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Archive for the ‘The Weekly Read’ Category

Seattle pastor Eugene Cho has a new book out, his first, and it is SO Overrated.

No, really. It’s Overrated.

That’s the name of the book.

Overrated.

I didn’t have to even read one page to know that this book is not to be taken lightly. (Disclaimer: I received an advance e-copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

Cho does not mince words. He does not coddle. He does not accept excuses.

He asks the question that needs to be asked: Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?

He puts it like this:

And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. I’m guilty of wanting to change the world, of wanting to make a difference but doing very little to back that up.

Overrated BookCover-3DSo this book is hard to read. It’s like seeking advice from a friend who tells you not what you want to hear but says the hard things and challenges you to do what needs to be done.

While it’s a book about justice and the Christian’s role in justice, it’s also about discipleship and generosity and intentional living and passion and purpose. It’s about these things working together in the life of a disciple of Jesus so much that the world can’t help but notice.

And Cho does not speak as one who has done it all perfectly with impure motives. He does not preach what he doesn’t live. He offers his own confessions, failings, and wrong motives as testimony that this call is not just for other people but for him as well.

Here are five of the most challenging statements, for me, Cho makes in the book:

“Isn’t that what makes discipleship so uncomfortable and challenging? God often leads us on journeys we would never go on if it were up to us.” (26)

“I believe you cannot credibly follow Christ unless you pursue justice.” (43)

“The inescapable truth about justice is that there is something wrong in the world that needs to be set right.” (52)

“We should be about the marathon, not about the transactional sprint for instant justice gratification.” (105)

“We cannot speak with integrity about what we are not living. We don’t need more dazzling storytellers; we need more genuine storytellers. And the best way to become a better storyteller is to simply live a better life. Not a perfect life, but one of honesty, integrity, and passion.” (178)

I could go on. Nearly every page contained a nugget of truth that lodged in my heart and wouldn’t let go.

ChoOverratedFascinateGraphic

I forced myself to read it slow, take one chapter at a time and really let the words sink in.

And it doesn’t have to stop with the end of the book. As part of the message of the book, there’s a 5-day challenge, by e-mail, to help you avoid being overrated. Click here for more information about that.

The book officially releases Sept. 1, but if you preorder it today, you’ll have immediate access to an interactive e-copy. Find out more here.

I’d put this book at the top of my list of recommended reads for churches, youth groups, ministry workers, seminaries–really anyone who desires to do good in the world because of their relationship with Christ.

Overrated won’t condemn you for your actions, or lack thereof, but it will challenge you to let your life be about more than Twitter-style justice and passionate ideas. It’s encouragement to dream big, yes, and think hard and press on in the long run.

Cho often ends his Facebook posts and even a chapter or two with these words: Your move.

After reading this book, I firmly believe that.

It’s my move. What will I do with the challenge set before me?

Will I let myself be overrated and ineffective? Or will I seek the bigger picture and let God lead?

Will you?

Your move.

My move.

Because God is on the move.

And He’s going with or without us.

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A book combining food and family secrets was almost impossible to resist, but I’ve got mixed feelings about my experience reading A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy through the Blogging for Books program.)

table-windowThe book focuses on Juliette, a food writer and youngest heir in a French-Italian family with deep cooking heritage. She tells the story in first person, and frankly, I was a bit bored in the beginning. I didn’t care much about her life, which didn’t seem all that bad, and although I was excited about the inclusion of recipes, I also felt they were intimidating and inaccessible to someone who hasn’t been raised with such a rich knowledge of proper cooking techniques. I did enjoy the cooking theme in the story, though, and Juliette’s appreciation for food. Her family was likable also and the characters were vivid and memorable.

Unfortunately, I was almost halfway through the book before I really started to enjoy it. Juliette tests the waters of online dating and that storyline started to propel the rest of the book. I took a liking to Neil, the doctor with whom she begins communicating. Their exchanges are cute and probably saved the book for me.  The ending was abrupt, offering less closure and more questions. Thankfully there was an excerpt of the next book included at the end of this one. Still, I wasn’t sure going in that this was a series and the ending kind of caught me by surprise, but not in a good way.

