GENRE(S): NF - Christian Living
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: God has crafted a unique vision for each of our lives, a voyage of great discovery filled with fantastic riches that are imbedded in the very journey itself. Yet few know where to begin this journey and fewer still know the questions to ask to get them on their way. With warm, down-to-earth practicality, Andy Stanley explores the ordinary life of Nehemiah and his vision for accomplishing the extraordinary. The astonishing concepts learned from Nehemiah are laid out in this practical guide that provides the direction, motivation, and encouragement for rising above the ordinary and realizing the unique vision that God has for you and you alone. Visioneering is a rare, life-changing book that speaks to the desire of every heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Stanley is the founder of North Point Ministries (NPM). Each Sunday, more than 33,000 people attend NPM’s five Atlanta-area churches. In addition, NPM has planted over 30 churches outside the Metro Atlanta area with a combined weekly attendance of more than 15,000. Over two million of Andy’s messages are accessed from North Point websites monthly, including both leadership and sermon content.
MY THOUGHTS: If you're looking for some direction in life, this book is a great place to start. Stanley is a virtual guru on all things related to finding and fulfilling your destiny, and this in-depth study on Nehemiah illustrates the important principles behind how to do this.
To be honest, there were so many parts of the introduction that I'd highlighted or underlined, I was sure that the remainder of the book would just ramble on about those same things. Nope. There are nuggets of wisdom on every page.
Each chapter elaborates on the Biblical account of Nehemiah, with modern stories sprinkled throughout that everyone can relate to. From those illustrations, practical applications are outlined and explained in a practical, easy-to-understand manner. Then begins the fun, when we are challenged to personalize what we've just learned with a Visioneering Project at the end of each chapter.
The principles in this book are applicable to goals and callings in many areas of life, including personal, career, ministry, and family situations. I would recommend this book for anyone who realizes he's not living up to what he was born for and wants to know how to take practical steps to live out that destiny.
**I was provided an ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: When obsession and love blend, and darkness consumes the mind and spirit, is it even possible to recognize the light?
Set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, nineteen-year-old Avery Nichols embarks on a journey of love, loss and recognition that perfection is often an illusion. She gives all she has to the one man who cannot love her back, but still refuses let her go. Now another fights to give her everything she doesn’t believe she deserves.
Jake is complicated and damaged, fighting to find his way after the loss of his mother, and despite his every attempt to stop it, Avery gets behind his defenses and forces him to feel once again. He doesn’t want to love her, but can’t let her go. Parker is genuine, honest, and falls for Avery the moment he sees her. He wants nothing more than to love her, if she would only let him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: T.L. Gray is a freelance writer who also serves as the pastor’s wife at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Ennis, Texas. It was her desire to see young girls know and experience Christ’s unconditional love that led her to write her debut novel, Shattered Rose. She strongly believes that sometimes the greatest stories are told from the heart of those who have lived them.
SERIES: Winsor Series, Book 1 (Book 2, Shackled Lily, is set for release in July, 2013.)
MY THOUGHTS: Unfortunately, this story is all too often truth instead of fiction, happening in the daily lives of girls who struggle to strike a balance between love and obsession, between healthy choices and dangerous fixations. I recognize so many people in the pages of the book, so many real faces that are caught up in the destructive cycle Avery faces.
In this way, the book becomes not only a great read that draws you in and makes you want to yell at the characters to make certain decisions, but it also becomes a beacon of hope to those desperately lost in a long dark tunnel that twists and turns and winds back around to where it started.
The descriptions of Avery's thoughts and reasoning as she battles her eating disorder and obsessive relationship give us a raw look at the labyrinth she's running through. Every choice is a crossroads, and rooting for her to take the right path is unavoidable. She's the girl-next-door who needs someone to believe in her, someone to throw her a lifeline and introduce her to the One Person who can clear up her confusion by grabbing her hand and walking her out of the dark maze. But will she open up to that possibility or continue down the self-destructive path that seems so much easier to take?
Anyone who works with girls or young women should read this book, not only to gain sensitivity to that girl everyone knows who just won't stop making bad choices, but also to be reminded of the difference simply reaching out and showing unconditional love can make in someone's life.
I found this book enthralling, and I loved the author's style. Her passion for sharing truth with women shows through in her writing and in the video below. I look forward to reading the second book in this series, which seems to spin off of one of the minor characters. Keep 'em coming, Mrs. Gray! You've gained a fan!
