Saturday, September 16, 2017

Modern Watercolor by Kristin Van Leuvin

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
I'm enjoying a few art books this weekend, between academic assignments.

This one is such fun - why not try your hand at animals, flowers, landscapes, etc.? The text demonstrates different kinds of paints (granular, smooth, etc.) as well as brushes and other tools.

The pictures are great and instructions are easy to follow. This gives a jumping off point for your own creativity. It's a really pretty book with great colors and design. Enjoy!

Expressive flower painting by Lynn Whipple

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
What would you like to splash on canvas? Are you in love with flowers and enjoy time with friends?

This reads like a DIY party book - great fun and beautiful photos. You'll enjoy doing these projects, customizing them to what makes you smile.

Made me happy to read it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Ghost Boy gripped me: what would it be like to be trapped inside a body that seemed dead to everyone else. The faith of Martin's parents was uplifting - and gave me hope that many more who seem unable to respond will be helped.

I was a "Candy-Striper" (volunteer nurses' aide) during my last years of high school in Canada. We sat at the bedsides of many dementia and near-comatose patients, reading and feeding them - whether or not they could respond. I think that's why this touched me so much; I watched many families tend the physical bodies and love their "missing" beloved children and parents.

The story is well-written and an encouragement to consider every human worthwhile.

Die Empty: Unleash your best work every day by Todd Henry

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Let's just say I liked this one so much that I'm on my third read-through. I recommended it to my accountability group and to a close friend as well. After reading it on my own, we've read through the book together, considered its implications for the challenges and opportunities we face (and where we've been) - and now are working through the suggestions at the ends of the chapters to improve our serve.

A life changer. Highly recommended - practical and applicable for daily as well as longterm evaluation of your life and work. If you take it to heart, you'll be ready to live to the max so that you die "empty."

Punderdome: a card game for word lovers by Jo Firestone and Fred Firestone

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
My husband and kids love to play with words, which admittedly can be puzzling to guests around the table ... until they figure out that every word is fair game. So this hit the spot as a family gift to ourselves. (Take note that I'm not the punster.)

If you like words or word games, this will be a hit for you as well. Great gift for wordsmiths, writers, and punny friends.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

How to Lead when You're Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Every once in a while, you read a book that provides a pause and an aha. This is an easy read, but as I turned the pages, I kept stopping to think about the impact people have had on me ... and that I have on others.

Have you ever sat back and worked half-heartedly because you had a crummy boss or thought you didn't have the authority to affect change?

Scroggins says doing good work brings its own reward - an open door to change an organization, expand one's network, and improve our own character. He encourages the reader to seize the moment and serve wholeheartedly. He's an amusing writer, but the momentum he promises feels achievable.

You'll feel someone is cheering you on - with sound advice, interesting stories, and his own experience. It's well worth picking this book up: you'll feel like you had a great mentor looking over your shoulder.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

5Q by Alan Hirsch

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
So... I read The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch for a doctoral class  and I nodded my head and thought, "What a great way to view church and the Kingdom of God." You may be familiar with the old idea made new like I was.

And now, Hirsch has moved from "good idea" to "why is this an idea - and a wonderful one, according to sound theology," engaging me in a deeper way. I live with a theologian who delights in "learning about God and talking about him with friends." And this is a conversation that powerfully challenged the notion that there are many gifts and all of them ok - by saying, we need these five to survive and thrive. 

What are the 5Qs? Ephesians 4:1-16 tell us that Jesus has gifted his Church with functional gifts of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd (Pastor), and Teacher - or APEST in the book. I kept having to stop and think about the visionary, healing, teaching, renewing, and growing properties of churches I have attended or where I've been on staff. 

I hope this is used as a text in pastoral classes. The depth of theology and the practical outworking of those gifts is worth the price of the book. It's in my library for good.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

MatchUp by Lee Child and Sandra Brown, etc.

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
The book of short stories challenges two bestselling authors to work together on each story. I found it interesting - having read so many of the authors' other books - to see how combined imaginations brought twists and turns into each tale.

I found some more compelling and successful than others - but they were all interesting and had unexpected pot twists. If you like mystery and thrillers, you'll like these short reads.

