Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Kindness Challenge, by Shaunti Feldhahn


Who can benefit from a little more kindness?

As it turns out, all of us.  Shaunti Feldhahn makes a compelling case for understanding, and implementing, more kindness in our day to day relationships, whether they be with our spouse, our friends, or our coworkers.  Filled with solid research, a biblical perspective, and practical advice, this book walks us through the steps needed to bring more kindness to our lives and to our relationships, and outlines very clearly the improvements that we can hope to see when we consistently put forth the effort. 

With clear organization, and a warm conversational style, Feldhahn extends a sincere invitation to the reader to embark on her 30-day challenge, and to reap the benefits of more kindness, both to the receiver, to self, and to the relationship as a whole.  She also gives additional tips, resources, and further reading for those who wish to go deeper.

An excellent - and important - read for anyone who wishes to have stronger, closer, and more fulfilling relationships of all kinds.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions are my own.*


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Of Stillness and Storm, by Michele Phoenix


Of Stillness and Storm was an interesting book.  And I say that as the most sincerest compliment.  I tire very quickly of books that unfold too predictably, and Of Stillness and Storm was anything but predictable.

It tells the story of a missionary family - led by father Sam's vision - and the toll it takes on everyone involved, most notably the thirteen year old son, Ryan.  Lauren is the long-suffering and weary mom who tries to hold everything down in a foreign country, with a sullen and angry son, while her husband leaves them for two weeks at a time.  When she gets the chance to reconnect with an old friend on Facebook, their shared messages become her lifeline during a period of time that is becoming more and more intolerable.

When the situation with Ryan reaches a harrowing head, Lauren and Sam must make some seemingly impossible decisions;  decisions that they'd really been avoiding making all along.

Of Stillness and Storm is not a pretty book.  It doesn't necessarily make one feel good when reading it.  But it is gripping and raw and real, all of my favorite characteristics in a good book.  Phoenix is outstanding at writing believable dialogue, and the Facebook messages between the two friends were particularly compelling.  The characters are well-developed and relatable, and while it is fiction, it speaks to a very real issue for some very real families.


I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Candidate, by Lis Wiehl


Mike Ortiz is a charming and charismatic war hero who is favored to win the White House. He, along with his beautiful and seemingly perfect wife, Celeste, is busy campaigning in the final days leading up to the election.

Erica Sparks is a brilliant and accomplished journalist who is covering their story.  As she watches the couple, all smiles and decorum while they are in the public eye, something about them starts to bother her.  Are they really what they seem?  Why does something about Mr Ortiz's behavior seem so "off"?  What really happened in the Al-Qaeda prison where Mike Ortiz was held for nine months?

Erica sets out to discover the truth, even as her relationship with her preteen daughter suffers, her previously faithful boyfriend is cheating on her overseas, and the body count starts to rise around her.  She knows that what she is about to uncover is even more sinister and dangerous than she feared, but she won't stop until she has answers.

Lis Wiehl - herself an impressive Harvard Law School graduate, former federal prosecutor, and current legal analyst and commentator for Fox News - writes a great, page-turning book here.  While I've read books by Wiehl, I hadn't read the first book in this particular series, and I'm afraid I was missing out!  Well-written, likeable (or thoroughly unlikeable!) characters, believable dialogue, and heavy suspense.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up. 


*I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Shaken, by Tim Tebow


Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity In The Midst Of Life's Storms, by Tim Tebow, is an uplifting book that delivers exactly what it promises: both a personal story and a broader encouragement about the staying grounded when life throws us disappointment, heartache, and rejection.

I have always sort of had a soft spot for Tim Tebow, even though I didn't particularly follow his career. What I saw was a man who very publicly lived out his dream, and his faith, and who was subsequently skewered by both the media and the general public when he fell out of favor. The more negative Tebow-related things that popped up on my newsfeed, the more compassion I felt. This honest and refreshing book showed me a real and vulnerable side of Tim Tebow that the media couldn't (and wouldn't!) ever capture.

Tebow isn't perfect, and this book doesn't pretend otherwise.  In fact, it takes us deep into the myriad of ways that he - just like the rest of us - struggles with things like disappointment, and failure, and arrogance, and a too-competitive spirit.  He takes us through both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, how he handled them, how he wished he handled them, and what he learned.

At its heart, this book is one man's story of how he remembers who he is (and whose he is) even when the rest of the world seems like it is conspiring against him.  It is honest, raw, and relatable to anyone who's ever experienced disappointment of any kind - which is all of us.

Great and inspiring read.


