Sunday, December 20, 2015

Review of THE HEAVEN PROMISE by Scot McKnight

Heaven has been a popular subject to write about in recent years. It seems there's this enduring hope that there's something beyond this life and beyond the brokenness we currently experience. In The Heaven Promise, Scot McKnight tackles some of the most asked questions people have about heaven and seeks to answer them with biblical insight.

Many people have developed serious misconceptions about what the Bible teaches about heaven, and McKnight's book seeks to tear away these misconceptions. Like Randy Alcorn's Heaven, McKnight tackles the relevant passages from Scripture to paint a picture of heaven that is often very different that what most people have come to understand.

I enjoyed the tone of this book and the hope that it gives for the biblical conception of heaven. My favorite book on the subject is Randy Alcorn's Heaven, but this a great addition to the conversation.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review of FREEHAND FIGURE DRAWING FOR ILLUSTRATORS by David H. Ross

Drawing from a photo as a reference is difficult when you're first learning how to draw, but not as difficult as trying to create a drawing on paper from just your imagination. The proportions inevitably end up imperfect, and your drawing itself comes out looking nothing like you imagined. That's why Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators is such a helpful book.

This book helps you to develop the skills to draw any figure without reference and create drawings that come out just as you imagined them. After some foundational instruction on perspective in drawing, the author, David H. Ross, walks readers through several types of figure drawings, giving them the reference points to draw any figure from imagination.

If you want to learn how to draw from memory, Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators will help you to develop the skills you need.

Review copy provided Blogging for Books

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review of THE STORY OF GOD'S LOVE FOR YOU by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I have loved reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to my children because it paints a clear and endearing picture of God and his pursuit of us in the life of Jesus. Now, Sally Lloyd-Jones repackages the text of the Jesus Storybook Bible for adults. 

What's great about Lloyd-Jones' writing is that the stories are beautifully told and cover key points in the entire biblical story. A common refrain of the book is that every story of the Bible whispers the name of Jesus. It's a fresh retelling of the redemptive story that is faithful to that story.

If you've never read anything by Lloyd-Jones, The Story of God's Love for You is a great introduction. If you have children, the Jesus Storybook Bible is just as great.

Review copy provided by Book Look Bloggers

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review of H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick

Brad Lomenick's new book, H3 Leadership, outlines twenty habits that he believes truly effective leaders need to adopt. They're all framed around three main habits of being humble, staying hungry, and always hustling. Lomenick was the president of Catalyst for a decade and wrote a previous book on leadership called The Catalyst Leader.

While I liked The Catalyst Leader, H3 Leadership is a great continuation of the principles discussed in the previous book. Lomenick believes leaders should be vulnerable, relentless learners, have a clear vision of where they want to be, and cognizant of the steps they need to take to get there. Those are the points that stuck out to me the most, though there are many more.

Lomenick has a lot of experience in the leadership realm, so if you're a leader in any capacity, H3 Leadership is bound to be a beneficial and practical read.

Review copy provided by Book Look Bloggers

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review of THE COLSON WAY by Owen Strachan

Chuck Colson was an interesting man. After being involved in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration and serving time in prison for his involvement, Colson converted to Christianity and began bringing the gospel to prisoners with his Prison Fellowship ministry. Colson was known as a public figure who loved Jesus and communicated eloquently about the gospel message. I remember the first time I read his book How Then Shall We Live?, and it remains one of the most influential books I've ever read.

The Colson Way is a new book by Owen Strachan that aims to bring the insight and way of living out public faith of Colson to the attention of millennials, many of which have never heard of him. Strachan highlights the way in which Colson lived his faith out in the public square and encourages believers to follow in Colson's footsteps as they strive to impact the culture with the life-changing message of the gospel.

