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.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Review of "How to Set a Table"

How to Set a Table is a marvelous entertaining guide for those who love to host friends and family.  It begins with an overview of all the different types of pieces needed for entertaining, and continues with a variety of different table placements (my favorite is the picnic blanket). 

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Review of "Rewordable"

Rewordable is one of those intriguing things you see on your potential board game lists and, if you're a nerd like me, you can't resist.

At its heart, Rewordable is a card game for 2-8 people -- and the one with the biggest vocabulary wins!

Players take turns making words, using at least one card from their hand.  You can add to constructed words, steal from other players, or take from the common deck.  That's what makes this game a sheer joy for families and a must-have as we start approaching the holiday and winter season -- particularly as school get back into the swing.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Review of "Convicted"

Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins' Convicted: A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship tells the amazing story of the unlikely pair of men are working side-by-side at Cafe Mosaic in Benton Harbor:  One was unjustly sent to prison and the other is the former officer who sent him there.

Convicted tells the story of former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins, now the manager at Cafe Mosaic, is the mentor for Jameel McGee of Benton Harbor, who spent four years in federal prison because of Mr. Collins' lies.  This story, though, is a unique one -- because it tells the difference Jesus makes in real relationships between those who would otherwise be enemies.

McGee was released from prison just days after Collins finally pleaded guilty to his own offenses in corruption.  With the patience of a good pastor, Collins finds forgiveness and ultimately restoration with McGee.

This is not a book to be missed!

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Review of "Leading Lady"

Stephen Galloway's Leading Lady:  Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker is a fascinating look at Sherry Lansing, whose appointment as head of 20th Century Fox in 1980 made her the first female president of a major Hollywood studio.  He follows Lansing from her Chicago childhood, explaining how her father's death and mother's resourcefulness influenced her strengths and insecurities.  A gawky teenager, she gained from moviegoing a desire to "reinvent herself" and as a young woman moved to California to follow her acting dreams.  Although this first career didn't last long, she found a mentor in producer Ray Wagner, who hired her as a script reader, a move that transformed her life.

Galloway captures the personal drive that allowed Lansing to forge a path through sexist Hollywood and shepherd films such as Kramer vs. Kramer, Forrest Gump, and Saving Private Ryan past creative obstacles to eventual success.  He also shows how she personally left her mark on many films, such as by helping to craft Fatal Attraction's revised, crowd-pleasing finale.

As the book draws to a close, Galloway describes how Lansing realized she wanted more out of life, and by 2005 left Hollywood behind to start a cancer research foundation.  Galloway has created a colorful page-turner chronicling Lansing's legacy as both a filmmaker and a philanthropist.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My Review of "How We Love"

Milan & Kay Yerkovich's How We Love:  Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage (expanded edition) is a fascinating book that every married couple should read.  Here, these two veteran marriage counselors help place our marriage within the larger context of each person's life -- family of origin, habits and contemporary behavior are all interconnected in ways that readers may not appreciate before How We Love.

The authors take the psychological tools of attachment theory to construct how our lives with early families can create "intimacy imprints" -- an underlying blueprint that shapes your behavior, beliefs, and expectations of all relationships, especially your marriage.  How We Love outlines four of those imprint "styles" and goes to out explore how each of those styles interact with others in particular marriages to create the drama of our marriages.

This is an amazing little book that offers a lot of hope for marriages that may have gotten stuck.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My Review of "The Midnight Queen"

Sylvia Izzo Hunter's The Midnight Queen:  A Noctus Magicae Novel blends magic, intrigue and romance to create a fun fantasy, which is set in an alternate Regency England.

Graham "Gray" Marshall has been drained of his magic and blamed for the death of a fellow student at the College of Merlin in Oxford.  He can't really refuse when his teacher, Prof. Appius Callender, drags him off to his distant country house for the summer break -- even though he thinks Callender is part of a conspiracy to murder Lord Halifax, the Master of Merlin College.

Gray is befriended by Callender's middle daughter, Sophie, and the two set to work uncovering the truth about the conspiracy.  Along the way, they discover that Sophie's father has lied to her about her own magical abilities, and find the hidden truth about Sophie's own family history.

Although the novel begins as Gray's story, Sophie quickly takes over the spotlight.  Their romance, the twisty intrigue, and Hunter's colorful alt-Regency setting, complete with drawing rooms, balls, and barouches, will charm fans of romantic fantasy.

The Midnight Queen is a fun page-turner for the summer.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Review of "Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God"

Brian Zahnd's Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News is, in a word, breathtaking!

