The Last of the 2014 Books

I had a couple of books from 2014 that I haven’t had a chance to post about. Here are my reviews! 

courtesy of booklookbloggers
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary
This is one beautiful new reference book I was thrilled to add to my collection. The pages are thick, glossy, richly illustrated color pages that add depth to any Bible study time. This is a hefty tome, to be sure, both in content and size. My boyfriend was enthralled with the beauty and detail found here, and I fear the book may end up living at his house! For any scholar or serious Bible lover, this is one of the most stunning Bible Dictionaries out there. Not to be confused with a concordance, though this edition is cross-referenced, this book gives contextual info and historical background on Biblical terms, feasts, figures, and more. You can find such interesting things as a list of diseases in the Bible, photos of discovered historical ruins, and detailed definitions of all of those hard-to-pronounce Old Testament places/names/facts/figures. This is an essential for your bookshelf.

courtesy of bloggingforbooks
Make Up by Michelle Phan
Have you heard of Michelle Phan? Who am I kidding, if you’re a female with internet access, of course you have. She is one of THE biggest YouTube beauty gurus, and this hardcover shares her story along with actionable tips to be your best, beautiful self. 
Michelle runs her YouTube channel and blog, her makeup line Em, her beauty subscription service ipsey, and her television company FAWN, along with being Lancome’s beauty guru. Can we say BUSY?
While Michelle’s tone is a bit elementary, there are some interesting stories and tips to be found from poring over this book. I was pleasantly surprised. Her story is interesting (she started out as an art student) and I enjoyed seeing a behind-the-scenes peek into her life and routine. I was expecting this to be a thumb-through book but I enjoyed spending time with the book. Michelle covers a LOT of ground, from makeup and skincare to job interviews, etiquette, and finding your online persona. I think this would be a great gift for any teenager or twenty-something. A beautifully presented book, and looks pretty in any stack or bookshelf, too, which is a huge plus in these visual days! 

Elsa Schiaperelli: A Shocking Life

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.
Have you ever heard of Elsa Schiaparelli? If you’re in the fashion world, the answer is probably yes. In her time, Schiaparelli was a more famous couturier than Chanel, her contemporary. She is perhaps most famous for her invention of the color “Shocking Pink” and the corresponding “Shocking” perfume. Her inventive clothing designs captured the spirit of the times and the art movement of Surrealism at the time (she was a great friend of Dali’s), becoming art themselves. Giant lobsters skirted the bottom of dresses, and don’t forget the parsley sprinkled here and there, on a dress worn by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, in her wedding trousseau. Buttons were foreign coins, giant bugs, or other strange ideas. Her clothes were expandable, sometimes even three-in-one, or featured unique hidden pockets, trompe l’oeil details, or fabrics of her own creation.
Schiaperelli’s 1937 Lobster Dress, designed with Salvador Dali, 
currently in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

But before Schiaparelli was a famous couturier, she had a unique and perhaps upsetting life, one that set her up for her surrealist escapades and her utterly unique entree into the fashion world. She learned business lessons by hard scrapes, had a disabled daughter with a conniving husband she later divorced,  and somehow made her way into the top tier of Paris fashion. The second World War saw her star waning, perhaps due to a nagging interest the FBI had in her whereabouts (was she a spy? we may never know). Schiaparelli lost her footing in the fashion world, but her legacy continues today with inventions such as the wraparound dress, dresses with matching dinner jackets, swimsuits with built-in bras and the ahead-of-her-time split skirts. And, of course, her call of “Dare to be different!” and that ever-so-lovely shocking pink.

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This lovely book, a tome to be admired and set on a dressing table, is a triumph of the story of the shocking and madcap dress designer, none other than Madame Schiaparelli.

A dash of the unexpected, indeed!

