Book Review: Squeezing Good Out of Bad

Squeezing Good out of Bad

Ever have a sour day? James N. Watkins wrote the book on it! With his characteristic pun-filled humor, Jim Watkins has somehow managed to put a lemony twist on the serious side of life and called it, Squeezing Good Out of Bad.

Jim is an author and speaker, with over 2,000 articles published. His editorial work and lecturing have opened many doors, but his biggest qualifier for writing this book? “He’s felt the squeeze of cancer, unemployment, family crises, and chronic nose hair.”

The book promises to squeeze good out of those life-puckering problems and delivers with seasoned advice, the benefits of laughter and great perspective (“Is this truly a hand grenade or is it more in the category of a hangnail?”). I love the reminders (“We don’t need to take responsibility for the things that we had no control over.”) and action steps for working through topics of forgiveness, suffering and learning to let God have complete control.

“Squeezing Good Out of Bad” is an important addition to my library, because Jim has added so many seeds of truth. It is a reference book on those days when nothing is going right, and provides insight into the issue of pain. He says Romans 8:28-29 offers a clue: the Lord works all things for good, so that Jesus may be revealed in us.

Make time for this book and receive a dose of inspiration. It includes quotes from Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Cecil Murphy, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey, Brother Lawrence, Saint John of the Cross, Watchman Nee, Brennan Manning, and many more. It highlights the servanthood of Francine Rivers and recommends works of other authors. It is not some fluff piece of work, but one with depth and courage.

Need a recipe for those lemons? You’ve come to the right place!

Sally

 

Book Review: 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage by Kim Kimberling, PhD

7 secrets

What does it take to build a good marriage? Take that answer and multiply it by 7… 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage. The author, Kim Kimberling has over 30 years of experience counseling couples in distress. But he advocates in a climate of bad statistics to fight for marriage, against all odds. Dr. Kimberling draws from research, counseling and study, but he also references his own marriage and lessons learned from the difficulties of life. He says, “Take the risk. God meant for marriage to be awesome.”

What does it look like to fight for an awesome marriage? Kimberling tackles issues of selfishness, apathy and money. But he does so in a conversational tone that makes you feel like you’ve just met a friend for a cup of coffee. He uses examples to explain the concepts and brings challenges and practical exercises for spouses to work through together. The action steps are clear and easy to understand, but not necessarily easy to follow. And that is the hard work of fighting for your marriage.

The book, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage broaches an important topic. With families falling apart, do we really want to add another divorce? Society says, “Maybe I didn’t marry the right person?”

Kimberling says, “Fight for your marriage and see what God will do.”

I really like Kimberling’s approach to writing. He doesn’t gloss over issues but validates the need to learn good communication skills that will show compassion, authenticity and empathy to your spouse. Even the best marriages can find room to improve the connection that creates intimacy in the daily responsibilities of work, family and commitments. I’m adding this book to my gift list, for newlyweds and marriage veterans, alike. When the secrets are applied, they will change the landscape of marriage!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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.”

Sally

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Justified by Varina Denman

Justified

Justified by Varina Denman

Reviewed by Sally Ferguson

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: David C. Cook

Release Date: June 1, 2015

“In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for the grace she has never been willing to bestow on others. Hope stirs when the local football coach offers gentle strength to help Fawn reawaken her heart and redeem her past.”

Justified begins with an unplanned pregnancy and the sting of judgmental attitudes. It exposes religious posturing that ignores compassionate responses. Through the power of a well-told story, Fawn expresses self-loathing as she works through her need for a man to provide for her, verses a man who will treat her with respect. Her thought processes lead us through the hormonal stages of pregnancy, the roller coaster of a low self-esteem and the dilemma of a victim mentality.

Do you know someone who feels she can never be forgiven for her actions? Give her the gift of a story that shows the power of grace. Fawn finds important answers in her quest for peace and Denman takes the reader on an action-packed journey to find, in the end, God was big enough to handle life’s problems, after all.

Excellent job, handling matters of the heart!

“Varina Denman is a native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas town. Now she lives near Fort Worth with her husband and her five mostly-grown children.

Justified is available for purchase here from Amazon.com.

Note: I received this book as part of the Justified blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes. Review copy provided by the publisher for Radiant Lit Blog Tours.”

