2. The story shows the dramatic events of leaving Hungary. Several questions are answered about their defection:
-how much money do they take and what it is spent on?
-how do they dress for the trip and what belongings do they take?
-who do they trust on the journey and who do they tell before leaving?
-how do they keep their children calm and quiet?
-what will they do until they can work and earn money?
-how will they leave Europe?
3. Kati reflects on the story of her experiences during the Holocaust.
4. A teenage girl is met on their journey. She takes a risk in helping them. They took a risk in trusting her. The relationship is tantamount to their survival.
5. The love expressed between Adolf and Kati. They have commitment and tenderness towards one another. They show patience and self-control. One does not make a decision without the other. I feel they are a beautiful example of a marriage and family.

 

 

 

 

 

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(Review) The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

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Publisher and Publication Date: Broadway Books. Paperback June 20, 2017.
Genre: Fiction, India.
Pages: 448.
Source: I received this copy from Blogging from Books for this review.
Rating: Okay.

Dinah Jefferies

Amazon

Summary:
Gwendolyn Hooper, age 19, traveled from her home in Gloucestershire, England to the country of Ceylon. The year is 1925. She joined her new husband, Laurence Hooper. Laurence is a widower and a tea planter. He is age 37. They met in England and had a whirlwind relationship. Gwen is dreamy-eyed with love and the expectation of a being a wife.  On board the ship, just as Gwen arrived in Ceylon, she met mysterious Savi Ravasinghe. After attending a party, Gwen became uncomfortable with an American woman who is in a business relationship with Laurence. Early in the story unanswered questions develop for Gwen. What happened to Laurence’s first wife? Why is his behavior so odd for a newlywed? Is the American woman more to Laurence than a business type relationship?
Ceylon was a British Crown colony between 1802 and 1948. Ceylon is now called Sri Lanka. It is an island southeast of India. The length of the island is 268 miles. The width of the island is 136 miles. Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka. Three mountains on the island are over 7,500 feet, the tallest at 8,281 feet. The Monsoon rains are from May to September. For more information: Britannica.

My Thoughts:
The Tea Planter’s Wife had the beginnings of a great novel, but there are four things that did not work for me.
1. There were opportunities to examine and illustrate through the story the contrast of wealthy citizens (white British), and the poor people who were native to Ceylon and India. Many of the workers at the tea plantation were from India. I wanted to see more development in this element. The Great Depression effected all people. The wealthy lost money and the poor became poorer. Gwen loved beautiful clothing. She was alert to fashion trends. However, most of the people living in Ceylon were trying to feed their families. During the story Gwen wanted to do more for the people, for example build a school. Her husband is less inclined to want to reach out and help the people. So, some attention is given to this element, but I wanted to see greater development.
2. Several descriptive references are made to “pulled faces.” What does this mean?
Further, several monotonous references are made to a trembling or “wobbled” mouth. These descriptions were used too much. They were boring.
3. Gwen is a teenager when she marries a man 18 years older. She is young, naïve, silly, and immature. It took gumption to marry and travel so far away from England to the exotic world of Ceylon. What happened to that gumption she had shown a spark of? I wondered what kind upbringing and home life she’d had? I wondered about her parents? During the story, Gwen reflected on her father. And, she misses home at times. Her parents never went to visit their daughter while she was living in Ceylon. A friend from England visited her but not her parents. It became a big mystery to me about her parents. I couldn’t understand why more attention was not given to them? I don’t think Gwen even mentions letters from her parents. Odd.
4. The answer maybe because Gwen is so young, but why did she not know what happened to the first wife? Females are curious. Young females are known to ask questions about previous relationships their men had. Why did she not pick his brain beforehand?
5. There is an absence of communication between Laurence and Gwen. If in the beginning they had shared about their families, then there would be no need for insecurities. Of course, there would be no story either.

After reading The Tea Planter’s Wife, I wondered if the story had been told by the nanny/servant Naveena, would I have liked it better? This woman had cared for Laurence, his first wife, and Gwen. Naveena was a native to the culture and people group. I feel she had a unique perspective on the people she worked and cared for.

Final Thought:
The story wraps up nicely. Everything is placed in a nice gift wrapped box with a bow by the end of the novel. I am glad the story had closure. I kept reading, The Tea Planter’s Wife, because I wanted to know what happened to the characters and those unanswered questions about the first wife.

(Review) Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances by Jonathan Daugherty

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Publisher and Publishing Date: New Growth Press. June 19, 2017. First published 2008.
Genre: Christian nonfiction, sexual addiction, pornography.
Pages: 133.
Source: Free copy from New Growth Press.
Rating: Good.

Link for more information at New Growth Press.
Link to read a sample chapter: Secrets.

