Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Reposting this review from earlier this year because the Kindle edition is on sale for $2.99
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth is the first memoir in a three part book series about being a midwife in the East End of London during the 1950s. Jenny Lee (Lee is her maiden name) is a midwife who works and lives with nuns in a convent. In her memoir, Worth describes a variety of experiences from her career as a midwife in a place and a time where circumstances are very difficult. She tells of cases involving eclampsia, physical abuse, malnourishment, and breach births. For mothers, and women even, the memoir provides a compelling and emotional story of life in the 1950s.

According to Wikipedia, Jennifer Worth decided to write this memoir because a writer of the time was calling for a midwife to represent their profession in literature in the same way that James Herriot had represented the veterinarian. The first book was so successful that she went on to write two more books in the series and a fourth book about life living in the East End of London. The book takes place in Poplar in the East End of London, which is one of the poorer areas to survive World War II. The nuns, midwives, patients as well as the convent all are described under pseudonyms with the exception of Cynthia, who remained a good friend with the writer up until her death. Each chapter tells of different experiences or of different cases that Jenny Lee encounters and each chapter is equally compelling for different reasons.

While reading this book and watching the television series, I experienced a variety of emotions. I felt empathy for the women in these stories because in a way they are not all that different from myself. It seems actually that this is a major point in the books and in the television show in which we are all women. We may come from different places or live under different circumstances but we all give birth in the same way. I also felt extremely grateful for my own circumstances because I had all of the medical innovations, such as an epidural, and the means, such as separate rooms for each child, which many of the ladies in the book lacked. Finally, I felt an extreme wonder for the beauty that is life and the miracle that is witnessed each time a new baby is brought into the world.

The memoir is perfectly suited to be a television show as each chapter can easily be transformed into an episode without putting a damper on the flow of the story. So far, three seasons of the television series have been produced and aired. Similarly to the first season of the Orange is the New Black, the first two season of the series follows the book closely and the third season begins to depart from the literature so as to continue the story. Many of the character that were cast in the television series met my expectations. I did picture the fellow midwife, Trixie, a bit more demure but, for the most part, was satisfied. In my opinion, the television series is accompanied with some excellent music, which I find to be also true with the other British shows that I enjoy (Sherlock and Downton Abbey).

One subject t that I have been pondering as I watch these excellent series that are on television is whether or not they should be extended past their intended lives. This television is based on three novels. Why shouldn’t the television series end when the story ends? Wouldn’t it be okay if television series ended while they are in their prime instead of when they have run their course? The television series Once Upon a Time was intended to be a mini-series that would only last 1-2 seasons. Because of its popularity, the storyline has been extended long past what was intended and has now spent a season in Neverland and this last season was stretched to involve the Wicked Witch of the West. I have heard that next season they are going to include Elsa from Frozen in the series. Wouldn’t we rather end Downton Abbey now before we get tired of it? I mention it because I think it would be a shame if they were to take these great stories and cause people to become tired of them. Everything does come to an end eventually so why shouldn’t these television shows?

As the book is very accurate historically, I would recommend this book to a lover of history novels. I would also recommend this book to other mothers (and fathers, perhaps) who can appreciate all of the emotions, fears, and joys that go into having a baby, whether in the post-WWII era or in more modern times. The book was beautifully narrated and was an easy listen since it was broken up into neat chapters. I recommend the television series as well but, I warn that I could have used a box of tissues in nearly every episode.

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook, DVD Season 1

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I am reposting this 2013 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $4.99. McCarthy’s books almost never go on sale so even though it is higher than my normal reposted review, this is the lowest price it has been since 2010 when I put it on my wishlist.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthySummary: Beautifully written tragic story of desire for what cannot be.

Cormac McCarthy is a spare writer.  Lots of detail and almost poetic language.  But this is an introvert’s book.  The characters talk, but there is no extra meandering dialogue.  Dialogue has purpose.

McCarthy seems ideally suited to write about the idealized lone western male.  His characters are self-sufficient, hard, tragic, honest to a fault, do not expect anyone to help them, but want to help others if they can.