The Colson Way is a great reminder of the life of a man who made some serious mistakes and yet was graciously rescued by God and used greatly by him.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Review of YOUR BLUEPRINT FOR LIFE by Michael Kendrick

Life is complicated, and becoming a Christian and committing yourself to living a life that's holy often makes it more complicated. To be fair, however, Christians often make it more complicated than it needs to be. God certainly wants much from us, but God also wants to empower us to live up to the potential he's placed in each of us. That's what Michael Kendrick's new book Your Blueprint for Life is all about. Kendrick digs into the Scriptures to help believers see a life that is meant to be in pursuit of loving God and loving others, and this is in the context of the life we've been given. This includes the specific ways God has designed each of us. We're gifted in specific ways by God, and we're meant to use our gifts to make a difference in the world.

Your Blueprint for Life is about being intentional about how we live our lives. Kendrick covers the key areas in our lives where we need biblical guidance the most. These are areas such as finances and careers.

We need to think ahead and plan to live the life God is offering us. Your Blueprint for Life is designed to help steer you in the right direction.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Review of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible

I typically stick with my ESV Study Bible and enjoy the ESV translation more than the NIV, but since the NIV is probably the most-read translation and with D.A. Carson guiding the study materials of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, I decided to check it out. This Bible is huge. Every page is packed with Bible study notes, illustrations, and cross-reference numbers. I love the color throughout this Bible. There are also plenty of articles and book introductions.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible brings together some of the most respected Bible scholars providing insight into what the Bible actually means. As a study Bible, I'm quite impressed with the amount of scholarship and content contained in this Bible. It's definitely worth checking out.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review of Centralia by Mike Dellosso

Centralia is the latest novel from Mike Dellosso and his first to be published with Tyndale House. I've been a fan of Dellosso's ever since I read his book Scream, so I'm always eager to read whatever he has out next. Centralia is a gripping story because of its premise. A man named Peter Ryan can't find his wife and daughter, and although everyone tells him they died, he refuses to believe it's true. He begins a journey to find the truth and soon discovers that not everything is as it seems.

Dellosso has a way of crafting a story that keeps you guessing and also gets you thinking about deep questions of life. This book has been compared to The Bourne Identity, and there are some similarities, but the book struck me as the kind of story that Dellosso would write.

If you haven't read a Mike Dellosso novel, he's a truly gifted storyteller. Centralia is another example of this.

Review copy provided by Tyndale Blog Network

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review of THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

When Mark Watney is believed to be dead on the surface of Mars, the rest of his Ares 3 team is forced to leave the planet before ever finding his body. But Watney isn't dead, and now he's alone on the surface of Mars with limited supplies and no way to contact his crew or Earth to let them know he's alive. Anyone in his position would likely lose hope of ever getting off of Mars alive, but Watney is resourceful, and he knows another team will return to Mars someday. If only he can gather all his resources to survive.

The Martian by Andy Weir was one of the most intense and most brilliant novels I've ever read. Weir clearly spent a lot of time researching for his story to make it seem believable. After all, no one has ever been on Mars, and any chance of survival seems hard to fathom, yet Weir tells a story of a man who is desperate to survive and has the wits to give it a solid try.

I loved the way the story was told. Watney writes log entries almost every day of his experiences on Mars. Those log entries are periodically interrupted by third-person narratives because Watney does face death at almost every moment. It's definitely one of those stories that keeps you on the edge of your seat to find out what will happen in the end. I highly recommend reading The Martian.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review of Better and Faster by Jeremy Gutsche

Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas by Jeremy Gutsche is a book for business leaders and focuses on creating better ideas. Gutsche gives many examples from his own business, Trend Hunter.

He talks about two overarching metaphors: the Farmer and the Hunter. Both are important, but he lists some specific negative defaults that Farmers tend to fall into. He spends several chapters describing how to be Hunter when it comes to ideas. He discusses the different kinds of opportunities that Hunters need to take advantage of.