I mostly wanted to read this book as research for the novel I’m writing because the theme is similar: a young woman floundering in her present uncovers a family secret that could shape her future. I’m not sorry I read it, and I’m interested in the next one to see where the storyline goes, but I kind of hoped for more from this one.

If you want to make yourself drool, head on over to the book’s Pinterest page, though. In a word: yum!

 

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I had high hopes for this book, maybe too high. When I read the description for The Trail by Ed Underwood, I thought it sounded a bit like The Shack. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Tyndale House in exchange for my review.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t measure up to the quality of storytelling found in The Shack, and I found it overall not as interesting as I’d hoped.

the trailThe Trail is a parable about discovering God’s will and it centers on a couple, Matt and Brenda, who are trying to make a decision about Matt’s job prospects. Their friends send them in to the woods to meet an old mountain man/preacher, Sam, who is supposed to take them on a weekend journey in the mountains and teach them principles about discovering God’s will.

I liked the principles and thought they were useful statements in the life of a Christian. And I appreciate the idea of the book because we, as Christians, often make the concept of finding God’s will too difficult.

However, I really couldn’t identify with any of the characters. Matt seemed like a selfish jerk. Brenda was a little bit flighty and weak. And Sam was sometimes just hard to believe as a person. He preached a lot and the conversations between the characters were not realistic. I also wasn’t sure whose point of view we were supposed to be reading most of the time. There were clues, but it was awkward.

I almost couldn’t finish the book and ended up skimming the last couple of chapters just to be done with it.

I did take away a few good principles, but the effort to find them just wasn’t worth it for me.

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For those who doubt their life or story matters, this is a collection of stories to convince you otherwise.

speakSpeak: How Your Story Can Change the World is a sometimes-gentle, sometimes not, kick in the pants for everyone, not just writers or storytellers or speakers, to tell our stories. And it is equal parts inspiring and convicting. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Zondervan through the Booklook Bloggers program.)

The author, Nish Weiseth, is the founder of one of my favorite blog spaces, A Deeper Story, and though I haven’t read a lot of her work, in particular, I love the mission of the site and the stories shared there. So, I’m pleased to discover I love Weiseth’s writing as well.

And her message–that stories are more powerful than all the labeling and stereotyping and arguing policy that goes on–is timely. Over the two days that I read the book, I watched online arguments erupt and devolve into hatred among strangers over stories about a group of Muslims using a community room at a local rec center for a religious observation and about whether a 37-weeks-gestation body found in a garbage can should be called a “fetus” or a “baby.” (I digress a little but only to show the relevance of Weiseth’s work.) It is situations like those–and so many more–that call for stories. That urge us to know people for who they are not what we think they are or should be. Weiseth calls us to ask questions, to listen, and to tell our stories in an exchange of humanity. She writes,

This book is a call to do just that– to change the game by telling the stories of our lives with courage, honesty, and integrity. It’s a call to acknowledge that each of our stories is a small piece of the greatest story–God’s continual work and transforming power in our lives.  (24)

One of my favorite features of the book is the reprinted blog posts at the end of each chapter illustrating how a specific story changes the way we see a particular issue or stereotype. I love that Weiseth shared her book space with other writers to add another layer to the work. And though she has written a book and lives in Salt Lake City as part of a church plant, Weiseth is also a mother to two young children and immersed in the daily routines of life and family. She insists that our lives don’t have to look like a Hollywood movie to matter.

Most people are living life by daily fulfilling the obligations set before them. … And though you  may be living what seems like an ordinary life, faithfully doing what God has placed in front of you to do means you are actually living an extraordinary story. (183)

Not a book just for those who communicate for a living but one for anyone striving to live a life that brings more of the Kingdom of God to earth. Our stories, our journeys, our trials and triumphs, matter. And, as Weiseth says, they can be the catalyst for change in someone else’s life.

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By the time I reach the third book in a series, the characters are my “friends.” (Don’t judge me, I’m an introvert.) And even though I know a series has to come to an end, sometimes I still dread it.

