Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Nehemiah Factor – Frank Page

©2008 New Hope Publishers, Birmingham

In a world filled with books on leadership the question comes, is there a need for one more? I picked up this book because I have a great deal of respect for former SBC President Frank Page.

The book includes sixteen chapters that spell out sixteen characteristics of a missional leader. Page, the pastor of a 4,000-plus member church in South Carolina, is an example of the characteristics he espouses in the book. In the pages of the book, Page suggests (from the life of the prophet Nehemiah) that a missional leader is one who exhibits everything from a strong prayer life to a genuine calling to a winning way in dealing with conflict.

I found many positive suggestions for church/Christian leaders. Some were fresh; others were simple reminders of old advice. So the question one must answer: Should I by this book? I’ll answer it this way – is the book good? Yes, with some stumbling points such as disjointed chapters. Is it worth the money you’d put out on it? Yes, the suggested price is only fifteen dollars and good advice is always worth fifteen dollars. Is it a necessary book? Not really. If you like Page, you’ll like this book. If you’re looking for a practical book on leadership, this is a fine choice. If you already have fourteen books on leadership that you haven’t read, you have a fifty-percent chance of letting this one collect shelf dust as well. If you’re already sold on the one good leadership book you’ve had for ten years, you can probably spend your book money more wisely elsewhere.

I give Dr. Page and The Nehemiah Factor three strong reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, April 29, 2009

Do Hard Things – Alex & Brett Harris

©2008 Multnomah, Colorado Springs

Alex and Brett Harris are twins. Their older brother Joshua hit the publishing scene several years ago announcing I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But don’t let this distract you from what the twins have to say. In 2005, when they were sixteen, Alex and Brett landed an opportunity to work as interns for the Alabama Supreme Court. It was the result of their work on a web-site/blog where they coined the term “rebelution” encouraging teens to rebel against low expectations. (Read about their journey starting in the summer of 2005 in the book.)

The book itself is written by teens for teens, and challenges teenagers to stop thinking that their teen years are supposed to be an extended vacation for the mind, but that they should be doing something—anything—that will impact their world and prepare them for a future. This book stems from the lie that has been fed to all of our society over the past several decades. The lie says two things: 1. People in their teens are incapable of doing anything significant (or even grasping the foundational means to do such significances, and 2. because of this inadequacy, teens should just party hearty throughout their teen years and not worry about the consequences (after all, their just teenagers, right?).

This thoughtful book points out that wasting your teen years prepares you to be second-rate and inadequate in early adulthood. Waiting to start preparatory activity until you are in college (or graduated from college) only causes you to have to start your training later. Assuming that youth keeps you from being capable of doing important work handicaps not only you, but society at large.

Do the Harris twins think that everyone who takes the challenge presented in the book will succeed in all that they try? Far from it. They even testify to their own failures. What they suggest is that not trying is actually more of a failure than trying and simply not succeeding. If you try you may succeed. If you don’t succeed, you will learn in the trying.

The importance of this book is that it is written by teenagers who have tested the theories, attempted the challenges, and grown. The book should be an inspiration to not only teenagers, but also adults who have been wallowing in the depression of failure from not trying.

In the late 1980s Charles Swindoll wrote a book aimed at raising the level of excellence among American adults (especially in the Christian community) entitled Living Above the Level of Mediocrity. He suggested that we not settle for half-hearted living. We missed the message. Instead we bought the “just do what will get you by” line of mediocre society. Then we passed that message on to younger generations. The result has been generation after generation of lackluster leaders who lead less and less.

In Do Hard Things, the Harris brothers have picked up the battle cry for the emerging generation that if anything can be done to correct our course, it must be done by ignoring the lie of wasted living and deciding to do hard things. They categorize five kinds of hard things – things outside your comfort zone, things that go beyond requirement or expectation, big things (too big to be accomplished alone), “little” things that don’t pay off immediately (like chores and homework), and things that challenge the “norm.” The book is filled with examples of young people who have decided to do just such things and are making an impact on their world.

Let me encourage you to do three things: buy this book (don’t check it out at the library, or you won’t be able to do what comes later), read the book (even if you’re ‘middle-aged’ you’ll be challenged), then give this book to a teenager. After doing these three things with the book check out for more information on doing hard things.

Do Hard Things – 4 ½ out of 5 reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, April 29, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dark Side of the Morgue – Raymond Benson

©2009 Leisure Books, New York

Raymond Benson is probably best known for picking up the James Bond character and penning six novels featuring 007. Dark Side of the Morgue is the second of his Spike Berenger Rock ‘n’ Roll Hits. I found it to be an excellent introduction to the author, the character, and the Rockin’ Security team.

