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review 2018-10-13 22:51
Once Upon A Farm (memoir) by Rory Feek
Once Upon A Farm - Rory Feek

Raising their four-year-old daughter, Indiana, alone, after Joey’s passing, Rory Feek digs deeper into the soil of his life and the unusual choices he and his wife, Joey, made together and the ones he’s making now to lead his family into the future. Now two years after Joey’s passing, as Rory takes their four-year-old daughter Indiana’s hand and walks forward into an unknown future, he takes readers on his incredible journey from heartbreak to hope and, ultimately, the kind of healing that comes only through faith. A raw and vulnerable look deeper into Rory’s heart, Once Upon a Farm is filled with powerful stories of love, life, and hope and the insights that one extraordinary, ordinary man in bib overalls has gleamed along the way. As opposed to homesteading, this is instead a book on "lifesteading" as Rory learns to cultivate faith, love, and fatherhood on a small farm while doing everything, at times, but farming. With frequent stories of his and Joey’s years together, and how those guide his life today, Rory unpacks just what it means to be open to new experiences.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Two years after the death of his wife and the close of his first memoir, This Life I Live, songwriter and "gentleman farmer" Rory Feek gives readers an update on where his life is today as a single father raising daughter Indiana, now four years old. 

 

The format here is a little different to his first book, much more loosely structured. Still, it works. Feek shares even more details of his life with Joey as well as pivotal moments in his life before and after her. Some of the big ones being around daily lessons he's taking in raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, and the moment his middle daughter came out as a lesbian and the less than admirable initial reaction he had to the news. 

 

Rory explains that while Joey was a master at traditional homesteading, his life experiences lead him to believe his personal strengths lie more in the idea of something he terms "lifesteading", or "growing love and life and hope in the place where you are planted." This struck me as simply implementing the French proverb "Bloom where you are planted" as a way of life... nonetheless, a cool way to go about living!

 

Image result for bloom where you are planted

 

Lifesteading is about planting yourself in the soil where you live and growing a life you can be proud of. A love that will last. And a hope that even death cannot shake. Like tending a garden filled with vegetables, it too requires preparing the heart's soil and planting the right seeds at the right time and watering them and keeping the weeds of this life and the bombardment of the culture from choking out what you're trying to grow. For us, the harvest has been plentiful. Beyond our wildest imaginations. Dreams that seemed impossible in years past materialized right before our eyes. That doesn't mean there hasn't been disappointments and surprises. Some a lot of people already know about, and some I share in the pages that fill this book. But just because something different than you had imagined has grown doesn't mean that it isn't beautiful. It is. 

 

Through this process, Feek chronicles his experiences and shares them with readers as a way to show others how to maybe find the extraordinary magic woven within moments and places of seemingly ordinary days. Once Upon A Farm also provides Feek a platform where he can give thanks to friends and family (by sharing their heartwarming stories) who have been so instrumental in his various joys and successes. 

 

We also get to see a little more into Feek's creative side, such as the time he enlisted a friend to help turn a former Girls Gone Wild bus into Rory's new touring bus. The story Rory is inspired to write, from the POV of the bus, is weirdly simultaneously hilarious and melancholy. 

 

 

Image result for our very own 2005 movie poster

Related image

*In this book, Rory mentions that the dog featured in 

Our Very Own (and on the poster) was actually

Joey's dog, Rufus. There's a whole story behind how Joey

trained him to ride on the roof like that.

 

 

 

The format of the book features short chapters, so the book as a whole has potential to be a good supplemental piece for daily devotionals. Feek's stories here are all about embracing the now, including who you are in the moment. His own examples: how he is unapologetic about his favorite color being white (*Yes, he points out, the trouble with this has been explained to him. Repeatedly. He doesn't care.) and his favorite day of the week being Monday. 

 

While the first memoir was more about just getting the framework of his life story out there, this one had a much more inspirational vibe to it. Feek's stories here do push for the idea of embracing the now, but he also encourages readers to make peace with their past as well, even our less rosy moments. Lessons we take from mistakes or even all out failures can show us how to move forward and teach us how to best love future loves. 

