Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review of START by Jon Acuff

In 2011 Jon Acuff released his book QUITTER, which was a book all about pursuing your dream. The trick was to not quit your day job, but to utilize your day job to fund the pursuit of your dream job, while also doing excellent work at your day job. Acuff’s new book START goes deeper into the process of actually pursuing your dream. For many people, there are plenty of excuses not to start pursuing their dream. We may be afraid, or we may fear we need a complete map for how things should go before we get started.

But Acuff says we just need to start. We’ll never get anywhere if we don’t start. Acuff says to punch fear in the face, abandon the path to average, and run hard on the path to awesome. So how do we do that? Acuff breaks down the process into five very practical phases:
1. Learning
2. Editing
3. Mastering
4. Harvesting
5. Guiding

The great thing about the process as Acuff outlines it is that it’s a very practical path of continual development. We all start with learning, and by learning we learn what we’re gifted for and what we’re not. By editing out what is clearly not for us, we can focus on mastering the thing that is for us. Then we can enjoy the harvest, even as we continue developing. Finally, we can guide others on their path to awesome.

I love this book for its practical wisdom and the humor with which Acuff communicates throughout. I’m currently “starting” down my own personal path to awesome by pursuing alternative certification to be a teacher. This book is going to be very beneficial as I go down this path. I can’t recommend this book enough if you really want to pursue your dream.

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson Publishing

Photo Credit: Thomas Nelson

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review of DOMINATION by Jon S. Lewis

Sixteen-year-old Colt McAlister may be humanity’s only hope against the ruthless alien race known as the Thule. A prophecy concerning him, a human boy with Thule blood running through his veins, foretells that he will be the one to stop the Thule from overtaking humanity. But Colt’s not so sure. He worries the blood might be changing him? What if he becomes one of the Thule? With some of his closest friends around him training for combat in a Thule invasion, Colt must rise to the occasion and become the hero he was destined to be.

DOMINATION is the final book in Jon S. Lewis’ young adult C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy, and like most epic trilogies, the stakes are raised and everything is up for grabs in this story. I’ve really enjoyed this story because it’s been a true hero’s journey throughout, especially with the feel of a comic book superhero origin story. It’s a book that will appeal to young adults, and it tells a great story of God using a human being to be a rescuer of humanity.

DOMINATION has some surprises in it concerning the Thule which raise some interesting questions about our view of others not like us. The story progresses quickly, and the only drawback to it is that I felt like the ending happened too quickly. However, taken together, I thought Lewis created a unique and compelling story through the C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy.

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson through the BookSneeze Reviewer Program

Photo Credit: Thomas Nelson

Thursday, April 11, 2013


In the first INFINITY RING book, pre-teens Dak, Sera, and Riq are sent on an important mission to travel to "breaks" in the world's history, using the Infinity Ring, and repairing the damage done by the SQ. Dak's parents went missing in the timeline along the way, and now they must heal the breaks on their own and hope they run into Dak's parents again to rescue them. In INFINITY RING: DIVIDE AND CONQUER, the second book in the series, the three kids are thrust into the middle of a war brewing between the Vikings and the Parisians. Even worse, Dak manages to get himself separated from the other two and fighting on the side of the Vikings to survive. The break must be fixed, but they seem to only be making it worse. As the SQ's time warden closes in on them, they must find a way back together and a way to undo the damage they've caused. The future of the world depends on these three fixing history's timeline.

Each book in the INFINITY RING series is written by a different author. I worried how well the authors would be able to stay in one voice for each of the books, but as I read book 2 I felt like I was reading a book by the same author of the first book, James Dashner. DIVIDE AND CONQUER is written by Carrie Ryan. It's a middle-grade novel, but it packs some very intense situations into the plot. There's very real danger for the characters and very real emotional stakes as well. 

Dak is an interesting and somewhat frustrating character because he's always getting himself into trouble. And he never learns his lesson, which is very fitting for the age he's at. Sera's motivation to get rid of the painful remnants of her parents gives the story an added dimension of what's really at stake. The villain of the story, the organization known as SQ, is still a mystery I'm eager to learn more about as the story continues.

The INFINITY RING series is a unique approach to storytelling in bringing different authors together to each lend their hand to a chunk of the story. Carrie Ryan's contribution in the second book carried the story forward the story forward really well, and I'm eager to continue the journey with these three characters.

Review copy provided by Scholastic

Photo Credit: Scholastic

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review of CINEMATIC STORYTELLING by Jennifer Van Sijll

In the earliest days of filmmaking filmmakers had to come up with ways to tell a story without the use of dialogue because the ability to sync sound to film was still a thing of the future. This limitation forced filmmakers to be creative in how they conveyed a story on screen, considering such things as camera movements and transitions between scenes. CINEMATIC STORYTELLING by Jennifer Van Sijll looks at 100 ways to tell a story visually using techniques like camera angles, lighting, editing, sound, etc.

While dialogue is an important part of storytelling, filmmaking is obviously a visual medium and the author teaches writers and other filmmakers to keep in mind the conventions that the visual medium naturally encourages. The book includes excerts from scripts and screen shots throughout to help illustrate the techniques.

CINEMATIC STORYTELLING will help screenwriters become better visual communicators and filmmakers as a whole tell better stories.

Review copy provided by Michael Wiese Peoductions

Photo Credit: Michael Wiese Productions