In All the Pretty Horses (I have not seen the movie, so I do not know how it compares), John Grady Cole leaves home at 16 with his best friend.  After his parent’s divorce, his mother wants nothing to do with ranch life and his father is left without a ranch (or anything else). He can give John nothing that he wants or needs.  So John and Rawlins (17) head to Mexico to see if they can find the rancher’s life that they seek.

Along the way, Jimmy Blevins, a 13 or 14 year old run away and troublemaker, joins up with them.  Cole as the leader of the group allows Blevins to join them because it is clear that Blevins can not care for himself.  Cole knows he will regret the decision and the theme is set with the Cole’s wise word:

“Every dumb thing I ever done in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it. It was never the dumb thing.  It was always the choice I made before it.”

7 Free Christian Kindle Books

Deep Relief Now: Free, Healed and Whole by Dennis and Jen Clark

240 pages, 35 of 37 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Can you experience deep, permanent relief… in minutes?

A times comes for everyone when theories and mental exercises just don’t cut it, and you need something more to heal your pain. It’s time to go beyond merely easing the hurt, and move towards complete, deep relief!

Dennis and Dr. Jen Clark share Biblical tools that will show you how to experience healing by living in the Spirit. This revolutionary new approach is a lifestyle adjustment that helps you break the continuous cycle of pain, and step into a new way of living—free, healed, and whole.

Because of Christ, you have received powerful tools capable of transforming the way you live. Deep Relief Now shows you how to put these tools into practice, break the pain cycle, and start living a healed lifestyle!

A Christian Christmas: A Novella by Pat Simmons

100 pages, 43 of 52 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Christmas will never be the same for Joy Knight if Christian Andersen has his way.
Not to be confused with a secret Santa, Christian and his family are busier than Santa’s elves making sure the Lord’s blessings are distributed to those less fortunate by Christmas day.
Joy is playing the hand that life dealt her, rearing four children in a home that is on the brink of foreclosure. She’s not looking for a handout, but when Christian rescues her in the checkout line; her niece thinks Christian is an angel. Joy thinks he’s just another man who will eventually leave, disappointing her and the children.
Although Christian is a servant of the Lord, he is a flesh and blood man and all he wants for Christmas is Joy Knight. Can time spent with Christian turn Joy’s attention from her financial woes to the real meaning of Christmas—and true love?

Knowing Jesus: 150 Reflections on the Life and Teaching of Chirst by Jim Reapsome

337 pages, 1 of 1 reviews are 4-star, Lending Enabled

Insightful devotions to help you know Jesus more every day

As Christians we are commanded to live as Jesus lived. But how can we model ourselves after him unless we truly know him? Knowing Jesus offers you 150 biblically based reflections that illuminate the life of Christ, as well as his heart for people and the world.

This engaging devotional helps you ponder the question of what Jesus has to say to his followers living in this troubled and hurting world. Explore some of his most important teachings and discover how Jesus calls each of us to look beyond ourselves and serve as he did.

Night by Elie Wiesel

I am reposting this 2011 review because the audiobook is the Deal of the Day at Audible and on sale for $2.95 and also on sale on Kindle at $3.99.
NightTakeaway: A book everyone should read to remind us that suffering is not a reality show or an abstract discussion.

I have never read any of Elie Wiesel‘s books.  I have known of him and basically known that he was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and writer, but not a lot more.  I ran across his first book Night, when looking for audiobooks on Overdrive.  (Overdrive is a library system that allows you to check out ebooks or audiobooks over the internet just like your regular library books.)

I ran across it months ago and kept putting it off.  I knew it was about the holocaust and I just did not want to read a depressing story.  Finally, I decided to just go ahead and start it.  I was transfixed.  I listened in less than 24 hour period.

12 Free Christian Kindle Books

Take a Deep Breath…It’s Christmas by K Kandel

168 pages, 18 of 19 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Christmas is an incredibly busy time of year, so we wanted a short book that would be a quick read, an appetizer, a petite bouche, a little bite of something savory or sweet but something that promises more to come. This book is not designed to fill you up. This book is designed to make you hungry…a tiny bite of the sweetness of Christmas.

Let’s explore the wonder of the Christmas season. Let’s taste the sweetness and forget about the crowds, the busyness, the hubbub, the shopping nightmares and just savor every drop of Christmas. Take a deep breath, relax, smell the pine, the freshness, the spices, the smell of the scotch tape and indeed the coffee. Yes, breathe it all in, it’s Christmas.