 

my favorite chapter header in the book

 

 

 

A new addition here that wasn't offered in the first book: an eight page insert on gloss paper of full color photographs. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2018-09-27 12:40
Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue by Eric Felten
Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue - Eric Felten

When looking for love and friendship—the things that make life worthwhile—we are looking for loyalty. Who can we count on? And who can count on us? These are the essential (and uncomfortable) questions loyalty poses. Loyalty and betrayal are the stuff of the great stories that move us: Agamemnon, Huck Finn, Brutus, Antigone, Judas. When is loyalty right, and when does the virtue become a vice? As Felten writes in his thoughtful and entertaining book, loyalty is vexing. It forces us to choose who and what counts most in our lives—from siding with one friend over another to favoring our own children over others. It forces us to confront the conflicting claims of fidelity to country, community, company, church, and even ourselves. Loyalty demands we make decisions that define who we are.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Eric Felten, a prize winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, explores the subject of loyalty throughout the world, using as a basis various areas where this virtue is most strongly valued or illustrated:

 

* Examples throughout world history -- Felten puts a focus on the topic of loyalty as displayed in Greek history (Spartacus, Marcus Pacuvius) and mythology. WARNING: This book contains spoilers for the story of Pyramus & Thisbe from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Eurpides' Orestes, Sophocles' Antigone, and Aeschylus' Agamemnon.

 

* World Literature -- Felten pulls examples of the theme of loyalty from works of Mark Twain, George Orwell, William Shakespeare and 1001 Arabian Nights. WARNING: There are spoilers for Orwell's Animal Farm, Twain's Huck Finn, 1001 Arabian Nights, Shakespeare's King Henry V, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, and O. Henry's short story, "After 20 Years". Felten also gets into the sad story of Graham Green's youth. Now known for such classics as The Quiet American and The End of the Affair, Green's younger days were marked with heavy stress building from divided loyalties between his family (particularly his father, the headmaster of his school) and Green's school friends. The pressure got to be so much that at one point Green became convinced suicide was the only remaining answer. But as we now know, Green later overcame this dark period but actually went on to denounce the idea of loyalty altogether, at least outwardly. Elements of his work suggest that even in his later years he still saw value in the concept.

 

* Business --  Felten explores the psychology behind brand loyalty people develop for certain products and loyalty programs businesses implement to snag and keep customers

 

* Military / Law Enforcement -- how loyalty / codes of conduct in these environments are developed, in what ways it is important in these groups; when discussing law enforcement and more specifically prisons, gets into "prisoner dilema" and Reid Technique

 

 

Felten even looks at loyalty in regards to the entertainment industry, citing as one example the demise of the marriage between actress Sandra Bullock and motorcycle  manufacturing specialist Jesse James, after Bullock weathered a very public airing of James' adultery. 

 

What makes it one of the most highly regarded virtues and what dangers does one face when loyalty is misplaced? Loyalty in a person is undeniably admirable, particularly when it stems from an honest place without ill intent or ulterior motive. Having people in your life who truly have your back allows one to be more brave, pursue more dreams, attempt more daring feats and ultimately develop a more fulfilling life all around. But what to do, when society places a burden on a person to be loyal to someone who does NOT seem to have the other person's interests at heart? Some will follow orders and remain loyal to the figure anyway, even when the figure's actions move beyond being merely selfish into flat out immoral or illegal. Even so, their followers can STILL get caught up in that sense of loyalty, making it difficult to convince a person to separate themselves from the unhealthy person in their life. It's just one of those things that rarely catches on, at least right away. Here enters Felten's point on how loyalty can become "the vexing virtue... creating moral conflicts".

 

Felten's book pleads the case as to why loyalty is still an important virtue worthy of lifelong pursuit. He writes with an enjoyable humorous tone but the text itself does not remain riveting throughout. This little book only lightly delves into the topic and even there, Felten's points sometimes become repetitive, his main stance being (as you can guess from the title) on the vexing quality of loyalty... but he hits upon the "vexing" idea A LOT.

 

 

___________

 

EXTRAS:

 

* Here Eric Felten himself talk on the topic of loyalty in this short clip (book trailer of sorts?)

