Monday, February 29, 2016

Just Do Something - Kevin Young

Just do it.

We've probably all heard this slogan for a certain well known brand or even the even older adage Carpe Diem, Seize the Day.

When it comes to life though, people generally want more certainty, more direction, and less risk of failure and regret. This partially explains the recent growth in books discussing finding your calling, discovering God's will, and living out your purpose.

Keving DeYoung adds his voice to this ever growing chorus with down to earth, in your face common sense and a call for Christians to get back to the basics of Scripture, community, wisdom, and common sense.

Addressing the plague of indecision that affects today's church by urging people to "do something" versus waiting for the extraordinary (a rare occurrence) while ignoring the readily available due to a myriad of reasons, risking a life of waiting for what was already in front of us the whole time. 

Things I liked:

I actually appreciated DeYoung's style. He's straightforward with his arguments, unapologetic, and uses a lot of common sense. I did not always necessarily agree with everything he said but was impressed that he still created a reaction in me. His writing was easy to read and really allowed me to get into the argument.

I also appreciated DeYoung's ability to explain greater topics, exploring underlying causes and looking at root issues while always taking it back to Scripture. As a gal who appreciates big picture and details I really enjoyed having some substance to what DeYoung was presenting.

Finally, I appreciated the content. DeYoung unapologetically points his argument back to Scripture. He isn't afraid to use other sources to support his work but always returns back to Scripture. I think this helped illustrate DeYoung's integrity as a new reader seeing as reading, memorizing, and knowledge of Scripture are all foundational  to DeYoung's presentation of living a faithful life.

Things I liked less:

While I appreciated DeYoung's overall argument, some of his subsequent conclusions regarding decisions such as marriage and jobs just seemed to glossed over and simplified to fit comfortably within my own theology. I'm not sure if this is due to space limitations or the limitations of the written word vs. conversation for DeYoung being unfamiliar with his work or an actual disconnect on my part.

4.5 out 5 stars.

I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. The views expressed are entirely my own.

Friday, February 26, 2016

This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes

In his new book, This is Awkward, Sammy Rhodes takes readers on a journey using his own past, heavy use of pop culture references, and surprisingly simple wisdom (that leads to deeper insight) to explore issues that have traditionally made the church uncomfortable. 

Things I loved:

I loved Rhodes honesty and I'll be honest at times it made his writing feel a bit awkward. However, the message came through and, in its own way, the awkward parts somehow made the little bits of wisdom scattered through the free writing and memoirs even more poignant. Rhodes open up topics that are often awkward and need to be discussed. Conversation regarding sex, addiction, friendship, marriage, singleness are so large are far reaching it's hard to boil them down into their essence for a nice clean conversation. We need options like This is Awkward to shine light on these areas and begin conversations even if they're uncomfortable.

I also loved Rhodes reference points. The pop culture points were wonderful for their humour and ability to make topics more relatable and, as a result, make the topics more relatable. The comparisons between Hufflepuffs and singleness in the church made me giggle off and on all night (in between wincing at how accurate the analogy was).

Things I would have loved to see

At times I wished that some of the topics had a little more structure within the chapters. Some of the material referenced are books that I studied in college and yet there were times that their impact seemed dwarfed under the randomness or self-depreciation. 
Adding to that the variety of topics touched upon within the book made some of the chapter transitions feel jarring, like you were in a different book if not for the little blurbs of free writing featured throughout the chapters,

Overall, Rhodes is opening discussion and presenting a compelling offer towards awkwardness, vulnerability, growth, and intimacy. His style was occasionally jarring but not enough to detract from the value of the message.

4 out 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Others Shuddered Jamie Janoz

Growing up I loved all my classes in History, English, and what we called Social Studies. Their one unifying link being stories. I loved learning about the people and faces from the near and distant past and was often within reach of yet another book delving into some brand new tale.

I also quickly realized that within the Christian curriculum I used, there was a great gap in women holding central positions in these stories. Since this was pre-internet days (actually to be honest that house is still in a slow zone for internet thanks to funky geography) the days of hopping online to make up the deficit   were far away.