Sally

Bible Study Expo

Check out the Bible Study Expo on Thursday, August 20, featuring 12 authors:

– Liz Curtis Higgs with “It’s Good to be Queen”

– Pam Farrel with “7 Simples Skills for Every Woman”

– Sara Hagerty with “Every Bitter Thing”

– Kimberly Sowell with “The Thin Red Line Series”

– Danette Crawford with “Total Turnaround”

– Sheryl Pellatiro with “Fearless Faith”

– Stephanie Olson with “Jesus is Passing By”

– Mindy Ferguson with “Moses”

– Jessie Seneca with “Joseph”

– Kathy Howard with “Embraced by Holiness”

– Carey Scott with “Untangled”

– Marnie Swedberg with “Flow Through Vessel”

The Expo is 100% free and online, catch it while it happens, or come back to dig in later. I have found this exercise to be very helpful in picking out resources for our study groups, as well as for networking.

How about you? Are you looking for your next study for Fall?

Sally

Five Days in Skye Blog Tour

Five Days in Skye

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

Reviewed by Sally Ferguson

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Romance

Publisher: David C. Cook

Date: July 9, 2015

“Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she’ll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she’s sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she’d rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father’s dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

“Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.”

Carla Laureano is really good at building multi-layered characters. Her story-telling is subtle and gives the reader a realistic grasp of who people are underneath the surface. Andrea and James have both been exposed to faith in their lives, but walked away. Who can’t relate to that? We’ve all had a crisis of faith, and that has either made us bitter toward God, or helped us to embrace Him. The story arc takes you into their struggles, Andrea with her climb on the corporate ladder and James with his efforts to build his image. They ask genuine questions about life and in turn learn to surrender their own brokenness to the only One who can make them whole.

Five Days in Skye is a good read and, for a visual learner like me, provides picturesque backdrop in the beautiful countryside of Scotland. It’s not area I ever thought I would be drawn to, but now, after seeing it through James and Andrea’s eyes, would love to visit. Well done, Carla Laureano!

Carla Laureano is the author of the RITA® award-winning romance Five Days in Skye as well as London Tides and the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.”

Sally

Five Days in Skye is available for purchase through Amazon.com.

Note: I received this book as part of the Five Days in Skye blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

The Art of Work

The mystical world of “calling” is tackled expertly by Jeff Goins in his book, The Art of Work. He unpacks what it means to find a fulfilling vocation, and the steps needed to get there. This book is actually less about a “job,” and more about a life well lived. Goins says there are seven common characteristics to a calling: awareness, apprenticeship, practice, discovery, profession, mastery and legacy. These characteristics overlap to form a lifetime process, and when followed, will bring clarity to one’s work.

I love the perspective this process provides. In an “instant society” where we expect graduates to move directly to their dream job, the author brings reassurance for those of us who feel we’ve never arrived. He says a vocation is “not something you try; it’s someone you become.”

The book’s resource list is extensive. Citing stories of ordinary people who took leaps into their calling, Goins paints a portrait of the commitment it takes to go against the mainstream workforce. You find friendship in failure, that proven learning ground for change. And you’re reminded that pursuing your calling is supposed to be difficult.

One of the biggest takeaways for me, is connection to the idea of a portfolio. When life is seen as a collection of experiences that contribute to a whole, they become a collaboration, or portfolio, moving toward an extraordinary life. Doesn’t that take the pressure off of finding one “perfect” job, and instead, steer one toward learning tools from each place we’ve been?

No matter what stage of life you’re in, you need this book. It will empower you to leave the legacy you’ve always wanted!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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.”

Sally

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London Tides Blog Tour

London Tides pic

London Tides by Carla Laureano

Reviewed by Sally Ferguson

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Romance

Publisher: David C. Cook

Date: June 8, 2015

“Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and colleague, Grace is shaken.

“She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace … only for her to choose career over him. Will life’s tides bring them back together … or tear them apart for good this time?

Carla Laureano is the author of the RITA® award-winning romance Five Days in Skye as well as London Tides and the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.”

The Dedication Page immediately grabbed my attention: “To all my sisters who feel unseen and insignificant – You are loved. Your stories matter.”

Who hasn’t felt insignificant at some point? Laureano writes a sensitive story about the choices that change the scope of a person’s life, and how those decisions affect those around her. She tackles difficult topics of grief, career and PTSD.

The publisher, David C. Cook’s Mission Statement is: “To equip the Church with Christ-centered resources for making and teaching disciples who obediently transform today’s generations.”

Their website calls “London Tides a fresh, socially aware novel.”

Actually, London Tides is edgy, with alcohol and steamy relationships. Grace Brennan, the main character, works in a man’s world. She doesn’t seem aware of God’s preservation of her life, until a few references are made at the end of the book about receiving second chances. It’s not the type of book I expected from a Christian publisher, but in the end, find Laureano to be a compelling author. She carries the story with ease, bringing in surprises to keep the reader engaged. She displays a thorough knowledge of the change needed in charitable organizations, in order to make a difference in the world. She certainly brings awareness to the plight of many, woven in the artful form of story.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It is a raw look at life, with pain, confusion and beauty.

