Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nobody's Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle

Written in the same comedic style as the "New York Times" bestsellers "Sparkly Green Earrings" and "The Antelope in the Living Room," "Nobody's Cuter than You" is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. 
From the friendships we develop over a lifetime to the ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better, Melanie Shankle reveals the influence our friends have on who we were, who we are, and who we will become. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, they are the ones who will look at us and say, "Nobody's cuter than you!

I've pre-ordered this book as soon as in was available to preorder; clearly I was really excited about Melanie's third book. I have read all her books so far (and loved 'em all!), so this one was a must-have to my collection.

Nobody's Cuter than You is a memoir about friendship. Melanie takes us on a journey throughout her childhood years to her present life. She introduces us to her friends from back then and to the friends she shares life with in the present. Through each of these friendships she manages to capture a unique aspect about friendship. She also emphasizes how differently we can choose friendships depending on each one's stage of development or season of life. 
One key aspect that Shankle focuses on throughout the entire book is the importance of female friendships in other women's lives. She discusses the fact that out culture doesn't promote or encourage this kind of relationship enough or the way our mothers and grandmothers' generations did.  

I love Melanie's funny writing style, to which I am already accustomed to from years following her blog. I've seen many people say that this book is Melanie Shankle's best so far. Well, I'd have to agree. It has more depth to it and she also shares her faith a bit more in this one.  
One of the things that I didn't quite get were the 60s and 70s references, I felt a little left out on those parts. But I didn't feel like it ruined my reading experience. 
It was a really great read - 5 star rating!

>> And here's the really cute book trailer: 


Melanie Shankle is a graduate of Texas A&M and lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband, Perry, and daughter, Caroline. Melanie began blogging in July 2006 when she started her blog, Big Mama. Her first book, Sparkly Green Earrings, came out in February 2013 and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list. Her second book, The Antelope in the Living Room, was released on February 4, 2014 and also hit the New York Times list.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bringing Narnia Home (Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe) by Devin Brown

The wisdom of C. S. Lewis comes in a form that is deeply moving as well as great fun and high adventure. Noted Lewis scholar and popular speaker Devin Brown reveals the lessons woven throughout this endearing text. 
Bringing Narnia Home presents Lewis's timeless message for the Narnian in each of us. 
A wise, winsome, and whimsical look at the important values and lessons the Narnia series teaches that actually provide the groundwork for a profound and meaningful life.

I have requested Bringing Narnia Home because I was immediately intrigued by the title. I am currently in the process of reading the Chronicles of Narnia with a friend and we are doing this little book club between the two of us. So I thought this book would be a great resource for me. 

The book starts with a warning - do not start reading it until you've read all the Narnia books. Well, I've ignored the warning and jumped right in. The experience wasn't ruined though, on the contrary, I really enjoyed the book! 

Bringing Narnia Home is structured into eleven chapters. Each chapter focuses on a particular lesson the reader can take out of The Chronicles of Narnia. Some of the lessons presented here are: 
  • Actions we see as small and insignificant can be far more important than we realize;
  • Being a Leader means more than simply being the boss;
  • Bad can look beautiful;
  • Sometimes help does not look like help until much later;
  • Merriment and Celebration are not just for holidays and birthdays;
  • There is a way back from every offense;
  • Only the Good have Fun;
  • Adventures begin in the most unlikely places. 
The author follows these little red threads throughout all of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia, giving detailed examples and discussing them a bit. Brown makes a parallel between these lessons and the Christian principles of life. 

I really liked this book. It is a thorough study on The Chronicles of Narnia and a helpful one. It left me with the warm & fuzzy feeling that I had after reading the Narnia books. So I really enjoyed it and found it helpful for my further narnian explorations. 

Devin Brown (PhD, University of South Carolina) is a Lilly scholar and professor of English at Asbury University. A C. S. Lewis aficionado, Brown has written, taught, and lectured on Lewis extensively for more than ten years. He has written a number of books related to Lewis, including Inside Narnia and Inside Prince Caspian, and lives in Kentucky. In 2008 Brown was invited to serve as scholar-in-residence at the Kilns, Lewis's home in Oxford.

*I have requested this book from Abington Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Keeps You Up at Night by Pete Wilson

“I just can’t ever seem to shut off my brain and rest.”
It's easy to feel paralyzed by uncertainty. We want our questions answered, our decisions affirmed, and our plans applauded. But life doesn't come with an instruction manual and rarely follows a straight path. How would your life change if you learned to lean into uncertainty instead of waiting on the sidelines for just the right moment or opportunity?
In his most insightful work since the debut bestseller, Plan B, Pete Wilson provides a plan for living that will lead you to a place of peace that you've only dreamed about and a life filled with meaning, significance, and satisfaction.