Happy Reading!
Natalie 

Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women

{This book was provided by BookLook Bloggers for my honest review}
It’s a rainy day here. Quiet, gray, begging for quiet time with my Bible and an English Breakfast Tea Latte.
I’ve been needing a new everyday Bible. My old one is literally from elementary school and falling apart, loved as it is. The only other Bible I currently have is a travel version with my name on it that was a gift, and I cherish it, but find it a bit cumbersome for regular reading. So when I saw this lovely edition with real-life devotions by Lysa Terkeurst and the team at Proverbs 31 Ministries, I was super excited. I adore Lysa and Proverbs 31 Ministries. (you should SERIOUSLY follow them on Facebook…their posts are always timely!)
This NIV Bible is a Compact size, which is the size of a larger paperback book, bigger than my travel version but small enough to tuck into my purse. The embossed leather and smooth leather in lovely robin’s egg blue and a deep turquoise are stunning. The pages have silver edges and blue pages for the devotionals. There are 365 devotionals throughout the book, one for every day. The devotions are focused on family and children, but the lessons are applicable to everyone. 
This Bible would make an absolutely lovely gift or a gift to yourself. It’s a real beaut, and so is the box, a perfect box to keep cards or notes in.
Do you have a hardcover or softcover Bible? 
This is actually my first softcover one!
xo
Natalie

Book Review: Once-a-Day Chronological Bible

provided for my honest review by BookLook Bloggers
The NIV Once-a-Day Bible, Chronological Edition, is one of my new favorite things! 
My boyfriend and I had been talking about reading the Bible chronologically for awhile now as a way to refresh our reading of the Bible and bring new perspective. We’ve also been looking for a devotion to do together, so when I had the opportunity to grab this once-a-day version, I knew it would be perfect for his birthday. We’ve been greatly enjoying reading together nightly. 
I will admit the readings can be a bit long each day, but you’re reading the whole Bible in a year, so it’s to be expected. I particularly enjoy the “reflection” section after each daily reading. 
It’s fascinating to be reading the Bible in chronological order, so if you haven’t tried this, I recommend it so far for sure. The once-a-day version makes it easy to stay on track. And the readings are merely numbered, not dated, so no need to feel guilty if you miss a day. I do wish they had a hardcover edition, but that’s a minor detail. Overall, a great Bible to have in your house because of its useful and unique set-up. 
Have you ever read the Bible chronologically? What did you think?
Happy Reading, 
Natalie 

Let’s All Be Brave


Let’s All Be Brave. 
by Annie F. Downs
* 1 star
(Disclosure: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review by BookLookBloggers. All opinions are my own and I was not required to post this review.)

I really wanted to love this book by blogger Annie F. Downs. It’s the first book of hers I’ve read, and I loved the concept and title. I NEED more bravery in my life right now! And I know several good friends who really enjoyed this book.

So I was disappointed when I found this book to be lackluster from the very beginning. It was far too personal, as the entire book was simply “essays” about times in her life (some random examples, I thought) of when Annie tried to be brave, that were confusing, muddy, and convoluted to the uninitiated reader (i.e. anyone who is not very close to the author). I felt that this book tried too hard to be hipster by including the coffee shop where each piece was written. The pieces were not chronological, which made following Annie’s travels and stories confusing. The stories were more like mini therapy sessions for the author, in my mind, with a,”So be brave! Like I sorta was!” at the end of each “chapter.” Not what I was looking for. The writing style was also far too young for me, very adolescent-oriented and not quite deep enough for the subject matter. The sentence structure was very stylistic. That might suit others just fine, but it just didn’t jive for me. I also found it disconcerting that Annie talked about the writing process a lot, making reference to the fact that she was writing a book, and in one or more cases, spending at least a whole page talking about how nervous she was to be writing what we were going to be reading on the next few pages. Bravery? Maybe. Good reading? Not in my book (ha, a book pun, get it?).

Sorry Annie and friends, I really am. But this one only gets 1 star from me.

Happy reading!
xo
Natalie

The Spirit-Filled Life


The Spirit-Filled Life 
Dr. Charles Stanley
***** 5 stars
(Disclosure: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review by BookLookBloggers. All opinions are my own and I was not required to post this review.)

“Discover the Joy of Surrendering to the Holy Spirit” love that!

