Would you like to know?

would-you-like-to-knowAuthor: Tim Dowley

Illustrator: Eira Reeves

Publisher: Candle Books

Release Date: August 19, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A way to open the door to questions about Christianity with your child.

Ever wonder how to start the conversation with your young child about who is God or Jesus? What about the true story of Easter?  Or how to pray? This set of short books gives you the opportunity to do just that.  Easy to read with pictures on each page give young kids a chance to easily read along and ask questions.  I would say that this set of books would be great for kids that are aged 3 to 6.  They are short and easy to follow along with, but kids that are able to read will easily be able to read them on their own.  The stories are able to lead the children to understand and ask questions.  This would be a good set to have around your house or church library.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Courage to Soar

 

courage-to-soarAuthor: Simone Biles

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An Olympic Gold medalist shows how she came to be one of the top athletes in the world.

Many Olympic athletes know from a very early age that they want to go for the gold. Simone Biles start in the world of gymnastics came about in a rather unconventional way.

She was born in Ohio but had a rocky start. Her mom wasn’t able to take care of her and her siblings.  She and her younger sister were eventually adopted by her grandparents, who she considers mom and dad.  One day, her daycare took a field trip to a local gym.  It was quickly obvious to all those at the gym that she had God-given talent and passion for the sport of gymnastics.  Through years of hard work, her family was her rock keeping her focused and positive and also helping her to enjoy the thing she loved most.  Along the way there were some highs and lows and through it all Simone continued to look to God for guidance and rely on her family as she learned some of the hardest lessons in life.

It is nice to read a story of someone so accomplished and see how they have stayed grounded as well as understand the difficulties they have faced. When you look at many of these Olympic athletes that are still so young, it can make any ordinary person feel that their accomplishments might not amount to much.  We all have to remember that just because we don’t have gold medals, the things we do in life are important nonetheless.  Simone Biles shows that she is normal in many ways.  Throughout her years of training she had her bad mood moments and even went through a bratty phase.  There were times she didn’t perform as well as she would have liked, but she never let it keep her down.  During those moments, she found the courage to get up and try again.  She attributes a lot of her success to her family and coaches that continued to push her to always reach her full potential.

I enjoyed the way the book was written giving a real glimpse inside her life and the bad moments.  She didn’t just gloss over the negative aspects of life and focus on the good.  This book goes under the category of inspiration and it lives up to that.  There is a lot of inspiration that can be taken away from the stories here.  I love that she talks about only being four foot eight inches tall and that’s ok.  I’m short and sometimes it can make you feel invisible, not something that can be said about Simone Biles.  She is a good role model for young girls to look up to.

Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I would recommend to fans of Biles along with those that enjoy a good inspirational read. There were a few typos that I feel could have been taken care of with an extra read through but still a great book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

 

Troubleshooting Your Novel

troubleshooting-your-novelAuthor: Steven James

Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A guide in the art of writing that tackles all the topics a writer needs to keep in mind when crafting a novel.

If you’ve completed your first draft of your novel, or just starting it, this is your next step. Steven James is a master storyteller and uses this book to show many of the steps aspiring authors need to be aware of in order to bring their novel to the next level.  This is a checklist that every author, new and experienced, should keep on hand and refer to often.  Going through this book, I noticed several things I needed to go back to my own manuscript and fix, even after having heard him speak on these points more than once.  So many authors will put a book together and try to get it published without going over many of these points to make their book the very best it can be.

The chapters are short, around four pages each, but still provide enough information to fix many of the problems we see in novels out today. It might seem a little surprising when opening the book and seeing over seventy chapters and points he addresses; however, they are all important.  Some could be grouped together but are valid on their own as well.  For me, one of the best aspects of this book is looking at it and knowing that it is written by someone who knows how to write the kind of books I want to read.  I have read everything Steven James has written and can’t wait to read anything he writes next.  I don’t want to read a book on writing by someone who doesn’t write novels and only writes about writing.  I don’t want another useless reference book, luckily this is not one of those.  So much practical advice that can really be used to make you a better writer.

Growing Young

growing-youngAuthors: Kara Powell, Juke Mulder, & Brad Griffin

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As many church congregations across the nation are aging, Growing Young provides strategies to bring young life back into your church!

One of the challenges that many churches across our nation is facing is the lack of youth and young adults participating in their church body. Many churches have members that have attended for years and are now senior adults.  The problem facing these churches is that as these senior adults begin to die off, so does the church, possibly to the effect of having to shut the doors for good.  Many of these churches have begun to recognize the importance that these young individuals play in their organization and are taking steps to make adjustments within the church.  Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin, all employees with the Fuller Youth Institute, performed a study across several churches in the United States to understand this issue and see what successful strategies that churches are implementing.

Growing Young really works to help people understand the younger generation of millennials to centennials.  How they interact, how they emphasize, and why they are so dependent on technology for communication.  In addition to this, they really layout potential strategies for church bodies that are serious about making the change to bring in accommodate these younger individuals, which does not include diluting or watering down the messages.  In fact, most people want more challenging messages.  This book is a great place to start or at least get yourself thinking about the issue.  The end of each chapter also provides some really good critical thinking/discussion questions that can help get to the meat of the matter.