A Fine Gentleman by Sarah M. Eden

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
I'm usually not interested in historical fiction. But this was an amusing and engaging read. When a young woman demands the attention of an aspiring barrister, she presents a dilemma he cannot ignore. Will he pursue her claims to inheritance? Will he be a fine gentleman to someone in need?

Mariposa has an agenda. Her bravery elsewhere is matched by her creativity in solving her problems. Jason has enough to do - but finds himself sucked into her life despite his best intentions. I recommend this when you take a trip and want to be transported into historical Europe by a complicated and fun tale.

Always by Sarah Jio

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Your true love and best friend disappears. He just vanishes - and your dreams, hopes, and expectations vanish. Eventually you recover. But you always wonder what happened to that special person. Why did he leave without a trace?

Kailey and Cade had life's adventures before them - but he's gone. She's found a great guy and looks forward to marriage ... until she spots Cade again. Can she go back? Will she start over or continue with her safe and perfect future?

Despite some not-so-believable premises, I found myself enjoying the story. (Does "rescue" and "fixing" ever really work?) The glimpses of life on the street, enduring friendship, and hope make this a compelling read.

Left Hanging by Cindy Dorminy

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Her life as a single mom is hard. She still loves her daughter's dad, though he abandoned her at the most crucial time in her life. Or did he? Sometimes life is more complicated that we imagine.

Working side by side, Darla and Theo get to know each other all over again. A tale of exploration and discovery, of friendship, romance, and family relationships - a good read with believable (and complicated) characters and a possible happy ending. Great for summer at the beach.

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
What if your idea of the perfect spouse was keeping you from finding "the one"? This sweet and complicated story of expectations and first love takes place during WWII. It explores family life for those left to cheer on and mourn their young men at war. It captures an era when everyone knew everyone in town - and people pitched in as a community to overcome challenges.

This made me a bit nostalgic, even while it made me think about how our impulses and attractions determine how open we are to the world.

A thoughtful and appealing look at friendship, love, and family.

The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Pete Scazzero

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
This isn't the first book by Scazzero. But it follows similar themes - that a healthy ministry and life will be the result of competence and attention to the inner world of the soul: emotions, spiritual life, relationships, etc.

The first few chapters caught my attention. Designed as a workbook, the author provides insights and stories, then asks the reader to take practical steps to examine and improved areas of competency. I found myself checking in with peers and mentors to make sure I was understanding the requests - and that I was on track to improve my serve.

Well worth a read.

The Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rohde

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
What a great introduction to keeping notes. Full of ideas, icons, and diagrams, Rohde takes sketching to a new level.

I felt it would take a while to remember and master the skills - most of the designs aren't intuitive to me so I'd constantly be referring back to Rohde's ways of recording meetings, appointments, and thoughts.

That was the only drawback. This is the book to buy after reading the initial Sketchnote book - otherwise, you'll constantly be re-reading and rethinking how you want to keep track of things.

A good reference book.

A Falling Friend by Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
A slightly crazy around and around of friendship and cautions - do you live the life you want - and ignore the consequences? Or do you live cautiously and watch others dash here and there?

This was fun because I know the world of academia: there are certain expectations - and those are enforced or waived depending on who you know and who's got your back. This story of two friends with entirely different worldviews is the tale of watching a slow freefall. You warn a friend but she doesn't hear. You caution but she don't notice. Bridges burn. Fireworks explode while she sleeps. And yet you sympathize and hope it all turns out well in the end.

This made me laugh, shake my head, and worry about some of the disturbing lives that swirl around us. Worth a read.

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Davis

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review
Oh my. I loved this story. Sunshine, a TV celebrity chef, is not who she pretends to be. And someone is out to tell the world. But who can it be? 

Can she get her life back? And does she want to? What actually matters?

I got one surprise after another in this exploration of authenticity, honesty, and knowing one's self. In an era of fake news, the desire to manipulate one's image in social media, and wanna-bes, what you see is not necessarily true.

The book deals with family issues, friendships, coworkers, and close relationships of love. The characters were believable - I will be thinking about this book for a while. You'll enjoy it, too. Highly recommended.