This was one of those books that fit into the category of “right book at the right time.” I have been recommending this book to everyone! Dr. Charles Stanley was new to me until a few years ago, living in Minnesota and being blizzard-ed in a few times with my grandma, we watched his In Touch Ministries streamed church services. Dr. Stanley is smart, no-nonsense, but still comes across as a Mr. Rodgers type that you want to be your mentor. His sermon on anxiety resulted in 2 pages of notes that I still keep in my Bible to read frequently.

But back to this book. There are so many misconceptions about the role of the Holy Spirit in the church today. Stanley cuts through the confusion with a Biblically-sound, simple, straightforward and yet heartfelt and personal approach that every Christian should read. This will wake you up to the loving power of the Holy Spirit in your life. It’s hard for me to tell you how much you’ll get out of this book because it’s just SO. MUCH. Total game-changer. Here are some of the things they list in the promotional materials:

  • who the Spirit is—and how to develop a relationship with Him
  • who the Spirit isn’t—and how to avoid damaging misconceptions
  • how being “filled” with the Spirit actually works
  • what the Bible really teaches about spiritual “signs” such as speaking in tongues
  • how the Spirit can increase your capacity for faith, hope, love, and personal transformation
  • what it means to “hear” the Spirit’s voice
  • how to make the most of your unique spiritual gifting to build up Christ’s body
  • what happens when the Spirit’s power is unleashed in your workplace, your family life, your friendships, and every other area of your life

Everyone I told I was reading this book (online, friends in person, and strangers who saw me reading it in public) said, “That book changed my life!” because it was originally published years ago and this is an updated re-issue. I can now add my own voice to that chorus! I’ve got a copy for my boyfriend already…grab your own for sure! I highly recommend it.

Happy weekend reading!
xo
Natalie

Reading Lately

My goal this year has been to read a book a month, and so far I am on track or exceeding that number (I have lost track of a few library books I read, ugh!). I thought I’d share a few thoughts on books I’ve read recently.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
(I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from BookLook Bloggers)
by Nabeel Qureshi
4 1/2 stars ****

This was a fascinating account of a devout Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, finding Jesus and his strenuous path to acceptance. I have had the pleasure of hearing Nabeel speak with Dr. Ravi Zacharias, both great thinkers with great hearts. Nabeel’s serious, intellectual struggles are thoroughly explored, a great read for those who have a theology background. I did want the “Wow” moments to stand on their own instead of being bogged down in lengthy explanations sometimes. 
I stayed up waaaaaay past my bedtime to finish this one, though, a good sign. The second I was done with this book a friend nabbed it from me to borrow, another good sign.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone, just beware that it’s a bit intellectual and not light reading for the beach by any means. That doesn’t mean you should shy away—instead, jump right in. Learn how to better pray and make friendships that open doors. Nabeel, while an incredibly smart writer, is also warm and welcoming and won’t leave you hanging as a reader. In the end, Nabeel has to come to grips with what he is studying and what God is laying on his heart…despite the consequences that still haunt him. What a story! 

The Wal-Mart Effect
by Charles Fishman
5 stars *****

This was another fascinating read…an upsetting and thoroughly interesting discussion of our current (ok, in 2006, when the book was written) economic climate and the double-edged sword we’ve created. I’ve read Sam Walton’s biography (the founder of Wal-mart) and it’s interesting to me how the two books paint vastly different pictures of Walmart. I think with Walmart the intentions are good (Save money! If we streamline everything then we save money which saves you money!) but the execution is blind and with little regard for the businesses and people that make Walmart work. This book is well-researched, fair, honest and direct. It really comes down to this: What are you willing to sacrifice to save a bit of money at Walmart? This book might help you realize you aren’t willing to sacrifice anything to shop at Walmart. I highly recommend everyone read this book.

A Year Without Made in China
by Sara Bongiorni
2 stars **

I had such high hopes for this–a real journalistic-homey combination of practical knowledge, research and personal experiences. In reality, the book falls quite short indeed. It was far too self-pitying and she didn’t follow her own rules for the experiment well at all. It’s the same story told a bunch of different ways. It’s a story I would have been happy to have read about in the Wall Street Journal for about 20 minutes of my time, tucked in the back of my mind, and carried on with my life, checking labels more often than normal to see where things were made. I skimmed the middle section of this book because it was so dull and poorly written. I learned a few little tidbits: sneakers for little boys and lamps are rarely if ever made in the USA anymore. But this wasn’t a “Made in USA” experiment, which would have been a much more interesting experiment in my opinion. Not worth picking up.




