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We’ve Moved!!!

Hello all,

We’d like to invite you over to our new home on blogspot! There are a couple of reasons for this move:

1) We like being able to draft posts in our email inbox, then just send them instead of having to log in and all that.

2) We can now offer YOU links to our favorite books via Amazon. Yes, we’ll make a few pennies off the transaction, but hey, we’ll take any *snowflakes* we can. :0)

See you there!

Oh yeah, I’ve already moved all our previous posts to the new site. They’re in a slightly different order, but they’re all there. PLUS there are new posts!

We also have a cool giveaway going to be taking place in May!


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Everyone Communicates Few Connect

Title: Everyone Communicates Few Connect

Author: John C. Maxwell

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by Thomas Nelson publishers through their BookSneeze program in exchange for a review.  The publisher has had no influence over the content of this review.  The thoughts are solely my own.

Summary: Maxwell is a well-known leadership expert and speaker.  He has prepared numerous books about leading an organization and the principles of personal success.  This book specifically focuses on one important aspect of communication, that being how to develop a connection between speaker and listener.

Maxwell divides the book into two parts.  The first describes the principles behind connection.  Maxwell defines a connection as the quality of communication that increases the impact of the speaker on the listener.  It operates at an emotional level between the persons involved.  These principles are not the practical steps of public speaking, the kind of things one learns from speech class or Toastmasters International.  Maxwell is describing the difference between those who speak, present, and write with little effect on their audience, and those who make a connection with the audience that makes their communication highly effective.  It is the difference between those boring presentations and unnecessary meetings everyone has endured, and those speakers or presenters that have hit you right in the gut.  Maxwell describes this ability to make a connection as a skill that can be learned, not just an inherent quality that some speakers naturally have.

The second part describes what connectors do, the preparations they make, the attitude they assume, and the focus they adopt.  This includes finding common ground with the audience, making the experience enjoyable, and choosing inspirational messages.

Review: Maxwell uses humorous and insightful stories about himself and his career as a pastor, speaker, and teacher.  He describes how he failed to connect early in his career, learned to connect, and is now teaching others to do so.  Just the anecdotes about him are well worth the cost of the book.  I found lots of situations to which I could relate, either as a speaker or a listener.  The lessons gave me a new appreciation for how a leader can use these principles to increase the success of their team.

If you are a leader, you have to communicate.  Whether you embrace this aspect of serving as a leader or cringe at it, this book will help you do it better.  It is personable, funny, brief, and easy to read.  You’ll feel like you sat down with Maxwell as he personally told you how he does what he does.  And that of course is the whole point!  He connects with the reader, providing an example of what he is espousing.


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Upcoming Reviews

I’m so excited to be reading several excellent books at this moment. One is my latest from BookSneeze. It’s by Sheila Walsh and is titled Beautiful Things Happen when a Woman Trusts God.

I also just finished The Ultimate Guide for Stay-at-Home Parents by Robert Koger and will be posting a review of that book soon.

Last night one of my favorite book suppliers had a book I’ve been salivating over for $2.50! It’s a brand new hardback. Gotta love that! I’ll be posting a review of Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs soon.

Please make sure to vote at the right so that I can know what you want me to read next.

I know that Devon is busy reading (as always). He’s working on a couple of excellent books. I can’t wait to see his reviews.

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Mastering the Seven Decisions

Title: Mastering the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, an Owner’s Manual to the New York Times Bestseller The Traveler’s Gift

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Traveler’s Gift (TTG), this book is the logical next step. Even a casual reader of TTG can tell Andrews has more to say than could be squeezed into the book. Mastering the Seven Decisions (Mt7D) provides the context and commentary to flesh out the lessons. This book was purchased and given to me as a gift, and no compensation was provided for this review.

Summary: While TTG is told as a narrative (in fact, some booksellers and reviewers categorized it as fiction!), this book is solidly in the non-fiction, self-help category. Andrews provides a chapter on each of the 7 Decisions, providing examples and insight. Each decision is also described in a letter to Andrews from a famous person, including General Norman Schwarzkopf and Amy Grant. Peppered throughout the book are exercises where Andrews prompts the reader to write down thoughts, feelings, fears, and affirmations. The exercises help the reader find the specific connection between the principles he describes and how work in their life.