Amazon

Litfuse Book Tour Landing Page

Jonathan Daugherty is the founder of Be Broken Ministries, and founder of Gateway to Freedom workshop for men. He also hosts the weekly radio broadcast, Pure Sex Radio, and is in demand nationally as a speaker on sexual purity and men’s issues. He has appeared on multiple radio and television media, both local and national. He has authored “Grace-Based Recovery,” “The 4 Pillars of Purity,” and other works. Jonathan lives with his wife and three children in San Antonio, Texas.
Find out more about Jonathan at http://www.jonathandaugherty.com.
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Summary provided by the publisher:
Everyone has a secret or two, a part of their life they would rather not share with the rest of the world.
But for Jonathan Daugherty, his secret was so life-altering and relationship-ending that he fought to keep it hidden at all costs. And it did cost him. His secret kept him from contentment, peace, and the possibility of being known and loved for who he truly is. That’s what any secret addiction can do-but in particular a sex addiction.
After his wife finally discovered his secret, their marriage appeared to be over. In Secrets, Jonathan honestly and courageously shares his story of addiction to pornography and how he lost everything to it.
But that’s not how the story ends. While Jonathan struggled, someone else was at work-his heavenly Father. At the lowest possible moment of his life, God stepped in and brought him hope and healing. This is a story of both loss and redemption that gives hope to anyone who has ever experienced the power and struggle of addiction and its life-destroying effects.
Addiction doesn’t have the final say over Jonathan’s life or in his marriage. The God who finds the lost, heals the sick, and brings life from death has the last, victorious word.
-A courageous, honest and open account of life as a sex addict and how sex addiction destroys marriages.
-A life-affirming and personal story of recovery and redemption that will inspire readers.
-Offers hope to all who struggle with pornography and sex addiction.
-Each chapter includes a “Living in the Light” section designed to equip and help readers find freedom from addiction.
-Suitable as a study for support groups of addicts and those who care about them.

My Thoughts:
It is always difficult for me to write a book review that is so deeply personal to me. I struggle with how transparent to be in sharing from my own life the similarities that I found in the book. Sexual addiction is not something I’ve struggled with. Pornography is not something I’ve struggled with. But these two issues have effected my life. I know first hand the ugly mess they make in a marriage and in relationships period. I could have passed over the opportunity to read this book. I could have chickened out and let the tour group know I can’t handle writing a review.  But, maybe I am just the person who needs to read and share my thoughts in a review?

The first thing I noticed about the book is it’s small. The content of the book is only 124 pages. Most of the people I know, both family and friends, are not big readers. A small book is an approachable book to a nonreader or a person who reads little. I consider this a positive point about this book. It is a book with a heavy story and topic, but it is approachable in size. It at least looks less scary.

Daugherty’s writing style is informal. To write with transparency about a difficult subject, how he became involved, and the consequences of involvement takes courage. The serious nature of the book could have become so stomach churning that a reader might need an Alka-Seltzer. So, there are moments when he is witty. These moments are needed, they bring relief.

What I liked best about the book is Daugherty is quick to accept blame. He is descriptive in regards to the spiraling downfall of the addiction. He explains how indulging in one thing led to a second thing, and the second thing led to a third, and so forth.

Daugherty points out sexual addiction is about escape. I believe addictions, no matter the addiction, is about escaping from a reality that the person can’t handle.
He explains how sexual addiction effects intimacy. The fantasy in the mind is more enticing than a real relationship.
He expresses how deceptive the addiction is to the person who tries so hard to cover their tracks. They don’t want anyone to know. He tried to present himself as a Christian man involved in church, and as a married man, but he was living a double life.

In the final chapters, he shared the recovery process. A first step in recovery is admitting the problem, followed by confession. Daugherty stresses the importance of brokenness and repentance over the sin.

What I disliked about the book is the ease of reconciliation between Daugherty and his wife. What I wanted to read about was the details (including long-term) of working through what happened to them. Daugherty explains in some part. I needed more of the mechanics of what the couple did in processing the different emotions and the work to heal. I did not hear from Mrs. Daugherty in this book. I do not know her story.

When a couple reconciles after adultery has been committed, trust is one of the strong elements that must be worked on. And trust is never a given, it must be earned through the entirety of marriage.