Join us as we take a 40 day journey towards the heart of Christmas through “Take A Deep Breath…It’s Christmas.”

Five Days in Skye: a Novel by Carla Laureano

332 pages, 357 of 374 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Previously Free

Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she’ll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she’s sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she’d rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father’s dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.

Nothing is Impossible With God by Rose Marie Miller

273 pages, 23 of 25 reviews are 4 or 5-star

No one likes to feel weak. Just thinking about our inadequate resources can fill us with fear and hopelessness. But Rose Marie Miller has a different perspective. For her true weakness is a gift born out of a deep sense of need, it drives us to Christ and unleashes all the redeeming energy of God’s grace in our lives and others.

Rose Marie Miller, a living example of God’s power in weakness, weaves together biblical insights and personal experience and shares a new, gospel-driven way of living where the way up is down, the weak become strong, and the dead receive life. God, for whom nothing is impossible, uses weak people to change the world—and that includes you!

C is for Christmas: The History, Personalities and Meaning of Christ’s Birth by Warren and David Wiersbe

208 pages, 14 of 14 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled, Previously Free

Throughout the centuries, so many traditions have woven themselves into the celebration of Christmas that it’s difficult to understand just what the season of Christ’s birth is all about. Now beloved writer Warren W. Wiersbe and his son, fellow pastor David W. Wiersbe give adults their very own A to Z Christmas primer, cutting through the wrapping paper and pretty bows to expose and explain the backgrounds and reasons for our various symbols and traditions. From angels and Bethlehem to yuletide and Zechariah, the information in this unique collection is sure to enlighten. Anyone who wants to have a deeper understanding of Christmas will love this insightful resource.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

This is a joint book and movie review written by Bookwi.se Contributor Emily Flury with Jack, a fifth grade student.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a novel by Roald Dahl that is about a magical factory of sweets and surprises. Willy Wonka sends out five golden tickets in chocolate bars to invite five kids to his factory. The five children consist of one that eats too much candy, one that is constantly chewing gum, one that is a spoiled brat, one that watches too much television and Charlie, who is a sweet boy from a poor family. During their visit, the children tour the factory and get to see all different kinds of amazing ingredients and inventions.
We liked the book a lot because there are a lot of fun songs and funny jokes in the book. The Oompa Loompa’s songs were really great because they were fun poems with an excellent beat. Dahl included a lot of weird characters and strange events. Willy Wonka was described in a way that made him seem cool and funky. We especially liked the chocolate room with the river made entirely of chocolate. Every detail made us feel like we were there. It was fun to imagine eating the grass just as the kids did. Our only complaint is that Dahl did such a good job of making the other kids into bad nuts that it got annoying at times.
While we liked the book, we didn’t like the movie as much as the book.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

I am reposting this review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $2.99. The movie is coming out Christmas day.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionTakeaway: There is good reason that this book has nearly 12,000 5 star reviews on Amazon, named book of the year by Time and is being made into a movie to be released in December.

I started hearing very positive reviews of Unbroken right after it came out.  It was on my wishlist but I did not actually buy it until Louis Zamperini came and read the letter that is at the end of the book during a sermon at our church on Forgiveness.  You can watch/listen here, Zamperini’s part starts at 35:49 (make sure you are watching message 2).

Even so it was not until I saw the book in our library’s audiobook system, that I actually decided to read it. I was hesitant because while I think that the stories of war and degradation that comes about as a result of war are stories that need to be told, they are not fun stories to hear.

Louis Zamperini was an Olympic medalist and like many, joined the military and served during World War II.  He worked on a bomber in the Pacific.  His plane went down and he other members of his crew survived months in a life raft before being captured by Japanese and spending most of the war in a prisoner of war camp.

The whole time, I knew that Zamperini would make it through, since I saw him, but I did not know the result for anyone else.  Many people die.  I have read some accounts of Nazi concentration camps and Japan was every bit as bad, in some ways worse than the Nazi camps.  At the end of the book it says that the post war death rates of prisoners of war that returned to the US from Japan were significantly higher than those that returned from Europe.