Review: Andrews lives up to the promise in the books title that this is an owners manual to TTG. The expanded descriptions of the 7 Decisions help the reader understand how they have been at work in their life. And, perhaps most importantly, how the reader can use a greater understanding of them to be more successful in the future. The exercises are tough, but quite valuable. Have a notebook and pen nearby as you read the book. Completing the exercises will take time and lots of lined notebook paper, but the rewards are worth it. The reader will be facing their fears and failures, evaluating their past, dreaming about their future, and finding resources and actions to be more and do more. The reader’s past will become a wonderful education in the principles behind personal success. The reader’s looming challenges will become the ingredients in a successful life.

Unlike a lot of self-help books, reading Mt7D and completing the enclosed exercises will produce something personal and tangible. The reader will finish the book with specific steps they can take to make different choices, and consequently find the destiny of their dreams.


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Related book reviews: The Traveler’s Gift

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Why read these books?

Reading’s been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My parents were both word people, working in journalism, writing, editing, presenting, crafting language to be efficient and effective.  My father had collected over many years a library of reference material on all kinds of subjects.  One of my favorite memories from my school days is getting assigned a topic for a history paper one day, then coming home from school the next finding out that my dad had pulled several relevant books from our family library.  Not only were the books out on the table, but open to important pages, with little marks for pages and photos he wanted me to read.  This is the day after the paper has been assigned, and probably three weeks before it is due, but my dad can not wait to get into these books with me, finding something too obscure for the other students to notice, but important enough to impress the teacher.

But it wasn’t just books.  Dad was a voracious reader of newspapers, being a journalist at heart.  He’d read the local newspaper of whatever town to which his travels took him.  After I moved away from home, I could regularly expect an envelope stuffed with newspaper clippings from him.  Something he read he just had to share with me.  After a few years of this, right about the time he died, I came to realize he wasn’t just reading the paper, he was digesting it.  He was finding some meaning in it.  With every story, every person interviewed, he discovered something important.  I wouldn’t have paid particular attention to those stories if he hadn’t shared them with me.  In doing so, he taught me how much there is to learn from reading.

My whole life, I can’t remember my father reading fiction, but he always had a book he was reading.  It became an easy Christmas and birthday present to find a new release on a topic that interested him.  Before my father’s death almost 10 years ago, I read fiction almost exclusively.  Since then, I find myself reading almost nothing but non-fiction.

My mother is a reader, too.  Though she’s more of the fiction and literature reader of the family.  So, when it comes to crafting a compelling narrative, she’s got a wealth of insight into how different authors paint a picture with words.  I think my love of poetic language or a dramatic story arc comes from Mom.

But, my focused reading-for-a-purpose really started about two years ago.  As I was exposed to the work of Dave Ramsey, I was moved by how passionately he recommends not just reading, but reading like it is important.  Reading has always been just something I did, like watching TV or listening to the radio.  But when Dave starting talking about reading as a way to shape your destiny, well, that got me thinking about what and how I read.  Dave cites in his presentations a finding by Dr. Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Next Door that the typical millionaire reads a non-fiction book a month.  Dave often recommends to the callers on his radio show books by other authors he finds of particular value, such as Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend or 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  He even has on his website a listing of books he recommends his listeners read.  You’ll probably notice that many of the books I review will be from this list, but I have other selections as well.

This inspiration from Dave was further reinforced by serendipity.  Dawn had recommended that I read The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, saying I would really enjoy it.  I stupidly did not heed her advise, though I don’t know why.  She certainly knows me well enough for me to take her suggestion as right on the mark.  A few days later, Dave Ramsey offered a $10 grab bag on his website, where you could purchase sight unseen various things Dave was unloading.  We’d loved everything we’d ever gotten from Dave, so what was the risk?  When the package arrived, included was a hardback copy of The Traveler’s Gift.  I decided this was God’s way of telling me I should have listened to her the first time.  So, I read it and loved it, just like she predicted.