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review 2018-09-26 11:12
Zoom: Surprising Ways To Supercharge Your Career by Daniel Roberts
Fortune Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career - Daniel Roberts,Editors of Fortune Magazine,Marc Andreessen,Leigh Gallagher

With Zoom, Fortune magazine extends one of its most successful franchises, 40 Under 40, to bring you original insight on the best-kept secrets of top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and rising tech stars. Discover how Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh built a uniquely attractive corporate culture, how Under Armour founder Kevin Plank took on Nike, and what Marissa Mayer told herself before leaping from a safe post at Google to the high-risk top job at Yahoo. Zoom features the fascinating profiles of these and other young innovators and provides readers with tips to fast-track their own career success. Additional contributors include: Omar Akhtar; Katie Benner; Ryan Bradley; Erika Fry; Miguel Helft; Michal Lev-Ram; Pattie Sellers; Anne VanderMey; and Kurt Wagner. 

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Zoom offers an extended look at Fortune Magazine's "40 under 40" feature series. The book opens with a foreword by Marc Andreessen, a co-founder of Netscape who now sits on the boards of several major companies such as Facebook, Ebay. He is also an investor behind Twitter and Airbnb.

 

Daniel Roberts compiles success stories of some of the biggest names from business and entertainment industries, and incorporates pointers readers can use themselves. Some stories highlighted:

 

* Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour athletic gear, is friends with Pete Wentz, frontman for the band Fall Out Boy. When UA was still a smaller company, Wentz would often blog about his love of the clothing, which got word out on the street and helped grow his friend's business. Later on, Jaime Foxx was seen wearing a UA jockstrap for some of his scenes in the football film Any Given Sunday. In another story, John Janick developed a friendship with Wentz, went on to become president of Interscope Records and signed Fall Out Boy. Once again, Wentz fell into blogging about the two of them and it helped grow not only the band's popularity but also the label's.

 

Robert's lesson here: Don't be afraid to network! Build street teams, encourage word of mouth endorsements, look for ways to get free advertising when you're just starting out. This is actually kind of ironic, because nearly everyone that Roberts interviewed for this book actually recommended to STOP networking, instead citing education as most important to their success. Several also named "mom" as their mentor. :-) But then that actually ties back to another of Roberts' key points -- don't assume everything's already been done. Research! 

 

That is one issue I had with this book though, Roberts' tips, the way he words them, can come off confusing, almost contradictory, at times. For instance, he encourages readers to always stay humble, patient, and resilient, but also says that it's important to have a confidence almost to the point of cockiness about your product. 

 

* When Target was developing their in-store cleaning product line, Method, the company prided themselves on keeping things weird and fun. Method headquarters offers a game room with ping pong and bean bag toss tournaments, the opportunity for employees to make up their own fun job title (ie. admin asst. changed to "Zookeeper", consumer response manager now "Chatty Cathy"), and spin the wheel door prizes as work incentives. Method put time and energy into developing eco-friendly products in cute packaging and went on to break $100 million in sales in 2012. 

 

Robert's lesson here: Keep your sense of humor about you and your business. Yes, take your work seriously but not TOO seriously. He points back the story of Under Armour and notes that Nike jokingly is not spoken of in UA headquarters, but when interviewed, Kevin Plank admits their competition is needed to keep things interesting. As Plank put it, "Luke Skywalker was a lot cooler because of Darth Vader."

 

Other stories covered: how Kevin Systrom developed Instagram and how some of the technology was later bought up by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg; the professional path of Evan "Ev" Williams, co-founder of Twitter and Blogger; how Dolf Van Den Brink rose from a management trainee at Heineken to becoming their US CEO within 11 years. Roberts also looks at the saying "no such thing as bad publicity", using the story of Lebron James and his move from Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat as an example. In the summer of 2010, ESPN aired a special on his team move titled "The Decision" following him as he decided whether to stay with Cleveland or move to Miami. After it aired, GQ Magazine deemed the show an "accidental mockumentary", Cleveland Cavalier fans burned jerseys in the streets and a flood of Lebron James hate Youtube videos quickly followed. But that fall, James still went on to make Fortune's 40 under 40 list. 