Sally

London Tides is available for purchase from Amazon.com

Note: I received this book as part of the London Tides blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Book Review: The Day Is Waiting, Illustrations by Don Freeman, Words by Linda Zuckerman

The Day is Waiting

The Day Is Waiting is a book for children but tickles the fancy of adults:

A bear rides a unicycle,

Crickets host a concert,

And clothed mice scurry through the market.

But it’s all part of the fun…

In the game of pretend.

Preschoolers would have a grand time with this book. The pictures and text, together, create a sense of expectancy – an anticipation that there are wonderful things to experience in the world, and then there’s safety, in the return back home. The underlying theme is one of awe, as the explorer sees treasures in God’s world.

I was intrigued by the creation of the book. Don Freeman was the creator of Corduroy, “one of the most beloved and popular author/illustrators of picture books for children.” The notes say the illustrations were provided after his death. The author then compiled them into a storyline that provided adventure.

With splashes of humor, Zuckerman ties Freeman’s artwork into a whimsical narrative. There are surprises around every page turn, as penguins and skyscrapers intermingle to pull the escapade onward. I chuckled as I imagined the author sifting through piles of artwork, in search of a tale. The whimsy that surfaced seems perfectly in sync with the illustrator’s style… colorful and imaginative!

Get a copy for the child in you!

Sally

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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.”

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Book Review: Possible by Stephan Bauman

Does poverty, injustice and world suffering bother you? Get ready to be bothered more. Stephan Bauman has written, Possible: A Blueprint for Changing How We Change the World, with a look at the worst our generation has been offered. But Bauman also offers hope, by presenting a blueprint that will ignite a new approach to problem solving.

Bauman is the president and CEO of World Relief, who has lived with feet on the ground in developing countries struggling to fight AIDS, trafficking and factions. He says, “We owe it to subsequent generations to honestly ask ourselves if we are responsibly stewarding our moment in history.”

But what does it mean, to steward our moment? Bauman says we need to step up to use our skills and abilities to find solutions to the problems that plague our world today. He provides tools for groups to access what their unique contribution can be and invites all to lives of radical obedience marked by sacrificial love. He says the invitation of Jesus to be vulnerable is one way of accepting glorious grace into our lives.

Bauman says reformation begins with a complaint. When we care enough to get upset, then it can turn into prayer. Prayer galvanizes courage. Courage fosters commitment. And commitment becomes the foundation for action.

Bauman sends the clarion call to abandon narcissism, self-absorption and insecurity in order to take up a higher calling to pursue a relationship with God instead of addiction to ministry. Indeed, Bauman says our world’s problems are all relational. People will change when they experience a love that collides with their belief systems.

Possible is a compelling book. It awakens the call to more, by asking hard questions about character and motive. I believe this generation is ready for change, and this book helps us to see that change is Possible!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.
 

 

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Book Review: The Leadership Handbook by John C. Maxwell

The Lea

Could an author of 46 titles have anything more to say? John Maxwell is known for good content, but can he deliver again? Scanning the Table of Contents, my curiosity is piqued. Titles like “The Toughest Person to Lead Is Always Yourself,” “Influence Should Be Loaned but Never Given” and “Experience Is Not the Best Teacher” draw me in.

Maxwell tackles topics like integrity, priorities and the burden of leadership with his characteristic honesty, and doesn’t hold anything back as he challenges leaders to take ownership in a new level of change needed for a new generation. His stance is to build leaders, who will in turn build leaders. The power of influence creates impact when a leader invests in the modeling of the next generation. And that is where this book goes to a different level than other books on leadership. Maxwell creates a game plan for mentoring by giving tips, formulas and questions to pursue with a mentee. By investing in a life, the mentor is creating a legacy that will outlive the natural course of work.

Maxwell says, “If you want to make an impact, then work on your influence. If you want to add value to others, help them work on theirs.” (p. 194)

He does deliver again, by adding value to those who pick up his book. Not only does The Leadership Handbook provide practical application, but it calls the leader to rise to a new level of accountability and personal investment in the lives of people. Maxwell says, “You must come to realize how unimportant you are in comparison to the task with which you have been entrusted as a leader. That requires a level of objectivity, maturity, and humility that many leaders never attain. Your goal as a leader isn’t to be indispensable to the people you lead; it is to leave your people something that is indispensable to them.” (p. 248)

And therein lies the mark of a true leader, when that leader learns how to serve.

Sally

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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.”
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