Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Upcoming reviews this week!

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I've been so busy with my business and the kids going back to school that I have not been able to post my latest reviews. Here are some reviews that are forthcoming this week:

The Passage by Justin Cronin (3 Stars)

This one started off great, but then the book jumped one hundred years into the future and lost my interest. I finally finished this on audio but I don't think I'll be reading the next one in the series.

The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana

This book definitely kept my interest, and the author provided an interesting glimpse into Damascus, Syria. She was very melodramatic in her storytelling, but I enjoyed it regardless.


Guess which book I'll be recommending? Yes, the Marriage Bureau for Rich People was a pleasure to read. Nothing felt contrived and the character development was wonderful. I loved beginning each chapter, it was like opening a new gift. I would read anything by this author.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Murder in the High Himalaya by Jonathan Green

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Murder in the High Himalaya is one of those rare non-fiction books that elicited a myriad of emotional responses from me. I love mountain climbing and had for years heard rumors of the Tibetan plight. Yet, I had no real idea what exactly their hardships were outside of knowing the Dalai Lama was exiled and the Chinese occupied their otherwise peaceful country.

Jonathan Green compiled an incredible amount of data from the few witnesses willing to come forward and confirm the murder they witnessed on Cho Oyu. He brings the stories of the survivors, the deceased, and the witnesses together in alternating stories, weaving a timeline of events.

From this book, I was able to grasp the extreme hardships these peaceful people go through to leave Tibet, go to India, and meet their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Pilgrims die, they lose limbs, are imprisioned, beaten, tortured, threatened, separated from their families, and murdered. Despite the hardships of little food, water, clothing, and shoes, ane experience, a few make it through the Himalayas. Sadly, most do not make it.

I listened to the audio version of this book. While listening my emotions varied from sadness to hope, anger to tears.

At the center of the story the main focus bounces from a young nun names Kelsang and her best friend Dolma to American mountain guide, Luis Benitez. Luis and a few other westerners risk their careers and lives to get the story out. Romanian journalist Sergiu Matei had the wisdom to break out the camera and start filming once he heard gunshots. He smuggled the footage out of the country and refuting the Chinese press release on the incident, proved the coverup with irrefutable evidence.

The stories of the Tibetan refugees and pilgrims were heartbreaking but I sincerely appreciate the effort of Jonathan Green, and all of the climbers who came forward as witnesses to such a cold blooded murder of a young nun.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: The Clouds Beneath the Sun

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Set in the early 1960's, The Clouds Beneath the Sun revolves around Natalie Nelson, a freshly minted Ph. D. Suffering the loss of her mother, rejection of her father, and the breakup of her married boyfriend, Dr. Natalie Nelson heads to Africa to join an archaeological team digging in a Kenyan gorge. This digging season proves to be the most intense the experienced team has ever had. Two team members raid the ancient bural grounds of the local Massai tribe in order to have modern bones for comparison to the bones they have discovered. One of them is murdered. From there, problems arise in many forms: criminal, moral, and political; with romance and natural dangers thrown in for good measure.

I truly enjoyed The Clouds Beneath the Sun. The story never felt rushed or contrived. At over 450 pages, the author took his time to develop the story and the characters, as well as the believable setting. Although most of the book takes place either in the camp or in Nairobi, some of the best and most memorable parts of the book take place in the bush, at a secret lake, saving wildebeests, and over Christmas break in Lamu. Massai culture is touched upon, but certainly not a strong theme in this book.

Almost 4 stars for me!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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After hearing so much about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I finally picked it up. I am so glad I did. If you've ever heard the words, "The plot thickens" I have seen no finer example than in this book. The details spanning generations are skillfully woven together.

Lisbeth Salander is a fascinating character and central to the story. She is a ward of the state, a brilliant computer hacker, a justice seeker, and so much more. Working alongside Mikael Blomkvist they seek to solve the forty year old mystery of the disappearance of a young woman from a wealthy family.

The story is fast moving, intriguing, and never dull. I'm so glad I'll be able to jump right into the next two books in the series and see the movie. I am saddened though that the literary world lost such an amazing author before his time.


Review: The Good Son by Michael Gruber

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I was incredibly disappointed with The Good Son by Michael Gruber. The book description sounded like a fascinating, but the more I read the more unlikely the story was. Furthermore, I found absolutely none of the characters to be even plausible. Most especially, I felt that Sonia Laghari was so detached, so unmotherly, and so unreal that it became irritating to read about her.

Sonia was one of the two main characters, yet I found it impossible to get inside her head and understand how she can be so robotic in words and actions. Even Annette, another character in this book, remarks that she has never known anyone like her.

I read the first two-thirds of the book in hardback, and finished the final third by listening to the audio version. I'm glad to see that this book has appealed to so many people and is getting great reviews at Amazon and LibraryThing, but unfortunately, it was just not a good read for me.

The only part of the book that I really found interesting was when Theo, Sonia's son, joins the mujahadeen and later goes back to Afganistan. I also found the Pashtun tribal culture to be very interesting.