Berenger is a fan of the limited music scene known as Chicagoprog (note: there is no real progressive music scene in Chicago). Then he’s hired by the only truly successful artist to investigate the rash of murders that is picking off the movement’s founding artists. Police are reluctant to admit a connection between the first three incidents that claims the lives of five of the musicians, but other musicians with connections to the Loop and its spin-off bands, Windy City Engine and Red Skyez, are living in fear

of a groupie ghost who is picking them off one and two at a time.

Berenger has to learn of

drug-related events over thirty years old, and break a code of silence that has been strictly kept since those days, in order to find and stop the killer before she strikes again.

Dark Side of the Morgue is a great choice for your reading pleasure. You’ll visit the sometimes seamy, sometimes glitzy world of progressive rock, waltz down memory lane with the continual music references that are included, but not limited to, chapter titles (along with preferred performers noted), and get to solve the case with Berenger and his sexy partner, Suzanne Prescott, all while enjoying a well-written, fast-paced mystery. Get ready for well-developed characters and moving plot-lines, with all the twists and revelations of any good mystery novel.

Four out of five reading glasses!

—Benjamin Potter, April 20, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Christian Devotions @ Devotional Christian

Tony Kummer has started yet another informational site in the blogosphere. The new one is devoted to devotions. He links everything from "My Utmost for His Highest" and "Our Daily Bread" to video clips from Billy Graham and others. Check it out at Devotional Christian.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Falling BAKward – Henry Melton

©2009 Wire Rim Books, Hutto, Texas

In 2008, Henry Melton received the Darrell award for Emperor Dad, the first of his Small Towns, Big Ideas stories. And now he wows us with another installment. And again he doesn’t disappoint. Set in Chamberlain, South Dakota, this YA interstellar tale will have you racing to get to the end, just to see how it turns out.

Jerry Ingram is just digging for Indian artifacts, hoping to make an important discovery. What he doesn’t count on is discovering strange new worlds and new civilizations – in his dad’s sunflower fields.

I have been impressed with Melton’s writing since I discovered him about a year ago. I’ve come to expect the best from his stories, his characters, and his conflicts. In Falling BAKward, the sci-fi aficionado will be well pleased to find alien races, intergalactic wars, telepathic communication, espionage, and even strange languages of the aliens.

The only distraction that I found in this book was the extensive use of the Bak language. However, much of this was interpreted at one point or another in the book. My suggestions for the avid reader—get this book and enjoy. You have opportunity to read it in traditional trade paperback form or in a variety of e-book options. If you get the TPB you get to enjoy the story and the coool cover art as well.

Here’s four more reading glasses for the master of YA SF.

Benjamin Potter, April 9, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Bouncing Boy – ILIA

©2008 CreateSpace

I don’t often have opportunity to read and review fairy tales, but I was intrigued by the description of this little book – written and illustrated by ILIA at Winsome Tales. The stories produced there are described as “Modern Day Fairy Tales” and are suggested for audiences young and old.

Jack is a fat boy who has lost his mother and father (the only people to ever have shown him kindness). He is ridiculed by all the people of his town for his size. No one knows his name for they have long since taken to calling him only some variation of Bouncing Boy. H
e heeds their taunts about eating too much and eats more. He hears their derisive comments about how sloppy he looks and takes no notice of his clothes or manners. Eventually he finds that his only refuge from the hatefulness of the townsfolk is to leave and find a place in the surrounding woods. When by some unknown magic the people of the town are afflicted with a disease that is the manifestation of their hatefulness to others, Jack finds that it is up to him and a bent and wizened old man to travel across the desert to find a cure.

The bulk of the story is the adventures of this unlikely pair as they seek the cure and then bring it back to the village. In the course of the telling we learn that Bouncing Boy does indeed bounce, and that he only wants to help the villagers in their plight because of his desire to do what would honor his long-dead mother. “For my parents, and for my elders,” he repeats to himself over and over, especially when he gets discouraged.

The writing of this tale (whether transcribing an old lesson handed down orally for generations, or translating a fable from an old country long forgotten it is hard to tell) has places of ruggedness about it. The story seems to jump and bob from time to time. That said, the tale is entertaining, if a bit long for the 4th to 6th grade reading level it’s written to. You will enjoy following Jack and the elder as they encounter cliffs to surmount and mud bogs to roll through. The descriptive passages telling of the stinky situation that the villagers have gotten themselves into will bring vivid pictures to mind.

I give The Bouncing Boy three and one-half reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, April 2, 2009

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