I am writing this minutes after I finished the book and I am quite mixed.  This book shows the horrible things that one human can do to another.  Things that are difficult to even imagine witnessing, happened every day to these prisoners.  The average prisoner of war from Japan lost 71 pounds (from an average starting weight of 151 pounds).  And that does not speak at all to the physical and psychological abuse.

But part of me wonders at why as Christians we spend so much time on “Utter Depravity” as a theological tenant.  I believe that all are sinful and that some are plain sadistic.  But even in the worst places of the prisoner of war camps, there was often one guard or one person that offered just a little bit of kindness.  And often this kindness was done with real chance of reprisal.  Part of what struck me about the acts of kindness is how much power that one person’s kindness can counteract.  Clearly, the book is not telling everything, I think it softened some things quite a bit actually.  And I am sure that the author was striving to illustrate the basic arc of ‘unbroken’ throughout.

Part of me wants to talk about the reasons for the Geneva convention and why we need to have a strict no-torture policy within the US at all times, but that probably distorts from the actual point of the book.  The book is about the forgiveness that a man can feel from God and then the forgiveness that he can give to others based on the forgiveness that he has received.  If anyone has a reason to hate, it is Louis Zamperini.  Instead, he has had a life that is marked by and he has become known for the power of forgiveness.

______

My only concern about this book is that he seems to have been one of the few that God miraculously heals of alcoholism and PTSD.  I know it can happen, but most people are not healed all at once.  Most people spend years struggling for healing.  I am grateful to know that God does heal people miraculously like this, but I do not think it is the standard model of healing for either PTSD or alcoholism.

____

Update: Zamperini passed away July 2, 2014

Purchase Links: Hardback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook Audiobook is discounted to $3.95 with purchase of Kindle Book 

The One by Kiera Cass (The Selection #3)

Takeaway: Beautiful dresses on the cover are not enough to carry a trilogy.

The best summary of the third book is this paraphrase of a conversation that felt like it happened about five times in the book. “How can I say ‘I love you’ if you have all of these other girls.” “Well how can I dismiss all of these other girls if you won’t tell me that you love me.”

The Selection trilogy is a cross between the Hunger Games and the Bachelor. In a dystopian future, the Prince must choose a wife from among a selection of citizens. The first book in the trilogy was pretty dismissible. The story was fairly flat while entirely too much ‘I am not good enough’ internal dialogue.

But because the second book was at my library on audiobook, I went ahead and read the second, the Elite. The characters were much better fleshed out and the world suddenly was more than a dystopian movie set.

9 Books that Came to Screen for $2.99

I have not seen a sale of books that have been recently made into movies announced, but that seems to be what is happening. Below are 9 books that have been made into movies or TV shows (or will be released soon).  All are $2.99 on Kindle.  Bookwi.se has reviewed all but one of them, most of them have 2 or 3 reviews. All of Emily’s reviews below are joint reviews of both the book and the movie (tv show).

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – $2.99

337 pages, 30,672 of 32,818 reviews are 4 or 5-star

Emily’s Review, Adam’s Review

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand – $2.99

497 pages, 13,336 of 14,040 reviews are 4 or 5-star

David’s Review, Andy’s Review

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.

Outlander: A Novel by Diana Gabaldon – $2.99

642 pages, 8927 of 9053 reviews are 4 or 5-star

Adam’s Book Review, Elizabeth’s TV Show Review

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

Reposting my earlier review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $0.99.
Think by John PiperSummary: An encouragement to the church from the heart of a pastor to properly value the role of thinking in our Christian faith.

“This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love”

As I continue on my attempt to buy no more than one book a month for at least the first six months of this year, I am going back to a lot of old Christianaudio.com free books of the month that I picked up when they were free, but did not listen to at the time.

In the case of Think by John Piper, I am pretty sure that I picked up the audiobook because I respect John Piper.  And I chose not to listen to it, because I get frustrated every time I read John Piper.  I respect Piper because his heart for ministry, and because of his desire to encourage and edify the church. I get frustrated with Piper because it seems he has little imagination to see how anyone can believe something other than what he believes.

This books proved my previous experience yet again.  Piper is writing this book to encourage the church to think more deeply, so that we can love the Lord better and more thoroughly and also love others.  In many ways a book about why the reader should think more is like Tony Reinke’s book about why you should read more.  Anyone that is going to pick it up, probably already agrees with the premise.