PARENTAL RATING: I consider this a strong PG-13, but I need to emphasize that the G does stand for guidance--you moms and aunts will want to read this one first. It's brutally honest about the reality of eating disorders and obsession, with some spicy details about how far sexual attraction can go. The author didn't cross any lines in terms of the details, but use your judgment about whether or not it's too much for your teen.
**I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Featuring step-by-step sketches and easy-to-follow illustrations, this bind-up gives kids a look into fashion-forward clothing trends including Rock Star, Girly Girl, Glamour, Harajuku, American Girl, and Skater Chic. Tips, techniques, and the perfect outfit accessories round this book out for the future fashion designer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mari Bolte is an author of children's books and a lover of art. She lives in southern Minnesota with her husband, daughter, and two wiener dogs. A degree in creative writing has taught her the value of fine writing. Parenthood has made her a purveyor of fine art, with specializations in sidewalk chalk, washable markers, and glitter glue.
MY THOUGHTS: Beginning with a page of basic drawing instructions, this book assumes that the reader already has some skills in sketching figures. One more page explaining fashion and giving some pointers for drawing rounds out the introduction.
From there, six different categories of styles include about a dozen individual outfits. Each of those has three to five different sketches, showing the reader how to move from a basic body sketch to a full-color drawing of the model wearing that outfit. Also included with each is information about that particular style and tips on how to personalize the look.
The clothes are spunky, the poses are fun, and all types of girls are represented, from sporty to studious to frilly. A couple of random guys show up in the skater section, but they seem to fit right in.
I think my budding artist will enjoy trying out these sketches, and will be inspired to branch out with some original creations after reading all the advice scattered throughout the pages of this book.
**I received an ARC of this ebook through netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Paying for sex — engaging in “the oldest profession” -- is everywhere, even in your church. The factors leading individuals into sex work are as varied as hair colors, yet sex workers are viewed as powerless individuals who must be rescued.
I Heart Sex Workers, A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade offers another perspective, one where the characters defy stereotypes and solutions are hard to find. Author Lia Scholl firmly believes the Christian response to sex work should be one of building agency for women, through education, through fighting injustice, by listening to the voices of sex workers.
I Heart Sex Workers examines the forces leading individuals into prostitution, whether through coercion, choice, or circumstance. And it provides a Christian response, answering the question, “Are you my neighbor?” How do we respond to woman trading sex for a place to live tonight when she asks, “Where will I sleep?” This book discusses these issues and many more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lia Claire Scholl believes in the power of real relationships. Whether it’s congregational care, working with individuals in the sex industry, or doing cross-religious and cross-cultural dialogue, she feels that deep relationships help us know ourselves better, provide real economic and spiritual benefits, and chase away rainy days.
Lia has been the pastor of the Richmond Mennonite Fellowship for just over 6 years. RMF is a small community committed to justice, and working towards peace. In addition to congregational work, Lia has ministered with women in sex work for nearly 12 years. She’s a sex work and harm reduction activist, and believes that people should have choices about their lives. Lia received her Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.
MY THOUGHTS: The rescue of human trafficking victims is all the buzz these days. Christian organizations, private mercenaries, government officials, humanitarian workers--everyone is on top of efforts to rescue men, women, boys, and girls who are forced into sexual slavery. And this is good.
But sometimes the focus on this area of sex work causes us to make broad generalizations about all people involved in the trade, generalizations that simply aren't always true.
Lia Scholl draws on years of experience to shed light on common misconceptions and how we can minister to sex workers. She explains how we can increase agency for each person--her ability to make a solid choice based on the options available for her life. Most importantly, the author educates about respecting individuals and rejecting the urge to treat them as victims.
I particularly enjoyed this book because I am often exposed to people who fit into the category of sex workers, and I'll bet you are, too. From the transgender hairdresser at the end of my block to the ladies who use conjugal visits to barter with the male inmates across the yard, to the young person who is struggling with his sexual orientation and stumbles into my church. The more I understand where these people come from and what drives their decisions, the better equipped I am to form a relationship with them. And isn't that what I'm called to do?
This book is a valuable tool, not only for clergy and those in secular or religious ministry to sex workers, but also for anyone who wants to reach out to those around us and learn how to treat an often misunderstood population with dignity. As we come alongside them, we empower them to make solid choices. I Heart Sex Workers is a vital guide to understanding just how we can do this.
