Monday, March 04, 2019

Book Review:: Fearless in 21 Days by Sarah E. Ball

This book has been on my “to read” list since it was released, so I was glad for the opportunity to review it through NetGalley.  It was the title that intrigued me before ever learning the details of what the book was about. 

It is so refreshing to see more articles and books written on anxiety and depression from a Christian point of view.  Even in the church community, there is such a stigma to these mental illnesses, which becomes a secret and a hidden shame, creating a protective barrier, separating even trusted friends and family. 

Sarah is very transparent in this book about her battle with severe anxiety and the medical, physical and spiritual ways in which she has overcome the worst of it.  There is no sugar-coating in her unfolding of how her anxiety issues morphed into poor health, panic attacks, and the fear that she was literally going crazy. 

The book is set up in 21 chapters, one chapter each day for 21 days.  Each day/chapter she approaches all the aspects of anxiety – what it is, why it happens, and how to face it, along with learning how to find rest, joy and discipline in the journey toward health.  She does encourage the reader to seek medical help and professional counseling. 

While reading this book, it’s evident that the author “gets you” and is all about assisting the reader through the same exhausting journey that she has walked through with victory.  Written from the Christian point of view, it gives the reader even more hope of healing as each of the author’s successes are referenced back to what she learned in Scripture along the way. 

Especially helpful is a chapter that is written directly to a friend or family member who is walking through this storm with the one suffering from the illness of anxiety or depression.  A sufferer cannot explain what they are going through, and as with depression, may often not even realize that they are having an episode of illness.  This chapter gives good reference on what to look for, what steps to take and especially, what not to do or say.

While my issues don’t include such severe anxiety, this book is still beneficial to those who also may be struggling with depression or other areas of mental bondage. 

Book Review: The White City by Grace Hitchcock

As a true crime fan, I gladly offered to read and to give an honest review when NetGalley offered this title.   

“The White City” is promoted as the first of a “new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime,” and this particular joined the villain H.H. Holmes, (who built the murder castle during  Chicago’s World Exhibition of 1893) along with an inspirational romance.  I was certainly curious to see how the author would combine these two into a captivating tale.

The main character, Winnifred, involves herself in an investigation that eventually leads her to interact with H.H. Holmes.  Her father allows her to be a sleuth on her own with the aid of one of his new detectives as a bodyguard, which of course is quite unrealistic, but the plot does put her into an alarming situation that fits within the history known of H.H. Holmes. In the meantime, two men vie for her attention, and she must choose one of the suitable beaus.  

In my opinion, this book isn’t so much an American Crime story as it is more in the “cozy mystery” genre. However, it does give the genre of inspirational romance a new twist to its predictable plots.  Also, the cover is somewhat misleading as it doesn’t translate that the reader will be reading anything that includes true crime.  To the author’s credit, she does give a history of H.H. Holmes and other details in the back of the book that was not included in the story.

In the end, if you enjoy uncomplicated, cozy mysteries and Christian romance, then this book will be a delightful and perfect weekend read. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

As a disclaimer, this is the first title I've read from the author, and this review is based on the audiobook instead of the book. I'm glad I chose the audiobook because the material was made more personable orated by Shauna than probably reading the actual book. 

As you listen, it is as though Shauna is reading her daily blog posts to the reader: each "chapter" is short, yet meaningful as she shares the discovery of her frantic, overloaded and people-pleasing life to the transition toward a peaceful, satisfying life with better choices and higher priorities. 

Shauna is honest and transparent, which will allow many readers to easily identify with her. Overall, the topic seems written to be relatable to a secular audience as well as the church attender; however, it may be less relatable to a stay at home mom seeking balance than to a woman who is working outside of the home and struggles with career priorities. It also may not seem relatable to a single mom, who does not have the same financial means or resources as the author. Regardless, we all have messy lives and hearing how Shauna was able to identify her struggle, learn to say no to distractions and walk through it to a more positive outcome gives us all hope.... however...

There were a couple of things that made me go "hmm" as I listened, and I have a feeling it may have been purposeful to draw in a secular audience. First, I hesitate when a Christian talks about their pursuit of finding themselves or discovering their purpose by experimenting or incorporating facets of other denominations in order to expand their spiritual horizon (or to find the real/right God). This was apparent in Shauna's use of the term "spiritual director" (which sounds much more New Age than saying "counselor") and having sessions with a Jesuit counselor instead of someone who has more similar religious beliefs. In addition, she and her husband created a more interfaith type worship service that included facets of the Catholic faith and others. This rang bells for me. Not so much that they included the Eucharist in their service, but that the whole thing seemed more experimental, mystic - like combining things to find the right recipe and get the right high -- instead of simply allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the worship service. 

Secondly - and again I feel this was purposeful in order to come across to a more secular audience - there was not much Scripture used. The very few used seemed to be added as an afterthought while putting together the book. There were no exciting revelations she discovered from the Bible that led her to a closer relationship with God or provided the route to the better choices and balance she finally experienced. It just seemed more like the message was "I figured this out" instead of "look at what God has shown me/done through me." 

Needless to say, the ending, while a "happy ending," was anti-climatic. Knowing that this was more of a memoir or biopic, I felt happy for her but also didn't feel satisfied after finishing the book. I had hoped for more depth, more concrete concepts that I could apply in my own journey toward a God-centered, balanced life. 

Did the book deliver what was promised?  Yes. She shares her discovery of how balance comes with being more present with family and home, saying no to those things that distract her and creates stress and struggle.  

Would I recommend this title to someone I know who is struggling, yet doesn't go to church? Maybe. It is written in a loose, easy to understand vibe that they may connect with. 

Would I recommend this book to the Christian, the church-goer, the bible study girl? Um no. While you would sit down and have coffee with Shauna, this book will probably be somewhat disappointing to you. 

And unfortunately, this was my first book to read from the author, and I think it may be my last.