Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Bad Habits of Jesus

The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong by [Sweet, Leonard]

The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong by Leonard Sweet details habits uncovered by Sweet and crowd sourced by his colleagues that traditional society would find rude.  Additionally, many of the habits would also have been found unacceptable by Jesus’ own contemporaries.  Sweet provides context for Jesus’s bad habits including being late, not being specific, spending too much time with children, partying and just intentionally being rude to others.  For each of these habits Sweet provides an explanation of the habit and the benefit that Jesus and his followers can gain from the habit. 

Honestly, I have a mixed mind about this book.  I totally understand how these bad habits can at times be good examples can provide good benefits.  For example, being late can also be seen and described as slowing down instead of rushing, providing time to mediate and allowing one to better interact with creation.  But there is an elephant in the room to me, which is for some people with the habit of being late they are simply rude.  And being rude is not always a positive!  Additionally, Sweet discusses Jesus being intentionally offensive to teach lessons and challenge the status quo.  He himself provides examples where his digression led him to be offensive to others.  But for me this explanation seems like permission for Christians to be purely offensive.  I see plenty of postings on Facebook and other places, one which was beyond shocking I saw this week, where in the name of being truthful, Christians are simply being petty!  Quick fact everyone, I changed my opinion due to Facebook said no one ever!  So in the end, the book is really uneven to me; jumping between strong teaching to lessons that need further development and caveats which I believe Sweet could easily provide. 

The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong by Leonard Sweet is a book that those who enjoy Sweet’s numerous writings will likely want and enjoy.  For me however, I would warn against generalizations, I am a historian.  Being late can definitely be a sign of slowing down one’s lifestyle.  Or it can just be a message to others, you do not matter.  In the end, Jesus played all these situations perfectly…but he was God. 

Review Copy Provided for Purposes of Review

Monday, November 21, 2016

People of the Second Chance

People of the Second Change: A Guide to Bringing Life-Changing Love to the World by Mike Foster is full of good reminders.  Foster reminds us to look beyond what we see in the loser, the misshapen, the poorly packaged and instead find the greatness inside.  He urges us through his story and the stories of others to allow the great thing inside those we find beaten and ourselves with all our self-hatred to simply provide another chance.  Foster is no stranger to brokenness.  He starts the book telling of an accident that would shape his life forever.  Out of that accident he found he had to give himself a second chance in order to be more than that three seconds.  Foster then walks his readers through providing a second chance to one's life, going as far as to have a party to allow the celebration to sweep over one's soul. 

In Foster's system broken things, and people are great things.  From a broken state, God can and does make wonderful things.  And so he urges us to plan the second chance for those around us so God's power can truly take effect.  And then one can play the role they were intended to play in the fantastic story of their life. 

One insight for me is how little Americans touch.  I will be honest, I often joke about it.  Yet as someone who's love language is touch it is amazing how calming a quick pat or a hand squeeze can be.  But I declare proudly do not touch me.  Foster helped remind me touch is powerful for me, it's the reminder that I am far from alone!  And touch can re energize many with weary souls.

I really enjoyed People of the Second Chance.  I found it easy to read and insightful.  The reminders to avoid perfection, be vulnerable, give and receive gifts and many more were powerful and timely.  And in the end I think for all of us we need a second chance in order to be the best us...or a third and a fourth. 

Review Copy Provided

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chase the Lion

Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You It’s Too Small by Mark Batterson is his follow-up to In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.  Batterson continues connecting the life of the Old Testament hero Benaiah who was one of King David’s Mighty Men.  But along with Benaiah, Batterson extends his connections to the larger group of Mighty Men mentioned in the Old Testament.  Batterson uses popular culture, stories of men and women of faith, and his own experiences to connect the Mighty Men to actions today.  Themes found in Batterson’s text include legacy, love faith, and comradeship.  Batterson uses these stories to encourage people of faith to dream big and activate dreams bigger than themselves.

Batterson fans will want this book, especially as it serves as a true sequel to In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.  Readers will find a book that shares the tone of the original and grows the stories found in that volume.  I tend to be a very concrete person and organizationally I would have preferred chapters that focused on text about specific Mighty Men.  In the end, Batterson gives us the book that we expect, which is one that challenges dreams and big prayers as one moves into a bigger story. 

Review Copy Provided by Publisher     

Monday, August 1, 2016

Home Game

I am a Cub Bret Boone is not exactly my favorite baseball player!  He was a Red, a division foe.  But when I saw Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball's First Family I decided to give it a whirl despite him playing with the bad guys solely because I like to read a good baseball book during the season, especially a good Cubs' season.

In Home Game, Boone and Kevin Cook talk about Boone's baseball legacy, the grandson of baseball all-star Ray Boone, son of all-state Bob Boone, and brother to All-Star Aaron Boone.  Boone discusses his relationship with these men and how his grandfather and father inspired and taught him to be a professional player, though perhaps not a scholar like his father.  Boone then takes his through his professional career as he scuffled to make the majors, despite at times being small.  Eventually he himself would become an All-Star.  In his later years he looked again to the men who inspired him with making adjustments to maintain his career.  Finally, Boone details his retirement and post baseball years as he considers coaching.  

Honestly, at times I really enjoyed Home Game as  read about the rising star of Boone in the minors and beyond.  And I truly grew to appreciate the careers and personalities of Ray and Bob Boone.  Ironically these two men have a very different personality than Bret.  These men were learned, calm and honestly thinking men of the game.  Bret on the other hand was fiery, intense and born to hit.  My personality tends to admire men like Ray and Bob more than Bret's tenacious yet fiery attitude.  

Honestly, I found myself really impressed by this book, written by a man who claims to only have read one book before writing one.  But Boone is very opinionated, including sharing some opinions about my favorite player of all time and his Hall of Fame status.  In the end, I may not agree but he clearly would stand next to his opinions.  

