Hunger Games…finally

hunger gamesI’ve finally got around to reading The Hunger Games. The books have been sitting on our bookshelf for several months now and have already been consumed by the two high school/junior high readers in our house. I finally got caught up on the other books I wanted to read and got started on the trilogy.

I finished the first book in about a week and found it to be both captivating and disturbing. The idea that two dozen kids were put in an arena to kill each other until only one survives is a chilling premise. Yet I was wrapped up in the story when Katniss ended up being chosen in the reaping. (In case there are those who haven’t read the book, I don’t want to reveal many details).

One of the things I took away from the story was how the author depicted life in a society very different from ours. We are concerned about the rights of the individual and doing what we can to assure things are fair. In the world of The Hunger Games that is definitely not the case. In the setting of the book, those in power have all the power. The actual Hunger Games are a flexing of their muscle to show they are in control of the citizens.

I’ve already started into the second book and curious how the story will unfold.

What is your take on The Hunger Games?

You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader

No TitleThis is my first Mark Sanborn book, but I’ve heard him speak before and know he is a prominent voice in the area of leadership. Even if I didn’t know the author, the title of the book would have been enough of a hook to interest me in reading the book. I like the concept that everyone can lead regardless of the name on the letterhead or your business card. Since leadership is primarily about influence, a title is not required.

In the early pages of the book, Sanborn establishes that as a primary principle: “The bottom line is, influence and inspiration come from the person, not the position.” His encouragement to the reader is that he or she can be leader, even if his or her title doesn’t reflect a leadership position.

Throughout the book, he provides examples from his own experience and the experience of others to demonstrate how influence and inspiration can come from all different levels. He refers to people who are teachers, bellhops in a hotel, insurance customer service agents and waitresses to give evidence of leadership.

One of his principles I highlighted was this: “Leadership is intimately linked to service.” Whether someone sits at the top, in the middle or at the bottom of an organization, he/she can still be a leader as he/she serves.

A critique I have of this book is that at times it seem a little disjointed. I felt like he jumped from topic to topic within a chapter. While the content was good, I didn’t always feel like it connected within the chapter.

I really like the principles Sanborn lays forth regarding leadership and it would be a good read for anyone who seeks to be a person of influence.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)

The Racketeer, a Good Read

the racketeer One of the Christmas gifts I received from my kids this year was a gift card to get some ebooks. I immediately snagged John Grisham’s new book, The Racketeer, and Andy Stanley’s latest, Deep & Wide. I finished Grisham’s book and have started Stanley’s.

I always enjoy John Grisham’s books and enjoyed The Racketeer.  He has a way of weaving together a story that draws you in and keeps you wondering what is happening next.

The backdrop of this book is a lawyer, Malcolm Bannister, who ends up in jail because he became associated with the wrong people and the murder of a federal judge.  Bannister claims to have information on who murdered the judge and why he did it.  The FBI has no leads and begin a conversation with Bannister that leads to a series of twists and turns.

If you are interested in seeing how it all pans out, grab a copy of The Racketeer.  Grisham keeps you guessing until the end wondering who is guilty and who really knows the truth.  He shows why he is one of today’s popular authors.

Heaven Changes Everything review

My mom passed on the book Heaven is for Real after she read it and it was also the first e-book I bought for my wife when she got an eReader. While a book about people who go to heaven and return to tell about it is met with skepticism, I enjoyed reading this book. One of the things that I appreciated about the Burpos was how they interacted with Colton regarding his memories of heaven. They tried to allow him to share as opportunities presented themselves, rather than ask leading questions or perhaps planting ideas in his head. They sought to simply allow him to share.

In Heaven Changes Everything Todd and Sonja build on what was written in the first book. This second book is set up more as a devotional type reading, with forty-two short chapters based on a section of Heaven is for Real.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that it gives a look into where the family is now after the publishing of the first book.  The Burpos share about some of the opportunities that have come their way because of the success of the first book.  They talk about some of the speaking engagements they’ve had as well as chances to talk individually with those have lost a child or suffered some type of loss.  They talk about family life after the writing of Heaven is for Real and the popularity of Colton’s story.  Their story gives some insight into how Colton’s visit to heaven has impacted their own faith and the spiritual life of their family.

One thing continues to come out of the pages of this book – hope.  Even though the Burpos were given their son Colton back, they also share the pain of a miscarriage prior to Colton’s birth.  They have not only experienced the hope that God provides, they have been given a platform to share that with others.  The encounters they share continually point to the promise of heaven and a Father who cares for His children.

If you have read Heaven is for Real, you would enjoy this next book.  If you haven’t, this book provides a glimpse not just into the Burpo’s past experience, but how it impacts the way they live today.