Review: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was recently recommended to me and I'm so glad I read it. It's full of charming characters in very uncharming circumstances. Set during Mao's cultural revolution, the narrator and his friend are deemed intellectuals due to their middle school education and their parents occupations. They are sent to a remote mountain village in China to be "re-educated" by the peasants. While living in house on stilts, their life is never portrayed as dull despite the times they were living in.

This book follows their quest for banned literature, storytelling, and their affections for the little Chinese seamstress. I started reading this book initially, and then managed to get the audio version, and reader B.D. Wong uses his voice in such a magical way that it only added to the storytelling.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: The Hole in our Gospel

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A couple of months ago I read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Normally I would have moved on to my next non-fiction Christian book but this one caused a change in me - a real change. This book made such an impression on me that I found it difficult to get engaged with any other book.

The only part of the book I found distasteful was Mr. Stearns repeatedly (especially in the beginning) talking about how successful he was prior to becoming CEO of World Vision. I think that part could have been edited down significantly. The rest of the book though brings tremendous insight into what we can be doing today to alleviate hunger, poverty, disease, and the biblical basis for such actions.
If you've been on the fence about getting more involved financially or through volunteering to better the lives of the less fortunate that share our planet, this is the best starting place I have found. If you don't know where to start, this book will guide you.

The end of the book contains excellent reference material including Q&A with Richard Stearns, What are you going to do about it? (A guide to taking action), recommended books & movies, a 5 part study guide, notes, scripture index, and a general index. Midway through the book there are also several candid pictures of people featured in his stories.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a book that caught my attention back in 2002 when it was released. At the time, although I was interested I couldn't fathom reading this book. It just seemed too unfair what happened to Susie Salmon, the main character. Yet, this book carried a lot of interest for me. I wondered how the author could write a book about a girl who gets brutally raped and murdered on her way home from school and yet keep her in the book as the main character despite her death.


Author Alice Sebold did an amazing job with this. Susie Salmon goes on to her "heaven" which does sound heavenly. Her family and friends are left to deal with her death. Each person handles her death differently and it's the interactions of the friends and family members that keep the book interesting.

From Heaven, Susie looks in on both her loved ones and her killer. Although this is not a *must read* in my opinion, it was a short read. Despite it's horrific beginning, the pieces come together at the end in a nice, happy way.

I look forward to renting the movie soon, which was released to DVD on April 20, 2010.

Excerpt can be read here:


DVD Trailer:


Friday, June 4, 2010

Review: Buddha's Orphans by Samrat Upadhyay

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Buddha's Orphans is a circuitous story that takes the reader through the end of one generation to four generations later of a Nepali family. Focusing most strongly on the cultural expectations imposed by Nepali famlies on their children, you can feel the world changing through each generation. The second theme of the book focuses on the strong (and not so strong) bonds of family. A sprinkling of politics is thrown in as well.

Most of the book focuses on Raja and Nilu. Raja is abandoned by his mother in a city park while she goes on to drown herself. Raja, an orphaned infant is turned away at the local orphanage. The poor street vendor, Kaki, rejected by her own son, sees raising Raja as a way to correct any mistakes she's made in the past with her grown son, and struggles to raise him despite her very precarious economic situation.

From this point, Rajas life takes twists and turns through life, but by his side from childhood is his friend and true love Nilu. Their story together takes center stage throughout most of the book. The youthful love bonds that these two created were believable and I found myself reflecting on the crushes/close friendships I had with boys when I was a child.

Ultimately, can Raja's birth mother's mistake ever be rectified through future generations? That is the question the author works towards up until the final chapter.

The book does have some awkward sexual situations. Nothing really gets steamy or sensual. The author glosses over most sexual situations with simple to the point language.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but would liked more focus on Kaki and her first six years raising Raja. She is quite a character, my favorite of the book.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review and Giveaway: The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne

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To say I enjoyed The Last Bridge is like saying I enjoy tragedy. Yet, having survived an abusive childhood I found much of what Teri Coyne wrote rings true to me. She has a gift of portraying the emotions, the situations, and their effects on everyone involved. I quickly became emotionally involved with the story.

In The Last Bridge, Cat, estranged from her family for the past ten years, finds out her mother has committed suicide. Between drinking and flashbacks, Teri Coyne builds a story of Cat's painful abuse by her father and the reactions of the other family members. Not surprisingly, Cat turns to alcohol as her coping mechanism and throughout much of the book she is not sober.

A mystery is set up early, when Cat's mother, before committing suicide, leaves her a note that says, "He isn't who you think he is". Various male characters are introduced leaving the reader wondering who the reference is to and what the answer will reveal.

The Last Bridge is intense and realistic. The storytelling is excellent throughout, until the end where things wrap up just a little too neatly and too quickly. This is not a book I will soon forget, and I hope to read more by this author in the future.

In celebration of the paperback release of this book on May 25th, the author has given me a copy to pass along. I love the new cover! All I ask is that you leave a comment if you are interested in reading this book along with an email address to contact you at. A really cool bookmark is included as well.

