Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Recently I had the opportunity to read an amazing little book. The Noticer by Andy Andrews is scheduled for release today, but as a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson, I received an advanced copy. It is an easy read and difficult to dismiss. It is astonishingly simple and complex at the same time. This book came to me during a very personal and difficult time in my life (more on that in another post), and I’m truly grateful that it did.

This powerful little book is all about perspective. We all see the world, and our own specific situations, from our own limited perspective. And therein lies the problem – sometimes, oftentimes in fact, our perspective is off, and if we get a glimpse of perspective from a different angle, we can see things very differently. When we get a different perspective, we see beyond ourselves.

The Noticer shows us that we all make a difference. We all impact more people more people than we know. And we all can choose the type of impact we have. Things like kindness, consideration, respect, love and integrity go a long way in our lives and interactions with others. Consequently, so does meanness, laziness, selfishness, rudeness, and indifference. We have the opportunity every day, to better ourselves and the world around us, or not. We have the opportunity to become victors rather than victims. We have the opportunity to overcome our problems instead of letting our problems overcome us. It is all a matter of perspective.


The Noticer
Sometimes, All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective
by Andy Andrews

A moving story of common wisdom from the bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift.

Orange Beach, Alabama is a simple town filled with simple people. But they all have their share of problems – marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, and many of the other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.

Fortunately, when things look the darkest – a mysterious old man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. In his simple interactions, Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what they can do about it.

Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration.


In addition to the book, The Noticer Project is going on. Has someone made a difference in your life? Notice them by sending them a note, an e mail or going as public as noticing folks via your Facebook Page. Andy Andrews is also on Twitter where you can learn more about the book and project. To discover more information on The Noticer Project, click here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nona Bannister

The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister, Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale House Publishers)

Nonna Bannister appeared to be a typical American housewife. She married Henry, the love of her life, in 1951 and together they raised three children in Memphis, Tennessee. But Nonna was far from average. For half a century, she kept her story secret while living a normal life. She locked all of her photos, documents, diaries, and dark memories from World War II in a trunk in her attic.

Tyndale House Publishers announces the publication of The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister written by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (April 2009, Tyndale House), the haunting eyewitness account of Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister, a remarkable Russian girl who saw and survived unspeakable evils during World War II.

The Secret Holocaust Diaries is written by Nonna although she passed away in 2004. Did she write the book before she died?

Yes, she slipped up into the attic each night, translated her diaries (from several different languages), and recorded them in English onto yellow legal pads. Much later, after she told her husband, Henry, about her incredible past, she showed him the stacks of yellow legal pads on which she had translated her diaries and recorded her thoughts about her past, and he typed them up into a manuscript.

Would Nonna have liked to see her book published before she died?

Nonna translated her diary into English and her husband, Henry, typed the manuscript. However, she requested the diary not be published until at least 2 or 3 years after she died. Henry honored this request. (She died in 2004.) The story was very painful and reminded her of the suffering her family endured. When she came to America in 1950 she was overwhelmed by her new life. She was determined to make a new life for herself and to give her husband and children a happy home.

Nonna came from a privileged family. Are there any interesting stories of people her ancestors knew?

Nonna’s family “ran with” the upper crust in the Ukraine and Russia. Her mother and father were educated in Russia’s great cultural city, St. Petersburg. Nonna’s grandmother and grandfather knew the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and Nonna kept a postcard sent by him (shortly before his death) to her grandfather, Jakob, for his birthday (dated 1913?). Jakob was killed during the Revolution while trying to help Russian families escape.

Nonna writes in her diary of living on the ”Chekov Lane” in Taganrog, the street where Russian writer Anton Chekov (1860–1904) had once lived.

The family also visited often the boy Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (nicknamed “Sasha”) and his mother, Taissia. She and Nonna’s mother, Anna, were good friends. They enjoyed giving concerts and playing the violin and piano. Nonna writes of eating ice cream with her mother and Taissia, and spending the night in the Solzhenitsyn home during a thunderstorm. Alexander was older that Nonna, studying at the university.

Many people assume most of the people killed by the Nazis were Jewish. Was Nonna’s family Jewish?