L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon
by Leon Gorman
4 1/2 stars ****

Only pick this book up if you’re interested in the detailed business workings of L.L. Bean. If not, you’ll be bored to tears, at least after the first few chapters that are more personal. But if so, you’ll find the tale of modernizing L.L. Bean a fascinating and worthwhile journey. Leon Gorman is L.L. Bean’s grandson and he ran the company from his grandfather’s death in the 1960s until the new millennium. His staunchly-held beliefs that the business was built on principle and not profits helped keep the L.L. Bean mystique alive, and indeed, to keep it thriving through several economic slumps and losses of identity amidst crises.

Limitless Life: You are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future
(I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from BookLook Bloggers)
by Derwin L. Gray
3 stars ***

Derwin Gray is a former NFL linebacker-turned-Pastor, which is a great starting point for those coming to this book from a football perspective and realizing it is really a spiritual-life-application book. Pastor Gray talks about how we are more than our labels and that Jesus gives us freedom from labels. I found the writing stilted at first, which made it hard for me to get to the meat of the book. Then I found a few troublesome spots with theology (a more prosperity gospel-centered theme). However, I persevered with the book, picking it up in between other reads. I found some good themes in here, but felt that if you don’t know how to separate the chaff from the grain this book might not be an ideal starting point. However, if you are an established Christian struggling with sin and labels in your life (selfish, addict, abused/abuser, etc.) this may be a great book to help you break free from the cycle. I appreciate Pastor Gray’s convictions and his belief that pain and suffering show us how big and great our God is. I loved this line: “No matter where we go, who we know, and what possessions we have for show, our souls are still eternally thirsty until we drink living water.” And these powerful words: “People may have given up on you, but Jesus has not.” If this book speaks to you, pick it up and I will pray it helps you find victory. And if it doesn’t speak to you, at least take those words to heart: People may have given up on you, but Jesus has not. Amen!

What have you been reading lately? Did you have any reading goals for the year? I’d love to know!

Happy reading!
xo

Natalie

Restless by Jennie Allen

So I just finished this book. And it wrecked my heart in the most powerful, beautiful, messy way. Really laid me bare in my heart in perfect timing. I’m starting B-school  (an online business school) today, and I have been really struggling because I had so many ideas and I wasn’t sure which direction to go. Needless to say, I was Restless. But then this beautifully designed book arrived at my doorstep on Friday afternoon, right around the time I had finished my deadlines for the week. I picked up its matte cover, which felt so nice in my hands, and read a few words. These words, on the very first page after the title page, the Dedication page: 

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” ~Saint Augustine
God, You are home to me. Take these words and light fires that cannot be put out-for Your fame on this earth in our time. 

I mean, those words spoke to something so deep in my heart at a time of searching. They captivated me, and I kept reading. I read and dreamed and scribbled and bookmarked and made many many pink notes in this book and my nootebook. God freed something in my soul through this book.
Jennie’s premise is: God’s story + our threads (the gifts God has given us, what makes our heart sing, and what we’ve struggled with) + the need + The Holy Spirit = My Purpose. 
As I nervously investigated the threads of my life, and humbly held out hands and memories before God, I found the most beautiful thing. I found my purpose. 
 Jennie really leads you through a God-focused, Holy-Spirit-driven plan of action to help you uncover your purpose for God’s glory.  I shed a lot of tears and I laughed out loud more than once. I’m pretty sure Jennie and I would be great friends. 
My own purpose and dreams will take some time. But the sharing of this book? That can start right now. Jennie Allen has created something brilliantly inspired here, so touching and warm, so personal and yet downright big. Big enough to change the world. So grab this book, my dear friends, get your pink (or purple or blue or red) pen and let’s get our hearts and lives a bit messy for God’s glory. 
If you’re with me, let’s participate in this journey together AND with Jennie Allen herself! I’m SO thrilled about this, ya’ll. If you have a local Christian bookstore, I highly suggest you support them and buy this book there. It’s so important to have those in our communities! If not, the cheapest price I found was on Christian Book Distributors, or you can get the Kindle version on Amazon
THEN sign up for the live book club with Jennie Allen that happens *tonight* and the next few weeks. Week 1 is already here.
Oh friends, let’s bring our lives and our ‘threads’ before God. It’s going to be so very beautiful. 
xo
Natalie