WARNING: Obviously, there is adult content in this book, so you won't want to pass this one along to young readers. I think this goes without saying, but since I often review books for teens and young adults, I'm including this disclaimer. That said, Rev. Scholl handles these delicate topics with tact--enough information and explanations to understand a world I didn't fully grasp, but without the gory details that would make me cringe or skip through sections.
**I was provided an advance review copy of this book through netgalley.com, in exchange for my honest review.
BOOK DESCRIPTION: This unique, hands-on 21-day guide helps all believers develop intimacy with God so they can hear his voice clearly--and then proclaim his words faithfully.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. James W. Goll is the President of Encounters Network, the Director of Prayer Storm, and the Director of God Encounters Training – an eSchool of the Heart. He is a member of the Harvest International Ministries apostolic team and an instructor in the Wagner Leadership Institute. With great joy James has shared Jesus in more than 50 nations teaching and imparting the power of intercession, prophetic ministry, and life in the Spirit.
MY THOUGHTS: Written as a 21-day devotional, this book is subtitled A 21-Day Journey to Embracing Your Calling. The author uses Old and New Testament prophets as well as his own life to illustrate key points in the journey to become someone God can speak to.
Although I have a slightly different theological view of prophecy than the author, I enjoyed working through this devotional. The principles apply to any person wanting to be used of God--the struggles he will face, the highs and lows of ministry, danger zones to avoid, and ways to strengthen your spiritual life in order to be available and effective in kingdom work.
In Day 4, which deals with character development, I highlighted this quote, which seems to summarize the point of the book:
"God does not want us only to give a message: He wants us to become a living word."The book is divided into three sections with seven chapters each: The Lifestyle of Intimacy, The Lifestyle of Wisdom, and The Lifestyle of Revelation. Each chapter deals with a different, very practical topic, including stories, scripture, questions to think through, and a prayer.
Don't pick this book up thinking you'll do a 5-minute read-through as your daily devotion each morning. The chapters are thorough and full of things you'll need to reflect on, sift through. At the end of this very introspective, personal devotional, the reader should be able to identify his own strengths and weaknesses and have a plan for working on those.
**I received an copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, courtesy of netgalley.com.
GENRE(S): NF - Marriage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Author and pastor Steve McVey has spent thousands of hours listening to and counseling women who face marriage difficulties. Many want to believe God is at work, but they don't see how. They try to change their husband, but eventually become frustrated, hopeless, or disengaged.
Starting from the truth that a wife can't change her husband (or children)--only God can--Steve points women toward how God wants to change them by flooding their hearts with His generous grace so they can...
- rest in His assurance of their worth when they feel pressured to do everything
- trust, not fret, when they're unsure about their husband's spiritual leadership
- see God's bigger picture in the struggle with a prodigal child
- take decisive, loving actions in a controlling or bullying relationship
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve McVey is the President of Grace Walk Ministries, a discipleship training ministry located in the Tampa Bay area. Over 550,000 copies of Steve's books have been published in fifteen languages. He and his wife, Melanie live in Atlanta. They have four adult children and three grandchildren.
MY THOUGHTS: Many Christian books I've read that are written to wives place the entire weight of the marriage on her shoulders. No, they don't come out and say that, but they stress that the environment or mood of the home depends on the woman, that behind every good man is a great woman, that her attitude and reactions will determine how successful or spiritual he will be.
Now, I am fully aware of the power we queens hold--the feminine wiles and our secret powers, all that. But I have seen too many good, strong women married to duds to believe everything I read, and I know some horror stories of situations where no matter how perky or joyful Mom is, when it's time for Dad to come home from work, the house's atmosphere plummets. No amount of recipe-religion effort on her part is making any change in her man, so she ends up feeling like a failure because SHE can't change him.
So talk to me about practical matters if you're brave enough to "go there" in your book.
Steve McVey does just that. He's dealing with situations many women find themselves in at some point. I won't go into detail about those since you can read a few examples in the publisher's book description above, but let's just say that for those women who aren't living out a fairy tale with their Prince Charming, there's sure to be a section of this book devoted to you.