Anyway, the Second Decision of Personal Success in The Traveler’s Gift is, “I will seek wisdom.”  It mentions how what someone reads and listens to affects them.  We are programed by what we are exposed to, whether we like it or not.  I even saw Andy Andrews demonstrate this live by reciting the entire theme song to an Underdog cartoon.  Everyone in the audience knew he was correct, too.  So, part of living the Second Decision is reading books and listening to recordings that improve our relationships with and understanding of other people.  While sometimes this is passive reading or listening, also expected is reading with pen and paper for taking notes, and a highlighter for marking key passages.

The topics on our reading list will be fairly varied, but they should all be something that will attempt to grow the reader to a greater level of understanding, fostering growth in your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives.  If you are interested in reading for a purpose, reading as one tool you are using to be more and do more, look at our reviews and consider putting these books on your reading list.

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Why this blog?

One reason for this blog is that there are so many books out there, especially in the self-help, personal growth, leadership genres.  Many of them claim to have some magic paradigm that will break you free from whatever is holding you back, or make you rich, or make you whatever you’ve always dreamed of being.  There are a ton of things out there to read, and only so much time any of us has to read them.  We all have other things to do, myself included.

So, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?  How can we tell what books are too shallow or too narrow to be valuable?  Which really have the depth to speak to your soul?  Which have enough applicability to affect your thoughts, and consequently your actions, in the days after you set it down?  Which are good for everyone to read, good for just a narrow audience, and which are not worth the effort for most everyone?  Our hope is that this blog is a resource for those looking for something to read that will be meaningful in their life, that we can point them in the direction of a book that might otherwise have gotten lost in a crowded bookshelf at a library, bookstore, or online retailer.

Why else?  Well, as I mentioned, there is a benefit to active reading.  As opposed to passive reading, this is where the reader’s focus is producing something, new thoughts that will change their actions, their performance, and consequently, the quality of their life.  This kind of reading involves taking notes, highlighting passages, perhaps even writing a report on the material to share with a group.  By having to share my thoughts with you, I find I have greater focus on the material, and it means more to me.  If it will help you, please make use of the comments feature on this blog, or the ability to post a review at online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Why seek out wisdom?

One of my favorite quotes is from Sam Levinson, “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”  This makes seeking out wisdom seem so logical.  Compare two people, one who learns only from his own mistakes, and one who learns from both his and those of others.  Which would you prefer as a counselor?  Which would you prefer to have your life in his hands?  Which would you prefer to be?  Whether you are selecting a book to read, a friend to ask for advice, a class to take, or a leader to follow, seeking wisdom is a key step to your success.  No one really is a self-made man.  Everyone has learned from what they have been exposed to.  So, expose yourself to that which improve your likelihood of success.

Another quote from Albert Einstein states that we can’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Doing the best we could so far got us here.  Want to go someplace else?  That will require doing better.  How can we do better in the future than what was our best was in the past?  It requires greater thinking.  Not necessarily bigger, but better.  Think that you are as good now as you’ll ever be?  Think again.  You mind, your emotional awareness, your spirit can grow, be strengthened, and find hope.  You are right now growing and changing into what you will become.  You can determine what you’ll become by deciding how you’ll change.  We believe reading to be a key ingredient in this process.

We recommend you look through our blog for books that speak to you, that sound like they have some wisdom to impart.  Then read them, actively.  Dig into them with focus.  Take notes.  Highlight.  Find a friend to share them with.  You don’t have to purchase them.  There are good libraries all over the place where you can get these books for free, or next to nothing on inter-library loan.  Some you may want to purchase, so you can keep them in your library, or pass them along to a friend.  Request them as gifts from those people who ask you what you want.  Find a used bookstore where you can get a dogeared copy that someone else has already highlighted.  One of the books I’ll blog about cost me just 10 cents at a used book store, honestly.  There is no correlation between what a book costs and how valuable you’ll find it.  Some will pay rich rewards, no matter what you pay for them.

We will always cite why we decided to read the books we review, and where we acquired a copy.  Some books are from our personal library, some we’ve checked out of our local library, some we’ve gotten for free in exchange for an honest review of the material.  We’ll always let you know.  Our comments belong to us, and will not be influenced by how we got the material.  We request your comments about the books we review, whether you agree with us or don’t.  We also welcome your recommendations if there is something you think we’d like to read.

Happy reading!

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