Home Game is a good baseball book, worth a read to a baseball fan.  I enjoyed the stories of games and off-seasons where adjustments were made and stories where shared between baseball men  So despite the fact that I view Boone as the enemy, I had a good time reading his book.

Book Provided For Purposes of Review   

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography

You are Neil Patrick Harris!  

Okay, you're not!  But Neil Patrick Harris takes you through his life in a format many of us know and love from when we were kids, choose your own adventure.  In Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, Harris walks his readers through the adventure of his life.  The story takes the reader through his discovery of his love of acting, his first movie, his time on Doogie Howser M.D., and his adult career including How I Met Your Mother.  Along with acting he discusses his private life including coming out and finding love and becoming a parent.

I have to be honest.  I found Harris' style to be enjoyable.  And I found his story interesting.  But he always did not stop and linger over the parts I wanted to hear more about.  So for example, I really wish he had spent more time talking about Doogie because I am a child of the 1980s.  And sometimes the choose your own adventure format would become confusing  At a certain point it was simply easier for me to read straight through, mostly out of fear of missing something.  And that missing something fear includes some of his humorous fake endings.  

In the end, I found Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography fun and unique.  But really I wish Harris had lingered over some parts of his personal life just a little more for my own nostalgia. 

Review Copy Provided for Review

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed Ernest Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  So when given a chance to review his second book Armada I had to jump at the chance.  I knew that there would be plenty of pop culture references and it seemed like a story I could have daydreamed about as a youngster.  But would I would I enjoy it as much as Cline’s earlier book.

Zack Lightman is a troubled angry young man.  As a baby his father died in a semi-embarrassing accident.  And he has spent his life studying the man he really never met but loved video games and pop culture.  His biggest joy in life is playing the space fighter style video game Armada where as a drone pilot he defends the Earth from alien invaders.  But Zack worries as he begins to consider his future that the video game is making him question reality as he sees an alien ship hovering near his school.  But in reality Zack discovers that the game is more fact than fiction.  And Zack’s skills playing the video game make him a top recruit to defend the Earth in a decades long war.  Is Zack daydreaming, crazy, or actually fighting for his life against an alien invader?

I’ll be blunt, Armada was a rough start for me.  I actually put it down for a week to read a book about Disneyland and lawsuits.  The slow part of me was Zack’s life before his “recruitment” as he went through his day-to-day routine and thought about the legacy of his father.  Zack is obsessed with this dad.  And as Zack’s reality begins to crumble he questions his own father as he discovers notes about a conspiracy from this father that is related to many of our favorite science fiction properties.  And this book does a good job setting the reader up for some tension.  Is Zack’s experience real or not?  Is Zack mentally unhinged and we are looking at a Dangerous Mind situation. What leads to a lot of doubt is at times this story begins to really feel like Ender’s Game, The Last Starfighter and Iron Eagle combined.  And this is a world that acknowledges those properties.  So when they begin to feel really close to those stories, it luckily does not feel like a story lift but instead makes you question what Zack is experiencing.  This is especially true since there is a lot of wish fulfillment that occurs.  Seriously, he was a lowly high schooler with no prospects who begins an elite fighter pilot with no pilot training!  How does one not question that?

Armada’s film rights were sold years ago.  So I did find myself asking how would this do as a movie?  I have mixed thoughts.  I think that pop culture references will sell tickets to nostalgic middle-aged dudes like me.  And you could really have fun with casting.  For example, one character is based on Tom Skerrit’s Viper from Top Gun.  And Skerrit even in his 80s could pull the role off today.  So you could own it and cast him.  Additionally, music is a huge part of this book, Iron Eagle styleIf Guardians of the Galaxy has proven anything, music can make a movie and a movie can make music.  So I think the “Raid the Arcade” mix has huge possibilities.  I do have concerns with the ending, because I think it is relatively quiet, again much like Guardians of the Galaxy, and I do not know how well it would translate in a movie. 

My final assessment of Armada is that it is a good book, but maybe not great.  It, likely unfairly, will be compared to Ready Player One which was truly unique and caught everyone by surprise.  Now Cline is a known and respected author, who has produced a great book and a good book now…with hopefully more to come!  

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Matheny Manifesto

In 2008, former baseball player Mike Matheny wrote a letter to parents who asked him to coach their sons on a youth baseball team.  The letter pulled no punches and questioned many of the excesses of youth sports.  He told parents that for their sons to be on his team he would require respectful parents, players willing to move around the diamond and persistence.  Later, the letter would become a sensation online.  And even later Matheny would move from youth coach to manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager's Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life by Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins discusses how Matheny came to his sports philosophies and what they mean to him.  Matheny breaks down his own upbringing, youth career, college years and eventual break in Major League Baseball.  Likewise he discusses how he went from retired player to big-league manager.  He provides this story while breaking down the concepts that were found in his parent letter including leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, toughness, character and humility.  All of this is told from his view.

I am a Chicago Cubs fan, and on this opening day of baseball all I really want is Mike Matheny to lose.  Sorry Mike!  Yet, I have been unable to dislike Matheny to the same extent as his predecessor  I think much of this has to do with the poise he has shown on the field and his character.  As a youth coach, in another sport, I did look to see what I could apply to my own style.  And I will not promise that I will not yell (I have some corny encouraging phrases) but I will continue to make clear to parents, following Mike's example, that I am more concerned with who our players are over how they play.  Matheny is right, we have let youth sports get out of control.  Recently a friend was thrown out of youth basketball game from the stands.  And we do need to take stock in the people we are helping to become adults and the lifetime skills they will earn.

Review Copy Provided by Publisher