Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review of "Sticking Points" by Haydn Shaw

For the first time, we have four generations (Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, and Millenials) working side by side in the workplace.  Mr. Shaw details the 12 main "Sticking Points" - the primary places that each generation parts ways and communication (and therefore productivity and peace) breakdown.  He uses real stories, examples, concrete solutions, and dialogues to illustrate how to create healthy and long-term change. There is humor and logic, explanation and real-life story after story that allows sense to be made of what are very challenging issues.  Personally, I am self employed and have both clients and consultants whom I mentor that are from every generation.  My husband is a pastor (which, from a business perspective is essentially leading a non-profit organization) - and the church we started recently is named Generations Church.  I could not be reading this at a more appropriate and needed time.  :)

It was both interesting and informative....such a tough balance to achieve.  There are a gajillion books on leadership and business out there, but hands down this is one of the best books I've read, in any genre.

EVERY manager/coach/employee/employer/leader/person-from-any-generation, in any business, of any kind......should read this.  Yes.  It is that good.

Review of "Renegade" by Mel Odom

The second in the Called to Serve trilogy, this book focuses on Pike Morgan, a former foster child with enough baggage to open a store.  He is currently in the Witness Protection Program due to a run in with the Diablo biker gang that resulted in the death of his best (only?) friend from foster care, Petey.

Pike is also affected by his relationship with Hector, a young neighborhood boy he mentors & helps with his homework - and whom to his chagrin, he is starting to be concerned about.  This is a huge stressor for Pike, as he prides himself on needing nothing and no one.

As a Marine Reservist, this time Pike is called up to go to Kandahar, where a very bad man, Yaqub is planning numerous attacks in the name of 'god', and the Marines must deal with his actions.  Everyone is on high alert and a mini-war begins.

What I truly appreciated about this book is that Mr. Odom doesn't provide an "easy wrap up" to any of the individual stories begun in book one- we don't know if Bekah & Heath's relationship will go any further: Pike doesn't see the problem of a life without God - yet; not everyone lives, this is a war after all....rather, we see development of each character in a real and interesting way.  I am looking forward to the third book in this trilogy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review of "Courageous Grace" by Gayle Haggard

Not just grace, but *Courageous* Grace.  Gayle Haggard's insight into this topic is hard won to be sure....this book focuses on the depth of courage that is truly necessary for people to give grace to each other, rather than the typical book on the grace of God and how amazing it is.

Gayle intersperses personal stories from her own trials - and triumphs - along with Bible verses, other's stories and more.  She discusses sin and judgment, being slow to forgive, holding different people to different standards, and having the idea that once we come to know Christ, sin stops. It doesn't - and some people's failings are more public than others - but God still responds graciously in forgiveness and love, and so should we. He sets the example for us to follow.

One of the main takeaways I got from this book (and my thoughts have been coming back to it again and again, as some of the concepts she presents are very intriguing to me) is on the subject of restoration in the church.  It's probably my favorite chapter, and I believe she is well-equipped to have a strong viewpoint.  Please run don't walk to pick up this book. ;)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review of "the Outcast" by Jolina Petersheim

"the Outcast" is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter, set in an Old Order Mennonite community.

Rachel Stoltzfus and her twin sister Leah are extremely close yet possess very different personalities; Leah is quieter and more reserved - Rachel, fiery.  In their late teens, Leah moves away to marry widower Tobias King, 12 years her senior.  Tobias has recently become the Bishop of the community following the sudden passing of his father, Amos.  Although they hadn't lived nearby in years, Rachel and Leah actually grew up around the King family (including Tobias' much younger brother, Judah, who has loved Rachel practically forever.)

Parts of the book are told from Rachel's perspective, and others, from Amos' - certainly a concept done before, but rarely done so well as here.  The turns of phrase, pacing, revealing of the father of Rachel's baby, several health related twists....all masterfully written.  Discovering that this is Jolina Petersheim's first novel was very surprising.

