Archive for March, 2010

The Right Call by Kathy Herman

March 28, 2010

Kathy Herman is writing a series of books called the Sophie Trace Trilogy. 

In January, I reviewed the second book in this series, The Last Word.

So, when the opportunity came to review the third book in the trilogy, I jumped at it.  In this book, many of the same characters continue their growth.

Herman is an interesting writer.  She writes good suspense, her imagination is great, and she doesn’t play it safe.  However, some of her character formation is a bit contrived or perhaps preachy. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I thought the imagination that Herman showed in building the plot was original.

There is one thing that I think that Herman does well – she thinks about the impact of life controlling issues, and shows them throughout her book – in the small and big ways.  She does a great way of showing how people are impacted by the decisions in their lives.

She also does a great job of keeping her readers on track with the details.  I really enjoyed the reteat that this series offered.  It was a real treat.

You can buy this book on Amazon.com.

Dancing with my Father by Sally Clarkson

March 28, 2010

Some books you just hate – not because they are bad, but because they stretch you.

The first chapter of Dancing with My Father is not that great.  In fact, if you are under 50, you probably want to start at the second chapter.  However, from that point on this book is deep and as good as any Swindoll or other devotional teaching book I have read. 

I have a favorite leadership scene in the bible.  It is of David, dancing half naked before all the people, as he leads the people in worshipping God and rejoicing as the Ark enters Jerusalem.  Ever since I the moment someone pointed that scene out to me in a leadership context, I have known the importance of dancing with vulnerability before God.

Sally Clarkson takes that same scene and focuses on it from a different perspective – she shows us what it takes to dance with that vulnerability and trust.  You will be definately be richer spiritually if you take the time, be willing to let God do His work in you, and work your way through this book.

You can buy this book from the publisher on their website.

They have also given me an extra copy to give away.  Be the first person to ask for it, and it is yours.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Mother-Daughter Duet by Cheri Fuller & Ali Plum

March 28, 2010

I first picked out this book to review because of my place in life.  I have a new adult daughter.  I wanted to get some new clues on how to navagate this part of my life.

Mother-Daughter Duet is written by Cheri Fuller and Ali Plum.  Cheri is the mom, and primary writer.  Ali offers a daughter’s perspective in each chapter.  It was great on giving me some things to think about. 

Here are the topics they cover: 

  • validation
  • respect
  • communication
  • bonding
  • when they get married
  • when they have kids
  • what to do in a crisis
  • taking care of yourself
  • the power of forgiveness

If you need to review this topic, I think you will find this book helpful.  I didn’t really find the daughter’s parts helpful, but then, Ali is about half way between my daughter’s age and my own.  I did find Cheri’s writing style engaging and encouraging.  It was a bit of an introduction to each topic, like a coach sitting beside you on the couch and reminding you of the things you might want to watch out for at this new stage of life.

The publisher has given me an extra copy of this book to give away.  Be the first to ask for it, and it is yours.

You can buy it from Waterbrook Press on their website.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

The Black-White Achievement Gap by Rod Paige and Elaine Witty

March 27, 2010

First, I want to tell you that I feel inferior reviewing a book on the Black-White Achievement gap.  I am not black – I don’t have a black background, and I’m not educated to speak to the issue. 

I have been told that I am completely ignorant to the issues of race merely by the fact that I am white and grew up in a society that was almost entirely white (Central Oregon).  White people don’t seem to think that race plays a role in their lives, but we are all impacted by what shapes us – from the color of our skin, the country of our parents and grandparents origin, the socio-economic structure of our homelife, the level of education that our family has ascribed to.

That being said, I am very excited for this book.  I have a passion for the inner city. This book speaks directly to the issues that need to be solved in order for us to make a difference and change the tide of poverty cycles.