Better and Faster is a helpful book for business leaders, but its principles are helpful for anyone who needs to generate better ideas on a regular basis.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Friday, August 7, 2015

Review of the FaithGirlz NIV Bible from Zondervan

My daughter's not quite a pre-teen yet (she's only six), but when I saw the Faithgirlz Bible available for review on the BookLook Bloggers site, I thought it would be a good first Bible for her. First of all, the Bible's exterior is pink and purple, which are my daughter's favorite colors. It's also hardback, which makes it a little more durable, and it has a magnetic snap closure.

Inside the Bible, there are book introductions that are aimed toward young girls. There is also plenty of extras peppered throughout the text to help young girls understand the Bible better, memorize key Scriptures, and test their Scripture knowledge. My daughter can't fully read yet, but she loves this Bible and enjoys having it read to her.

Overall, I'd say this is a great Bible for young girls. It's very durable and the design is very age-appropriate.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review of WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? by Pete Wilson

Life is stressful, especially if you're trying to figure out exactly what you're supposed to be doing with your life. Many people are overcome with doubt and uncertainty, and they wonder if there is any way to make living by faith easier.

Pete Wilson's new book What Keeps You Up at Night? tackles these problems head on from the perspective of one who lives by faith and finds comfort in relationship with Jesus. Wilson's book acknowledges uncertainty as a reality all people have to face, even people of faith. In fact, we often don't see clearly ahead of us. It isn't until after an event or series of events that we see where God was working. In the midst of uncertainty, we're challenged to trust in God. That's what Jesus did and that's what we're called to do. Our situations may change, but God doesn't, and chasing after the dreams God has placed inside us requires a great deal of faith in God's provision, promises, and power.

What keeps you up at night? While uncertainty may be a staple of your journey, it doesn't have to be debilitating. We can find strength and courage as we pursue the heart of Jesus. Pete Wilson's writing is warm and refreshing, and his message is important for those who struggle with stress in their pursuit of living.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Review of THE REASON FOR MY HOPE by Billy Graham

Billy Graham has been preaching the message of Jesus since long before I was born, so when I was growing up in a Christian home, I knew Billy Graham as someone who had been responsible for inspiring more people to follow Jesus than anyone else in history. Throughout the years, though Graham has gotten older and less able to be in front of large crowds, he's still someone many people respect and seek answers to life's most difficult questions from.

The Reason for My Hope is a clear explanation of the message of Jesus by a man who has lived it and seen it lived out by countless people. I personally loved the focus on hope specifically throughout the book because Graham presents Jesus as the only true hope the world has. Reading the book, you can hear his voice and it's almost as if you're listening to one of his Crusades.

Billy Graham loves Jesus and he's committed to his message. The Reason for My Hope is a clear call to have hope in Jesus.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review of THE ART OF WORK by Jeff Goins

I've been following Jeff Goins's career for years now, and it's always encouraging to see the way he's built a life out of doing what he loves and that he's willing to share what he's learned along the way. The Art of Work is Goins's fourth book and in it, he distills the journey he's gone on and w it can help anyone who reads.

Goins talks a lot about calling and about how we often know what we're meant go do at a young age. He shows the value of deliberate practice at what we want to do. One of the most significant pieces of advice Goins give is the challenge to live what he calls a "portfolio life." Living a portfolio life means that you don't focus on just one thing. Some people don't just want to be one thing; they want to use their skills in a variety of areas. These are the people that live portfolio lives.

The Art of Work is just the right kind of book for Jeff Goins to write. His insight is compelling, especially if you've followed his journey. If you struggle with knowing what career you're supposed to be doing, The Art of Work can help you get focused.

Review copy provided by Book Look Bloggers

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review of Bible Dominoes by Juliet David

My kids love to play games, so I was very interested to see if they would get into a new game I was offered for review called Bible Dominoes. Bible Dominoes is designed to teach kids basic math and memory skills while also exposing them to stories of the Bible.

The dominoes themselves are a durable cardboard material and each one features a number and a Bible related character or image. The goal is to play while also referencing the Bible storybook that comes with the game.