Giveaway ends June 9th, random winner will be chosen on June 10th!

Bonus entries:
  • Tweet about the contest (once, post link)
  • Blog about this giveaway (once, post link)
(tiny url link for this contest: http://tinyurl.com/lastbridge)


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Cutting Myself in Half by Taylor LeBaron, Jack Branson, and Mary Branson

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Taylor LeBaron is such an inspirational success story. He lost 150 lbs by creating a mental game he could play with himself called UFG (Ultimate Fitness Game). In the game he gave himself $1 per calorie per day and had to spend them wisely in order to win. For example, if he starts the day with $2000 then he can spend that on 2000 calories.

As a kid he faced difficulties fitting into desks, clothing, and even being teased by classmates.

The writing is completely candid and he shares his personal struggles and their solutions. Although the solutions may not work for all, I think there is a large population of kids who can benefit from this book.

The diet portion of the book advocates low fat, egg beaters, zero calorie soda, whole grains, and high protein, but there is a lot more to this book than diet. There is a plethora of personal motivation in addition to fitness information, family support, and setting goals. I think this book could very easily be used with other diets such as Atkins or Pritikin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

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I really enjoyed reading The Secret Daughter but was initially frustrated for the first half of the book where the chapters jumped with years in between. It left me wanting more and wishing the book would slow down. Once Asha arrives in Mumbai on a fellowship to do a story on children living in poverty the novel slows down and becomes rich with detail, especially family connections and Indian culture.

Asha also goes to Mumbai for her own personal reasons. She is yearning to understand her Indian heritage since she left India at the age of one. She also has a secret reason for going, one that she is unwilling to share with her parents; she wants to find her biological parents. The other half of the novel is presented in alternating chapters between her biological parents and her adoptive parents lives.

The harsh realities of poverty and unsanitary living conditions are interwoven with the bonds of love and family, providing an excellent backdrop to the story of how Asha came to be loved and adopted by her American mother and Indian father. The trials her biological parents faced are countered by the vacations, elite schools, and successes of the daughter secretly given up by her mother to an orphanage in Mumbai. The first page of the book provides some hint as to the ending and unlike so many other books about India that end sadly (as is often real life) this one ends nicely.

Overall, I wish the author had taken more time to more fully develop the time frame consisting of the first nineteen years of Asha's life, but the second half makes the book worthwhile. The author also provides a glossary at the back of the book which is very helpful and something I wish more authors using foreign words would do.



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show

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Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney by all appearances contained within it's pages the type of story I like best: history, adventure, and a touch of intrigue or politics. I am a patient reader, especially when a book looks so promising. I give such authors time to build the characters, set up the plot, and deliver a great story.


This time I was slightly disappointed, though not through the entire book. The first hundred pages took me probably a week to get through. I was counting on the rest of the story to take flight once the groundwork was laid. The next hundred pages were slightly more intriguing. Once I was halfway through the book I I was finally engaged and read the rest of the book in a day.

The book is narrated by an eighteen year old boy named Ben MacCarthy. He and his family are caught up in the plot of an aspiring political candidate. Unraveling the mess and the truth takes time and perseverance. His father runs off with a traveling show leaving his wife and son in near financial ruin. The first half of the book Ben travels the countryside trying to persuade his father to come home. The next half of the book is different but much more engaging.

Along the way, readers are shown the Irish countryside while being introduced to it's folklore. The ending was not what I had expected yet it was very clever and seemed to fit with the overall narrated tone.

Would I recommend this book? If you like novels that unwrap themselves slowly and methodically and you especially enjoy Irish historical fiction novels (1932-33) , and have the patience for diversions, then yes. Page 10 sums it up:

"I ask your forgiveness in advance. We Irish do this digression stunt. We're so damn pleased with our ability to talk hind legs off donkeys, that we assume people like to listen. "

Believe it or not, that is not the only mention of donkeys in this book (see, a diversion).

My husband is Irish and when I read that line to him, he responded that a truer statement has never been made.

Overall, 3.5 stars from me. I wish I could have given this book more because parts of it were great. Yet, considering the amount of time it took me to become engaged with this book, if I had not received this as part of Early Reviewers I would have given up one hundred pages in. I also feel this book might be more interesting in audio book form.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

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This is a rare gem of a book from a female photojournalists view spanning the period from 1963 to 1975. Unlike so many other books written during this time period, this one gets deep and personal for a long period of time. Helen has lost her father and brother to war and goes to Vietnam as a young college drop out. She finds herself in the midst of war and experiences life on a deep level, bonding with soldiers, journalists, the Vietnamese people, and the land. Despite being historical fiction, this novel creates a very personal account of what it might have been like as a female photojournalist during the Vietnam war.

The author opens the book near the end of the time period, and then builds the story leading up to the opening. Near the middle the book falls flat, almost mimicking the way Helen feels about being home. But the novel comes to life again once Helen was back in Vietnam, much the way Helen felt as well.