Forgiveness is necessary, but forgiveness does not mean reconciliation will happen. People think sometimes that reconciliation is an automatic response after forgiveness. I don’t believe that. I also believe it is easier to walk away from a broken marriage then stay and fix it. Adultery, betrayal, deception, and abuse are things that cannot be undone in this lifetime. They can be forgiven, but they are not forgotten. People work toward healing, but full healing will not be in this lifetime. A question to ask is if my husband and I are out eating dinner at a restaurant and we see the person who my husband committed adultery with, what will we do, and how will we feel? What if people at church and the job know about what happened? What if someone tells our children? For the offended and betrayed spouse, it is humiliating and horribly painful. Years and years from now people will still know and talk about the husband who betrayed, and the wife who chose to stay in the marriage. Marriage can heal and time helps, but the couple must understand it is a lifetime of work. Renewing the wedding vows is not the key. It is a symbol and a good start, but not the answer. Daugherty was quick to state, “God healed my marriage.” I am thankful he gave God the glory. I still wanted to see the mechanics of their marriage afterwards.

 

(Review) The Underground River by Martha Conway

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. June 20, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 345.
Source: Free copy from Touchstone.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

Summary:
The year is 1838. May Bedloe, age 22, is a companion to her cousin, Comfort Vertue, who is an actress. May is the seamstress for Comfort. They are traveling by a steamship named the Moselle, when the boilers burst and exploded. The ship sank in the Ohio river. May, who is a strong swimmer, swam about a mile to the shore. After the accident, Comfort takes refuge and accepts a new career with a notable abolitionist. Comfort became a speaker for this movement. May takes a job with a theater group on a flatboat. The theater boat travels up and down the river between the border states. Those states on the south side are pro-slavery. May had accepted money from Mrs. Howard to begin a new life. Mrs. Howard is the new companion of Comfort. Later, Mrs. Howard wanted her money back. She clarified it was not a gift but a loan. May became apart of the abolitionist movement because she had to repay Mrs. Howard by performing certain deeds.

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to this story and loved it for several reasons:
1. A traveling theater boat.
2. The abolitionist movement.
3. May is a different kind of personality.
4. The time period is 23 years before the start of the Civil War.

When I think of a traveling theater boat I am reminded of the musical Show Boat The Underground River is not a light-hearted adaption of a serious time in American history. On the other hand, it touches a portion of the history of the Abolitionist movement.
May has a different kind of personality than I’ve come across in stories. If she were anymore serious I might find her tedious and boring. As the story progresses, her full personality is shown. I am left believing she is the larger than life character, and her cousin, the actress turned abolitionist speaker, is the insignificant and miniscule character. May and Comfort are the opposite of one another. The fullness of who they are became known when they go their separate ways. One of my favorite aspects of reading a story is watching the characters develop!

Many of the books I’ve read are just before, during, or post the Civil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852. I read this book several years ago. I assumed the abolitionist movement happened about this year. I have read a bit more on this and discovered it began in the early 1830s. The link to read more on this topic: A Brief History of the Abolitionist Movement.
Another favorite aspect of reading a story is how the author describes a scene or people. I noticed Conway made a point of bringing out the things about humans that many authors pass over. For example, one person in the story is described as having crooked teeth. Another character is noted as studying another character. Bringing these fine points out in a story shows human nature. By showing human nature, the story comes alive.

I had originally planned to give this book a very good rating. I’ve had time to re-consider the story and characters, and most of all how I feel about the book in the days after reading it. The book is memorable for me because of May. She is a uniquely crafted character. The story swirls around her without her knowing it. She is a counter-weight to the history of this era. She personifies all that people would hope to be.

 

(Review) High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

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Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction, World War I.
Pages: 393.
Source: Free copy from Bethany House.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Summary:
Evelyn Marche is a nurse in German-occupied Brussels, Belgium during World War I. She lives with her mother. She has a brother and sister who are separated from the family because of the war. Evelyn, known as Eve in the story, works evenings in a café. She is also an agent for the resistance against Germany. When the story begins, her mission is to meet an agent who is bringing an important message. She is shocked to recognize the agent. She risks her life to secure the freedom of this important person.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story.
I was immediately captured by the character Eve. She is so many things that are important in a good character. For example, I understand her life through her thoughts and conversations. She is a person of principle and intellect. She is a dimensional character. I see her strengths and weaknesses. She is a character that I admire. She has painful memories and she has memories of joy. She carried the weight of the story through her resilience and strength. She is a believable character. She is not a perfect heroine and this is important.
I did not know until reading this story there was a resistance network during World War I. I am familiar with the resistance during World War II but not World War I. I felt Belgium was an interesting spot for the setting. Belgium was over-run  and damaged during World War II by the war. I did not know until reading this book its history during World War I.
I enjoyed reading the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. The history of the spy network is explained, the role of female spies, and the destruction of Belgium during this period.
A strong element of the story is there is a double agent. I did not know who the person was until it is revealed in the story.
Another strong element is the love story. The first thing I think about in the love story is the characters commitment. I could name other factors, but these two people have persevered despite the war.
Lastly, the story shows how civilians felt about and treated those who collaborated or did business with the Boche-Germans.