It's a fun game for my young children, though I do wish the storybook was as durable as the dominoes. Nevertheless, it's a great game for teaching kids counting and matching skills and important Bible stories.

Review copy of the game provided by Kregel

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blog Tour Review of THE CHOOSING by Rachelle Dekker

I had the privilege to read Rachelle Dekker's debut novel The Choosing a couple weeks before it came out, and it's really good. Check out my fiction/storytelling blog The Whisper Project for my full review of the book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review of WORDS TO DREAM ON by Diane Stortz

My kids, ages 6, 5, and 3, all love Jesus and have a ton of questions about him. They love to read stories about Jesus, but, of course, the Bible is a bit complicated for their age. Words to Dream On by Diane Stortz is a great Bible devotional book for my children. It's great because it covers some key Bible passages and paraphrases them into words that children can understand. The stories are told in an interesting way, combined with beautiful images, and there's a prayer to pray with your kids before you put them to sleep.

Words to Dream on gives our family the opportunity to study the Bible in a way that my children can understand and genuinely learn from.

Review copy provided by Book Look Bloggers

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review of THEIR ROCK IS NOT LIKE OUR ROCK by Daniel Strange

Christianity is unique among the world's religions, but it's not the only way people have understood humanity's relationship to God. The problem is that if Christianity is true, then all other religions have to be false. Christianity's teachings don't leave the door open for another religion to be valid. Yet there are many other religions with significant followings and Christians traditionally have struggled with how to relate to people of other religions, especially when Christians believe they need to communicate the truth of Christianity, which inevitably invalidates the worldviews of people who follow other religions.

Daniel Strange's book Their Rock is Not Like Our Rock tackles this difficult topic in a way that I haven't encountered in other writings. The book is very academic in nature, which makes it quite the read to get through, but the goal of the book is to help Christians understand the place of other religions in a world governed by God in order to better communicate the Christian gospel to people of other religions.

Some of the more insightful concepts of the book are the ways in which other religions borrow some bits of truth from God, but it's only in coming to God through Jesus that their religious hopes are subversively fulfilled. Strange borrows heavily from the thought of Cornelius Van Til, which makes a lot of sense about how God can use other religions to bring people to the truth of Christianity.

This is an academically heavy book, but the subject matter is incredibly important for understanding the worldviews of other people and why God allows other religions to exist.

Review copy provided by Zondervan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review of HEAVEN, HOW I GOT HERE by Colin S. Smith

Heaven, How I Got Here by Colin S. Smith is a fictionalized account of the life of the thief who hung on the cross next to Jesus and eventually found redemption there. Though the thief is only briefly mentioned in the gospels, Smith creates an interesting tale of what might've happened the day of Jesus' crucifixion from the thief's perspective.

The story mixes some of what we know actually did happen with some speculation of what it must have felt like for the thief on the day of his execution, particularly when it came to asking Jesus for mercy and receiving it. The thief tells the story from his place in heaven, and he recounts what he knew about Jesus and what led him to cry out to him.

It's an interesting approach to communicating some core ideas of Scripture.

Review copy provided by Cross Focused Reviews

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review of ETERNAL LIVING: REFLECTIONS ON DALLAS WILLARD'S TEACHINGS ON FAITH AND FORMATION

I've loved and respected Dallas Willard as a theologian and philosopher for many years, so I was greatly saddened when he passed away in 2013. As a follower of Jesus, there are few writers who have articulated the faith in a way that makes perfect sense to me as Willard did. Eternal Living is a collection of essays by people who knew Dallas Willard and whose lives he greatly impacted with his teachings.

The book is structured around the roles that Willard played in public and in the lives of the people he knew and loved. Probably the most moving of the essays are the ones by his friends and family. It's easy to see why reading his books impacted my life, but it's interesting to see how he impacted those who were closest to him.

