Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: Jolt! by Phil Cooke

I have a guest blogger reviewing Jolt! by Phil Cooke.  This special guest is very near and dear to my heart–my very own husband, John!  :-)  

Jolt! of Change

I live by the philosophy that self-help is no help at all. Perhaps that’s why I came at Phil Cooke’s new book Jolt! with some healthy skepticism. The jacket copy blasts out self-help standards such as “new direction” and “maximize potential.” As much as I love Cooke’s blog and daily musings, you can see why my shields went up with Jolt! (I also confess a bias against exclamation points).

For the most part, however, the book isn’t really another manifesto for self-help mumbo-jumbo. Instead, Jolt! wants to—well—jolt you out of going with the flow so that you can stand up and surf the waves of change coming at you. “It’s about navigating the changes in the world that will result in a new perspective on living, a better understanding of the world around you, the ability to recognize new opportunities, and a stronger vision of the future” (p. xxv). In other words, Cooke wants you to lead yourself so that you can lead others.

To get you there, the book points to several areas of your life to examine and zap (direction, priorities, growth potential, heart/spiritual matters, future/goals). And each section gives you five ways to do just that. As with his blog, Cooke most shines when giving practical steps to get you examining what you value and how you can change your perspective. By the end of the first section, I had already made a list of things I needed to jolt. So, he got me working.

While the structure of the book works if you read bits here and there, my main concern is that the writing comes across as episodic and lacks cohesion. In other words, it’s more blog than book. Cooke himself confesses that he lacked focus when writing the early draft (p. 57). He says that he jolted his own focus and cranked it out, but the lack of focus still slips through. It’s best, then, to simply read a bit at a time as you would a blog rather than a book.
Bottom line: Cooke’s writing always does exactly what he sets out to do: teach, inspire, motivate, and push. Jolt! isn’t self-help—it’s self-evaluation with an added kick in the pants. Get it and go.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: The Shelter of God's Promises by Sheila Walsh

When I ordered The Shelter of God's Promises by Sheila Walsh, I honestly thought that I would already know everything Walsh could possibly share about God's promises, but I also knew that I needed to be reminded...again.  Everyone has those seasons of life where things aren't working out the way you think they should, and it seems like God has forgotten about you and any promises He might have made.

In this book, Walsh shares the very foundation for why God can make and keep promises.  She shares ten specific promises God makes in the Bible.  She takes each promise and places it in the context of the surrounding scripture, offering the history of the time and Greek or Hebrew word meanings needed to make sense of exactly what God is trying to tell us through His Word and to provide deeper insight.  She shares biblical stories that display God's faithfulness in keeping the promises He has made, as well as sharing personal stories that let you know she's been there, too.

Overall, this is a great read, both for the lifetime Christian and new converts.  It will remind you that God hasn't forgotten where you are or what He has promised to do in your life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's Me Again

OK, don't shoot me.  It's been a while since I've blogged.  Life happens.  Since my last post in July 2009, we've added another redhead to our family, and the two of them keep me quite busy! I have been enjoying every minute with them, though.  And while our little family has been growing, I find that my values and desires are changing.  I've been longing for a simpler way of life.  I want to get back to the basics.  I've been paring down our possessions.  I've been moving away from processed foods in favor of more whole, natural foods.  Even though we've moved twice since my last post, we are still not settled, and I've been planning for our permanent, efficient, minimalist home.  OK, as minimalist as a home can be with two little ones.

That said, I've found quite the inspiring book for getting back to the basics--for becoming self-sufficient.  The Backyard Homestead has been my dream book.  While reading it, I dream of owning my own mini-farm with 2 goats for all things dairy (Did you know that a cow produces 9 gallons of milk per day??  That's a bit much for us), chickens (I've already been looking for custom slaughter houses--I don't think I could do that myself), a large vegetable garden, fruit trees, fresh herbs, and maybe even a wheat field.  Oh, my goodness!  Just thinking about it makes my head swim with the possibilities!  I know.  This isn't your average suburban mom's dream.  Why not just head to Wal-mart and pick up what you need?  Because the more I research, the more beneficial it seems to me to know where my food is coming from.  Not that I don't trust the FDA...or the government, for that matter.  (Smirk.) I'm just a bit of a control freak.  Just a little.  Really.

Anyway, if you have any interest in producing any of your own food, this is definitely the book for you.  It is simple and easy to understand.  It provides plenty of information to whet your appetite and gives you the resources to finish the job.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Perfect Butter Pecan Cookies

I must admit that I was not a big fan of butter pecan anything—until I made these cookies. I thought I'd give them a shot and see what happened (figuring I could give them all away if they really didn't turn out well). The first time I made them I HAD to give them away to keep from eating the whole batch. They are ridiculously simple (unless your name is Kristen) and are really quick to make. Let me know what you think.

