Saturday, December 2, 2017

My Review of "Shaken"

Tim Tebow's Shaken: Fighting to Stand Strong No Matter What Comes Your Way is written for young people to find a better way to live.

Using examples from his own tumultuous career, Tebow encourages readers to stay focused on their dreams, fight negativity, and stand up for what is right.  And while the resource is focused on Christian principles, the lessons concentrating on hard work, determination, and kindness hold universal appeal. Tebow additionally draws upon examples of other young people who have faced adversity -- cancer, limb amputation, and organ failure -- as cases of how even in the most desperate situations, one can refuse to fall into self-pity, anger, and depression.  Tebow's easy, plainspoken style will give young fans the feeling that he is speaking directly to them.  Biblical examples range from the steadfast endurance of Job to the selfless courage of David facing Goliath.  Other stories include references to Michael Jordan and Albert Einstein.  Tebow's candid talk of his struggles with dyslexia and anger further humanize him.

This is an excellent book for older children and young adults.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Review of "The Power of Meaning"

Emily Esfahani Smith's The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness is a ground-breaking book in positive psychology that argues against the importance of happiness for the good life, and in favor of finding meaningful as a fulfilling, good life.

Like many self-help books, this one uses empirical studies, abundant anecdotes and wisdom gleaned from various writers and philosophers to support the idea that four "pillars" can give life meaning:  Belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence.  These pillars "are central to religious and spiritual systems, and they are the reason why they historically conferred (and continue to confer) meaning in people's lives".  Smith found these pillars emphasized in her own childhood, growing up in a Sufi community whose members did not doubt the value of their own lives.  But even without the bulwark of religion, individuals can build their own pillars.  No matter what work one does, even menial jobs, "when we reframe our tasks as opportunities to help others, our lives and our work feel more significant".

While I doubt that everyone will be convinced, this is not a book to be overlooked.  In the process of struggling throughout it, there are epiphanies for what a "good life" can mean in every reader's life.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Review of "To Light a Fire on the Earth"

Robert Barron's To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age offers one of the sanest, most sage voices of Catholic teaching a chance to demonstrate, yet again, that reason and faith properly belong together.  That truth, beauty and goodness are noble pursuits.  And that both of those things properly inform the evangelical mission of the Church in our postmodern, skeptical age.

I've been a "fan" of Bishop Barron for a long time.  His ministry in YouTube videos alone staggeringly reflects on the faith once received and in dialogue with the wider culture (he quotes Bob Dylan -- a lot!).  This book looks at both Barron's life and his philosophy behind "proclaiming the Gospel in a secular age".  It is the result of twenty hours of interviews conducted by John L. Allen, Jr., who is an acclaimed Catholic author and journalist.  I was really looking forward this book -- and it lived up to my expectations!

What you'll find in these pages is a picture of what a life of friendship with Jesus really looks like.  And it can't help but transform your own friendships with others and with Jesus.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My Review of "How to Find Love in a Bookshop"

Veronica Henry's How to Find Love in a Bookshop:  A Novel is a fun-filled read about a young woman takes over her father's bookshop and discovers its importance to its small-town clientele.

Emilia Nightingale is called back to her childhood home in the English Cotswolds when her father, Julius, is on his deathbed.  Emilia makes a final promise to her father that she will look after the bookshop that has been his life's work and, following his death, sets about trying to fill his role at Nightingale Books.  Through an outpouring of affection from the town's residents, Emilia realizes that Julius was a beloved fixture of the community, and she has big shoes to fill.  She also sees how integral the bookshop has been in facilitating relationships throughout the town.  As she refamiliarizes herself with the village of Peasebrook and its people, six different love stories begin to unfold, all of which are somehow connected to the bookstore.  Unfortunately, Emilia quickly learns that her father was more of a bookworm than a businessman.  The store has amassed tremendous debt over the years, and Julius' habit of selling books at deep discounts has not helped.  Complicating matters further, a local real estate developer is pressuring Emilia to sell him the shop.

Henry is able to create one obstacle after another for Nightingale and her bookshop.  At the same time, this is a beautiful novel that explores all the ways in which love takes forms.

I received a free copy of this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Review of "The Creeps"

Fran Krause's The Creeps: A Deep Dark Fears Collection collects a number of Krause's own reader's fears.  Each is given eerie, undead life by the author's illustrations.  The result is a little uneven, but ultimately enjoyable.

With more than 90 fears, readers are bound to find a few that speak to/for them.  Fear #7 names one for the McCarter household, for sure.

I was slightly surprised the near ubiquitous presence of ghosts, and the near sheer absence of zombies.

But The Creeps is certainly a fun-filled book for this time of year.  Just be sure you don't read it when you're anxious.

I received a free copy of this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Review of "Taking Aim"

Eva Shockey's Taking Aim: Daring to Be Different, Happier, and Healthier in the Great Outdoors is a memoir that takes readers through Eva Skockey's adventures, sharing a unique glimpse of what it is like to be a women in a traditionally male-dominated world.

Growing up with a father such as Jim Shockey, you would think that hunting would be as natural as breathing.  This was not necessarily the case with Eva.  She began her life's journey with high hopes of becoming a professional dancer, following in her mother's footsteps.  During one of their family trips to the Tatshenshini River area in British Columbia, Eva age seven, shot her first rifle during a family shooting competition.  With help and guidance from her father, the first shot rang out followed by the dink of the can she was aiming for.  As impressive and exciting as this was for her and her family, dance remained her passion.  Eva enjoyed staying at camp alongside her mother, appreciating the natural beauty and serenity of the great outdoors.  As she got older, she also seemed to develop the same craving her father has for being outside, breathing fresh air and taking in all of Mother Nature's beauty, as well as adding hunting to the mix.

Taking Aim then explores what it means for women to enter that world of hunting, and in the process of discovering how our happiness is connected with learning who we are and what our lives are meant to become.

I received a free copy of this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Review of "Evicted"

Matthew Desmond's Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City is an amazing book, a narrative with a great degree of research, that highlights the hell in which scores of American poor live in our urban environments.  Desmond is a sociologist with a flair for crafting gripping narratives that demonstrate the statistics that undergird his research.  That's what makes Evicted a real page-turner.

Near the end of his book, Desmond tentatively introduces the concept of "exploitation", "a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate".  But it properly belongs as part of that debate, and Evicted is just the kind of book that will replace it.  Poverty is one of the most lucrative businesses in our country, and Evicted exposes those businesses for what they are -- morally bankrupt.

I received a free copy of this game from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review here.