Best Personal Style and Wardrobe Development Book I’ve Ever Read

When it comes to clothing and personal style, I think I’ve tried it all. For years I did the whole “buy whatever I like on clearance” routine – only to wind up with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear, because nothing matches or it turns out a shirt I loved for 30 seconds in a dressing room (that was on sale of course) just doesn’t fit quite right at home.

A few years ago I went with the minimalist “33 piece” wardrobe fad. That actually half-worked for me. It forced me to be far more selective and mindful about what I was buying and it pared down my choices- I really had an easier time putting outfits together.  But it only half-worked, I bought less and was more focused on versatile wardrobe-building pieces, but I got pretty tired of the style that I had developed.

Enter “The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees. Less focused on having a minimalist wardrobe (although that’s part of it), this book teaches the reader how to develop a personal style that works with your budget and how to be a smarter shopper.  This book filled in some missing pieces for me (no pun intended).  I had focused on developing an interchangeable, versatile minimalist wardrobe of pieces I liked, but I hadn’t ever taken the time to intentionally, thoughtfully consider my own style.

Author Anuschka Rees instructs her readers to develop a style overview.  This is actually a process that takes some time and effort.  From creating a “mood board” of pieces that reflect your style to writing down specific qualities like silhouettes, materials, colors, etc. I came up with quite a few examples of things it turns out I really DON’T like: turtlenecks, faux fur, mid length skirts, as well as things I do: square necklines, jackets, and the color black just to name a few.

Having a well-developed sense of your own style is key to being a better shopper; there’s so much you can just immediately bypass when you’re shopping. But there are other components to being a better, smarter shopper and some of these were things I really needed to learn.  One of the biggest mistakes I was making was just having a general idea of a piece I needed –say a blue shirt- and then going shopping and finding something (on sale) that more or less fit the bill. Before I knew it, I was ending up with things that theoretically should have completed my wardrobe, but in actuality were just filling my closet again.  “The Curated Closet” taught me to be A LOT more detailed and intentional about filling in pieces. “Blue shirt” is far too broad: turquoise, square-necked, mid-length sleeve, cotton blend, fitted, etc…turns the focus away from finding something I generally like on a clearance rack, to something very specific that may take some time to find. I may pay more for a high quality piece, but in the end will save a lot of money because being intentional and focused on the specific wardrobe I am building, will prevent me from making lots of cheap purchases that I’ll just toss out in the end.

I still have some shopping behavior changes to make- I know that. But I have improved a lot and so has my wardrobe!  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that finds themselves with a closet full of close and nothing to wear, or who is ready to develop a personal style and become a smarter, better shopper.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Review of “Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State”. Eye-opening and totally engrossing, this book will cause you to rethink the consistency of your political beliefs

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The initial shock and horror that followed 9/11 gave way to a sense of national unity and even defiance in the United States: we would not cower to terrorism. But below this resurgence of nationalism and the outer trappings of righteous anger, a spirit of fear festered and grew.

It is this spirit of fear that prompted Americans- even the most conservative and usually the most protective of their constitutional rights- to increasingly accept a loss of liberty in favor of the growing demands of national security.  Author Karen Greenberg, in her new book “Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State”, argues that the Bush administration both reacted to this fear and exploited it, ultimately using it as the vehicle for extending the powers of the executive office farther than our Constitution ever provided, and trampling on the rights of citizens and the integrity of the justice system in the process.

“Rogue Justice” examines the erosion of our civil liberties at the hand of the executive office, starting in George W. Bush’s administration and continuing in Barack Obama’s. While the author clearly strives to be objective in her coverage of the legal maneuverings and policy decisions orchestrated by both administrations in response to the ongoing war on terror, a hint of partisan bias still manages to comes through. This was most apparent in Greenberg’s repeated censure of the Bush administration’s legalization of torture and abuse of executive powers in contrast to what felt like a downplaying of Obama’s “kill list”, his frequent use of assassination-by-drone, his failure to close Guantanamo as promised and his utter lack of transparency.  To be sure,  Greenberg did express dismay at Obama’s failure to reform the abuses within the national security apparatus and his continuation of most of the Bush administration’s policies in that respect; however, her criticism of Bush came through far more strongly.