Willard had an incredible impact on people, and that's why a book like this was so likely to come about. If you read and loved the writings of Dallas Willard, this is a great book on the impact he had.

Review copy provided by InterVarsity Press

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review of BOTH OF ME by Jonathan Friesen

Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen is a book about a young woman named Clara who is on a mission to travel the world without a care in the world, and she's been very resourceful about it. But everything changes when she encounters a strange boy named Elias on a flight. Elias seems to know things about her that he shouldn't know, including things about her past. But Elias has two split personalities, one that Clara is falling in love with and one that lives in a fantasy world. Clara is determined to discover the mystery of Elias and finish a journey she hopes will merge Elias's personalities.

Both of Me is different. It's a young adult novel, and it's about a boy with split personalities. The story takes off right at the beginning, and the relationship between Clara and the two versions of Elias kept me interested. I think this book works because of its unique concept. The description is compelling as we see the world through the eyes of the two different versions of Elias.

Though the saying goes that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, it was actually the cover that drew me to this book. And then I read the synopsis. It's definitely an interesting read, especially if you're a fan of young adult novels.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Review of 4-HOUR WORKWEEK by Timothy Ferriss

Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek has been a popular book among entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs in the last few years, so naturally I wanted to check it out. Ferriss writes from experience, and he's a very motivational writer. He wants you to believe that you can live the type of life that everyone dreams about. And he of course paints a picture of that life that's very appealing. I liked the book. It has a lot of solid information in it. But I don't know how practical it is for most people to do. It's written for a certain type of people, and I suppose that would be the creative class. Not everyone is creative, however.

As a strategy, Ferriss lays out the steps he's taken and encouraged others to take to gain control over their lives and do what they really love. I'm a teacher, and I love my job, but I have always wanted to create for a living.

I think there's a lot I can apply from this book and plenty of other people can to. But the writing style makes it sound too good to be true throughout. Overall, it's a motivating book that will get you thinking.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review of MOTIVATE YOUR CHILD by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

As a parent who is a Christian, I want my children to grow up knowing and loving Jesus. I also want them to develop the character they will need to be authentic in their pursuit of Jesus. What I love about Motivate Your Child by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller is that they approach raising children from a standpoint of wanting to teach children to make right choices for themselves. Instead of external behavior modification, prompted by punishment or reward, the authors give parents solid advice on how to help their children develop character and intrinsic motivation to do what's right.

They do this by exploring the concept of motivation and the common approaches that people take before encouraging us to help our children become the kind of people who make right choices. The key to the whole strategy is freedom of choice by the children. Do we want our children to obey because they fear getting in trouble or because they want to genuinely do what God wants from them? If you raise a child to love God and his wisdom, then they'll likely be much more responsible teenagers and adults.

I love the strategies in the last half of the book. The authors outline specific things parents can do in their time with their kids to shape their children's spiritual development. This is a solid book for parents who want their kids to become people who genuinely and relentlessly pursue after God's will for thier lives.

Review copy provided by BookLook Bloggers

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review of WONDER by Travis Thrasher

In Wonder, the first book in Travis Thrasher's Books of Marvella series, Thrasher sets up a story that moves forward on two levels. First, there's the story of Brandon, a teenager with an abusive drunk for a father and a summer job that he volunteers to work for free just so he can get to know the new girl in town, Marvel Garcia. As Brandon navigates the life of a teenager and the unique struggles he faces, there's another level of the story brewing in the background. A teenager has been murdered in their small town, and no one knows who is responsible. As Wonder takes us into the first half of Act 2 of Thrasher's Marvella story, Brandon and Marvel become closer as they discover more and more about each other, their dysfunctional families, and the role Marvel believes she is to play in God's redemptive plan.

Wonder is a love story, but it's one that is played out against the backdrop of the mystery surrounding the murders occurring in the town. What's interesting about this story is that this is clearly about the murder that occurred in Marvelous, but it's as if Thrasher refuses to let us explore the murder with any depth just yet. It truly feels like that plot thread is running in the background, and it gives the story a sense of foreboding throughout.

