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!

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!

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!