Monday, July 22, 2013

Review of "Impact Player" by Bobby Richardson with David Thomas

This was such an interesting autobiography.  I come from a family of huge baseball enthusiasts and I just know that if you have any level of interest in the sport, you would absolutely love this book.  It was extra fun to hear all of his behind-the-scenes stories about that era of baseball - and as he was good friends with Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and more, there are some great stories!  We also learn about his journey from a small town boy to the top of the major leagues.

Bobby Richardson invested his entire career in the New York Yankees, and eventually retired -some would say early- primarily to spend more time with his growing family.  He attributes both his success in sports as well as his family, including almost 60 years of marriage to his wife, Betsy as coming from a relationship with Jesus, thus the title "Impact Player".  Bobby's very clearly stated goal is to have an impact for Christ, and he has not wavered in that, even from the very beginning.  He is also seemingly quite transparent about things he wishes he could change, or ways he's failed.

All in all, Bobby Richardson & David Thomas give us a well-written, engaging memoir that is great for non baseball fans, and (especially!) baseball fans alike.  I recommend it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review of "I Still Believe" by Jeremy Camp with David Thomas

Singer-Songwriter Jeremy Camp's songs are fairly well-known in the Christian music industry (and even outside of it), and his autobiography shares the backstory behind the music and songs.  Jeremy has lived a varied and interesting life to date, some would certainly say with more than his fair share of tragedy.  His journey is a great example of God working through even some very difficult times and how they have been used to encourage others.

Jeremy begins the book with the story of his parents' journey to faith.  Although his parents were former drug users and truly had a miraculous experience to meet Jesus, he grew up in a Christian home.  For a number of reasons they lived not only paycheck to paycheck and many times (almost) went without, yet God always provided - cars, food, clothing, etc.  This certainly shaped Jeremy and contributed to his spiritual growth as well, as he saw some very specific miracles!  I won't retell the entire book here, but you can easily see that God was strengthening his faith even then which prepared him for some of the difficult things to come.

Much has been told about Jeremy's first wife, Melissa, dying of cancer shortly after their wedding, and it is a challenging and yet inspiring story.  Jeremy gives a great deal of insight to this part of his journey as well as shares how some of his hit songs were written.  He also details his meeting, courtship, and marriage to Adrienne and their family as it is today.  On a personal note, I thought it was fun to see someone who I knew from church camp mentioned in the book (a rep from his record label).

I read this very quickly - it was engaging and easy to read.  You too will be inspired and touched by this story.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review of "The Invested Life" by Joel Rosenberg & T.E. Koshy

If you are a follower of Jesus, then this book is for you.
If you are interested in going deeper in your relationship with God and others, then this book is for you.
If you want to create major impact for Jesus on the world around you, this book is for you.

Joel Rosenberg and Dr. T.E. Koshy help us to understand and identify both the importance of investing in people as well as how to answer the questions, "Who is investing in me?" and, "Who am I investing in?"  The writers wisely chose to intersperse the Bible basis and instruction along with personal stories, and it truly helps to wrap your head around the depth of this subject.  It was great to hear firsthand experience from both of their wives (and others) as well.

Well written and engaging, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review of Yikes!!!" by Bill Myers

The 6th and final book in the "TJ and the Time Stumblers" series, Yikes!!! is a fun ending to this great series. Set mostly in the African jungle (three guesses how they got there), Tuna and Herby almost have everything they need to get back to the 23rd century.  TJ is finally seeing some truth to her future as a great world leader, stepping up to lead the way for her science class to get out of the jungle and rescue Hesper Breakahart as well.

Full of the typical catastrophes that happen when you hang out with Tuna and Herby, TJ realizes that strength of character might be one of the most important factors in a friendship....and that she just might miss Tuna and Herby after all.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review of "Switched!" by Bill Myers

The topic of this, our fifth book in the 'TJ and the Time Stumblers' series, is Forgiveness.  Continuing on her journey to becoming a great world leader (and bringing back the hula hoop!), 13 year old TJ Finkelstein learns how to put herself in someone else's shoes - literally, as there is yet another malfunction of one of Tuna and Herby's special tools.  We discover TJ REALLY can't sing, and Hester Breakahart's life just isn't all that awesome behind the scenes.

This book teaches a great lesson on the importance of forgiveness, and that a little understanding goes a long way.  Especially if you have to go to school with Hester Breakahart. :)

This is an excellent series for your pre-teens and early teens.

Review of "24/6" by Matthew Sleeth

Making sure you have a "Sabbath", or day of rest once per week.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Matthew Sleeth's book, "24/6", talks of the reasons why the fourth commandment is so important to our lives.  As a doctor, he gives many valid physical concerns for unplugging regularly from our over-connected world - taking time to physically and mentally 'break' can be critical to our health.  Spiritually, since is it something that God commanded it only makes sense that we would embrace this opportunity to connect with God AND rest.  I know, in our modern society this seems to fly in the face of typical American wisdom.....but we have to remember to be a human being not a human doing.  :)

This was a super easy read, his stories are interesting, his points valid, his communication style straightforward.  I appreciated this reminder that more work is not always better and rest is crucial to well-being - physically, emotionally, spiritually.  I recommend this book - once you start you will be hard pressed to put it down, and you will be glad you started!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review of "Ho-Ho-Nooo!" by Bill Myers

TJ Finkelstein and her friends are back for more in the fourth book of the 'TJ and the Time Stumblers' series.  "Ho-Ho-Nooo!" focuses on the true meaning of Christmas, and it isn't something you can buy in a store.  23rd century time travelers Tuna & Herby are still with us (nope, no fuel for their time-travel pod yet) and they are causing as many hijinks as before.
In this installment, TJ works and works to make money for a special Christmas gift for her dad (she is partly motivated to beat out her sister, Violet, and partly wants to help with the household finances as her Dad has just been laid off).