This story, or at least this part of the story, is about Brandon and Marvel. Marvel is a great character. She's unique, bold, confident, and yet strangely humble. She has a deep love for God, and yet Thrasher isn't afraid to show us that she struggles at times with the faith she embraces. This is important because although she feels deeply for Brandon, she's sure she's not supposed to be with him.

What I always love about Travis Thrasher novels is the characterization. Being written in first-person point-of-view, Brandon has a very distinct voice and personality that comes through clearly in the story. But the depth of characterization isn't limited to just the main character. Thrasher has created a distinct voice for Marvel and all of Brandon's quirky friends, as well as his enemies. I don't think you can read a Thrasher novel without getting a clear idea of what each of the characters is like, and it's great because although this is another young adult series like Thrasher's earlier Solitary Tales (one of the best series I've ever read), Brandon Jeffrey definitely isn't another Chris Buckley; he's his own character with his own struggles and journey.

Wonder is the second book in a four-book series, and the last few pages will leave you wanting to continue the story because it's the midpoint, and the midpoint is the place where things start to get crazy. I'll be interested to see where this story goes from here and its connection to Solitary (read the acknowledgements in the back for the vaguest hint that they're connected). If you're looking for a story with exceptional characterization and a suspenseful plot, The Books of Marvella is one to check out.

Review copy provided by Tyndale House Publishers

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review of J by Howard Jacobson

J by Howard Jacobson is a story that takes place in a unique future dystopian world. An event has occurred sometime in the past that completely changed the tide of human history. It's an event shrouded in mystery, and it has somehow erased any record of history. The story surrounds a character named Kevern Cohen who falls in love with a girl named Allison. While their love for each other grows, their relationship reveals the brokenness of their world and the potential destruction that could occur as a result of their love.

Jacobson creates a world that keeps you turning pages in search of answers. This is a book that explores some deep themes, and feels truly disturbing at times. The mystery drives the story forward, and the love story keeps you committed to it until the end. This book has been compared to other classic dystopian novels, and it's an apt comparison. Definitely an interesting read if you're into dystopian stories.

Review copy provided by Blogging for Books

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review of ALOOF by Tony Kriz

Tony Kriz's new book ALOOF deals with one of the most frustrating aspects of the Christian life: we worship a God who is always there, and yet more often than we'd like feels not there. Tony Kriz shares his own experience of a God who seems aloof and the struggles he's had with making sense of a life of faith in which God often seems to hide.

More than just a recollection of his own experiences, Kriz strives to show us a God who is, in fact, there. The book reads as an encouragement to search for God and learn to see where he is working, which is often in the moments when we think he isn't. Kriz's honesty and transparency make this a book that's refreshing to read while also seeing our own struggles and hearing our own questions asked throughout its pages.

Review copy provided by Book Look Bloggers

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review of STEALING FROM GOD by Frank Turek

Stealing from God by Frank Turek is the kind of book that combines careful logical arguments for the existence of God with a solid belief that this really is a world created by God where God calls the shots. Turek shows how atheists must borrow from basic assumptions about God in order to make their arguments against God's existence, and he ultimately shows where these arguments fail.

He dismantles the argument that something could be created out of nothing without an intelligent force doing the creating because of the nature of causality in the universe. He shows the problem of evil actually being an argument for God's existence rather than an argument against it, and he shows science to be the study of God's universe that more and more reveals evidence for a Creator. What's great about the science chapter is that scientists look at the facts and make interpretations, and their interpretations are presented as science instead of the interpretations they are.

Turek makes a solid case for Christianity after dismantling the atheist arguments against God's existence. This is a great book for Christians who want to better argue the case for God's existence and Christianity more specifically. It's also a great book for those who are seeking answers, even if they don't currently believe.

Review copy provided by the Tyndale Blog Network