Academically, this book is one of the best researched and well written that I have ever read.  Many academians want to speak to an issue, but not offer solutions.  Rod Paige, former US Secretary of Education, and his sister, Dr. Elaine Witty offer historical options for the problems, refutations and arguments for the psychological basis, and solutions, including examples. 

Not only do I think this is an excellent book and an important offering, but it is also incredibly educational for those of us who don’t have a black history awareness.  History, is written from a perspective.  Our education system is attempting to make right this issue, but when I went through the system, we weren’t taught (for instance) how slavery started, or that when people first started coming to the U.S., both black and white came as indentured servants and worked their way out of servitude.  In the chapter The Origins of the Problem, I found a brief history of African Americans, some of which was new information.  Thankfully, my children are receiving a much more rounded view of history.

Not only should you read this book, but I encourage you to hand it off to someone else and join the conversation.  Kids in our cities are dropping out of school at an alarming rate.  The impact of a low education will not only impact their financial outcomes, but it will set their own children at a disadvantage.  According to this book, a three year old child of a family on welfare’s vocabulary consists of about 500 words as opposed to the same child in a professional family having about 1,100 words.   Although there are a lot of reasons why someone would end up on welfare, a low education and inability to support oneself is certainly a top contender.

Additionally:

 *   According to expert calculations from census data, dropouts are almost twice as likely as high school graduates to land in prison at some point in their lives, and people who never go to college are more than three times as likely as college graduates to be incarcerated. Improving the high school graduation and college enrollment rates for young African American males directly translates into fewer African American men in prison each year.

 *   Low income, lack of health care, higher crime rates, and many other factors connected to education combine to shorten the lives of African Americans. To put it bluntly, the black-white achievement gap kills-and so does the indifference of those who could be doing something about it, but aren’t.

This is an important book for our time.  We need to make a difference,  You can buy this book at Amazon.com.

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

March 25, 2010

My friends have been reading Liz Curtis Higgs for years.  When she wrote Bad Girls of the Bible, I almost took time out from my studies to check it out…almost.

So it happens that Ms. Higg’s 27th book, Here Burns My Candle is a first for me.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and frankly was afraid I would be disappointed.  Quite the contrary.  I found a woman of intelligence and wit who can not only spin words, but entwine the emotions.  If you haven’t read Ms. Higgs before, let me give you a hint – she isn’t just a regular writer.

With an ability to look for the story that develops biblical characters, she then takes that and transforms it into a period piece (not necessarily in a biblical period) that is incredibly well researched.  Here Burns My Candle takes us to Scotland in the Fall of 1745, supposing what the developing relationship between Ruth and Naomi might have been like before and up to Ruth’s decision to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God.

Want to know more?  The publisher had prepared a Youtube video that gives you a glimpse into the book.  Click here to see the trailer.

Do I recommend this book?  Yes!  I couldn’t put this one down – it is thick (think heavy), but I still carried to work and back.  It was really a great read.

Want to buy the book?  You can purchase it from Waterbrook Multnomah, the publisher who was so kind as to provide a copy so I could review it.

Living Free

March 24, 2010

A baby elephant is tethered with a very strong rope.  By the time the elephant is big enough to break the rope, his brain pathways have developed strong grooves and the elephant firmly believes that the rope will hold him.

From the time we are young, we are taught to fit in a system.  That system has social, mental and physical rules.

Then Jesus comes on the scene.  He came that we might have LIFE and have it to the full.  He came that our life might have more meaning that mere existence.  He came so that we could find joy when all we can see is drudgery.

The problem is that our brain has very deep grooves that tell us that we are supposed to stay within the system.

How do you change a brain pathway?  You do something different.  You learn something different.  This is the role of the Holy Spirit and of scripture.  God’s Spirit talks to our spirit, and slowly, we are changed from the inside out.  The thing is, we need to spend time talking to God.  The second part is scripture.  Reading the bible rewrites our brain pathways and helps us to see God’s way.  Let’s face it – we are finite.  We see things from a limited perspective.  God is infinite.  It would be wise of us to look for His input and ask for His help in gaining the leverage we need to live a life of freedom and joy.