Butter Pecan Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (the lowfat version works fine)
1 butter pecan cake mix

Mix all three ingredients together. The dough will be quite sticky, and that is OK. Place tablespoon sized balls on cookie sheet and smash to make flat (I know—that's really technical!). Cook at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy in moderation (if you can). :-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: The I Believe Bunny

When I saw this book offered in the Thomas Nelson Blogging for Books program, I knew I had to request it for Kaelan, my 20-month-old daughter. She absolutely LOVES reading. The two phrases I hear all day are, "Momma, read it, please," and "Momma, hide." She will sit in her room and sort through her books, looking at the pictures and reading them to herself, or me. We seriously never make it through a day without at least 20 readings (or various books or the same book multiple times).

With all that reading, I want to make sure I'm providing quality literature for her (one of my quirks as a former elementary school teacher). I'm REALLY picky about the "feel" of a book—language and pictures or illustrations. Some books I keep in the pile because she really seems to enjoy them, but others I'll hide, hoping that she forgets we ever had them.

The I Believe Bunny falls in the middle for me. Honestly, I love the message portrayed throughout the book, but the quality of the language was a little sub par to me. The I Believe Bunny stresses relying on God, even when we think we might be too small, and trusting in Him to meet our every need. One rainy day, the bunny hears a mouse calling for help. He tries to help her by stretching out a stick, but falls short and is afraid she's going to drown. He prays for help and his friends show up to help fish the little mouse out just in time.

Tish Rabe, author of several Cat in the Hat books, does a good job of portraying the message throughout, but she does so through telling instead of showing. Even kids' books should leave some room for children to figure things out. The book does fall in line with her work from the Cat in the Hat books, though. For example, I wasn't impressed by Clam, I Am.

Overall, it was a good selection to add to our library. Kaelan enjoys reading it, and I'm definitely able to pull good insights from the book to share with her.

Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

Since entering pregnancy I have a) been terrible at continuing to blog regularly and b) been craving cinnamon rolls like crazy. I wasn't thrilled with the outcome of previous batches because of both form and taste. I like a cinnamon roll that is gooey and cinnamoney (yes, that's a word) on the inside and oozing with icing on the outside. These cinnamon rolls hit the spot and the maple icing just adds to the "yum" factor. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have...and will continue to.

Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

You need:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
For the filling:
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
For the icing:
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring
  • enough milk to make desired consistency (not much)

  1. Heat milk, water, and butter until warm (butter doesn't need to be completely melted). Add the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and add to the milk mixture. Mix well.
  2. Knead on floured surface for about 10 minutes and add more flour as needed to reduce stickiness. Return to greased bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled (about an hour). Punch down, and divide into 2 parts. On a floured surface, roll each part into a large rectangle. Smear each rectangle with the softened butter. Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle over the rectangles.
  3. Roll the dough up into two logs starting at the long side. Cut each log into 12 slices. Place the rolls cut side down into two 9x13 inch greased baking pans. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 30 minutes).
  4. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Combine the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, maple flavoring, and milk. Frosting should be thick. Spread over baked rolls and enjoy. Yum!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor: Book Review

I must say, I haven't had much luck with my book choices (or the books others choose for me) lately, and I know I haven't been a great resource in helping you choose books to add to your reading list. For that, I'm extremely sorry. This will be the last book review for a while, so we only have one more bad book to share together...for now. But at least I'm honest, and I let you know when a book really isn't worth your time.

Let's start out with the summary. Evidently this book is part of a series, the Dragon Keeper Chronicles. In The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian (we'll talk about this later) who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

In the summary, The Vanishing Sculptor seems to have all the right elements for a successful plot--intriguing characters, mystery to draw you in, a fantasy world that adds to the drama and interest. However, when reading this book, I just wasn't drawn in. Not that I didn't want to be--I was REALLY looking for a book to love, but this wasn't the one. I made it through 4 chapters. I think the problem, for me, was that it moved too slowly. There wasn't enough to make me want to keep reading. I want the book to draw me along, teasing me with something that needs to be discovered each step of the way. That just didn't happen here. Am I being too demanding of my books? I don't think so. I only have so much time to devote to reading, and when I do give my time to something, I want to be rewarded for it. I don't want to feel like I'm in English 101, expecting a test at the end.

I think another turn-off for me in this book was the need for a glossary. I despise a book that requires a glossary. I don't mind if the author uses a made-up word in such a way that you understand it's meaning and then includes a glossary just in case you forget it's meaning later. I really mind it when the author uses a made-up word and offers no explanation in the text, requiring you to look it up while you're trying to get into the plot. No fun--back to English 101.

So, for me, this book was not a winner. If it sounds interesting to you, by all means, try it out in the local bookstore. But I'd suggest you read a little before you actually commit.