Although it is estimated that approximately 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, other nationalities experienced suffering and death, also. Nonna’s family was Russian and owned seven grain mills and homes in southern Russia and the Ukraine. Her father, Yevgeny, and his family were from Warsaw, Poland, which included a large population of Jews. Due to border restrictions, Nonna never met her father’s family. Yevgeny never told Nonna and her brother, Anatoly, if his family was Jewish. If the children didn’t know, they could not let it slip. The admission of being Jewish could have meant deportation or certain death. There is speculation, but no one is certain.

Nonna saved many documents from her time at Nazi camps; what are these artifacts?

In a small ticking pillow she kept tied around her waist, she kept many one inch square photos of her family and friends in the Ukraine. She also kept her small childhood diary. On tiny slips of paper, she wrote her experiences (in diary form) and also kept these in the little pillow. Later she kept all these in a small trunk, which she painted bright green.

When Nonna finally revealed her secret, was her family shocked?

Henry knew there was something about her past that she didn’t want to talk about. Being a patient man, he never pressed her to speak about this secret. As they grew older, he asked her to write down some things about her family—so their children would know their heritage. After months of secretly translating her diary (written in several different languages) she took him to the attic, open the little green trunk and showed him her family’s photos and the yellow legal pages of the translated diary. Henry was astonished at what he saw.

Why did Nonna keep her devastating secret for so many years?

Nonna kept her secret past from her family/friends because she had, at last, found such happiness with her husband, Henry, and her three children. She didn’t want to express her past pain–she didn’t want it to interrupt the family’s happiness and cast a shadow of despair over them.

The diaries themselves were written in several languages and some were on scraps of paper. How did she go about transcribing them?

Nonna learned English after she came to America in 1950. This became her primary language. She realized they should be transcribed in English so Henry could type the pages. He spent several years typing these notes after work and on weekends.

The miniature black/white photos, the diaries, the notes from the prison camp, her mother’s letters from the concentration camps, and other documents were organized and put into chapters for a book—one she hoped would be published after her death.

What can people of Christian faith or Jewish faith/descent take from The Secret Holocaust Diaries?

That grave injustice exists–Nonna learned that from the Red Army (who killed many of her family members) and Hitler’s army (who also killed many of her family members and imprisoned her in a labor camp). But that God’s love and forgiveness for those who hurt us are stronger than even Hitler’s evil and injustice. Nonna came out of the whole experience with her heart still filled with love. She experienced none of the bitterness and hatred that some Jewish Holocaust survivors have held onto. She was able to marry, raise children, and bring them much joy and happiness through her own love and through introducing them to God’s love.

Why did Nonna feel it was so important to share her story?

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister is a true story of a young Russian girl whose family was caught up in the Russian Revolution and in World War II. In spite of the injustice inflicted on her family and millions of others, it is a story of love and forgiveness. Nonna wanted others to know the horrors that occurred during the Hitler and Stalin era so that it might never happen again.

Nonna felt compelled to tell her story because she was an eyewitness to many dramatic events, and she was the only survivor of her entire family.

Late in life, Nonna unlocked her trunk filled with memories from World War II first for her husband, and now for the rest of the world. Nonna’s story is one of suffering, torture, and death—but also of incredible acts of kindness that show the ultimate triumph of faith and love over despair and evil. The Secret Holocaust Diaries is in part a tragedy, yet ultimately it’s an unforgettable true story about forgiveness, courage, and hope.


This was truly a deep and meaningful book. It is not an easy read, however, I encourage you to get it and take the time to learn and remember this very dark time in humanity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan

What an amazing and stunning book. In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan, is a high-quality gift book that is all about the journey the Apostle Paul took in spreading the Gospel. The pictures are beautiful, serene and simply breathtaking. For those of us who’ve only dreamed of seeing the Holy Land, this book truly seems to transport you there. The pictures are so vivid and clear, it’s almost as if you are experiencing the scene yourself. Famed photographer Ken Duncan, traveled the paths of Paul to help us experience his journey.

With an abundance of commentary and Scripture, this gift book is almost like a textbook. Images include maps, ruins, cities, vineyards, mountains, roadways, artwork, etc. It takes you to Pathos, Damascus, Rome, Cyprus, Ephesus, Antioch, Tarsus, Jordan, Petra, Malta, Crete, Thessalonica and more. It brings the ancient world to life.

