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Take a year to develop habits that help you live like Jesus. That’s the principle at play in Katherine Butler’s book Habits of the Heart. Each week through one year Butler examines one spiritual discipline–or habit–to focus on developing through short, daily readings. Habits she looks at include: Practicing God’s Presence, Slowing Down, Receiving God’s Love, Serving Others, Listening, Resting, Living Simply, Caring for Creation, and many more (52 of them total).

I loved the book itself. It’s small and looks nice. But I also appreciated that this wasn’t a lengthy devotional to read each day. It was much more doable. Each day’s reading had a Bible verse (or two, or three) and a short reading–often not more than five sentences. And while short, the readings were also poignant enough to get you to think and act about the habit to practice. It’s a great book to have for oneself or to pass on to others.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

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In A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings author and artist Matt Sewell looks at the background of collective nouns. Most of the origin of the collective nouns for the animals Sewell looks at come from The Book of Saint Albans, a book for gentlemen published in the late 15th century where many of the names are in the section on hunting. It seems a lot of the time Sewell makes an educated guess as to why the collective nouns were given to the group of animals; I had hoped for more etymological fact.

Still, the illustrations alone make the book a pleasant read. The watercolor paintings are delightful. And I know the children in the Montessori classroom I work in would enjoy it when they look at collective nouns.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Cliff and Joyce Penner have the education, experience, and recognition in the Christian community as well as professional circles to speak toward the topics they address. As sex therapists, educators, and authors they have spoken to many people. In The Married Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, the speak to a narrower audience (they also have a companion book out for wives), and this is a book that husband’s should pick up. Their approach is less about giving techniques and more about building desire, experiencing meaningful intimacy, and enhancing pleasure. They suggest that if the focus is more on making sure each person experiences pleasure, their will be more satisfaction than if focused on goal-oriented outcomes in intimacy. If the wife is happy, the husband is happy.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Until the recent musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (which I have yet to see), I knew little about Alexander Hamilton except that his portrait is on the twenty dollar bill and he had a duel with Aaron Burr. Jonathan Hennessey’s graphic novel is an in depth look at Hamilton’s life through which I learned much about the founding father’s life and importance in American history. The book is heavy on historical quotes from Hamilton and other figures in the American revolution. Justin Greenwood’s illustrations/art wonderfully add to the epic drama that unfolds through the pages.

I recommend Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father for it’s compelling and informative presentation of a biography. While not necessary light reading, as some of the historical events are heavy with philosophical discourse, the artworks moves the reader forward through the story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Colored Pencil: Painting Portraits by Alyona Nickelsen is an in-depth look at how to draw close-up pictures of people with colored pencils. With plenty of photographic examples from her own work as well as classical paintings and contemporary artists, Nickelsen gives step-by-step technical direction for drawing faces. She begins by addressing materials, work surfaces, and tools to use. From there she addressing methods and techniques to use with pencils, how to control color and pigmentation, and advice for drawing specific facial features.

I would recommend this book for people who have had a bit of artistic experience and want to explore creating portraits with colored pencils. Nickelsen does not address beginners in how to start. Her writing assumes a basic knowledge of artistic jargon as well as some experience. The book is filled with pencil-drawn portraits that look almost like photographs, which would be daunting for a beginner to try, but are fascinating to look at none-the-less.

Most of us want to be whole, I believe. Author and pastor Steve Wiens believes so, too. His recent book is titled exactly that. Whole: Restoring What is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World helps us find where we’re off (broken) and how to find shalom (peace/wholeness).

Through the book Wiens weaves stories from his life and his friends’ with the biblical narrative of brokenness and restoration. He does so first through five main questions, originating in the Garden of Eden and going on from there: Where are you? Am I my brother’s keeper? What are you seeking? Where are you going? What will you bring?

After looking at those questions, Wiens takes us through the stories of the Exodus, the Wilderness, and finally into the Promised Land. Whether we’re leaving something that’s hard to leave, or in the midst of a dry place, we all have the promised land in front of us. Steve Wiens helps aid that journey through insight (that often comes through his own vulnerability) and stories, as well as questions, challenges, and blessings.

 

 

In Radical Spirit Joan Chittister looks at twelve ways to live a free and authentic life (as the subtitle says) using the Rule of Benedict as a springboard for her steps. Chittister is a sister in the Order of St. Benedict. From the time she first became a nun as a young adult, her life has been guided by the Rule of Benedict in which St. Benedict laid out his guidelines for monastic life over a millennia and a half ago. Benedict focused heavily on humility as being central to a life of freedom and authenticity in a community.

While Chittister comes from a Catholic system, she writes for all people regardless of religious beliefs (or lack of); she wants to offer her thoughts on living a radical, free life to all people. She quotes Buddha as well as the Bible.

I appreciate her stories of struggle and questioning the steps as she encountered them throughout her life as well as her reflections on how to make 1500 year-old guidelines for a monastic community practical for ordinary people in everyday life.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Part travel memoir, part reflections on life and parenting, part inspirational thoughts, We Stood upon Stars tells of entrepreneur and adventurer Roger Thompson’s travels through the western United States. As he takes the reader through Yosemite National Park, he also talks about the life lessons he learned from his grandfather. In Yellowstone he recounts trying to teach his own sons how to be men. And through many other cities, national parks and places Thompson shares his own journey through being a man and following God.

I enjoyed “travelling” with Thompson to his favorite places and new discoveries. Each short chapter was illustrated with a map identifying favorite things in the area such as fishing spots, coffee houses, and restaurants. His insightful reflections often hit home personally as well, and his faith connections were not too pointed or over-the-top.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.5128icjhhxl-_sx309_bo1204203200_

FBI agent Tori Templeton finds herself on one of her most difficult cases when her best friend’s husband is murdered and her best friend is one of the prime suspects. Oil and gas tycoon Nathan Moore’s life is ended when someone hacks into his pacemaker days after an explosion at one of his oil sites.¬†As the investigation into his murder proceeds, facts come to light about the double-life he was living. Agent Templeton gets thrown into the case with an unsuspecting US Marshal who brings with him charm, good looks, and faith. He also is one of the victim’s good friends.

DiAnn Mill’s FBI Task Force Novel Deep Extraction kept me reading as the federal agents faced threats and dangers while trying to solve the case. I wasn’t expecting it to be a romance novel, though the romance part was fairly light. Overall I enjoyed the story and would recommend it to those who enjoy crime investigation and action stories.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Life After is not the normal book that I would pick up. It has a bit of a bent toward the romantic side–though not in a harlequin romance novel sort of way. While there is a bit of a love story within the pages of the book, the novel itself tends to explore the question of “Why?”

In Life After author Katie Ganshert tells the story of Autumn Manning, the inexplicably lone survivor of a bombing aboard a train in Chicago. She is tormented by grief, guilt, and plenty of questions. A year later, while the victims of the bombing haunt her sleep and waking moments, Autumn’s life becomes intertwined with a family who’s mother/wife died in the bombing. Amidst heightened emotions, those involved must look at questions of truth, goodness and purpose in life.

While answers to “Why?” are not given, the story provocatively looks at discovering where God’s path for us can lead. Despite not being my typical type of story, I enjoyed Life After. There were many times it was hard to put down the book as the authentic characters pulled me in to their lives.

In exchange for an unbiased review, the publisher sent me a free copy of this book.