TJ learns that just maybe, even in the possession-focused city she lives in, that gifts for Christmas aren't always tangible.  I recommend this book and entire series.

Review of "Oops!" by Bill Myers

This is our third book in the 'TJ and the Time Stumblers' series.  "Oops!" focuses again on our heroine, 13 year old TJ Finkelstein.  TJ is being observed by Tuna & Herby, two characters from the future (23rd century!), who have chosen her as a case-study for their history project.  Eventually, TJ will become a great world leader, but at the moment she is facing some life and character decisions.

In this book, TJ gets a part on her fake frenemy Hesper Breakahart's TV show, and struggles to understand that underneath it all, Hesper just might be a real person who is extremely insecure.  (Knowing people's thoughts is soooo inconvenient sometimes!!)

This book teaches a great lesson on how your thoughts can become your actions.....

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review of "AAAArgh!!!" by Bill Myers

The second book in the series TJ and the Time Stumblers, "AAAArgh!!!" focuses again on 13 year old TJ Finkelstein, who is being observed by two characters from the future (23rd century!), who have chosen her as a case-study for their history project.

In this episode, TJ's decision to use the well-meaning Tuna & Herby's book report on Treasure Island (written by Robert Louis Stevenson himself, time-ported in!) has long reaching decisions from her cheating.....will she finally do the right thing?

Meanwhile, next door neighbor Chad has his own problems, as Doug Cloudlouper is pressuring him to use his special jet-engine surfboard in the upcoming competition.  Chad thinks it's like cheating, but Doug repeatedly tells him, "It's only cheating if you get caught!"

A great life lesson on consequences of cheating told in an enjoyable and non-preachy way - I recommend this book!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review of "Captive in Iran" by Maryam Rostampour & Marziyeh Amirizadeh with John Perry

After reading this book, I have never been so grateful to be a US citizen.

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were arrested and held for 259 days in one of the world's most terrible prisons - Evin Prison in Iran.  They were arrested for "advertising and promoting Christianity" as well as the more serious charge of apostasy, which can result in a sentence of death by hanging.  Because the justice system (if you can call it that) in Iran is very subjective and quite corrupt, there was much confusion and a roller coaster of emotion for the women that they suffered throughout their entire experience.  Their own experiences are difficult enough to comprehend, and they also tell story after heartbreaking story of other women inside the prison, many of whom should not have even been there in the first place.  The conditions were so deplorable that they spent essentially the entire time dealing with varying illnesses; malnourished, as the food was laced with formaldehyde and most was contaminated or inedible; not enough beds, bathrooms, showers, etc. and more.  However, because they were able to share the very thing they had been imprisoned for - Jesus - the lives of just about everyone they came into contact with during this time period are now forever changed, and Maryam and Marziyeh will tell you that it was worth it all.

Maryam and Marziyeh's love for Jesus, and their commitment to their faith even under such adversity are certainly remarkable.  I feel sure they would tell you it was only by God's grace that they were able to be strong, never changing their commitment to the truth.  This book was extremely compelling - I am so grateful to have heard their story, and I will recommend this book to everyone I know.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review of "C.S. Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath

This is an extensive, thoroughly-researched book on the life of C.S. Lewis.  Published in honor of the 50th anniversary year of his passing, Alister McGrath's book takes a chronological view.  Combining known information, personal correspondence, literary works, and more, Mr. McGrath provides an extremely detail-oriented book that seems light on speculation and heavy on documented research.

My opinion?  I'm a fiction girl - light on the details, give me a story!  This was truthfully a challenging book for me to "get into" and finish.  However, in the end I am glad I started and did complete it, as I now have a much better understanding of this author as well as the time period and geography that are discussed.  I have long enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia books and was excited to pass them on to my daughter this past year.  It was so interesting to learn more about the background and thought process behind that series, as well as his other works.

I recommend this book.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review of "The Four Seasons of Marriage" by Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman has long been a favorite - he's a smart guy and an excellent communicator.

This book compares stages in marriage to seasons, and gives strategies to move from tough places into 'seasons' of health - and additionally, gives you the tools and tips you  need to stay there.  There is a "Marital Seasons Profile" you can take, Q&A's with lots of real-life stories, and an in-depth study guide.  He provides a great deal of both theory as well as practical information, presented in an easily understood way.

It is a pleasure to recommend this book to anyone who is looking to strengthen their marriage, make some changes, learn new skills, become a better communicator....the list goes on and on.  You will enjoy it and learn a lot, too!

Review of "Unleash!" by Perry Noble

Founding and Sr. Pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina, Perry Noble was unfamiliar to me before I picked up this book.  I'm really glad I was able to read it because his writing style is easy to follow, mixing in personal story, bible verses, instruction, ideas, points...all coming together to make a great (and super helpful) book.

Many of the Bible references he uses revolve around the story of David, who was a "man after God's heart" yet made mistakes and was redeemed.  He definitely didn't live life on the quiet, or subdued side and was a man who had been unleashed.  Do you feel complacent, or like you are in a rut you can't seem to find your way out of no matter how hard you try?  I definitely recommend this book for anyone who wants to go a little deeper and find some richness to the quality of their life - living in freedom and being truly Unleashed!