Posts By Vikki Huisman

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms by Tim Tebow and AJ Gregory

This review was written by Contributor Vikki Huisman

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms by Tim Tebow book reviewI’m not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination but I do know who Tim Tebow is.

Or at least I thought I did.

If asked, I would have said, “Isn’t he the guy who keeps getting cut from NFL teams and does that bow after he scores a touchdown?” The answer to that question is both yes and no.

I decided to read Tebow’s soon-to-be released book, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms in an effort to bond with the only football fan in my home, my 16-year-old son. Although my son wasn’t impressed with my reading material, I did find myself impressed with the former NLF quarterback who is now playing baseball for the New York Mets.

Shaken gives the reader an inside look on what it was like as Tebow worked hard at staying grounded in his faith and working on his NFL dreams in the midst of disappointment, intense criticism and non-stop media scrutiny.

Although I’ve read spiritual memoirs that have resonated with me on a more personal level, I’m hard pressed to find someone in the public realm who publicly professes their faith and has dealt with the amount of publicity and disappointment that Tim Tebow has. Most of us have dealt with unfulfilled homes, unrealized dreams, rejection and heartbreak. Tebow shares the life lessons he’s learned privately while living under a public microscope; building his identity in Christ, not the world.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This review was written by Contributor Vikki Huisman.
Great Small Things by Jodi Picoult book review

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse with over two decades of experience. During a normal checkup on a newborn boy, Ruth is abruptly reassigned to another patient. The baby’s parents are white supremacists who do not want Ruth touching their child. Ruth is African American.

The following day, the baby experiences a cardia event while Ruth is alone with him. Ruth is expressly forbidden from touching the child based on the parents strong wishes. After a hesitation, she springs into action performing CPR but the delay results with Ruth being charged with a crime.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Reposting this 2016 review from contributor Vikki Huisman because the Kindle Edition is on sale today for $4.99 ( Audiobook is $4.99 with purchase of Kindle Edition.)
A Little Life by Hanya YanagiharaThe opening chapters of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara seem pretty straight forward. Characters graduate from college, work at entry level jobs for low pay, live in crappy apartments and stay friends as they navigate adulthood together. I thought I knew what I was getting into with this book but gradually, the author took me deeper and deeper into a beautiful and tragic story.

Four young men are graduates of the same university and starting building lives for themselves. Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB are as different as they can be but they are tightly bound to each other for life. Willem is an up and coming actor. Malcolm is a budding architect. JB is a talented artist.

And then there’s Jude.

Jude is a brilliant attorney whose life before college is a complete and utter mystery to his friends. Bit by bit throughout the course of this 716 page novel, Yanagihara gradually reveals pieces of Jude’s past. The reader knows from Jude’s introduction that his life has been one of pain. I want to give you a synopsis of Jude and his backstory, but I truly feel to do so would rob you of the rich experience Yanagihara has created. The process of discovery is important to enjoying A Little Life.

A Little Life is not at all what you expect as you enter the beginning pages. Hanya Yanagihara patiently and subtly brings Jude to the forefront of the story and the reader will find themselves completely emotionally invested in his life. As a reader, your heart will genuinely ache for Jude. I haven’t had an experience like this with a novel in a very long time.

It’s dark.

It’s disturbing

It’s beautiful.

It’s a brilliant piece.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audiobook 

Chronicle of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi

Chronicle of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashid book reviewReviewed by Contributor Vikki Huisman.

A young Egyptian woman recounts her personal and political coming of age in this debut novel by Yasmine El Rashidi.

The reader meets the unnamed main character across three decades in Egypt: as a very young school girl, a college film student and then as a writer in modern day Egypt following Mubarak’s overthrow. Her father’s physical absence and her mother’s emotional absence dominate the writer’s life. As friends as relatives disappear through death, imprisonment, fleeing to America or just vanishing without a trace, she contemplates how absence and silence have defined her life.

Chronicle of a Last Summer is a gentle but heavy book. El Rashidi doesn’t heavily detail the violence, oppression or suffering the main character experiences throughout her life but the reader can feel it. The character’s cousin frequently chastises the young lady and his fellow citizens for not getting angry. Her uncle begs her to use her resources at the university and make a film that will make some noise, to serve as a rally cry for the Egyptian people but instead, she embraces the silence she’s always known and buries herself in her writing instead.

Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much by Faith Salie

Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too MuchThis review is by regular contributor Vikki Huisman.

I enjoy Faith Salie’s segments on CBS Sunday Morning and I’ve wanted to catch her on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”. I found her to be humorous and original; in that vein I was looking forward to reading her book “Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much”.

Salie shares VERY intimate stories from her past and how her need for approval dominated every area of her life.  I found her to be a combination of insightful and…just too much. She’s funny, introspective and very harsh on herself, almost brutal. I hate to use the word “appropriate” or “inappropriate” when it comes to a memoir but for me personally, I wish Salie would have left some stories out. The pain over losing her mother to illness is heartbreaking while the story of…shall we say a skill her brother taught her…were too much for me. Her personal antidotes swing wildly back and forth between serving the book and just flat out vulgar. I can overlook or not be bothered by coarse language or situations if it serves the overall purpose of the book (or film) but in the case of Approval Junkie, these chapters served no purpose.

Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson

Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine BrysonFrancine Bryson is a national pie champion and a former finalist on The American Baking Competition. She’s written two cookbooks, “Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen” and her recent publication, “Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen” which is my most recent review. As my family contemplates a move a little further South in a couple of years, I thought it would be fun to dip my toe into the Southern culinary cuisine.