That aside, “Rogue Justice” is very readable and completely enthralling.  Although there’s a considerable amount of ‘legalese’, you certainly don’t have to be a politician, an academic or a lawyer to appreciate this book. For the typical American citizen who kept up on the news over the years, but doesn’t really have a deep understanding of the Patriot Act, the Freedom Act, our government’s approved use of torture, indefinite detainment of prisoners, drone-killing, Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information or the government’s blanket surveillance of American citizens’ communications- the behind-the-scenes look provided by “Rogue Justice” will leave you reeling.  This book should also challenge simplistic views of right versus left/conservative versus liberal when it comes to the executive office and the path our government- whether under Republican or Democrat leadership- has chosen to in the interest of national security.  I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to be a better informed citizen and I would certainly challenge anyone who believes that national security justifies tampering with our constitutional liberties, the rule of law and the values our nation was founded on, to read this book and re-examine their presuppositions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Blogging for Books.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Light reading, deep themes: A review of Dana L. Sleiman’s book “Courageous”

Product DetailsI decided to read this book because I was intrigued by the historical setting of this Christian novel;  you don’t see a lot about the Crusades in this genre. I somehow missed the fact that this was book #3  in “The Valiant Heart Series.” Generally I try to start with the first book when it comes to sagas. That said, although I knew I was missing back stories on the characters, I still enjoyed this book and am interested enough in the story line to read books #1 and #2. And lucky me, I found book #1 free on Amazon today!  

Here’s what I liked about “Courageous”:

First, I felt the author did a good job treating the topic of the Crusades with sensitivity and balance.  Sleiman touched on the perspective and motives of both the European crusaders and the Muslim inhabitants of the land. While the Crusades are long over, religious divisions and war clearly continue and many of the themes touched on in this book are relevant today. On that note, the author went briefly into some of the differences and divisions existing among sects within the Muslim faith (then and now), and she graciously addresses the exclusivistic claim of Christianity: there is only one way to be saved, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.  In “Courageous” one of the main characters befriends someone of an opposing belief system and as their friendship grows, these women lovingly and respectfully discuss their beliefs with each other.

The importance of prayer and  worship is a dominant theme in this book as is the Christian’s highest calling- to sacrificially love and serve others.  Reconciliation, forgiveness, grace and healing are also touched upon throughout.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Great story, but a little too cliche

Fading Starlight

Kathryn Cushman’s new book “Fading Starlight” started off great with a modern-day, Hollywood fashion – industry setting. The reader is immediately drawn into main character, Lauren Summer’s, devastating career debacle and the challenge she faces of redeeming herself and starting over.  This book holds a touch of mystery, conveys the appeal of new beginnings, offers insight on God’s grace, and depicts the balance between waiting on Him for direction while also taking steps of faith. So, not only is it entertaining, there are also a lot of great truths packed into this novel. However; as the story progressed I found myself feeling a little let down. Most of the characters were simply too cliché , the conflict and outcomes too predictable.  The story progressed at a good pace only to hit warp speed at the end, making it seem disjointed somehow. I enjoyed the fashion history and the modern setting, and I appreciated the depth-and working out- of the moral conflict the author developed through the story line, I just wish the characters and outcomes were slightly less predictable.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of “I Will Witness” by Wade White

I mainly review for Bethany House Publishers, though I’ve done a few reviews for self-published authors.  I’ve also chosen not to review for a few self-published authors because the books were disasters.  If you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say it, right?

This author, Wade White, contacted me and asked me to review this book based on my review of “The Full Armor of God” by Larry Richards.  I do not know Mr. White, so there’s no bias going into this review. It’s important to point that out because I think we tend to disbelieve many reviews of self-published authors (they’re all written by friends and family, right?). That said, I was very impressed by “I Will Witness” and I benefited greatly from reading it.  So far, this is the only  self-published book I’ve been willing to put on my blog  so that’s got to say something.

This book is written with the Christian teen in mind, though adults –and particularly those who work with youth (youth group leaders or Sunday School teachers)- would enjoy and gain from “I Will Witness” as well.  Indeed, I believe many youth group leaders could incorporate this book into their teaching material and I highly recommend it for that purpose.

“I Will Witness” is essentially a how-to manual for overcoming fear and finding the courage to be a witness for Christ.  I say “how-to” manual, but I don’t want to convey that it is anything like a textbook. On the contrary, “I Will Witness” made great use of stories, analogies and examples which serve to capture the reader’s attention and drive the author’s point home. I really appreciated Mr. White’s writing style, which is casual, yet engaging.  He avoids using a dry, academic tone and is never redundant or overworked- nor is his writing overly simplistic.  The author promises not to use “churchy” words and generally holds to that (he does provide a glossary of terms because, ultimately, not all churchy words can be avoided.)    A teen reader, particularly one who may not read a lot of non-fiction, will find this book readable, motivating and faith-inspiring.