Author Tatjana Soli does an excellent job of breathing life into the characters and especially Vietnam. Despite the war, Helen finds love, beauty, peace, and a life worth living. The final third of the book was the most engaging because by then most of the characters and situations were well developed. The ending is incredibly predictable, but after investing almost 400 pages of reading, I would not have wanted it to end any other way.

4.5 Stars

Monday, April 26, 2010

Review: Will the World End in 2012 by Dr. Raymond Hundley

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The first time I saw a Nostradamas documentary I was only twelve years old. I still remember it vividly. The writers, directors, and producers did a great job of frightening me and they certainly made quite an impression on my young mind. That was almost thirty years ago.

Then I made it through 2000 when everyone caught Y2K fever. Granted, people weren't thinking the world would "end" they just thought our computers would get awfully confused and unable to even run power plants and cash registers. Guess what, we're still here. Yet, every generation and every milestone seems to bring the question about: Will this be the end, or the end of the world as we know it.

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."
Matthew 24:36

I tend to believe that there is still a lot more contained in revelation that must first come to pass. Assigning a date to the end of the world is foolishness and only creates parnoia.

Author Raymond Hundley has written an interesting book called, "Will the World End in 2012?: A Christian Guide to the Question Everyone's Asking". Written as a true guidebook, he explains the issues that our world faces today, their probability, and his Christian perspective. I learned more than I thought I would, especially about solar storms, volcanoes, and the Hadron Collider. Dr. Hundley keeps the book very down to Earth and highly readable. Some theories were super silly and entertaining like The Web Bot Project and Earth's Alignment with the Galactic Plane.

If you're looking for a guide that can help you to partipate in a dialog with people concerned that the sky is falling, this would be an excellent choice. The book is very light reading, with very few pages devoted to each subject, but presents a broad overview of the read and perceived threats to our planet.

I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze.com.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: The Red Letters Project

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The Red Letters Project has been one of the more interesting things I've reviewed. It's a 3-CD set of the Book of Matthew that sets all of Jesus' spoken words from the book of Matthew to upbeat, soft rock music.

Although most of the music on the CD's is very enjoyable to listen to, there are some songs that I did not enjoy. For the most part though, I have enjoyed listening to the CD's

The group plans to tour in the near future, which I expect will be a tremendous success.

I also love that the group has put their songs online at http://www.theredlettersproject.com/home.php. About one-third of the tracks are available for online listening, which should give you a good idea of whether or not you would enjoy the music.

I received this CD set from Tyndale House Publishers for review.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chronological Guide to the Bible

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For longer than I care to admit I've been wanting to read the Bible in chronological order but I always get distracted when working from a list. Chronological Guide to the Bible offers a very easy way to get engaged with the history, time period, customs, geology, laws, and civilizations that existed during the Biblical time periods. Divided into nine epochs, each period is examined while providing a chronological reading guide. I also think that the authors listened to reader feedback from their Chronological Study Bible and introduced this for people who have a strong preference for one Bible translation over another. This can be used with any translation.
The authors also offer records from non-Biblical sources that either support, add to, or offer a different perspective from the Bible. Combined with Nelson's Complete Book of BIble Maps and Charts, 3rd Edition and a Bible almanac, I'm really getting so much more out of the Bible than in the past.
I received this book from BookSneeze for review.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Review: Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Third Edition

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Before beginning a new book of the Bible, I've started a habit of picking up Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. This book has exceeded my expectations by providing the background information of the period, book, characters, timeframe, and controversies I can expect to read about. The maps and charts help me to visualize the information presented.

If there is a Bible with this included to the extent provided in Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts I would be very interested in purchasing it. At 470 pages, this book is packed with information that visual learners like myself can easily absorb.
For each book, the authors have laid out the following structure:

Author
Date
Themes and Literary Structure
Book at a Glance Chart
Outline

All of this is interspersed with photographs, maps, charts, and diagrams. The authors have done and excellent job of remaining consistent and clear throughout the presentation. I'm gladly adding this to my home library and recommend this to everyone striving for a deeper understanding of the Bible.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by Booksneeze.com.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory

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I've fasted in the past but normally of a more extreme version where I abstain from all food and drink except for water. When I first reqested this book from Tyndale House Publishers for review I was curious how this could possibly be considered a fast. The recipes seemed too good and the fast seemed too easy. However, I have to honestly say I felt this fast was even more difficult than a water only fast because there are so many choices to make and it's a more extended period of fasting.
However, I came away from this fast truly with a renewed body and a strengthened soul, just like the cover stated.
If you're curious about the Daniel Fast, check out Susan Gregory's blog at http://danielfast.wordpress.com/, or just search google for "the Daniel Fast Blogger".

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: Buried Alive by Roy Hallums

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Buried Alive: The True Story of Kidnapping, Captivity, and a Dramatic Rescue by Roy Hallums is the authors true story of his captivity, torture, and ultimate rescie from a concrete pit in Iraq. He was being held on a $12 million dollar ransom, despite the United States' position of not paying ransoms. Finally, after 311 days he was rescued by the United States military.


As a former Navy Commander, Roy Hallums never gave up on being rescued. His hope turned into reality in September of 2005.