This is why Jamie Janoz's When Others Shuddered is so important. Here readers are introduced to multiple strong women who worked alongside the men of whom we've heard so many stories but were active, passionate, and strong in their own ways and made their own impacts on their communities and the church.

This book is an odd combination of recorded facts and comments and fictional recreations of the narratives these women's lives wove. This just serves to make the book more engaging and, in fact, I can easily see Janoz's book adding some much needed balance and life into a homeschooling curriculum.

The women are easy to engage with throughout the pages. Some came from poverty while others were of wealth. Some women remained single, others married, some become mothers, others dove into their work. Each woman faced challenges, heartbreak, and set backs before moving forward once again. Although these women accomplished great works in their faith Janoz was careful to include what they triumphed against and kept these women as just that - living breathing women who are relatable role models, something our girls need.

I also appreciated the readability of this book. Although I am, admittedly, a nerd. I can easily picture women of all ages finding themselves lost within these pages. The text is easy enough for pre-teens or late elementary students but even as a mom myself I found myself lost in these stories of life, They are addictive.

Overall, this is a solid little book and a great launching pad into discovering other lesser known women of faith.

4 out 5 stars.

I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. The views expressed are entirely my own.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Married and Still Loving it by Gary Chapman and Harold Myra

Let's be honest, at first glance I do not appear to fall within the target audience of Chapman and Myra's new book Married and Still Loving It.

This collaboration is geared towards those in the later years of life: post kids, looking towards retirement, facing the reality of the joys and challenges of living together through the "golden years."

Here's the thing.

I want that.
I want a strong marriage when our kids are grown and gone.
I look forward to spending our time together building off of a strong  foundation and to have a strong foundation takes work. So, even though I'm not the target audience, I still found the majority of this book useful as it speaks to a stage of life I anticipate and wish to build towards using the wisdom of those who have gone ahead.

I appreciated Chapman and Myra's honesty, both from themselves as well as the many other couples either referenced or even interviewed throughout the course of this book. These real life scenarios, triumphs and sorrows,  the nitty-gritty gave life to such broad concepts such as grief, transition, purpose and new direction.
While these are areas that can affect any stage of marriage and life, it was so helpful to have the stories to bring these concepts into a tangible expression of how they can look in later life.

I also appreciated how this book stands alone.
Confession time, Despite my time at an evangelical college I haven't actually read the 5 love languages. Somehow, even as a counselling major, I managed to miss every single class it was referenced in. I was concerned this lack of exposure may create some confusion as it is the most commonly associated teaching with Gary Chapman. While this was referenced the references were self contained and fed into this book rather than distracting to another as was my fear.

I enjoyed the practicality of Still Married. Although I'm unfamiliar with the author's previous work, from what I've heard this is fairly typical of his writing. One of my biggest frustrations with counselling type books is when they get lost in jargon or theory and you can't pass it along to someone who would benefit from it. This book is accessible. The writing is easy and conversational. The topics are one's that most people will encounter. Not everyone will loose the same type of person but everyone will face grief. Not everyone will have to face picking up and moving but everyone faces transitions, especially as we age. Not everyone will have a spouse or child with health concerns but everyone will face, at the least, the challenges that come as we age. A reader would have to try hard not to find a point of connection within Chapman and Myra's writing.

Overall, I think this is a strong book for those who are looking forward to the future of their marriage whether it's down the road or around the corner. 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. The views expressed are my own.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Raising Uncommon Kids by Sami Cone

In a flip on most parenting books out there today, Sami Cone throws her voice into the ring by presenting 12 traits necessary in parents lives in order to raise selfless kids.
Whereas most parenting books talk about traits to teach our children, Cone focuses on the concept of modelling as a primary teacher and urges parents to work on self in order to be the most effective teachers.

The book itself is broken down into 12 chapters each embodying a different trait that continually effect a larger audience: self, others, world. As a result, the book may be read in one go through or broken down into units where one can go more in depth and explore a trait more deeply, perhaps looking at practical applications (of which some initial launching ideas are including at the end of each chapter) before moving onto the next chapter or section.

In light of Cone's focus on parental behaviour and her own analytical personality, Raising Uncommon Kids reads less conversational and more educationally focused than a lot of current parenting books. As I explained to my husband, it felt more like sitting in a classroom than meeting over coffee.  This will make it a great resource for parents who learn best in this setting as it seems to be an underrepresented area in parenting books I've come across.

