Book Review: The Startup Way, by Eric Ries

Startup Way Cover

The term “startup” has always brought to my mind images of two or three people in a garage, creating a new small business. But multinational corporations, governments, and other large organizations, now apply startup principles to foster innovation. In his book The Startup Way, Eric Ries explains that established enterprises must make room for innovative teams, risk-taking leaders, and the inevitable failed ideas. He notes that in a world of continuous innovation, “we’ve always done it this way” no longer works.

In The Startup Way, Ries applies principles from his previous bestseller, The Lean Startup, to large companies such as GE, Amazon, and Airbnb. For example, he outlines how “corporate entrepreneurs” can follow the same lean process by brainstorming “leap of faith assumptions” and creating “minimum viable products” to test in potential markets. He notes that businesses must periodically conduct “pivot or persevere” meetings to decide whether to change course. Throughout the book, he provides practical examples that make his startup principles readily accessible.

I am not usually drawn to books about business, but I enjoyed reading The Startup Way. I I appreciate the insight into corporate entrepreneurship, and look forward to reading The Lean Startup as well. I highly recommend The Startup Way by Eric Ries to readers — entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs alike.

For more information about The Startup Way by Eric Ries, click here. To read about the author, click here.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Book Review: The Great Spiritual Migration, by Brian D. McLaren


Christianity appears to be on the move, as it has been for centuries. Readers who wish to explore this story can start with Brian McLaren’s book, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian. McLaren explains that Christianity has long been an evolving faith, which has challenged outdated religious and political systems since its earliest days. We are now seeing, he writes, a shift from a belief-based system to a system based on redemption and love.

Many readers will identify with McLaren’s account of his own crisis in faith, in which he questioned his own system of beliefs during a retreat. He compares the need to “question long-held beliefs” with science’s willingness to change its mind when it discovers new facts. The scientific method emphasizes the search for truth, rather than adherence to outdated beliefs in the face of newly discovered facts.

The Great Spiritual Migration contains examples of Christianity’s history of spiritual, theological, and missional migration. For example, he notes that in the United States, slavery and white supremacy were considered to be “consistent with ‘biblical’ Christianity.” Scholars are still coming to terms with Christianity’s violent history. He outlines the need for “new questions” as Christianity migrates from “fear, violence, exploitation, misinformation, and the plundering of the planet” toward working for a “just and lasting peace in the larger ‘us’ of the kingdom or commonwealth of God.”

As a Christian with a progressive and inclusive world view, I welcomed the opportunity to read Brian McLaren’s latest thoughts on my faith. The Great Spiritual Migration assures me that I am not alone in my questions about the direction Christianity has taken in the past, and my hopes for a new direction in the future. I highly recommend this book to readers who are searching for hope and guidance in these often troubling times.

For more information about Brian McLaren, click here, and for more information about the book, click here.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions in this review are my own.

Book Review: The Book of Esther, by Emily Barton

Book of Esther

In The Book of Esther, Emily Barton delivers an imaginative blend of alternative history, steampunk, and feminism. The story takes place in Khazaria, where a Jewish refugees have fled from oppression in Germania. The main character, Esther, is a courageous girl who, like the Esther of the Old Testament, makes a bold decision to fight for her people. Accompanied by a mechanical horse named Seleme and a young slave, she searches for a kabbalistic village in hopes that the residents will turn her into a man.

Elements of magical realism appear in the story. Esther is not transformed into a man, but an army of golems, which are mythical creatures formed by humans from clay, join Esther’s cause. When the golems want to pray and give thanks to the creator, questions arise concerning what it means to be fully human. Gender, religious, and social identities are called into question throughout the story.

I enjoyed reading The Book of Esther, although I found the many themes and obscure histories overwhelming. All in all, I appreciated this story of a bold, courageous girl who questions her role — and roles forced on others — in Khazar society. Readers who enjoy magical realism and alternative history should give this book a read, as they will not be disappointed.

To learn more about author Emily Barton and this book, read this author bio and this book summary page.

FTC disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this character, Esther, is a courageous girl who, like the Esther of the Old Testament, makes a bold decision to fight for her people.

Book Review: My Perfect Pantry, by Geoffrey Zakarian


A well-stocked pantry is essential for any home cook. In his new cookbook My Perfect Pantry, chef Geoffrey Zakarian shares recipes and lists of his 50 favorite ingredients to keep on hand.  As culinary director at New York’s Plaza hotel and a judge on the Food Network’s Chopped, the author has plenty of wisdom and expertise to enlighten readers.