I couldn’t stop flipping pages! I marveled at the ancient structures and roads that are still around today. I saw breathtaking scenery and Biblical places that I will probably never visit in real life. It is difficult to imagine the distance Paul traveled in his journey to spread the Gospel, without modern transportation. I am even more in awe now, of the man and the journey that did so much for the cause of Christ! In the Footsteps of Paul would make a wonderful gift, coffee table book, or, educational tool.


In the Footsteps of Paul
Experience The Journey That Changed The World
by Ken Duncan

Follow a trailblazer’s path and see for yourself all the places that Paul visited . . .

Paul’s missionary journeys are much more than mere dotted lines on rough maps at the back of your Bible. His travels changed the world, and when you, too, follow In the Footsteps of Paul, you’ll experience those amazing journeys more powerfully than ever. The lens of renowned photographer Ken Duncan traces everywhere Paul is known to have traveled. Ken’s stunning photos, combined with Scripture and writings from noted authors, creates an exciting platform for experiencing the life and times of one of the apostles who introduced Jesus to the Roman world and beyond.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Put Your Dream to the Test by John C. Maxwell

In his latest book, Put Your Dream to the Test, 10 Questions To Help You See It and Seize It, John C. Maxwell delivers yet another fantastic and wisdom filled book that will benefit people from all walks of life. Dreams – we all have them. But how many of us are actively pursuing them, or can even clearly define them. Maxwell shows us the difference between a dream and a fantasy and more than that, he guides us with tips, insights and principles to show us how to actually get there.

Each chapter addresses the 10 questions Maxwell puts forth, to help us identify, clarify, pursue and achieve our dream. They are questions of: Ownership, Clarity, Reality, Passion, Pathway, People, Cost, Tenacity, Fulfillment and Significance. He includes profiles, stories and strategies of many people who achieved their own dream, as well as some of the obstacles and setbacks they encountered along the way. It is a book that is as inspiring as it is informational. It is both challenging and compelling. Once again, leadership guru, John Maxwell, has delivered a fantastic book that helps us to grow and develop personally and professionally. This is a great book for those actively pursuing their dreams or for those who need to awaken their dreams.


Put Your Dream to the Test
by John C. Maxwell

What's the difference between a dreamer and someone who achieves a dream? According to best-selling author Dr. John Maxwell, the answer lies in answering ten powerful, yet straightforward, questions. Whether you've lost sight of an old dream or you are searching for a new one within you, Put Your Dream to the Test provides a step-by-step action plan that you can start using today to see, own, and reach your dream. Dr. Maxwell draws on his forty years of mentoring experience to expertly guide you through the ten questions required of every successful dreamer.

More importantly, Dr. Maxwell helps you to create the right answers, giving you principles and tips to so you can make good decisions and maximize every moment to achieve your dream.

“It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to do the things needed to achieve it,” says Maxwell. “If you’re willing to put your dream to the test – and do what’s needed to answer yes to the ten dream questions – then your odds are very good for seeing your dream become a reality.”

Don’t leave your dream to chance. This book is a must-have and can make the difference between failure and success.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Real Solutions for Busy Moms by Kathy Ireland

I just finished Real Solutions for Busy Moms by Kathy Ireland, and must say it was really good. Former super-model and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland really had some great advice in this book. Some people may not know that Kathy is a Christian, but her witness shines throughout the book, without being preachy. This book supports one of Kathy’s favorite sayings: “You can do it all, just not all at once.” There is a lot of practical advice and Kathy seems very real throughout.

The book tackles subject such as: money, happiness in the home, healthiness in the home, safety in the home and for the family, taking time for yourself as a mom, and being the best ‘you’ that you can be. Each chapter explores a specific subject, along with a question and answer section, and a checklist for the appropriate subject. I personally particularly enjoyed the Closing Thoughts at the end. It apparently was added after the bulk of the book was finished, and it addresses the current recession we are in. I found it to be insightful and full of wisdom. This would be a great book for any mom, and think it would be an awesome book for a group of mom’s to get together and discuss, like for a small group or book club.


Real Solutions for Busy Moms
by Kathy Ireland

Ready for Real Solutions?

You’re a mom, which means you might feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. You’re trying to balance a marriage and raising kids with managing a household, a budget and a career. You need help. You need real solutions . . . right now!