Abandoned Memories-coverI’ve been eagerly awaiting Abandoned Memories, the third and final installment in MaryLu Tyndall’s Escape to Paradise trilogy that follows a group of American colonists post-Civil War to the jungles of Brazil to form a new Southern utopia. And it was only disappointing in that it signaled the end of the journey for this group. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

The second book, Elusive Hope, left with a mystery I couldn’t wait to see solved. And Abandoned Memories delivered. I only needed one day to read it. So, if this is the first time you’re hearing about this series, let me catch you up without giving too much away.

It began with Forsaken Dreams, on a ship bound for Brazil. There we first met this lively bunch of characters who include Captain Blake Wallace and Eliza Crawford, Magnolia Scott and Hayden Gale, and James Callaway and Angeline Moore. each with their own reasons for leaving their lives in America behind for a second chance at happiness. The first book focuses on Blake and Eliza and the obstacles they each need to overcome to find that second chance. Book two is the story of Magnolia and Hayden, who both must give up a dream to discover a life of true purpose and beauty. And book three zeroes in on James and Angeline, both who have disreputable pasts but are determined to make a new start in the new colony.

Woven through each of these stories is a mysterious temple that both draws and repels the members of the budding colony. Some are drawn by the lure of riches buried below. Others are afraid of the darkness enshrouding the temple. In this final book, the mysteries of the temple are fully revealed and these six main characters learn how their lives have been intertwined for a reason: to defeat a terrible evil.

The adventure. The romance. The spiritual battles. It all comes together in a page-turning, heart-pumping story, one I hate to see end, but know it’s for the best.

Definitely don’t read this one unless you’ve got your hands on the first two. I’m tempted to go back and read them all together again just for the continuity of the story.

If you’re a fan of movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom  and Romancing the Stone, or the TV show Lost, then this is a series you don’t want to miss.

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Friends, while I’m getting back into the post-vacation groove and mulling all my thoughts into palatable blog posts, check out this giveaway for a book I reviewed last week. And get yourself a copy of this story! 

Welcome to the launch campaign for debut novelist Kristy Cambron‘s The Butterfly and the Violin. Romantic Times had this to say: “Alternating points of view skillfully blend contemporary and historical fiction in this debut novel that is almost impossible to put down. Well-researched yet heartbreaking. . . .”

Kristy is celebrating the release of the first book in her series, A Hidden Masterpiece, with a fun Kindle Fire giveaway and meeting her readers during an August 7th Facebook author chat party.


butterflyviolin-400-click

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 7th. Winner will be announced at The Butterfly and the Violin Author Chat Party. Kristy will be connecting with readers and answering questions, sharing some of the fascinating research behind the book, hosting a fun book chat, and giving away some GREAT prizes. She will also be giving an exclusive look at the next book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin!

 
So grab your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin and join Kristy on the evening of August 7th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 7th!

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I’m generally in awe of debut authors who make such a good first impression. And Kristy Cambron’s novel The Butterfly and the Violin makes a great introduction to a new writer. (Disclaimer: In exchange for my review, I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group.)

Butterfly and ViolinThis book is a work of art, not just because it centers on a lost painting. It’s the kind of story that makes me want to slow down and read the words over and over again so I appreciate the nuances of how they’re put together. I get the feeling that the more time spent with this story, the more details and layers I’d discover. Not unlike most pieces of art.

The Butterfly and the Violin combines the stories of Adele von Bron, a Viennese violinist during World War 2, and Sera James, a New York City art dealer in present day. Sera has been obsessed with the painting since she saw it a gallery in Paris when she was 8. Her life’s mission after her life crumbled has been to track down the painting. She and her assistant have hit a dead end when William Hanover, the heir of a wealthy California family, makes an offer to aid her search in an effort to save the family business. Sera and William try to piece together the clues to the painting’s owner and the story of Adele while each trying to patch up their broken pasts.

Adele’s story is woven into the contemporary storyline, a method of storytelling I love when it’s done well. And Cambron excels at it.

If you’ve read Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass, you’ll find a similarly mesmerizing story in this book. The Butterfly and the Violin is part of the Hidden Masterpieces series, which is good news for those of us who want more stories that blend past and present.

About the book: A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz—and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/zhXo3

About the author: Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her KCambron-238grandfather’s stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find Kristy online: websiteFacebookTwitter

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