Thursday, August 9, 2018


On Goodreads
Le Blurb:

Over 1 million people have read Wonder and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. Now readers will have a chance to hear from the book's most controversial character—Julian. 

From the very first day Auggie and Julian met in the pages of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wonder, it was clear they were never going to be friends, with Julian treating Auggie like he had the plague. And while Wonder told Auggie's story through six different viewpoints, Julian's perspective was never shared. Readers could only guess what he was thinking.

Until now. The Julian Chapter will finally reveal the bully's side of the story. Why is Julian so unkind to Auggie? And does he have a chance for redemption?

Le Afterglow:

You've probably heard all the rave reviews for WONDER by R.J. Palacio. So had I. I'd seen YouTube videos by parents of children with Auggie's condition talking about how important the book and movie are. And I'd seen friends on Facebook sharing what it meant to them.

When the movie came out, we watched it in the theatres and then I knew I had to read WONDER the book. We chose to listen to it as a family on Audible, and I'm so glad we did. It was engaging for both of my oldest kids (11 and 8), and I know it made an impact on the kind of people they will choose to be.

So when I saw "The Julian Chapter" on Audible at a steal, I decided I had to check that out, too. I began listening to it while sorting the laundry, expecting a chapter or two from the perspective of Julian, the main bully in the WONDER story. Much to my surprise, I had finished all the laundry and the story kept going.

It turned out to be a complete book, not a chapter!

This was a very happy surprise because, frankly, I couldn't get enough of the compelling characters and well-crafted narrative. I listened to THE JULIAN CHAPTER all day long and, while I had been skeptical that anything would make me like Julian the bully, I was in tears by the end of it. Without spoilers, it's pretty much impossible to tell you how R.J. Palacio managed to make this mean little boy into someone you would root for. Suffice it to say that she did, and she did it beautifully! I will definitely read this one with my kids over and over again, for the empathy it builds and the true stories to which it pays homage.

We own WONDER in hardback and I love that story, too. But there is something special about THE JULIAN CHAPTER. There's something special about the way it sheds light in the darkness, about the hope for redemption, and about the forgiveness that is so central to its theme. Of course, without first knowing Auggie's story, we wouldn't care much about Julian, so I do recommend you read that wonderful book WONDER first. Then read THE JULIAN CHAPTER. And get out your tissues!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

From the first time I saw the movie based on Ben Carson's life, I wanted to learn more about this man and the amazing transition he went through, from a kid from the ghetto's of Detroit to one of the most famous neurosurgeon's in the United States.  This book is filled with amazing stories that not only turned Dr. Carson into the man he is today, but also into a man of God.  Starting from when he was a kid in school with a massive temper problem to performing unheard of surgeries, Dr. Carson could see the hand of God in everything that he did.  This book lists just a few of what I'm sure represent the many times where Divine Providence has shone down on this man to guide him in the ways he should go.

The blurb

Dr. Ben Carson is known around the world for breakthroughs in neurosurgery that have brought hope where no hope existed.  In Gifted Hands, he tells of his inspiring odyssey from his childhood in inner-city Detroit to his position as director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Medical Institutions at age thirty-three.  Taking you into the operating room where he has saved countless lives, Ben Carson is a role model for anyone who attempts the seemingly impossible.  Filled with fascinating case histories, this bestselling book tells the dramatic and intimate story of Ben Carson's struggle to beat the odds - and of the faith and genius that make him one of today's greater life-givers.

The afterglow

I loved the aspects of Dr. Carson's life that he spends so much time talking about.  First, the parts about how much his mother invested in her children.  Even though she herself didn't have much education, she did what she could to make sure her children were learning and smart, even if that meant the heartache of only letting her children watch three television shows per week.  But because of this, her boys grew to love learning and became very successful in their lives. Second, Dr. Carson spent much of his adult life leaning on God to get him through the hard times.  It all started when he was a young boy with a temper problem, and continued to when he was in college wondering if he would ever be good enough to become a doctor, to trying to figure out the best way to perform a surgery to save a young child's life.  This is an amazing story of his life, his trials and how we can all get through these trials if we know whom to depend on.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Double Review: ROMANCING DAPHNE & FOR ELISE by Sarah M. Eden