Although the book does not have a strong focus on faith, I am grateful that he wrote this book so readers can understand and pray for those in captivity. I found the book to be a very engaging fast read. I could barely put it down.

Readers looking for an introspective look at captivity from a captives point of view won't find it here, but the author does an amazing job of keeping the story moving along and providing detailed descriptions of his experiences. Although I don't like the glamourization of war, I actually feel this would make an excellent movie.

Included are several photos thoughout the book that provide invaluable insights into his living conditions.

I received a review copy of this book from booksneeze.com.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Review: The Selfless Gene

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Charles Darwins' The Origin of Species has been mentioned by me in a previous review. I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I've never been faced with having any doubt in God or the Gospel of Jesus. Yet I've never felt that God and Darwin were in conflict with each other. As I grew up I started to discover that there are muliple camps of beliefs and somewhere along the line I realized that there was a God vs. Darwin line that in the minds of many can't be crossed.

I applaud Charles Foster for his dedication and research regarding this issue. The two most influential books I've ever read are The Origin of Species and the Bible. This book bridges the gap, allows readers to open their minds to the wonders of the creation and purpose of our amazing world. Although the author takes a lot of liberties, I realize they must be taken to explore this subject. For example, he asserts that if Adam and Eve had not eaten the fruit of the tree of life, that Adam and Eve would have died just like any other human. He also goes on to give a very plausible, sensible reason for the increase in the pain of childbirth.

This book is full of fascinating logic, and might be especially helpful for those questioning their faith, or agnostics searching for a plausible explanation of our world.

That's why I like this book. I certainly don't take it as the gospel, but it's thought provoking and might just help open the communication corridors between Darwinists and Christians.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Gifts of the Heart by Karen Boes Oman

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(click on the book cover to see inside!)

Gifts of the Heart, a new holiday hardcover book written by Karen Boes Oman and illustrated by Marilyn Brown, was a surprising, fun, and whimsical read.

It's Christmas Eve and as Grandma and Grandpa set out to visit their grandkids to delivery holiday gifts, their car takes a spin and the gifts fly out landing just where they were needed. Just as those who receive the gifts are blessed, the blessings come back to Grandma, Grandpa, and their grandchildren in amazing ways.

I can't praise this book enough. It's not only gorgeous to look at the pictures, but the message is both fun and meaningful. I have absolutely found my new favorite holiday book.

Children from toddler all the way through about third grade are the target audience, but even adults can appreciate this book.

The author is generously donating one thousand copies of this book to children in need

So you can see just how special this book is, a full preview is available at timetobreathe.com.

The book can also be ordered at the authors web site.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: The White Horse King (The Life of Alfred the Great) by Benjamin Merkle

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The White Horse King was one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. I love history, but it has to be written in an engaging and interesting manner to hold my interest. This book did that for me.

Having read about this time period from the Viking perspective and from the French perspective within the last couple of years, I found it fascinating to read about this time period from the Anglo-Saxon perspective. Interestingly, I had visited White Horse Hill as a child and never understood the significance (although under dispute) and was only told that the horse was made a long time ago. I still remember vividly seeing this horse and walking on this hill with my family.



The details the author was able to gather and organize about the life of King Alfred were amazing. So many things about this king impressed me. Not only was he a God-fearing man, but he was able to forgive his most treacherous enemies. His thinking for the time period was so progressive as well. He was not only the youngest son of a king and unlikely to ever take the throne, but when he did take the throne he overcame a ferocious enemy, he led battles, he organized a standing army, and he planned cities and their defenses.

The historical background provided in this book was also interesting, from the difference between a village, a town, and a city, to the fact that Viking helmets did not actually have horns. I also found it interesting to learn about the Christian traditions of this period. Those tidbits of information kept me interested

I've already ordered another book about King Alfred to learn even more, and plan to give a copy of this book to a friend also interested in this period in history.

The book is a short and easy read, although I did find the chapters to be longer than necessary. I like more frequent stops.



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World

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This is the first book I've read by Dr. David Jeremiah.

I felt that Dr. Jeremiah was almost cheating the readers of this book by trying to simplify what we need to do to live with confidence in today's world until Christ returns. The subject matter and writing itself kept my interest but I was turned off by having everything I need to do start with the letter "C". Sometimes authors, especially self-help authors try to boil things down to simplistic terms when the world doesn't work that way.

Here's the chapter titles:

Stay Calm
Stay Compassionate
Stay Constructive
Stay Challenged
Stay Connected
Stay Centered
Stay Confident
Stay Consistent
Stay Committed
Stay Convinced

A part of me just felt like maybe if the author wasn't confined to the letter C that maybe the book could be more relevant and interesting to readers who are otherwise turned off by overly neat and tidy writing style. Where would the subject matter and stories presented in this book have gone if they didn't have to meet a letter C criteria?

Although I had some issues with the neat format and use of alliteration in this book, all of the material presented in this book was interesting to me because it dealt with our modern issues of being a Christian while the world is changing more rapidly than ever. Those interested in trying to better understand how to deal with our modern problems should be able to take some sound advice from this book. I look forward to reading more by this author. But please, Dr. Jeremiah, leave the alliteration to children's poems.