I have read lots and lots of "Amish fiction".  Many of those books I enjoyed, and then haven't thought about their characters or storyline much - if ever.  This book is going to stay with me for a long time; one of the best compliments I can give.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of "Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist (learning to be free)" by Amanda Jenkins

One of the best books I've read all year, if not likely to join my lifetime top 10.  Amanda Jenkins's 'Confessions' is honest, witty, and compelling.  It helps that her voice as well as her issues are similar to mine, however, I can only guess that there are others out there dealing with similar challenges too.

Presented in a fun and transparent way, this book discusses topics on everything from Vanity to Obedience, Parenthood to Diet Coke (yes Diet Coke) and she is unflinchingly honest in her self assessments - her real-ness is refreshing.  She shares personal stories and verses and heart thoughts; other's stories and life lessons; all in a way that was illuminating to me and encouraging at the same time.  We are after all, works in progress - and this book does not claim to show you how to get it all together and be free from perfectionism (or whatever plagues you) - but it does give a great deal of hope.

I can't recommend it enough.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review of "Avenged" by Janice Cantore

The third (and final) book in the Pacific Coast Justice series featuring Officer Carly Edwards.  In this installment, gang relations take on a new look in Las Playas, as the mystery surrounding three gangbangers who were shot execution style may not be as straightforward as it appears.

Carly is also facing the possibility of a shift in her career - she has been offered a Fed job and is torn between the city that she loves and the possibility of making a different impact with the task force.  She and husband Nick continue to grow closer and learn how to communicate better, avoiding some of the problems they faced before, and Carly grows closer to God.

This was an enjoyable series, written by retired Police Officer Janice Cantore.  I liked all three books, but the similar titles and time between reading each installment affected my memory in tying them together a bit more, I think.  If you can read them in order - without a large time lapse!- I believe you will get much more out of them!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review of "Grace's Pictures" by Cindy Thomson

Grace McCaffery is a recent immigrant to New York from Ireland in 1900.  She had an abusive father and was torn from her loving mother to live in a workhouse and was recently sponsored to come to the United States to have a better life.  She struggles with the unfamiliarity of her new life, has some serious trust issues, and struggles to believe that she is special in any way.  In New York she meets a cast of characters ranging from mostly trustworthy to some dangerous crooks who think her new photography hobby is infringing on their crimes (they are correct).

I was very torn in writing this review.  I know there are many who will love it, so I'm certainly not wanting to discourage anyone from reading it.  I was eager to read this book; however, I just couldn't fall in love with Grace or the writing style no matter how hard I tried. I did appreciate the historical detail, especially on several different topics that I haven't typically seen in previous historical fiction I've read....Ultimately I just personally found Grace unlikeable -until the very end- and since this book is primarily about her, it was challenging.  I also thought it strange that her mantra of "You are smart. You are important. You are able." was SO similar to the one in 'The Help' (written in 2009 by Kathryn Stockett), "You is kind, You is smart, You is important."

Again, I know there are many who will love this book so please read it and decide for yourself......totally my two cents.

Review of "If You Have a Craving, I Have a Cure" by Sheri Rose Shepherd

A quick and seemingly breezy read, author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd gives great tips and recipes that have allowed her to focus on health and life instead of food.

Each chapter has a topic with introduction, a 'Soul Food' section, recipes for Life with corresponding verses, and a prayer and 'Food Truth'.  Then, there are approximately 7 recipes per chapter/category that go along with the chapter topic

Although this book was much different that what I had initially thought, I really enjoyed it.  The recipes look delicious and healthy, but not restrictive, and they also look simple (I have looked a great deal at healthier eating recently, and many of the recipes out there call for unusual ingredients and seem quite complicated; these do not).