Although many different scenarios are presented--including a story to make it real and practical tips of how to handle yourself in each--the main thread running through the book is that of trusting God with your marriage. In chapter 2, before getting into the hows and whys of specific situations, the author says this,
"...you must first give up your husband into the Father's hands so that He can take up the situation and do His work. Sometimes a man can't hear God's voice because his wife's voice is drowning Him out. Give your husband to Him. Then watch and wait. He will work in your husband's life in His way and His timing."I've heard that sort of advice before, but the difference comes in the chapters that follow. What does this giving up look like in my life? How can I stay out of God's way in my marriage relationship so that He can do His work with my husband? What does a Godly wife really look like in my home, in my family? What if my husband is not a Christian? What if he IS?
The truth that applies to any woman in any type of relationship is that we must look to God to meet our needs and thus not be so dependent on another person that our sense of value or identity is tied into the relationship with that person. When this happens, I am freeing the other person from the heavy weight of defining me, of completing me. Sure, it sounds romantic in movies to say that he completes you, but God is really the only One capable of doing that.
I recommend this book for all wives, soon-to-be wives, or hope-to-one-day-be wives. I also recommend it highly for anyone finding herself in the position to counsel wives, as these chapters include straightforward, practical tips of what a woman should do in certain situations.
**Scheduled publish date is August 1, 2013. I was provided an advance review copy from netgalley.com in exchange for my honest opinions, which I have expressed here.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Young lawyer Jacob McKinley–Old Charleston money and socialite–had it all until God took his loving new bride, Leah, in an instant.
Dr. Bill Foster, dynamo pastor and Leah’s father, empowers Jacob to find a way forward in his battles with his resentful widowed mother, a sister-in-law who blames Jacob for Leah’s death, ruthless business partners–and God.
Spunky grad student Rachel Anders sparks Jacob from prolonged malaise and self-perceived guilt for his incomplete work as a husband. When Jacob gets a chance to save the life of Rachel’s teenage brother, bonds form. But what about these feelings he’s developed for Rachel? Is there a timetable on loving another?
God lays the path back to faith, life, and love in Jacob’s lap. If only the silver-spoon boy can step up and become a man again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kairos Prize-finalist Ryan LaForge writes contemporary fiction for one reason: for fun. He hopes you'll have fun with his stuff too. Oh, and if there's a decent message along the way, that's even better. When Ryan is not watching movies or Clemson and Gonzaga sports, he's usually chasing around his two killer kids, Elle and Jacob. He lives with his wife, Shanda, and the fam in Greenville, S.C.
MY THOUGHTS: I opted out of reading the book summary before finishing the book, and am I glad I did! Yes, this is a loved-and-lost-and-loves-again story, but it's so much deeper than that. Jacob has barely gotten his feet under him as a married man, as a Christian, and as a reformed party-boy bachelor, when his wife is killed. How he continues on his journey without her physically there to help him is really what this book is all about.
I've come to find that I prefer reading a love story written by a man, especially if a man is the main character, and Mr. LaForge does not disappoint. He provides just enough details that you know something more is there, just waiting to be revealed. I wondered how long I'd have to wait before finding out how Leah died, and the suspense kept me flipping digital pages.
The author also has a strong command of vocabulary, and there was never a point at which I felt I could just skim through some pages or skip spots because they were fluff. What my high-school English teacher would refer to as "50-cent words" were sprinkled over every page, making me dig out a dictionary a time or two. Considering that Jacob is an intelligent, successful lawyer, this writing style fit the overall mood of the book.
On a personal note, I'll be recommending this to all my Lowcountry friends, as Mr. LaForge really did his homework before he set his book in Charleston, SC. Life as someone who comes from multiple generations South of Broad is unique to this historical city, and I held my breath when I realized the author had chosen that as the birthplace of his blue-blooded main character. Colloquialisms, local haunts, food, culture--he hit the nail on the head in all the fine details, down to common first and last names in Charleston society.
**SIDENOTE: Nice touch to name the characters Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, and to throw a bone to the Gamecocks fans. :)
PARENTAL RATING: PG. The grief is real in this book and would be a great topic for conversations about how we deal with loss. Regret and forgiveness are also heavy themes, as well as organ donors, selflessness, and relationships with family and friends. There are lots of talking points to jump off of throughout the book. When reflecting back on his memories with Leah, Jacob's thoughts never veer into areas inappropriate for teen readers, nor does the budding relationship with Rachel. The spiritual truths Jacob hears from others and experiences himself as he matures are solid. I will definitely be passing this along to my teen girls and looking forward to more from this author.
At the time I write this review, Amazon is listing The Widower at $2.99, a huge bargain for what you'll get out of this book.
**I was provided a copy of The Widower in exchange for my honest opinion.