 

My favorite section was the bit featuring the rise of South African multimillionaire Elon Musk and how he wants his space exploration company, SpaceX, to be the first to colonize Mars within the next 20 years. Many have dismissed his goals and ideas as absurd, but isn't that how so many eventually successful invention stories tend to go? I like where Roberts ends this portion of the book: "Will his ideas save the world? Maybe not, but the real risk might be not trying at all."

 

"I'm not satisfied unless I'm doing a little bit more than I actually have time for." 

~ Seth McFarlane, creator of animated series Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show and the sci-fi series The Orville

 

 

 

At the very end of the book, there is a supplemental section where readers can look through the questionnaire Roberts posed to the book's contributors, in their own words revealing who their personal mentors are as well as hobbies, pet peeves (Instagram founder Kevin Systrom cites "lattes served in bowls" as his biggest peeve ... more irony! lol), time management tips and causes close to their hearts. 

 

Brian Deese's responses were my favorite. 

 

 

There's also a "Where Are They Now?" kind of follow up to 2012 (this book was published in 2013). 

 

All in all, a surprisingly FUN read with a largely light-hearted tone to the topic of working toward success. The backstories of the big names and how they got where they are now are cool and inspiring. You'll be surprised how quick you  "zoom" through this one.

 

Alright, I'll just see myself out now. 

 

 

 

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review 2018-09-26 07:27
The Five Essentials: Using Your Inborn Resources to Create a Fulfilling Life by Bob Deutsch
The 5 Essentials: Using Your Inborn Resources to Create a Fulfilling Life - Bob Deutsch,Lou Aronica

As a cognitive neuroscientist, anthropologist, and entrepreneur, Bob Deutsch has spent a lifetime studying people. What he has found is that most of us set the bar too low in our lives, both personally and professionally. We choose not to pursue our greatest ambitions because we feel we are incapable of reaching them. But he has also found that we are each born with the fundamental abilities to live the full, creative, dynamic life we dream about. Filled with great stories and interviews with inspiring people, including Wynton Marsalis, Richard Feynman, and Anna Quindlen, The 5 Essentials opens the door to a way of being more alive than you have ever been.  In this compelling book, Deutsch shows us how to access and use our five inner resources -- Curiosity, Openness, Sensuality, Paradox, and Self-Story -- to open our lives to unimagined possibilities.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Deutsch has a background in cognitive neuroscience and anthropology and believes that everyone has 5 basic innate gifts that, when tapped into and nurtured, can help develop a truly fulfilled life:

 

* Curiosity --- That knowledge-craving bit of you that is always driven to ask "What's that over there?" 

 

* Openness --- How well you allow yourself to be surprised... do you HAVE to know the details of everything beforehand, or are you okay with surprises once in awhile? How well do you adapt to life's curveballs? Sometimes allowing for surprises leads to a better outcome to a situation than you might have imagined. Deutsch refers to this as "directed serendipity".

 

* Sensuality --- Not talking about sex here, or at least not solely... but more about how actively you engage your senses in general as you move through experiences. Do you note how the air smells in a moment? The particular nuances of flavor in the food you eat?

 

* Paradox --  basically how well you embrace the unexpected... somewhat along the lines of Openness, but also incorporating the idea of comfortably living in life's gray areas, being okay with some of life's questions being a mystery with no clear cut answer, rather than requiring everything to have a black and white explanation.

 

* Self-Story --- Deutsch calls this area "the driving force of your authentic self", the yin-yang compartment of your soul where light and dark, beauty and warts, all sides of your core self find balance. Deutsch explains that when one explores their self story, it "illustrates something fundamental about you."

 

Knowing what you are about helps you to be at the same time very clear about what you are not about. This allows for the possibility of extraordinary growth, because when a new opportunity comes along, maybe even something you've never considered before, your self-story gives you a way to judge if that opportunity makes sense in your very specific case.

 

Self-story also makes you resilient in ways you can't possibly be otherwise. When you truly know what you are about, you know it in an unassailable way. Having a vivid sense of your self-story protects you from being completely thrown off your game in the face of hardship. This doesn't mean that the hardships themselves will be less difficult to endure, but it does mean that you're likely to bounce back from them faster. Those who thrive tend to understand their self stories... at a cellular level, and because they understand what they are genuinely about, they can get back on their feet more quickly when things trip them up.