If you are looking to find some new ways of cooking as well as looking at life topics from a biblical perspective, this would be a great book for you!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review of "When God Intervenes" by Dabney Hedegard

Dabney Hedegard married her husband Jason at a (relatively) young age and they experienced some typical struggles through their first years of marriage; financial, relational, etc.; but very little could prepare them for the long battle of severe illness Dabney was about to experience.  She simultaneously discovered she was pregnant and had Hodgkin's lymphoma, presented in a football-sized mass in her chest.  Because she was pregnant, she decided to postpone treatment to give her daughter a best case chance for survival.  This first disease was only the beginning of a number of severe illnesses that Dabney would soon endure - including 10 years of cancer, serious heart disease/issues, pulmonary embolism, at one point she had acute pneumonia....the list literally goes on and on.  Most people don't even experience one of these serious health problems, let alone all of them. Numerous times Dabney's family was told to come say their goodbyes, and she was amazed to find out later of all the miraculous ways God intervened.

Her husband Jason's faith and words from God gave her increased faith and her hearts desire, to be a healthy mom, is now happening.  She wrote this book as part of her promise to God to tell her story in book form.  Today Dabney is a (healthy!) speaker and writer and wife and mother...with a miraculous story of healing and God's intervention.

I read "When God Intervenes" straight through in less than a day - inspiring and life-giving, I am grateful she wrote this book.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review of "Prototype" by Jonathan Martin

"What happens when you discover you're more like Jesus than you think?" is one of the main questions that Jonathan Martin asks in this book.  Because the subject matter is of interest to me, I was prepared to enjoy this book - and was definitely not disappointed.  Nor will you be.

What would it look like to live in your true identity as God's creation, his sons and daughters? To be completely free to be who He created you to be, to have your identity defined in and by Him, not your stuff, your job, or what others say you should be and do?  These questions and many more are discussed and answered in this book.

I find it's usually a bit of a challenge to review and fully do justice in describing a non-fiction book, as they typically combine so many factors - stories, real-life examples and illustrations, practical application - this book certainly does that and more - and I find that what I might share with you now can't communicate the richness and flavor found here.  What I can tell you is that a) Mr. Martin's style of writing appeals to my sense of humor and communication style....broad enough that I bet it will speak to you as well; and b) if you have ever attended a church, any church, and found yourself a tiny bit or wholly dissatisfied, left wanting, will especially enjoy "Letter to a Ravaged Bride" at the end.

Get it. Read it. Chew on it for a while.  I for one am glad I didn't check this one out of the library but have it on my iPad to re-read and share.  :)

Review of "Heaven Hears" by Lindy Boone Michaelis with Susy Flory

In June of 2001 Ryan Corbin was a young man just beginning his adult life.  Newly engaged and excited about his relationship with Jesus, his family, and his career, he was going up to the roof of his apartment building with a friend to sit in the sun.  He accidentally stepped on a skylight and was catapulted to the ground, three stories below.  He should have died - and nearly did - and this is his story of recovery and the power of prayer.

What an incredible journey Lindy Boone Michaelis shares with us.  This book contains their family's story (from the beginning of her dad Pat Boone's career, to present day); her thoughts and experiences as they navigate this new reality of Ryan's injury; and the incredible response from around the world, an absolute outpouring of prayer and support.

This book is both tragic and uplifting, heart wrenching and life giving, and I can easily recommend it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review of "Fresh Air" by Chris Hodges

"Fresh Air" by Chris Hodges was exactly that for me - a burst of fresh air into my mind and heart.  I think it's normal to have a blah period of life or even serious or situational depression - and if you are in that circumstance or have ever been there, you will get a lot out of this book.

We are taken through three stages: 1) Searching For a Breath of Fresh Air, 2) Bringing Fresh Air Into Your Life, and 3) Finding the Source of Breath.  From his personal experience of 'the doldrums', each chapter begins with relevant quotes, has great content in the middle, and ends with 'breathing lessons' - practical direction, and Bible verses that are relevant to the chapter.