Zahnd is working toward a radical (getting-to-the-root) Christ-centered biblical hermeneutic.  I was soaking up every word of this beautifully written, entirely accessible, utterly practical theology book that combines rich faith with practical living.

This really is a book of "Very Good News" and it points toward a sea-change that's happening among Christian evangelical preachers these days.  I won't give away too much, but by the time you get to the second chapter ("Closing the Book on Vengeance"), be prepared to read slowly.  I've dog-eared my copy at page 30 (once you read it, you'll find out why).

But Chapter 7 is my favorite.  Honestly, if all you did was buy this book and read that chapter, you'd have your money's worth.  I have honestly never read anything that so clearly and simply explained the right way to approach Revelation before.  It's amazing.  Really, amazing.

I'm excited there are books like this in the world.  I plan to get a couple of copies just to share around with friends.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

My Review of "He Calls You Beautiful"

Dee Brestin's He Calls You Beautiful: Hearing the Voice of Jesus in the Song of Songs offers a rich Bible study resource for women -- focusing on the poetry of the Song of Songs as a love poem of Jesus for every woman's heart.

Rather than considering the Song of Songs as being only about marriage or only an allegory about Christ and the soul, Brestin shows that both are true -- in that the Song uses a picture of earthly marriage as a metaphor for the intimacy Jesus longs to have with every woman's heart.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Review of "Finally Focused"

James Greenblatt's Finally Focused is a great resource for parents and educators who struggle to adapt ADHD students into a gracious and productive childhood.  Greenblatt offers a number of non-pharmacological solutions, and in that way Finally Focused will be extremely useful for parents who are searching for help.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

My Review of "Break Open the Sky"

Stephan Bauman's Break Open the Sky:  Saving Our Faith from a Culture of Fear is a rich manifesto for living out Jesus' radical call for a life of love and faith in a culture of so much fear -- from terrorism to racism.  From the "refuge crisis and the political vitriol that surrounds it.  Americans are good at fear.  In fact, if the nightly news is any indication, that fear is only increasing.

And Bauman knows a thing or two about the world's concerns, and the fear that often surrounds them.  As the former president of World Relief, he has seen all the ways in which that culture of fear slips into our souls and misshapes human life.  Break Open the Sky is nothing short of a manifesto that calls us to shake ourselves out of the shadows and live into the Light of Christ's love.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Review of "Just Mercy"

Byron Stevenson's Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption is a memoir of one's lawyer's struggle against injustice and his work in co-founding the Equal Justice Initiative.

Its narrative backbone is the story of Walter McMillian, whom Stevenson began representing in the late 1980s when he was on death row for killing a young white woman in Monroe­ville, Ala., the hometown of Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird).  And Stevenson is quick to point out connections to Lee's story:  A black man falsely accused of the rape of a white woman.

Stevenson uses McMillian's case to illustrate his commitment both to individual defendants -- he remained closely in touch until McMillian's death last year -- and to endemic problems in American juris­prudence.

The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man's refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made.  Just Mercy will make you upset but it will also make you hopeful.

 Perhaps it's time that Americans join Stevenson in those dual responses to a broken "justice" system.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My Review of "Beauty Begins"

Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha's Beauty Begins:  Making Peace with Your Reflection offers biblical wisdom and personal experiences to help transform the minds of women -- many of whom operate from a place of brokenness -- so that they can learn to achieve healthy mindsets about their bodies and their immeasurable worth in the sight of God.  It helps give voice to women who need to learn to articulate beauty for themselves:  "When we begin to believe the truth of who we really are and who God made us to be, we'll be set free to feel beautiful.  Our goal in writing Beauty Begins is to encourage all of us to stop believing the lies and to start living the truth".

Beauty Begins is an easy-to-read book that’s full of Scripture, prayers and reflections that will help you to change the way you treat yourself, see yourself, and live.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Review of "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"

Eugene Peterson's As Kingfishers Catch Fire:  A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God is one of those books filled with wisdom and Spirit.  It's the story of one pastor's heart's desire to live as he preached -- in that place of "congruence" between message and act.

It's a story of sermons preached over 29 years of ministry -- sermons that explore the lessons of biblical heroes like Moses, Isaiah, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John of Patmos.  In that way, it's a story of a real man, foibles and failures as well as faith, who strives to let Jesus not only teach him about God, but about being a real man, following in the Way of faith.

This is one of those books that I wish I'd have had in seminary, twenty years ago.  Because whenever Peterson speaks, I've learned to listen.  And what Peterson says in As Kingfishers Catch Fire are words of wisdom about being a true human being, as a pastor, as a man who follows Jesus, in all the complicated trails that following will sometimes entail.