Kathy Ireland understands. She’s been there as a wife, a mother of three, and the CEO of an international business. Kathy draws on personal experience, extensive research, concerns she hears daily from moms across the nation, and her longtime empathy for families to offer genuine hope and powerful, practical answers.

Financial wisdom . . . a happy home . . . health and safety . . . your best “you” . . . renewed faith . . . it’s all here.

Real Solutions is the resource that will lead you and your family to success and sanity . . . starting today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Expecting by Marla Taviano

So, I’ve been doing book reviews for awhile now. And I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed doing it. After all, it does combine two of my passions – reading and writing. Some of the books I review are simply books I have bought for myself, or have received as gifts. Many others though, are sent to me from publishers or authors, who would like to get word out about that particular book. I just received one such book.

Expecting: Praying for Your Child’s Development – Body and Soul by Marla Taviano is truly a WONDERFUL book! This little book is power-packed and full of wisdom. It goes through pregnancy week by week, for all forty weeks, with a snippet of mommy’s and baby’s development for that week. It also includes a quote and Scripture verse pertinent for that week, and a prayer for the baby. Each week, or chapter, covers a specific topic, from the release of the egg, to conception, to hands, gender, vocal cords, hearing, organs, bone marrow, face, etc. At the end of each chapter there is a page for writing your thoughts, memories, reflections, verses you like, etc.

Expecting is a must have book for any pregnant woman, or any woman who is trying to conceive. In fact, it would be the perfect pregnancy gift, but don’t wait until the shower, because you wouldn’t want her to miss all of the prayers and scriptures from the earlier weeks. I absolutely love this book! I only wish it would have been available when I was expecting Sweet Pea!


Expecting: Praying for Your Child’s Development – Body and Soul
By Marla Taviano

Wrap Your New Baby in Prayer

Just as the heart of your baby begins to beat and as little ears take shape, speak words of prayer asking for a heart that beats for God and for ears that listen for His leading. This beautiful prayer book will guide you as you pray for your child's physical growth as well as his or her spiritual growth. The precious forty weeks of creation will become even more meaningful as you reflect on the illustrations that depict your baby's development.

Each week you will be blessed with:
· A prayer for your child's body and soul
· A devotional message
· A carefully selected scripture
· An inspirational quote
· A "body and soul" reflection for mom
· A space for you to journal your own thoughts and prayers

Create a keepsake you and your child will cherish forever

Friday, April 3, 2009

Katt's in the Cradle by Kolbaba and Scannell

I recently finished Katt’s in the Cradle, by Ginger Kolbaba and Christy Scannell. I found it to be a delightful and lighthearted read. There are two previous books in this series, Secrets from Lulu’s CafĂ©. I have not had the opportunity to read either of those, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying and understanding this one. This book follows the lives and friendship of four Pastor’s Wives. It certainly shows us that Pastor’s wives are real people too, with real problems, real issues and real joys. It also is wonderful at portraying very real and deep friendships without getting hung up on denominational differences.

The characters are entertaining and believable. The four PW’s secretly meet in a little out of the way diner, where they can talk and support each other freely, without fear of being overheard or interrupted by any of their church members. The story flows well and kept me interested throughout. It also reminded me of the importance of good friends and further, that we all need a safe harbor when the storms of life come. I would recommend it to anyone, but specifically to those of us who regularly attend or belong to a church – it just might help you to see your own Pastor’s wife differently, and more compassionately.


Katt’s in the Cradle
by Ginger Kolbaba and Christ Scannell

When you're in the trenches, sometimes you're up to your neck in mud. That's the not-so-glamorous life of a pastor's wife.

Felicia's family is...complicated. That's putting it nicely. Now they're flying in from LA -- all at once -- to stay with her...just when her brother-in-law, Javier, and Mama aren't even speaking to each other. And the whole church will be there to witness the feud.

Mimi has a lot on her mind with her four energetic kids -- especially Milo the screamer, with his Pavarotti voice. Then her live-in alcoholic dad starts to mow their lawn at midnight.

Lisa has her hands full with loudmouth Tom Graves and the other troublemakers at Red River Assembly. Then vicious rumors start to fly about the Barton family...and the attacks and threats get increasingly personal.

Jennifer is pushing her adopted daughter, Carys, in a stroller, when she notices a black town car -- the same car she's seen several times over the past week. Could someone be following her?

The PWs plunge into an unnerving mystery...and discover what "family" really means.