 

 

Deutsch also describes research he garnered from hours-long focus groups he put together where he challenged people to "go beyond stereotypical or cliched talk" and really delve into who they were as individuals, instructing them to "stop and focus", "own your narrative" (Why yes, there is a healthy dose of self help buzz language in here! What'd ya expect? :-P ). 

 

The idea of these focus groups and of this book, is to get people to work toward a more honest, real, stripped down version of themselves so that they can finally sift through the muck and excuses of daily life and get to a clear vision of the life they TRULY want to live. Deutsch describes this part of the process as "Always Be On Your Way Home".

 

I've developed a strong thesis about popularity.... I call this concept FAP (Familiarity, Appeasement, Power).

{Sorry, it just gave me a giggle that this guy attributes popularity to fapping.... }

 

Through this book, Deutsch gets into the idea of "decentration" (rather than concentration), the idea of forcing yourself to pause, step back, and take yourself out of an equation to properly evaluate it. Step away from the external noise so that you may listen to clues from your internal self / internal monologue. It's a concept whose origin is attributed to Jean Piaget, a 20th century developmental psychologist. 

 

At its heart, this book basically just urges readers to live a life beyond a mere surface-level existence. It's not a bad book necessarily, but it doesn't really cover much new ground or offer any real earth-shattering revelations. For the author being someone who studies the field of neuroscience for a living, I was hoping for something a little deeper but the bulk of what he offers most will have come across before in dozens of other books. Additionally, there was something about the overall "voice" of the book in general I found irritating. 

 

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review 2018-09-13 02:24
Forever With Jesus (Sea Kids #7) by Lee Ann Mancini
Forever With Jesus - Lee Ann Mancini

In Forever With Jesus, the sea kids learn that Jesus died for their sins, and that by believing in Him they will live in heaven forever. The cousins visit their grandparents for Grandma Pinky's 80th birthday. During their visit, their grandparents' neighbor, Mr. Higgins, passes away. Grandma reads the Bible and tells her grandchildren how wonderful heaven is and how there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering. The children understand that they do not have to fear death because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him in heaven.

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

The Sea Kids gang returns with another important life lesson to share with all young readers following their underwater adventures! Fish siblings Guy and Lena meet up with their cousins Luke, Zachary, Christopher and Isabella at their grandparents' house to celebrate Grandma Pinky's 80th birthday.

 

 

 

The day of the party is naturally a celebratory one, full of reunions, cake, playtime and sleepover fun. The next morning however, the kids wake to the sad news that their grandparents' neighbor, Mr. Higgins, has passed away.

 

Grandma Pinky uses the news as an opportunity to sit with her little blessings and discuss the topic of death and heavenly afterlife. She wants to assure the young ones that death is not something to fear, because Heaven is a place free of any kind of pain, suffering, or sadness. It's a place full of only love and light. 

 

 

The story here is a good one, approaching a tough topic in an age-appropriate way that will be easy for little ones to digest. As far as general excitement though... I mean, it's a story about death, so clearly it won't be quite as light in tone as the previous books... but just in general, the writing and engagement factor here fell a tad flatter than earlier installments of this series. Though it's always great to have books like this available to help open conversation for the sadder subjects of life, the execution here was just slightly repetitive. 

 

This series continues to be enhanced with the wonderfully colorful, movement-filled illustrations of Dan Sharp. There's not quite as much little detail worked into the scenes here as in some of the previous books, but Sharp is a master at delightful facial expressions for these characters (I love how the grandfather here has an almost Buddy Hackett look!).

 

 

As in all the other books, the spot-the-cross game is incorporated throughout all the illustrations and characters from previous Sea Kids books can be spotted in background artwork in the grandparents' home. Some also make an appearance as attendees of Mr. Higgins' funeral.

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash.com and GLM Publishing kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

 

------------------------------

 

My reviews for the previous books in this series:

 

#1 Fast Freddy

 

#2 What A Bragger

 

#3 I'm Not Afraid! 

 

#4 A Servant Like Jesus

 

#5 God's Gift

 

#6 God's Easter Miracles

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