PS> I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for my true and honest opinion.

Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 3

You all know of my affinity for HitRecord, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s (JGL) online collaborative recording/creating studio. Oh, you don’t know? Check out Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Reviews Volume 2 and one collaboration I was a part of here.
I adore the concept of tiny stories. They fascinate me. They’re like little snippets, little poems, even dearer for the fact that they leave so much to your imagination and interpretation.

 Love this one!

And this one! I love that the illustrations and stories are all collaborative, so they’ve been mixed and remixed by artists to create the final product. It’s such a fun thing to do, and you can be a part of it, too, at Hit Record. I’ve got an account (goodgirlstyle)! Even better? You get a portion of the proceeds of any products that are created using your artwork or words.
Love these little books. 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has also created the first collaborative variety show, Hit Record on TV, that just debuted. I just watched it…how fun is this, guys? It’s so quirky and has such a cool edgy vibe. Here it is:
JGL is one of the most multi-talented people I’ve ever seen, I’m pretty sure. He plays the piano, sings, acts, writes, produces, and is always doing something new and unique. In a pretty one-dimensional Hollywood, I admire that he steps out from the crowd to do his own thing. And I just LOVE being a part of cool new projects.

“Getting started, it’s always the hardest part, just walking up and saying Hello! Or sitting down in front of that blank page. Once you start writing, there’s plenty to say.” 
JGL

Let’s get started. Let’s live and write and share and record our own tiny stories. 
Who knows, to someone else, they might be the biggest stories ever told. 
xo
Natalie
PS> Thanks to it!Books by Harper Collins for the review copy of Tiny Stories, Volume 3. I loved it.

Inspire Your Week



“We were all made to live, love, and
dream courageously. He has given us
brave spirits and hearts that long to
take part in adventures with Him.”
One of my dear friends, Katie from Letter Bird Art, is such an encourager. Such a beautiful heart. She has written an ebook titled An Inspired Life, and I want to tell you just how awesome it is! 
Katie seeks to “live an inspired life full of possibility” and in the time I’ve gotten to know her, I can say that this truly sums up her life…inside and outside, she is so beautiful! Her blog, A Place to Dwell, never fails to put a smile on my face and a bit of an inspired spring in my step and living. 
I was blessed to read Katie’s new e-book, An Inspired Life, a few weeks ago. It has drifted through my mind often since then, particularly the Prayer Prompts. I used my pink Moleskine to take notes on the great questions Katie’s asks to help you see, refine, and dream with God over the current season in your life. There is a call to both embrace it wholeheartedly and yet never let go of patient and hopeful expectation on the Lord. 
Just look at these inspiring chapter titles: 
~Seeking & Becoming
~Fully & Fearlessly
~Leaning & Dreaming
~Marking & Remembering 
~Embracing & Creating
~Celebrating & Sharing 
Sounds like a pretty full, wonderfully inspired life to me! 
It’s probably a short work-week for you, meaning hopefully you’ll have lots of lounge-around-on-the-couch time. Why not download Katie’s book and use that time to be inspired to dream with God? 

Katie is offering, today only, to kick off the holiday week, a 25% discount on the book! You guys, you’ve gotta snag this NOW! For real! You won’t be sorry. 
Promise. 
Use the code: GETINSPIRED to knock the price down from $9.99 (still a total bargain) to $7.50 (a REAL bargain!) Shop Here!

Thanks so much, Katie, for writing this book, for LIVING this book, for making me smile, and for sharing all of that with us through your words! 
xo
Natalie