I found this book really intriguing. In fact, my husband Jared decided to read it as well, which really generated some great discussion.  Jared does a lot of facility planning and master planning for churches across the southwest and he said that he has seen this issue at almost every church that he works with.  Many of these churches have aging facilities that they have deferred spending money on to keep updated, mostly because the congregation believes that the money should be spent on missions or activities, which is completely understandable.  Then when buildings and systems start to fail is when he gets called out.  Then his company and the church leadership team have to have really crucial conversations about the vision of the church compared to their current facilities need.  In most cases, this results in a realization of “we need to focus our money on our children, youth, and younger adults because that is the future.”  Very similar concept to the book.  Many of the facilities are not configured for how today generation is operating as they were constructed to the standards used in the 1950s and 1960s.  It is really interesting in how everything is connected.

rowing Young is a very insightful read on this issue.  The authors did a great job of explaining the issue and the generations.  They also did a great job in laying out the strategies to help make them more successful for those they want to try this out.  I also appreciated the examples that were seen at many different churches and that it shows that no matter where you are or what size you are, you can make a difference.

If you found my discussion on the facilities portion interesting or that it may apply to you as well, Jared’s work website is www.team-psc.com.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Greek for Everyone

greek-for-everyoneAuthor: A. Chadwick Thornhill

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great resource to help decipher the original Greek context of the Bible!

As translators have published new language versions of the Bible, certain words chosen to convey the message may not have the same implications of the original Greek text. Furthermore, the context of the actual message can be misdirected and it loses its historical accuracy.  My pastor often breaks down phrases in the Bible to the original Greek and then provides the original meaning behind the phrase.  But what about when studying on your own?  It is not easy to simply take a verse or phrase and try to determine what the original Greek text had.  Not to mention that some Greek words and characters have multiple meanings.  So how do we break down what we are studying to its root?

Fortunately, A Chadwick Thornhill has published a tremendous resource for helping anyone interesting in understanding Biblical Greek text. This book provides the reader with starting guidelines to understanding the language.  Although this book won’t help one fully master the Greek language, it will definitely help the reader differentiate the meaning of Greek words through context as well as noun, verb, and supporting parts of speech placement.  Most chapters are short and very direct.  It is easy to navigate in case you are looking for help in a specific area.  Definitely a great resource to have readily available on the shelf when breaking down scripture.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Mystery

the-mysteryAuthor: Lacey Sturm

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lacey Sturm takes you through her journey in finding a true Father and also on finding true love!

Lacey Sturm’s second book takes you through another part of her life that wasn’t told in her first book The Reason.  She opens her heart to bring out her experiences on both understanding what a true spiritual father does and also her journey that led her to her husband Josh.  The first part of the book is on having a father.  Lacey doesn’t recall ever meeting her father and she believed that she never needed one.  In fact she felt that if you relied on someone in that role it made you week.  But through experiences with a couple that becomes her spiritual parents, she begins to realize that they guide her and coach her, but still let her make her own decisions and lover her regardless.

The second half of the book focuses on her relationship with her husband Josh. Lacey entered into a previous marriage at age nineteen and was divorced by twenty-one.  Shortly after that she got tangled up in an emotional affair with a married man that almost led her to take her life.  Once she was healed from those experiences, she realized that she could (and should in her opinion) stay single for the remainder of her life.  But that wasn’t in God’s plan.  Throughout this part, Lacey recounts the trials, successes, and experiences of meeting Josh, his parents, and eventually becoming married.

I really enjoyed reading this book from Lacey Sturm. I always enjoy reading books written by people that I follow in the entertainment industry.  Sometimes you like them more, sometimes you don’t, but either way you feel like you get to know them on a more personable level.  Lacey does a great job of opening her heart to let people in to share in her experiences and lessons learned.  I especially enjoyed the first part of the book that was focused more on a parent.  It made me sit back and really evaluate my relationship with my own two boys to see how I was approaching to coach and guide them.  I recommend this book to those that may feel trapped in a relationship or searing for guidance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest and thorough review. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Made Well

made-wellAuthor: Jenny Simmons

Publisher: Baker Publishing Group

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When life seems too much, we need to stop and remember that God is ready to Make us Well if we are willing to ask and receive.

We all go through struggles in life, from fighting cancer to losing a loved one and even battling depression. Life is hard and we long for healing.  When Jesus walked the earth he asked, “Do you want to be made well?”  This was an invitation from him beyond just physical healing, it went deep down to the soul of man.  It is hard to wrap our minds around the fact that this invitation is still valid today.  Jenny Simmons is a singer/songwriter who offers help to those of us struggling on the journey toward wholeness.  With personal insight into emotional pain, she invites readers to encounter a God who is working to bring healing. Made Well is a tale of inspiration with humor mixed in for good measure that shows compassion in the midst of a messy life.

One of the benefits of Jenny Simmons being a songwriter is she has a way with words. She puts that to good use in her latest book, Made Well.  Life really is hard sometimes.  It can push even the strongest to their breaking point and it can be easy to forget that Jesus is there for us even when we don’t realize it.  He has the invitation open for us to be Made Well, we just have to be willing to ask and accept.  A few sections really stood out to me and resonated as what I needed to hear.  Living with Limps was a chapter that I think everyone needs to read, even if they don’t read the whole book, this one chapter needs to be read.  There are stories shared throughout, some deep down personal from Jenny herself and some from others she has encountered along the way that will make the reading resonate with readers.

I sometimes have a hard time reading non-fiction. For the most part it bores me.  I haven’t been able to say that about either of the books Jenny Simmons has written.  She writes with such raw honesty that you feel more as if you are sitting and chatting with a friend.  It is a breath of fresh air to read about someone having gone through such hardships and struggles and find a way to come out the other side.  Her faith played a large part in being able to overcome these hardships, and tacos.  I highly recommend this book to anyone going through a troubling time, or having had experienced the toughness that is life.  And let’s be honest, that is all of us.

I receive a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest and thorough review.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.