Once upon a time, I had the pleasure of attending the writers conference LDSStorymakers and meeting a few real-life literary heroes and heroines, aka prolific authors. One of those I have never been able to forget was the witty and charming Sarah M. Eden. She gave a riveting presentation about writing romance a la Pride & Prejudice, and ever since then, I have meant to check out her recency romances for myself. Because clearly, here was a woman who understood romance and the psychology of relationships. Every time I have passed her books on display at my local library, I have wanted to get one, but for the past few years, books on education theory took precedent over books I desperately wanted to read! So I told myself to wait and someday I would sit down and curl up with a Sarah Eden book. Last week I was at the library and decided our January family screen fast was the perfect opportunity for me to kick start 2018 by reading for fun! I read FOR ELISE and ROMANCING DAPHNE on January 1st and January 2nd, and they absolutely warrant an Afterglow Review. 

The blurb: 
As her first London Season looms before her, the thought of the impending social whirl fills Daphne Lancaster's timid heart with dread. She hasn't her sisters beauty nor their talent for conversing easily. Even her family's enviable connections may not be enough to prevent disaster.

But Daphne's misery turns to surprised delight when the first event of her Season brings an unexpected visitor to her door—James Tilburn, whose tender kindness stole her heart in her youth. When the handsome young gentleman expresses his desire to court her, Daphne is elated. Their feelings for each other quickly grow, and it appears that, much to Daphne s disbelief, her happily ever after is within reach.

Yet nothing is as it seems. The couple finds themselves caught in a tangled web of greed and deceit, leaving James and Daphne to determine whether they are willing to risk everything for true love.

The Afterglow: I laughed at the near-constant wit and sarcasm displayed by all my favorite characters, and relished the mushy love stuff that was obviously left over from Books 1 and 2 of the Lancaster Family series. I absolutely love that there are more books involving these characters for me to love. And this book has made me even more excited to read Seeking Persephone and Courting Miss Lancaster. Daphne is a heroine most readers will readily relate to, introverted and sharp as a tack, self-deprecating but brave and compassionate. Sarah Eden weaves a beautiful story about the uncertainty and humiliation of dating, excuse me -- courting -- during a London Season. But it's also about the family dynamics, power plays, and economic factors that controlled everything but our hero's and heroine's hearts. I found myself rooting for this couple from the beginning, and hoping despite the odds stacked up against them, that they would finally follow their hearts. One of the notes I took from Sarah Eden' s LDSStorymakers presentation was to create romantic leads who fulfill something in the other person which is desperately lacking, to fill the holes and the weaknesses with the other person. Sarah M. Eden does this masterfully in ROMANCING DAPHNE. I read it in a day and felt a little sad to say goodbye to these enchanting characters. 
I can recommend Sarah M. Eden's regency romances to everyone! They hearken back to the style of Jane Austen, and any impropriety is implied rather than explicit. Read with confidence, young and old.

FOR ELISE by Sarah M. Eden
The blurb: 
They were inseparable in their youth, the very best of friends, two halves of a whole. For four years, Miles Linwood, the Marquess of Grenton, has felt incomplete without her. When a carriage breakdown leaves him temporarily stranded in a tiny town, Miles makes an unexpected discovery that will alter the course of his life, and rewrite the pages of his past.

The Afterglow: 
With possibly the most meaningful meet-cute of all literary time, For Elise is a story that shows powerfully the impact of a single moment's decision, and the ripples that go out from that decision. Elise is a broken character, suffering from post traumatic stress and convinced of the necessity of her own exile. Miles is a philanthropic marquess with a troubled history that more than dovetails with Elise's past, but the trouble is neither of them has a perfect memory of what happened in the aftermath of a shared trauma. This device, using infallible memory and the hallmarks of trauma as the primary driving conflict, is one of the things that makes this story memorable, and keeps readers thinking about it long after the cover is closed. It made me wonder what interactions I remember imperfectly -- likely all of them, since I only experience my own feelings and am left merely to interpret those of the other person. Imagine years going by while those false interpretations are left to simmer and stew in the broth of continued misery. Sarah Eden imagines just that, with the stroke of a skilled pen rendering Miles and Elise eminently believable as people you might meet on the street. And that meet-cute! It certainly left me with wondering thoughts about what might have happened if decisions were made differently.
I recommend this one to readers who can handle the mature themes of violence and trauma. There is, after all, a murder mystery within these pages, not to mention the occasional social violence of upwardly climbing mothers of single daughters.