I spent a sold two weeks deciding which recipe I would try for this review and landed on “The Best Fried Chicken You’ll Ever Eat”. My husband is eager for any excuse to use his deep fryer so this had to be the one.

Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding by Leeana Tankersley

Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That's Been Hiding by Leeana Tankersley

I read Leeana Tankersley’s first book, “Found Art” several years ago. I found it to be a fascinating read about life and faith as Tankersley lived in the Middle East with her husband as he served in the US military. Somehow she fell off my radar screen and I missed her second book “Breathing Room”. I’m glad I didn’t miss her third production, “Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding”.

Tankersley has grown as a writer since “Found Art”. She’s just as thoughtful and introspective as before but her writing has gotten even better over time. Throughout this latest work, Tankersley seeks to reclaim the word “brazen” and return to its original meaning of “without shame”. Women have so many moments in their lives when they silence themselves, attempt to make themselves metaphorically smaller or muffle their own voice.  Bit by bit, Tankersley encourages women to reclaim who they are as a child of God.

Paris Street Style: A Coloring Book by Zoe de las Cases

Paris Street Style: A Coloring BookThe biggest trend in the publishing world last year was adult coloring books.  According to the New York Post, more than 2,000 adult coloring books hit the market since 2013. A quick search on Amazon will yield over 12,000 results for coloring enthusiasts and there’s something for everyone:

  • Garden Designs
  • Animals
  • Geometric Prints
  • Flowers
  • Scripture
  • Muscle Cars
  • Harry Potter
  • Doctor Who (I may have to get that one)
  • Tattoos
  • Irreverent (for those who are a little sweary)
  • Jon Hamm (yes, the Mad Men actor)

Adult coloring books are hard to miss and I’m finding people use them for a variety of reasons: a creative outlet, training their brain to focus, bonding with their teenage children, and as a stress reliever are just a small sampling of reasons I’ve encountered among enthusiasts. Even my retired parents jumped on the bandwagon as a way to keep themselves entertained during the long Midwest winters. I dove into coloring this past winter as well just to see what the fuss was all about and found myself enjoying the process.

Anxiety has been an issue for me and coloring has been a fantastic way to get my anxious thoughts off of the hamster-wheel-of-worry. Losing myself in the swirls and abstract images with a colored pencil in hand has gone in a long way in calming my spirit and as an added bonus, I’ve chosen to pick up a pencil instead of stuffing my worries under a layer of Doritos or M & M’s.

One doesn’t need to spend much money to experience this hobby. A small box of colored pencils from the grocery store and a free coloring page download from many websites is an easy and very inexpensive way to experience the benefits of the coloring trend. But if you’d like to splurge, some very nice options are available such as today’s review: Paris Street Style by Zoe de las Cases.

Paris Street Style is a charming coloring book that is designed like a journal. The pages are high quality; thick, glossy and smooth. The pencil glides across the page. The images vary from geometric patterns, fashion images and street scenes from Paris. The book also contains an elastic closure and a ribbon marker. I find it to be a very enjoyable and small indulgence.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down. In this crazy age of busyness and stress, give it a shot! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Paris Street Style by Zoe de las Cases Purchase Links: Paperback


I received Paris Street Style for free in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia BarnettRain.

It’s a simple subject with somewhat of an easy explanation of what causes it. We don’t think about rain unless we’ve had too much or not enough.

Cynthia Barnett, an environmental journalist, has accomplished the impossible; a highly entertaining and educational work on the history and story of rain.  Although technically a scientific book, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is actually a biography. Barnett traveled the globe covering the scientific explanations of rain as well as highlights its mystery and romance. The storms, downpours, showers and drizzles on our planet affect so much more than we realize.

  • Diseases caused by too much, or too little, rain
  • Attempts to capture the aroma of rain, both naturally and in laboratories
  • Rain’s presence in story and song, from Emily Dickinson and Charles Dickens to Kurt Cobain
  • The history of forecasting
  • Man’s attempts to make it rain, both earnest and the rise of the charlatan rainmakers
  • The mood-altering effects of rain
  • Strange accounts of rain (frogs, fish, yellow rain, red rain, inky rain, etc.)

Both scholarly and lyrical, Rain is an extremely interesting book, filled with interviews, research, history, poetry and prose. It’s engaging to read, no matter what the reader’s interest is in scientific topics.

I received Rain: A Natural and Cultural History for free in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition

The Folded Clock: A diary by Heidi Julavits

The Folded Clock: A Diary

I enjoy reading personal memoirs, essays and diaries of others, especially works on the caliber of Ann Patchett’s “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”. An author’s personal thoughts and experiences are a great way for a reader to feel a kinship with the writer.

This was not the experience I encountered while reading “The Folded Clock: A Diary” by novelist Heidi Julavits. Although this book is referred to as a diary, The Folded Clock is actually a collection of dated essays. It feels aimless with nothing to really hold all the pieces together. Well written essays tend to arrive at a conclusion, reveal a lesson learned, an issue is resolved or an epiphany of some sort is experienced—there is typically a destination to arrive at the end of the writer’s journey. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Julavits collection of writing. It reads as though we’re inside the author’s mind, bouncing back and forth, never really going anywhere. This was a disappointing read I’m sad to say.

If you enjoy memoirs, essay collections or diaries, I would suggest Patchett’s work mentioned above, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron or Annie Dillard instead.

The Folded Clock: A diary by Heidi Julavits Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audiobook