I was excited at the opportunity of reading an advanced copy of What Keeps You Up at Night especially because I have known Pete Wilson for at least 6 years (from Cross Point Church messages, blog, social media). Therefore, I am quite familiar with his ideas, messages and beliefs.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Pete Wilson tackles the subject of fear, which is a pretty common emotion among people nowadays, and it comes in different shapes and sizes (fear of the future, fear of chasing our dreams, fear of being alone etc). He doesn't offer a universal formula that can solve all fear-related problems, he actually discourages that type of thinking. What he does is he offers practical ideas and steps for a change in perspective. Wilson encourages his readers to change the way they think and the way they react to fear by offering a biblical perspective on fear.

The book is structured in 12 chapters - short and concise. At the end of each chapter the author makes it practical by offering three sections that will help the reader internalize what he/she just read:
  • The Key Ideas summarizes the chapter into a couple of simple and short ideas that can be easily remembered. 
  • In the Reflection Questions section, the author offers some questions that will help the readers identify the key areas that they can work on based on what was discussed in that particular chapter.
  • Your Next Step contains a challenge or a task to help the readers practice what they have already learned. 
I must confess I was skeptical when I started reading this book, because fear is a pretty vast subject. I wasn't sure what Wilson would have to say about fear that wasn't already said or discussed before. Well, he doesn't really bring anything new to the subject, but what he does is he reminds us the important aspects of fear, offers a biblical perspective on fear by illustrating struggles of biblical characters when being confronted with fearful situations. And he makes it practical and personal by offering the readers some tools for their own process of fighting their own fear. 

Pete Wilson is currently doing a special message series at Cross Point Church entitled What Keeps You Up at Night based on his book. You can check it out here.  

Here's the book promo: 

Pete Wilson is the best-selling author of Plan B and founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a committed church community that he and his wife, Brandi, planted in 2002. Cross Point has grown to reach more than six thousand people each weekend through its seven campuses located around the Nashville area, and online. As one of the fastest-growing churches in America, Pete’s ministry—an outreach focused on helping people become devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to each other, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside of God’s family with the gospel—has made him a frequent speaker at national and international church conferences. 

*I have requested this book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Love Dare by Alex & Stephen Kendrick

Unconditional love is eagerly promised at weddings, but rarely practiced in real life. As a result, romantic hopes are often replaced with disappointment in the home. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

The Love Dare, the New York Times No. 1 best seller that has sold five million copies and was major plot device in the popular movie Fireproof, is a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives to understand and practice unconditional love. Whether your marriage is hanging by a thread or healthy and strong, The Love Dare is a journey you need to take. It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage.

I've requested The Love Dare from B&H Publishing because I've seen the movie Fireproof some years ago, when it was released, and I really liked it. Even though I am not married I believe this sort of love challenge is suitable for any number of relationships, not only romantic ones. 

The Love Dare is a 40-day challenge to understand and practice unconditional love, the biblical type of love. Each day contains three main elements:
  • In the first part a unique aspect of love will be discussed based on a bible verse.
  • The second part will offer a specific dare to help the reader practice that specific aspect of love discussed earlier. 
  • The last part contains journal space for the reader to log what he/she is learning and doing and also the reactions encountered on that particular dare. 
The main principle of this love dare is that you must lead your heart, not follow it. Which I believe it to be an extremely healthy principle when thinking about relationships, and specifically here - marriage. 

What really makes this love dare a powerful tool is the free online marriage evaluation that this book comes with. It is a personalized marriage evaluation that takes only a few minutes to complete. It is simple and anonymous. And it helps to quickly clarify where the couple is, discover their key areas of growth and identify how to use the Love Dare in a strategically and personalized way for the couple's most benefits. 

I really liked this book. It comes in a beautiful and elegant leather touch cover. The pages are designed really beautifully, with plenty journaling space to keep track of the process.
I would recommend it to everyone who wants to work on their relationships, who believes unconditional love is the answer to relational problems, to those who want to work on their marriage (as this Love Dare is specifically designed for married couples) and to those who want to learn how to love well. 

Here's a video with the authors explaining what the Love Dare is and how it came into being:

This video presents a couple's experience with the Love Dare:

Alex Kendrick is an ordained minister and New York Times best selling coauthor of The Love Dare andThe Resolution for Men. He has spoken in numerous countries to students, families, and men’s groups. He is also an accomplished actor, screenwriter, and film director, whose credits include Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous. He and his wife, Christina, have six children.

Stephen Kendrick is an ordained minister who has served families for 20 years in student ministry and associate pastor positions. Along with his brother Alex, he is also a screenwriter (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous), movie producer, and coauthor of two New York Times best-selling books (The Love Dare, The Resolution for Men). Stephen and his wife, Jill, have six children.

*I have requested this book from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.