Monday, September 14, 2009

For fans of Diamond Rio as well as those interested in the music business

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Beautiful Mess is the story of Diamond Rio, their history, their problems, and the individuals that make up the band. Although I enjoy their music, I'm not a big fan, but I do have a son who plays guitar and is seeking to be successful on his own in the music business.

This book helped tremendously to put things into perspective and learn that the music business is not just glossy and perfect. I've read a couple of other music-oriented books in the past year, and was so frustrated with the amount of sex and drugs discussion that I didn't feel comfortable sharing those books with my son, but this one presents a different side of a band that has been together a long and has grown both individually and as a group.

Diamond Rio fans and young people wanting to enter the music business should have plenty to take away from this book. It presents the members of Diamond Rio as real people who support each other no matter what. That is the real secret of their success.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review: Real Church by Larry Crabb

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Larry Crabb has written a thought provoking book that is sure to spark conversations around the country. Count me among those who have long felt a discord with today's churches. I've actually cried in church, not because I was especially touched by God, but because all the hypocrisy and fake holiness made me truly sad.

I stopped attending Sunday morning services three years ago and have since just joined a less formal and more dedicated group on Wednesday night. Early on in the book Mr. Crabb draws our attention to several places in the Bible where people are rebuked for their false form of worship, citing scripture. That's a powerful wake up call to examine if our church might be rebuked in the same way.

I'm glad Larry Crabb wrote this book. It has certainly stirred up conversations and made more than a few people reconsider church attendance. Over the years I've visited many churches and agree with Larry Crabb that something is missing from the modern church. Although the book does not solve my problems nor the churches current predicament, I think it's done it's job of examining the state of affairs in American churches creating a starting point to opening a dialogue on this issue.

Those who feel something is missing from our church landscape would probably enjoy reading this book. On the other hand, if you are really happy with your church and where it's going, this book would not be worth your time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mayo Clinic Guide to Living With a Spinal Cord Injury

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I compared Mayo Clinic Guide to Living With a Spinal Cord Injury to The Spinal Cord Injury Handbook (isbn 978-1891525018) and found this book to be very comparable in information but updated for 2009. There are not a lot of books on this subject, but both do a great job of covering the basics and beyond for what a patient needs to do to adjust to a new lifestyle while dealing with a spinal cord injury.


I found the book to be open, honest, and well-written. Prevention of problems, identifying problems, and solving problems were key throughout the book. Beyond the medical side of spinal cord injuries, day to day life and care was also addressed. The book went into great detail about how to hire a personal care assistant, covering many issues I would not have thought of. Management of your personal care assistant, how to resolve conflicts, and setting up schedules was included as well.

Health, sex, stress management, substance abuse/addiction, employment, sports, and travel were also covered with real world solutions. This book is a must read for people living with a spinal cord injury or people who are close to someone with a spinal cord injury.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

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Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant explores the lives of a convent of nuns in sixteenth century Italy. Behind the gates and walls that sequester these nuns from the outside world, these Benedictine nuns struggle with issues of depression, anorexia, control issues, and growing old. Most of the nuns there are put there in lieu of marriage because dowries have risen to the point that most noble families can only marry off one of their daughters. The other daughters are put into convents with smaller, yet still significant dowries as a bride of Christ.

Sarah Dunant did a great job of creating likely characters that dealt with real world problems. I got the impression that very few of the nuns entered the convent of their own will, and had to struggle with their initial adjustment.

The main characters are Abbess Chiara, who heads the convent and has lived there since she was six years old. She comes from a powerful family and thus was born for convent life and the influence that her family could have within the community of Ferrara because she is the Abbess. Suora Umiliana, the novice mistress, in charge of the newer convent members. She thrives on prayer, fasting, faith, and even self-destruction. Suara Zuana runs the dispensary and cares for the ill while tending her herb garden and creating formulas for her apothecary. Finally, the newest member of the convent Sarafina sets the convent into turmoil with her beautiful voice, agonizing cries, her plot to escape, and her deception.

The first third of the book felt a little forced, the next third of the book was very good but left me feeling claustrophobic because as of yet, the story was still retained within the walls of the Santa Caterina convent. The last one hundred pages of the book made the experience worthwhile, although I had to read all the way to the end to feel any sense of satisfaction.

Sarah Dunant keeps readers guessing up to the very end as to how things will turn out. Those interested in this historical period, convent life, or who just like a good historical fiction read will enjoy this novel.




Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

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Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson explores our Universe, from snowflakes to weather to ants, with wonder and awe at their creation and their purposes. But he doesn't stop at the awe and creation of our Earth's plants and animals, but goes on to seriously explore poetry, physics, gravity, good and evil, sunsets and darkness, and so much more through a stream of consciousness style. At times the author lost me on the point he was trying to make, but that did not derail my ride at all. I couldn't choose a favorite excerpt from the book, but to give you an idea of N.D. Wilsons' wide-eyed wonder at our world, I chose this excerpt:

"Snow is so overused. One sentimental, overly structured ice flake might have some value. But God never seems capable of moderation or of understanding the basic concepts behind supply and demand. He constantly devalues His own products. Give me one flake, a cool room, and a magnifying glass and I will admire its artistry. But right now, I'm sitting by my window on a Christmas night, staring out at winter wastefulness in the extreme. Miles of clouds, clouds larger than states, have turned into crystal stars and now streak silently past my window to their deaths. Well, not quite silently. The stars are falling fast enough that if you step outside, like I just did, you can hear the whisper of collisions and delicate frozen impacts, each six-pointed perfection complaining as it arrives-

"They told me I was special. There's two and a half bazillion of us in this hedge and more falling. Does anyone here care about overpopulation? A market crash? Close the sky. Lobby for a moratorium."

But the storm-whispers sound more pleased to me. Excited even-

"I knew I was different from the rest of you plebes. Look how silly and gothic you all look with your skinny, knobbed arms. I'm unique. Neoclassical."

Try counting the flakes. Really count them. I'll step back outside for a quick estimate. Let's be conservative. Assuming that we're in the middle of this storm and it only stretches ten miles in each direction (Ha, says the weather man), and assuming that the storm is a tiny one hundred feet tall, and skipping the preexisting ground accumulation, and eyeball estimating the frenzied blizzard's air content at a meager ten flakes per cubic foot, then we are looking at about ... 11,151,360,000,000 flakes in the air above a small patch in Idaho at one particular moment on Christmas night at the end of the year 2007. Just this storm, this tiny little slice of winter could divvy out seventeen hundred flakes to every person on this planet. More impressively, that number has the US national debt beat by trillions."
And this one...
"I have an olive on my desk. It is a product of Spain. It was grown on a tree. Which means that the chlorophyll in the olive leaves absorbed energy from the sunlight and used that energy to attack the air. Carbon was harvested from the carbon dioxide, the oxygen was released back into the lungs of Spanish children, and the carbon was shaped into leaves and bark and this olive. Like me, the olive is carbon based. It is made of cells, which are made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which are (as we all now know) made of quarks and leptons, which are...

Here is the moment of my amaze. The olive that I hold in my hand along with its friendly minced pimento, this olive that I now taste and eat, that former olive was, on some level, made out of something that was... not made from anything.

There is another word for not anything. The word is nothing. At some point, that is the answer to the question. What is it? What is it made of?

Nothing. And yet... it is."
Not since Darwins' Origin of Species has a book so captured my imagination and wonder. Even as a Christian, I find Charles Darwin's work is thought provoking and worthwhile to read. On the other hand, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl go in a different direction and paint God as the artist of our world in a believable way. This should be just an enjoyable for non-believers as it is for believers. This book might just adjust your focus on the world, it's purpose, and it's possibilities. This is a book that I will be talking about for a long time and plan on gifting to many people.

A 35-page preview can be found at this link.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review: Fragment by Warren Fahy

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Science Fiction fans will be in for a treat!

If you love sci-fi and adventure my bet is that you’ll love reading Fragment. A group of young scientists and producers set off in a ship to visit the most remote locations in the world in a year-long around-the-world voyage while hosting a weekly reality television show.

Upon reaching a remote and seemingly uninhabitable island, events take a very tragic turn escalating their situation into a worldwide crisis. People are disappearing on the island and even more shocking is the fact that the island species took a different evolutionary path 500 million years ago. The species they’ve discovered are no match for any known species from our world, as they devour every living thing within seconds.

The first fifty pages of the novel were difficult to get through and I had considered abandoning the book. However, once I got through the first hundred and fifty pages there was no going back.

The storyline held my interest and captured my imagination. I enjoyed every minute of the intense plot once the scientists started studying the island from their Statlab, and ever more so once Statlab was abandoned.

I’m not going to give away the biggest gem of the story, but the ending left open a big door for a sequel. If written, the sequel will no doubt be even more interesting than Fragment. I recommend this book to people who love science and adventure.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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In The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon creates a fascinating character in David Martin, a young boy who is beaten by his father for reading books, abandoned by his mother, and finally witnesses the murder of his father. From that point on, few people intersect his life, but those that do become integral to his life. I don't want to give too much away as far as what happens in this book, because each event is best told by the author and I could not do it justice.

The Angel's Game was more than anything else a book that moved me. At times it moved me slowly into a deep sleep. At other times it moved my spirit because of the lovely prose that recreated the ambience of 1920's Barcelona so well. In the end, I walked away with little more than lovely, dark images of Barcelona.

The first half of the book was much more enjoyable as the mysteries built up suspense. The last hundred pages in a circular fashion attempted to connect the dots but failed in my mind to bring closure. If you like neatly wrapped happy endings, this book might frustrate you.

Regardless, along the way readers will savor his words, imagine the world he has created, and perhaps develop a sense of appreciation for their otherwise mundane lives. If you enjoy dark mysteries that teeter on exploring dark magic and mysticism, this might be an enjoyable read for you.