Mr. White addresses a number of theological issues with clarity, particularly in terms of the believer’s role in witnessing, the Holy Spirit’s role, and the recipient’s role.  He discusses the importance of prayer, of discerning the Holy Spirit’s prompting and seeking divine appointments.  He also focuses on the importance of the Christian’s example through life-style and the need to “love our friends toward Jesus, rather than scare them away from Hell.” In regards to over-coming fear, the author addresses the roots of common fears, presents a heaven-focused perspective, encourages the reader through examples and stories and reminds us that “faith is a gift from God, not from us”.

This book is well-organized, to-the-point, theologically correct and a worthwhile read.  It definitely gets my recommendation.


“Like Never Before – Great Depth, Spiritual Insight and Romance

I have enjoyed all of Melissa Tagg’s books to-date.  She is excellent at developing her characters and weaving spiritual truth into contemporary, realistic settings.  “Like Never Before” is book #2 in the Walker Family Series, and while you needn’t have read “From the Start” (book #1) to enjoy this book, you’ll really enjoy it a lot more if you have.  Themes found in “Like Never Before” include the guilt a working, single parent can struggle with, the guilt of moving on after the death of a spouse – and how the death of a spouse can affect extended family relationships.  Divorce,  disappointment with God,  false security and reconciliation are other themes that combine to make “Like Never Before” an emotionally engaging story with great depth, spiritual insight, romance and a hint of mystery.  It had been awhile since I’d read the first book in the series (again, these books can stand alone but are better as a series), so it took me a little while to “refamiliarize” myself with the Maple Valley setting- for that reason I felt like it was a bit of a slow start.  But, as I got into the story and the characters, I developed a great appreciation for its depth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Review of Elizabeth Camden’s “Until the Dawn”

Set in New York in the early 1900’s, “Until the Dawn” takes on the opposing worldviews of naturalism and Christianity, and in particular the untenable belief that if you cannot see or prove something, it must not exist.

Author Elizabeth Camden packs in some thought-provoking metaphors, like the idea that we may limp along in life as best we can with painful, infected emotional or spiritual wounds, which-unhealed- ultimately destroy our relationships and rob of us joy.

Camden’s characters are always entertaining, dynamic and realistic.  This is a romance, so of course there’s a small element of predictability, but one thing that sets Camden apart in this genre is her humor and ability to keep things real.  She’s also an excellent descriptive writer, in this case vividly portraying isolated, small-town life along the Hudson River. (She includes some incidental history of the development of weather forecasting as well).

Fans of Elizabeth Camden won’t be disappointed, while those unfamiliar with Camden will gain appreciation of a great writer who always manages to address relevant issues of contemporary society in a framework of historical fiction.  “Until the Dawn” will definitely provide you several hours of absorbing entertainment.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Ambition, changing social roles and romance: Review of Anne Mateer’s “Playing by Heart”

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“Playing by Heart” met my criteria for a good book. It taught me something- namely, it gave me a strong sense of appreciation for how greatly social norms have changed in the past century in terms of women’s roles and perceived abilities in the workplace and in sports. Secondly, “Playing by Heart” created natural, unforced spiritual applications. For instance, I thought the author did a great job conveying the tension that exists for Christians when they are pulled between the pursuit of personal ambition and the sometimes conflicting desire to yield to the will of God for their lives. It’s been true in my experience at any rate that my ambitions and God’s apparent will for me have not always led the same direction, so I was definitely able to connect with the conflict that the main characters in this book faced. I also enjoyed the characters, the dialogue and the plot and just generally appreciated the several hours of good entertainment that this book provided.

I feel compelled to point out that books of this genre (historical Christian romance) are generally more analogous to a TV episode then they are to a blockbuster movie. You read it, enjoy it, and then forget about it and move on to the next one. “Playing by Heart” is not a blockbuster – I don’t think you’re going to feel driven to read it multiple times in the course of your lifetime and it’s unlikely that it will top your list of all-time favorite books…you know, the ones you’d want if you were stranded on a deserted island. However, it’s a good book that takes you to a different time and place, gives you broader perspective about the social forces that have shaped today’s world and it will reinforce spiritual principles like walking in faith and trusting God with your life. You’ll enjoy “Playing by Heart” and pass it on to your book-loving friends, and no doubt you’ll seek out other works by this author.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.