There is quite a bit of Biblical content and it never feels forced or dry - just breaths of Fresh Air that so many of us desperately need.  This book is a great encouragement for anyone who asks the question, "Is this all there is?" (Nope. There's more.)  :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review of "Misery Loves Company" by Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge's newest book, "Misery Loves Company", is a combination of possible murder, mystery, some humor, and most definitely love.

Widow Juliet "Jules" Belleno is a writer whose primary contact with the outside world is through her blog. Since her police officer husband Jason's untimely death, she rarely leaves her home.  On a rare trip out to the grocery store, she unexpectedly sees her favorite author (who lives locally) - and her entire life takes a very unexpected turn.  We are not sure if the turn will eventually be a good one, or something that Jules and those who love her will regret deeply.

Jason's partner, Chris Downey, was supposed to look after Jules.  In her grief, she pushed him away....but he has thought about her regularly.  Her disappearance sends him on a mission to find out not only her whereabouts but ultimately leads him to the truth about Jason's death, and it will be life changing.

I truly enjoy Rene Gutteridge's style of writing.  She always mixes humor and unexpected situations in with her mystery, and will keep her readers guessing details even up until the end.  She provides a great ending for my personal tastes :) and I appreciate the conflict she created within Jules and author Patrick Reagan.  It is easy to recommend this book.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review of "Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales" by Randy Singer

Randy Singer always provides a great read and this book is no exception.  In "Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales", he weaves several stories, all with strong and multi-layered characters together for a very satisfying ending.

Landon Reed was in prison for two years as the consequence for his role in a point-shaving scheme when he was a college quarterback.  Three years after his release, Landon, his wife Kerri. and their young daughter, Maddie are trying to restructure their lives.  Landon has become a lawyer and Kerri is a local news personality.

Colorful lawyer Harry McNaughten hires Landon as an associate and they begin to work on a high-profile murder case...which leads to a number of consequences no one could have dreamed of.

Interesting characters, love, loyalty, murder, mystery, intrigue...all found here in one great book.  Check it out for yourself!

Review of "Road Trip to Redemption" by Brad Mathias

In "Road Trip to Redemption", Brad Mathias tells the story of his family and unfortunately it wasn't always a pretty picture.  A successful doctor, Brad and his wife Paige had three children - Jessica, Bethany, and Caleb.  Sadly, through a series of events they were actually on the verge of divorce, when Brad experienced a Divine Intervention and came to a personal relationship with Jesus.

He immediately took steps to restore his marriage and family, and in time, believed they were on a strong and healthy path. Their children seemed to be moving in a good direction also, behaving as typical teens/pre-teens do.  However, in 2009 Brad & Paige began to notice unusual changes in Bethany, and initially thought she was simply experiencing teenage angst.  Then one night while praying, Brad & Paige felt nudged by God to 'ask Bethany what she is hiding from you.'  They did....and their world was changed instantly.

What they discovered during that conversation and in the days and weeks following changed the entire course of their family and led them to take the Road Trip detailed here. A combination between parenting how-to and the story of the Mathias family's journey to health and healing, this is an interesting book.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review of "Rescue Team" by Candace Calvert

Kate Callison is on the run - essentially from herself.  Currently she is serving as the Interim Emergency Department Director for Austin Grace ER, but feels burdened to live up to the standards her predecessor, Sunni Sprague, set.  Sunni was beloved by all but disappeared and is suspected to be a victim of foul play.

Kate has her own personal history to deal with and a number of situations, both personal and professional, seem to exacerbate her stress.  Wes Tanner, an engineer/search-and-rescue specialist wants to break through Kate's tough exterior, but her secret just may be the one factor he can't handle.  Will forgiveness be possible?

I've enjoyed all of Candace Calvert's books and this one is no exception.  I especially enjoy how they can be read independently of one another, but if you read them in order there are little "nods" to the other books or characters in them.  Read them and enjoy!