(I received this book from the BookSneeze.com program in exchange for my review)

Unstoppable review

Many people are familiar with Nick Vujicic from his videos on YouTube and the sharing of his story through social media. Unstoppable is his second book and while I haven’t had the opportunity to read his first one yet, I knew this would be a good read.

What is interesting to see is the response Nick’s picture and story receive when initially viewed. I used a brief quote from Unstoppable in my Sunday School class a couple of weeks ago and I assumed most of my students had heard of Nick. Those who hadn’t were a bit taken back by the cover of his book. The first time you see a picture of a man born without limbs causes you to wonder how it happened or if the picture is real. He definitely captures a person’s attention.

While Nick’s story is both powerful and inspirational, I felt the strongest part of Unstoppable were the chapters that dealt with the subjects of bullying and suicide. In his story, Nick candidly shares his struggles with both of those issues. He offers practical advice and helpful resources to those who may be struggling with suicide or bullying and offers encouragement to those who know people battling with one of those challenges.

What added weight to the words of his own experiences were the stories he shared of people he met who contemplated suicide or were victims of bullying. He made it clear that those issues aren’t just dealt with by those who have a physical challenge such as his. The stories he shared of people he has met in his ministry under girded what he wrote about and brought those dark issues into the light.

He also brought a good challenge to the reader who may have a friend who is bullied or is showing signs of harming oneself. His encouragement was to step in, provide support and seek outside assistance for those who need it. One of the difficulties Nick had from his bullying experience was that no one spoke up for him. I thought his words on those two subjects were very helpful and a good resource.

Unstoppable is a story of faith, trust in God and how God uses people of all shapes and sizes to accomplish His work. It is a good read for both teens and adults.

(I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review)

New Book “Unstoppable” Nick Vujicic

A lot of people have heard the name Nick Vujicic.  I’ve seen people post videos of his inspiring story.  He has spoken in schools and churches around the country.  His new book Unstoppable is set to be released in a just a couple of weeks.  Below is a video that gives some idea of what the book is about.  You can even read an excerpt of the first chapter by clicking here.

I received my preview copy in the mail this week and look forward to reading it soon.  Check back here in a few weeks and you can read my review of it.

There is a link on the excerpt page where you can pre-order your own copy of Unstoppable.

Good Enough to Get into Heaven?

If you go to church most Sundays out of the year, does that get you in?  If you give money each month to the church, is that enough?  If you don’t cuss (too much) or are nice to people who aren’t nice to you, does that do it?  How good is good enough?

That’s the question that Andy Stanley wrestles to the ground in this book.  It seems the majority of people accept the premise that God will let good people into heaven, but how do you know if you are good or even good enough?

In one chapter Stanley shares an encounter he had with the lady who owned the dry cleaner near his apartment.  He relates one conversation they had that got around to what happens to people after they die.  The woman said she knew she would go to heaven.  Stanley asked how she knew.  She said because she kept the Ten Commandments. He asked if she knew the commandments.  She didn’t  He asked if she knew where to find them  She didn’t.  But she was certain she had kept them and so was good to go.

The problem that Stanley points out is that while it seems a lot of people accept the “good people go” theory, there is no way to determine what good enough is.  In fact, scripture doesn’t even support this notion.

After spending considerable time debunking this myth, Stanley made this point: good people don’t get into heaven; forgiven people get into heaven.  The reason Jesus came was to extend grace and forgiveness because left to ourselves, we can’t be good enough.  Rather than putting our eternity into our efforts to be good, we place our trust in the One who can forgive.

How Good is Good Enough? is a good book for those who wish to communicate clearly to others the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross.  It is also a good resource for those searching for the truth of how they can be certain of where they will spend eternity.  Stanley is an excellent communicator and demonstrates that in this book.

The Fourth Fisherman – a review

The story of The Fourth Fisherman weaves together the story Joe Kissack, a man in the US, with three fisherman from Mexico who are lost at sea for months and survive.

Both stories standing alone would make for compelling reading.  Joe tells his story of success in business, but struggles in his personal life, including his marriage and relationship with God. The account of the fishermen, how they were adrift at sea and managed to survive for such a long time draws you in and you causes you to turn the page to see what happens next.

The combining of these two stories makes for unique reading, especially when you discover the obstacles that Joe had to overcome to meet the fishermen face to face.

As Joe says in the book, it is not just about two stories; it is one story – God’s story.   It is God’s story of forgiveness, rescue and God’s involvement in the lives of His people.

The Fourth Fisherman will not only move readers with the facts of the story, but also challenge readers with the faith displayed by the characters in the book.  Knowing that these were real events that happened to real people will challenge the reader to examine how he/she would respond in a similar situation.

This book is a good read and worth your time.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)