Faith in Books: Talk Like Ted

Talk Like Ted
By Carmine Gallo

The question about what this secular book has to do with my faith is where I must begin in this book review. I read this book with my preaching in mind. Using tips from great TED talks, I have given new life to my preaching style and the way I share God’s message each Sunday. So, although many of you are not preaching every Sunday, I hope that this book can help you when you do make presentations. The book also makes me want to do a TED-like seminar with preachers and have different people come and make TED-type talks on a variety of subjects that can impact the way we preach and lead.

Gallo takes the most popular TED talks (those with the most hits or views) and looks at nine things that make these talks so well received. I no longer have the book (checked it out of the library) so all I can do is present the nine things I learned from the book. These may not be the exact nine Gallo presents but here is what I learned:
1) Limit your talk to 18 minutes – or at least no more than 21.
2) Speak on what you are passionate about
3) Use stories
4) Use PowerPoint carefully – no bullet points, please! Instead, pick a few powerful images that back up what you are saying.
5) Use your body language carefully (eye contact, limit movement, what movement you do have should be around the upper part of your body, etc.)
6) Find ways to grab your audience’s attention (think show and tell rather than just tell)
7) Practice your talk (over and over and over and over….)
8) Use humor. But don’t tell jokes.
9) Be yourself

Okay, I just found a list online that shows I don’t have these as Gallo wrote them, but you also may learn your own nine tips from reading this book. I do highly recommend it. And, once you’ve read it, go to and check out some of the most popular talks.

Check out this link to see the most popular TED talks.

Happy reading (and watching and speaking)!

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Faith in Books: Do Over


Do Over

By Emily Evans

Paisley just wants to do over the last few months: get her parents back together, get this new love interest out of her father’s life, and get back to normal. However, not even the blue celtic stone that would grant the wisher a do over for the last six weeks is really going to help her. She needs to focus on planning for the upcoming prom. Too bad the boy she keeps seeing in a tux is not only a player but also one of her father’s, the high school coach’s, best athletes. Yet, somehow Trey keeps showing up and getting under her skin.

This is a teen romance that only seemed to scratch the surface. Paisley’s relationships with her friends was not shown in depth, her relationship with her mother was practically non-existent despite her dreams of getting her parents back to together, and it would have been a much stronger novel if Trey’s point of view had been included. Also, the idea that a prom committee raised $50,000 was a bit much. I get the impression this was more an outline for a novel than the final product.

Although I think many Christians would like the chance to do some actions over in their lives, there is also the part of the Christian life that is about forgiveness. In forgiveness, we don’t go back and erase what has happened. We cannot go back in time and re-do our actions or words when we forgive. What we can do is accept what happened and move on in a spirit of love. We hope to forget when we forgive although there are exceptions to forgetting. Forgiving does mean that we don’t use what has happened to hate, act in revenge, or hurt someone else. Paisley realizes that if she were able to do everything over, the good things that resulted by the end of the book would not have happened. I know in my own life that this is true as well. God can provide even better things when we forgive.

I cannot really recommend this book but it also isn’t bad for a quick, inexpensive teen read.

Happy reading!


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Faith in Books: Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance


Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance

By Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, specifically about the characters of Beatrice and Benedict. I loved it! Jenna and Jonah are the television character names of these two teen actors who also “play” like they are in love with one another for real. This is simply for the media attention and publicity for their show. They kiss, hug, hang out together…and can’t stand one another in the real world. Aaron can’t wait to get out of the deal but Charlie isn’t so sure what she really wants to do with her life.

Then, while they are supposed to be promoting a fake script for season five of their show, Aaron is photographed with a gay friend and the media assumes that he too is gay. Aaron grabs Charlie and they escape to one of Aaron’s beachfront properties. While they are there, their relationship becomes more real. But when the media show up, they just can’t seem to follow through with their real feelings. It is going to take some live stage acting as Beatrice and Benedict and some outside help if these two are ever going to become a real couple.

The book is written from both points of view (the benefit of having two authors, male and female) and the characters have depth and you really can get into who they are and how they got to this point. The dialogue is funny and sharp. It is evident from the beginning that they have a love/hate relationship. It is also telling that they are the only ones who understand one another – professionally as well as personally.

What did this book have to do with my faith? Charlie learns from another actor that the best actors must understand themselves. A great actor has to really see who they are so that they can get back to it when the cameras stop rolling or the lights are dimmed. I have re-discovered recently that it is only when a Christian understands who they are and works on their own relationship with Christ that they can reach out to others and assist them with their relationship. Christian leaders need to work on their own prayer life and be grounded in who they really are in order to be truly effective. Without self-understanding, it is difficult to really love others much less lead them.

I highly recommend this book!

Happy reading!


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Faith in Books: Fifty Shades Freed


Fifty Shades Freed

By E L James

Finally finished this series. I felt that this third book was a waste of my time. A few answers from the previous plot were provided and Christian finally did open up to Ana. However, it was mostly about kinky romantic times as well as a willingness to participate in more aspects of BDSM. The plot was very predictable and I actually found myself disliking Christian because of his attitude toward those outside of his immediate family.

The last names of the two main characters became very telling.  Christian Grey has fifty shades of grey. He is always shifting from different moods and seems to have various personality traits. It is almost as if he is borderline manic-depressive. Ana is Anastasia Steele and this book showcases her steely strength. She is also a very strong character who gives the impression of being far more mature than Christian. However, with his dominant personality, that would be difficult. Their love for one another is the glue that holds them together. I suppose that is the point of the whole series if not this book alone.