I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Long Journey To Jake Palmer, by James L Rubart


Jake Palmer is a corporate trainer who coaches professionals to shed their own external labels, see deep within themselves, and live out the life they're meant to be living.  When a catastrophic accident leaves Jake both emotionally and physically scarred, he retreats into a deep depression.  Once an elite athlete, his injuries have left him unable to perform even the simplest of physical activity without pain, and his previously enviable marriage ends in divorce when his wife finds herself unwilling to deal with his disfigurement.  Even as he coaches others to be their best, most authentic self, his own personal life and sense of self-worth is crumbling.  He feels defeated, lost, and as if he is living his professional life as a fraud.

When he reluctantly joins a few of his friends for an extended stay at a lake house, Jake learns about the Legend of Willow Lake.  The story, passed down from generation to generation, tells of a secret corridor that leads whoever follows it into a path of total healing and fulfillment of his soul's deepest desires.  Skeptical at first, Jake finds himself obsessed with finding the corridor, and fixing his broken life - and heart - once and for all.

James Rubart tells a really good story here.  Not my typical choice of book (I tend to stay away from books with a strong element of the supernatural), he won me over with the honest story, and well-written characters.  I rooted for Jake, and so badly wanted him to experience the healing he just wasn't able to find.  The second half of the book in particular kept me turning the pages, as Jake embarks on the often treacherous journey to see if he can discover a relief from his pain, an answer to his questions, and ultimately a truer version of himself.

This book touches on a really lovely and important message, one that I was especially needing to hear right now.  I highly recommend it for anyone who is struggling in any area of their life, particularly when it comes to self-acceptance, as well as for anyone who just enjoys a good, well-told story.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up. 



*I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I Take You, by Eliza Kennedy


Oof.  I had trouble with this book.  Billed as a light beach read type of story, the main premise is the will-they or won't-they relationship of Lily (an accomplished lawyer, but a train wreck in her personal life) and Will (a straight-laced and brilliant archaeologist).  When we are introduced to the couple, they are a few days away from their wedding... a wedding that Lily isn't sure she is ready for.  Dealing with cold feet and uncertainty, Lily drinks her way through the wedding preparations, cheats on Will with a number of different men, and generally behaves like an self-entitled, single young girl, instead of a mature adult who is about to be married.

I wanted to like this book.  But Lily gave me very little reason to root for her, or even like her.  She was an unapologetic alcoholic who also dabbled in drugs, she slept around (days before her own wedding), and was spoiled and bratty and emotionally unavailable to everyone around her.  There is definitely such a thing as characters that you love to hate, but that wasn't the case her.  I didn't just dislike Lily.  I didn't even care that I disliked her. 

I almost put the book down midway through, but I made myself finish it to see if my opinion of Lily might change. Sadly it did not.  She did eventually grow up a little (A little.  Sort of.), but by that point, she'd behaved so horribly, I really didn't care.  I couldn't emotionally connect with her at all, and by the end of the book I just wanted her to go away.  Will was a bit more likeable than Lily, but I couldn't take him seriously.  I was torn between feeling pity for him, and just finding him incredibly stupid for staying with someone who treated their relationship like such a joke.

Kennedy's writing style and skill were fine, and the book would have actually been a quick read (which to me, is always a huge plus.  It means I wanted to keep turning the pages) if I'd genuinely connected to the characters.  Others might find Lily and company fun and light-hearted.  These just weren't the characters, or the book, for me. 


Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles For Building Stronger Relationships, by Dave Willis


The Seven Laws of Love, by Dave Willis, makes a strong case for the importance of love, and walks the reader through the seven principles that will help us get there.  Drawing from biblical references, Willis essentially outlines a blueprint for love that is intended to strengthen all of our relationships.  While the primary focus is on marriage (and other long-term commitments), the same principles apply whether one is addressing a relationship with their spouse, their children, their friends, or their coworkers.

Initially, I was not all that excited to read this book.  A book about love seemed like it might be dry and even tedious.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case.  In fact the opposite was true.  Willis takes a serious topic and makes it light, readable, and practical without veering into an area of making it all fluff and no substance.  His writing style is conversational and down to earth, and he uses both humor and plenty of personal stories to make his point.  He delivers solid information without talking down to the reader, and has crafted a book that is well organized and easy to read.  I brought my copy on a recent road trip, and read it in its entirety in one day in the car.

Love is something that all of us could learn to understand - and execute - better.  This book helps you do exactly that.  It is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone who wants their relationships to grow deeper, stronger, and more authentic.



*I received this book for free from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*