The balance between Scriptural teaching and practical ideas also served as a wonderful resource for those who need help getting out of their heads and putting what they've learned into practice,

3.5 stars out of 5

I received this book from Nuts about Books in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hannah's Choice: A Novel (Journey to Pleasant Prairie) by Jan Drexler

Every once in awhile, in an attempt to vary my reading material, I make the foray back into Amish fiction. I fully recognize the popularity of the genre even if it mystifies my own reading tastes :)

When I encountered Jan Drexler's Hannah's Choice it seemed as good a time as any to dip my toe back into the world of literary Amish.

Hannah's Choice follows the story of a young Amish woman named Hannah whose family finds themselves at a crossroads. Their county has undergone vast changes with the arrival of new neighbours from a variety of faiths (Quaker, Mennonite, Methodist, etc), the arrival of the abolitionist movement, and the changes and losses which have shaped the Yoder's themselves over a difficult decade.

Rather than risk the temptation of an increasingly modern and varied county, Hannah's father decides to move west with two other families in an effort to give his family the chance to live a life faithful to Amish beliefs. For Hannah, this merely increasing the pressure to find her place as she finds herself torn between past and future, friends and family, and everywhere in between.

Overall, Drexler presents a fun and well rounded story for fans of the Amish fiction genre. Her characters are developed and are believable in their roles from Hannah's coming of age quandaries and her desire to determine what it means to be faithful to Annalise and Christian's worry for their children.  The plot had enough storyline to be engaging between the isseus surrounding the move, Hannah's choice between Adam and Josef, and Liesbet's rebellion.
The setting was serene and I could easily picture myself walking through the woods as I read.

That said, I simply couldn't muster up any excitement over this book. The dialogue, the religious quandaries regarding the Bann, the struggle to remain Amish held no connections for me personally and the story itself wasn't able to rise out of it's setting enough like some others in the genre to pull me in regardless of the genre. It was too locked in.

If you're a fan of Amish fiction, Jan Drexler will provide hours of enjoyment as you immerse yourself into the world of the Yoders. 3 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchage for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books, The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

Life can be busy.

In fact, our culture prides itself on busyness, our ability to achieve, multitask, and finish items on our checklist.

I'm no exception. If I'm truly honest I read Alli Worthington's new book Breaking Busy while holding my sleeping baby, encouraging my older son in quiet play, and taking breaks to check on dinner in the oven/make my to-do list for when hubby got home and I had two hands again, not to mention a half a dozen other things.

Safe to say I'm probably well within Alli's target audience for this book.

Breaking Bad is a painful read.

Painful because it's real, honest, and more applicable than many readers would care to admit. Alli beautifully counters this painful honesty with warmth and humour through her own real life experiences (and as an entrepreneur, mom to 5 boys, wife, blogger, speaker, and executive director for Propel Women she has lots of experience being busy). While her chapters hit close to home for those of us stuck in the cycle and lies of  "busy" (and we're not talking seasons of life here) the care Alli holds for others and her desire to see others living better shines through these pages.

From the moment I encountered the ringing bra I realized that this was a book I'd enjoy reading because the author wasn't afraid to be relatable and boy did I relate.

I love the way Alli has broken down her chapters. Bearing clear titles and self-contained chapters (while still maintaining a well flowing book ) going back to find earlier points or refresh yourself on a problem area is a breeze (I know since I've already done this).

I also love how practical this book is. Alli doesn't pull any punches when it comes to addressing common time wasters such as people pleasing and living over capacity. Alli lays out so many issues our society holds within our core about the value of busyness and the pride we have at being too busy.  Her connections between these lies and the consequences such as burnout or losing time with our real priorities were eye-opening.

The only thing I felt this book lacked, through no fault of it's own, was accountability. This is a great resource but having the ability to read this with others for a time and hold each other accountable in the decisions were making (because let's face it changing priorities/thought patterns/ and recognizing our values is hard) could mean the difference between reading a good book and making a great change. The conflict though being, such a group would be yet another commitment in our busy lives.

4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”