What did this book have to do with my faith? Much of the book describes the ups and downs of becoming a married couple. James is obviously familiar with learning to live with your partner and your own quirks. She is able to write about the various tensions between the newly married using Christian’s possessiveness to highlight these tensions. This made me again realize that the Church has never done a great job in assisting marriages. Many Christians argue against same sex marriages but our support of traditional marriages is far from stellar. Being married is not easy. Our faith can help but many couples need guidance, direction and mentoring. The Church does not seem to know how to provide that. We can provide lots of support in the wedding but not afterwards unless there are problems. How can we do more than provide a great background for the ceremony or a few counseling sessions with the pastor? Is it not Christian to create healthy marriages?

I don’t recommend Fifty Shades Freed unless you read the other Fifty Shades and can’t stand not to read the final book.

Happy reading!


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Faith in Books: Hex Hall


Hex Hall 

By Rachel Hawkins

Sophie Mercer is a witch trying to live in a human world. After yet another botched spell, her father (whom she has never met) sends her to a paranormal reform school called Hex Hall. There she will have to try and learn how to control her powers as well as get along with other witches, warlocks, shape shifters, faeries, vampires, bullies, mean teachers and hot guys. Sounds about like my own high school experience. Too bad Sophie manages to make herself completely uncool and an outcast plus get detention every week until the end of the semester … in just the first week. Okay, so maybe not like my own experience. This teen romance does have some predictable plot lines but also some surprises. And Sophie is the queen of the comeback – wish I could think so quickly on my feet!

The main premise of the book is that witches/warlocks, shape shifters and faeries came about because of the fall. No, not the fall of humans but the fall of Lucifer into Hell. The story here is that all angels were asked to make a decision: follow God or follow Lucifer. Three angels said they would do neither. They were cast out of heaven and became one of the three creatures listed above (later vampires were created out of these – I think it was a botched spell or something). They call themselves the Prodigium.

If someone asked you to tell them about the creation of Satan and Hell, would you know the story? Could you refer to the Bible verse(s) about this? No? Well, the story about Lucifer as a fallen angel is not really in the bible. There are vague references to it (even Jesus mentions Satan falling) but the stories come to us through Church tradition. Yet, we all take them as scripture. There is nothing wrong with that. But we do need to know what is in the Bible and what is not. Lots of Christians claim the Bible as their authority but how many of them/us are reading or studying God’s word on a regular basis? Just how well do we know the Bible? If we aren’t careful, we could even believe in the Prodigium.

I recommend this series (more reviews coming soon).

Happy reading (and Bible study)!


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Faith in Books: The Rithmatist


The Rithmatist

By Brandon Sanderson; Illustrations by Ben McSweeney

Imagine a world where some people have the ability to fight battles with chalk, using geometric shapes and cartoon creatures sketched onto the ground. Now imagine that some of these creatures have become wild and are killing by eating the flesh right off of humans. Sound like a horror novel? This book is written for preteens!

I really liked how Sanderson creates a world that is both creatively original and believable. The main character, Joel, is so fixated on Rithmatists and everything Rithmatic, it is easy to see his glaring weakness even while appreciating his enthusiasm.  He does not seem to grasp why his mother works so hard or even how the truly rich around him with whom he goes to school really live. Of course, this is one of a series so we will have to wait until the next installment to see how he does.

What happens when God doesn’t call you to the future/path/your heart’s desire? What do you do when God has a different path for you than what you long for? Joel wants more than anything to be a Rithmatist but the Master (God) had not chosen him. Yet, everything about Ritmatists has Joel’s full attention. He only invests himself in those things that interest him. He deliberately fails on everything else. As a Christian, I need to be aware that God may not call me where I wish to go. God may have a very different path from the one that looks like the best fit. How I handle this creates an interesting journey.

I highly recommend this book despite some pretty scary scenes!

Happy reading,


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Faith in Books: Night After Night


Night After Night

By Janelle Denison

Sean O’Brien is a former conman who served time for his crimes. He is trying to re-build his life and, thanks to the Reliant Group, he has a respectable job and helps with some private investigations. Zoe Russo is the daughter of the man responsible for putting Sean’s own father behind bars. Russo has disappeared and Sean is asked to befriend Zoe and find out where her father is before the government steps in and freezes his assets. Zoe now thinks she is dating a man she can trust. You can imagine where the plot goes from here.

What I liked was that fact that Sean had a conscience. He was not willing to just abuse Zoe’s willingness to trust him. In fact, he goes out of the way to avoid any real entanglements. What he does not expect is that Zoe is fully able to forgive, forget and love which Sean desperately needs in his own life.

What did this book have to do with my faith? You are only as worthy as you believe you are. Does that make sense? Even if you change, can you believe you are worthy? How many Christians truly believe that they are forgiven, even if they have changed. God’s forgiveness really does erase everything in God’s eyes. We humans are the ones who keep the memories, holding onto the guilt and shame. Adam and Eve needed to come out of the Garden in order to grow and become fuller humans. God forgave us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We Christians are the ones who keep bringing up the Garden incident. God has moved on.

I recommend this book for those who don’t mind a spicier romance and some mild language.

Happy reading!



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