The real definition of joy and freedom is living above the fray.  When we live life from God’s infinite perspective, we are able to walk in freedom:

  • to have joy when we see drudgery
  • to walk in love when we feel sorrow
  • to have an impact in the lives of others and see them for who they really are – valuable individuals created for a purpose.

So, I encourage you to join me.  I’ve been reading through the Daily Message this year and finding out what God has to say.  Today, He reminded me to live free.  What has He told you lately?

Taproot Changes Scenes with Brooklyn Boy

March 20, 2010

Taproot is off to an incredible season.  Only two months ago, they opened their new theatre doors to the public after recovering from arson.  Each new play has brough incredible surprises.  The Great Divorce brought great depth and new costumes.  Brooklyn Boy shows new use of stage.  They have a new way of using their stage.  You have to see how incredible they are able to move the walls and stage to change scenes with ease. 

As for Brooklyn Boy, there are times in our life when nothing turns out like we expected.

Brooklyn Boy opened at Taproot Theatre last night.   Some plays are simply respites from the day to day durge.  Some inspire us to be better.  Brooklyn Boy gives us insight into who we are and helps us appreciate things a bit more.

Jeff Berryman did an marvelous job of walking us into the world of Eric Weiss, a man who grew up in Brooklyn sometimes after WWII.  His father, played by Bob Gallaher, was the spitting image of a slimmed down Rodney Dangerfield.  Just watching the interplay of these two men explained so much of two complete generations – not only was the writing terrific, but the acting was superb.

Probably my biggest surprise of the night was newcomer Nicholas Beach.  He is new to the Taproot Stage, but he was fantastic.  His energy and quality bode well for his career.

Alex Robertson, who last played Clarence in December with Taproot brought new moments of depth and seriousness.  His ability to work with voices is fantastic.   Jesse Notehelfer has an unusual role, as a would-be seductress.  Lisa Peretti plays the wife who wants a divorce.  She brings the maturity needed to pull this conflicting role off – and I noticed in the program that she has a debut album coming out this Spring!

This play will answer questions of your heart and strengthen the resolution of your mind.  I think you will really enjoy an evening with this Taproot play.

You can learn more, and purchase tickets at Taproottheatre.org

Start Here by Alex and Brett Harris

March 14, 2010

If we don’t watch it, life can be very ordinary.  It starts when we are young.  “Enjoy these years while they last.”  When we look back, we have nothing to remember from all those years of vitality – we were ‘enjoying’ nothing.

God created us with a heart desire to matter – to make a difference.  This desire might mean that we simply choose to swim a little differently, and smile while everyone else is somber.  It also might mean that we start a Rebelution.  That is what Alex and Brett Harris did.  Written when they were just 16, their first book “Do Hard Things” is challenging youth to use their years of energy to change the world – by doing what doesn’t come naturally. 

Start Here is the sequel to Do Hard Things.  Start Here answers the question “but how do I do that?”  It also answers many of the questions that come up along the way – “Do I have to do something Big to make a difference?”  “What are my practical steps?”  “How do I keep my focus on God?”

I very rarely read any book that wants me to read it’s prequel, but this is one.  I want to buy “Do Hard Things” for my teens and preteens – I really like this set of books and the Rebelution they have started.  Because of their inspiration, teens are making a real difference in the lives of their classmates, in their communities and around the world.

I don’t think this book is just for teens, however.  Do you feel stalled and purposeless?  You should invest the 1.5 hours it will take to read this book.  You will feel inspired, you will know how to approach God and ask for purpose, and you will know how to listen for His voice, His prompts.  You will be inspired to move when He says ‘go’.

Want to learn more?  You can check out their website:  The Rebolution

Then, you can go to Random House, who provided this book for review, and find out how to purchase Start Here.