My Perfect Pantry starts with a list of must-have spices and seasonings along with descriptions of each ingredient and suggestions for use and storage. For example, he explains the differences in flavor of the various types of mustard seeds and explains how to choose the best vanilla beans. The rest of the book is dedicated to the 50 essential pantry ingredients. Each ingredient has its own section, which includes a description of the ingredient as well as a variety of recipes that include the ingredient. For example, the “gelatin” section includes recipes for Perfect Herb Mayonnaise, Classic American Meat Loaf, and Blackberry Panna Cotta.

The book has a pleasantly informal yet knowledgeable tone, with a few personal reminiscences sprinkled among the pages. Every recipe has a gorgeous, full-color photograph. The list of pantry staples ranges from pine nuts to baking soda and from honey to pasta, with creative ways to incorporate the ingredients into recipes.

My Perfect Pantry will be one of my go-to cookbooks in the years to come. I appreciate the variety and versatility of the suggested ingredients. As a longtime cooking enthusiast, I learned new recipes for familiar ingredients and discovered ingredients that I have yet to try, such as white anchovies. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to cook.

To learn more about My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian, visit the Random House book page and author bio.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: And Then Came a Lion, by Cecilia Marie Pulliam



In her novel And Then Came a Lion, Cecilia Marie Pulliam introduces us to Susannah Carlson, a young girl who has premonitions about child abductions. As Susannah matures into a young woman, she repeatedly risks her life by acting on these premonitions to save children from horrific crimes. Eventually she must decide whether to reveal these premonitions to those who are dearest to her. Throughout the story, which takes the reader from the northwestern United States to Africa, Susannah is faced with gut-wrenching choices and life-or-death decisions.

Ms. Pulliam deftly and creatively weaves this gripping tale, building suspense and prompting yet another late-night turn of the page. As I read the book, I found myself close to tears at some moments, and rejoicing at others. Susannah Carlson is a believable and admirable character. As I got to know her friends and family, I cared about them and felt like I knew them. The descriptions of Africa are vivid and breathtaking, and made me want to visit that continent.

I highly recommend And Then Came a Lion by Cecilia Marie Pulliam. The pace of the story builds suspense and places the reader in the middle of the sometimes terrifying, sometimes beautiful scenes. At times the story will break your heart, but like many good heroic tales, triumphs are often accompanied by heartache. I look forward to reading the next novel by Ms. Pulliam.

To find out more about the book and the author, click here.

Book Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra


 A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra takes us into the lives of several individuals and families in war-torn Chechnya. Set in the mid-1990s and early twenty-first century. the book is a history lesson as well as a masterfully written story. The novel begins as an eight-year-old girl named Havaa watches her father’s abduction and the destruction of her family’s home. A neighbor named Akhmed takes the girl to a hospital, hoping to find a safe place for her to stay.  Sonja, an overworked surgeon at the hospital, reluctantly agrees to shelter Havaa at the hospital.

In the book, Anthony Marra gives us insight into the lives of the characters by skillfully switching perspectives and decades. Although the story of Havaa, Akhmed and Sonja takes place over five days, Marra provides a detailed look into the lives and histories of the characters, their families and their neighbors. The reader witnesses the horrors of the war in Chechnya through the eyes of ordinary people as they struggle to survive and keep their loved ones alive. Marra has written the narration and descriptive passages in haunting language that is alternates between joy and heartbreak.

As I read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I often forgot where I was. The characters and the landscape are vivid and believable, making the violence and terror just as real. I am sure that this book will become a classic that will memorialize the war in Chechnya and all who lived and died at the time. I highly recommend this book, not only as a great novel, but as an opportunity to learn about Chechnya, its people, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

If you would like to know more about A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, you can read Chapter One or find more information about the book.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz

My Paris Kitchen


Many people who love to cook dream of packing up and moving to Paris. David Lebovitz did just that, and we can vicariously visit the City of Light and its culinary treasures through his book My Paris Kitchen. Along with recipes and photographs of Paris and sumptuous food, Lebovitz shares wisdom and cooking tips. He recalls his job interview with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, reflects on the benefits of using a mortar and pestle versus a food processor, and lists the tools and ingredients for a Paris kitchen.  The recipes, which include first courses, main courses, side dishes and desserts, take center stage in this book.

As I look through recipes such as  “Cherry Tomato Crostini With Homemade Herbed Goat Cheese,”  “Butternut Squash Bread Soup,” and “Almond Cakes With Browned Butter,” I mentally rearrange my shopping list and look forward to trying these dishes. The recipes are accessible and understandable, and make me want to delve into these flavors and ingredient combinations.

I highly recommend My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. The recipes alone make My Paris Kitchen a must-have for the cook, but the engaging stories and photographs make the book an entertaining read for anyone who loves to learn about international cultures. If you enjoy reading about cooking, travel or both — even from the comfort of home — you’ll want to add this book to your collection.

If you want to find out more about this book and the author, you can read more information on My Paris Kitchen or David Lebovitz.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.