In a simple sentence:  Don't miss this book!  It will make you more of a follower of Jesus.  Which means you'll be a better human being.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Review of "English Lessons"

Andrea Lucado's English Lessons:  The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith is an amazing memoir of the path of one whose walk of faith has both starts and stops.  Lucado -- probably more known for her dad, Max, than for her own writing -- has a life full of messy stories. 

For those looking for neat, tidy answers about faith and doubt, this is not the book for you.

For all the rest, this is not a book to miss!  The book highlights the spiritual path of one who embraces doubt and finds comfort in simply not knowing. 

I relate so deeply to his book, particularly in its descriptions about "Christian culture" and the real people who are part of it.  Lucado's book is for all those who struggle what it means to live a messy life of faith.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My Review of "Open When ..."

Karen Salmansohn's Open Now ... Letters to Lift Your Spirits is a brief, little gift book that literally offers a number of positive messages for those rough, tough moments when our spirits are dark and oppressed.  Salmansohn has written letters with heartfelt wisdom summoning one's soul to reflect, and spirit to lift when -- life hurts.

This a beautiful book to give yourself and your friends.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Review of "Misfit Faith"

Jason Stellman's Misfit Faith: Confessions of a Drunk Ex-Pastor is not nearly the book I expected.  It's so much better!  Amazing, even.

Misfit Faith is Stellman's account of his own faith journey -- he begins the book as a Presbyterian pastor, but he became a Roman Catholic.  So I expected the book to be filled, at that point, with a Catholic apologetic.  There's nothing here about Peter as the first pope, or any criticism of Protestant theological principles.

As soon as I read Stellman beginning to flirt with universalism, this book took an entirely different frame. 

Misfit Fit is a thoughtful theological reflection on one life, a reflection that will echo certain features of so many other lives.  I know it did mine.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Review of "Everything You Wanted to Know about God (but were afraid to ask)"

Eric Metaxas' Everything You Always Wanted to Know about God (but Were Afraid to Ask) is a theologically dense, yet hilariously rich, look at the Christian faith.  Metaxas tackles a number of questions with a real writer's gift in just over 200 pages:   Is there proof that the person we know as Jesus really did exist?  Did this same Jesus really rise in bodily form from the grave?  Is the Devil a real person?  Did God create Evil?  And, is Neptune a Christian planet?

This is the book to give believers and skeptics alike.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

My Review of "Talking with God"

Adam Weber's Talking with God:  What to Say When You Don't Know How to Pray is an amazing book -- really more a conversation partner -- in exploring the depths of Christian praying for those who aren't sure how to pray.

Weber writes with a pastoral heart, offering wisdom about the nature and practice of prayer that will bring even mature Christians to think about and practice prayer in meaningful ways.  Talking with God is a clear, accessible book about the very nature of prayer that is as refreshing (in the way that the Spirit refreshes us!) as it is insightful (in the way that the Spirit opens our hearts and minds).  This book is more than a book about prayer, though.  Because ultimately prayer -- like this book -- means little if it's not practiced.  This is a book that will help even the unsure and clearly-doubting to get started.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Review of "In a Different Key"

John Donvan and Caren Zucker's In a Different Key:  The Story of Autism tells the story of a psychological disorder that was ignored for decades, and only recently.  It moves from those early decades in which children were institutionalized, often in appalling conditions to that period in the 1960s and 1970s when "refrigerator mothers" were blamed for the condition.  In a Different Key also chronicles those individual -- families and researchers -- who provided care and developed our contemporary understanding of autism.

In a Different Key certainly focuses on the largely-American narrative of that history, so there are definitely other pieces of the history of autism that are left to be told.  So there are no shortage of rival egos and camps as well as overrated developments that go into the telling of the story of autism.  In the end, then, In a Different Key cannot be the only resource for the telling of autism's story.  But it's certainly a good place to begin.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

My Review of "Unlock Your Dreams"

Philip Wagner's Unlock Your Dreams: Discover the Adventure You Were Created For isn't a bad book -- it's just simply unremarkable for all of the hopes I had in picking it up.

As a whole, Unlock Your Dreams is strong on inspiration, but lacking in the practical aspects that I expect from a Christian book about vocation.  There's nothing here about actually discerning what God expects of our lives, and what God's dreams might be.  In that way, it's really more self-help than it is a Christian exploration of how we "discover the adventure" we're created for. 

Which adds up to my inability to finish the book.  While I made it through chapter 3 -- which really is a good chapter -- I simply couldn't find the energy or inspiration to make it much further. 

So I'll be happy to pass this book along to the local library, but it isn't a book I'll keep on my shelves.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.