Review: East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

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East of the Sun was unlike anything I was expecting. Falling in the category of what I would ordinarily call "chick lit" I didn't expect to enjoy much less finish this book so quickly. However, once I had read a few chapters, I found this book hard to put down.

Set in India in the 1920's, two young women, a teenage boy, their young chaperone set out on the Indian Princess for a three week voyage to India. Viva, the young chaperone takes three charges in order to earn her fare plus a little bit of travelling money. Rose is headed to India to marry her fiancee that she hardly knows. Tor, her best friend is accompanying her as bridesmaid and also has hopes of her own to meet a man in India where eligible bachelors are in abundant supply. Guy, bipolar and Viva's final charge is expelled from boarding school and is being sent back to India to be with his parents. Finally, there is Frank, a selfless, young doctor earning his passage to India as the ships doctor with hopes of studying the blackwater plague.

The sea journey introduces us to the characters but once in India their lives intersect in surprising ways as each person deals with personal issues, relationship problems, lack of finances, and even a dangerous abduction.

Romance is light but present, with most of the focus of this book being about Viva trying to find closure in her life since the death of her sister, her father, and her mother in India. For years she has ignored a letter and key inviting her to come and pick up a trunk her parents left, but she finally finds the courage to make the long journey.

The lives of these intriguing characters set against the backdrop of a historical time in India made for a fast paced read that never bored me with any detail or interaction.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure, historical fiction, or romance, as well as book clubs. This book has won several awards in the U.K. and the BBC has commissioned a six-part television series of this book. I'm glad this that this book is being released into the US in paperback format, not only making it a worthwhile read, but it won't break the bank either.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: The Tehran Conviction

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I really wanted to like The Tehran Conviction. The words flow easily and the subject matter was intriguing. However, I felt a bit cheated as a reader when it came to the development of main character Jack Teller. Not having read the previous novels by Tom Gabbay, I'm not sure if there was more to know about Jack Teller. The novel oscillates between 1979 and 1953 Iran. The plot revolves around CIA intervention in Iranian politics during the earlier time period, with suggestions of the impact of such intervention in 1979.

I felt that the author could have done a better job of developing the look and feel of Iran and the characters. Those looking for more in depth plots and a connection with the characters would probably not enjoy this book. The book is highly readable and Tom Gabbay does and excellent job of keeping the story moving forward and not letting the reader get lost. Those with short attention spans, an interest in light spy novels, or previous readers of Tom Gabbay novels will probably want to read this one.

3 Stars

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: God’s Little Princess Devotional Bible (Sheila Walsh, contributor)

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The wonderful thing about God’s Little Princess Devotional Bible is that it is interactive! I can't stress that enough. This book is far more than Bible stories. It contains questions and activities that engage young girls in a way that I haven't seen with other Bibles for young children.

My daughters best friend had this Bible and for the past couple of years they've been talking about it. Author Sheila Walsh is a fantastic writer and really understands kids. I've read her other books and didn't realize that this was by the same author until it arrived and my daughter ran to her room to get the other Sheila Walsh books (which are some of her favorites!).

This is a must-have book for girls ages 5-7, but younger and older will appreciate it as well. Take a peek inside the book with the preview found here, and see for yourself if this would be a delightful book for your daughter, granddaughter, or niece.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Waiting for Coyote's Call by Jerry Wilson

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Waiting for Coyote's Call was an interesting eco-memoir (new genre for me!) written by Jerry Wilson detailing his homesteading experience on a bluff in southeastern South Dakota.

Mr. Wilson makes heavy reference to Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, so if you are a fan of their works, efforts, and beliefs, then this book will be an interesting read.

The author takes us slowly on an ecological journey, exploring and enlightening the reader on the most minute detail of his land and the nature he encounters there. Going a step further, he also tells the stories of his neighbors and their interactions with him and the land, and steps back in time detailing the land during before and during the settlers. The history of southeastern South Dakota is interwoven from the days of the Native Americans, through early settlers, to the modern day world, showing the changes the environment has withstood, and the good and not-so-good changes he has observed.

The author comes across as very well versed in nature, from trees to solar heating. He presents in depth knowledge by relaying his experiences and wisdom. Those interested in nature, homesteading, living off the grid, or reducing their footprint on this Earth may enjoy this slow, interesting, detailed read. At times the book lost my interest, and in that case I just jumped to the next chapter.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: Fatal Light by Richard Currey

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Fatal Light is a book that brings to light the confuted experiences of war. A young eighteen year old draftee finds himself in Vietnam surrounded by beauty and death at the same time. He leaves behind a football scholarship to serve his country in an unpopular war. His father speaks of war as if it's a fun and manly thing to take a part in. I think the author does a great job of expressing this through short vignettes that are easy to digest one at a time. I took several weeks to finish this book and each time I picked it back up it was like I didn't miss a beat. This book might as realistically represent the feelings and experiences of an individual soldier in Vietnam as any book I've ever read. It's not the best Vietnam war novel I've read. History, especially Vietnam war history buffs will not find elaborate details but they will come to understand the narrator.

Review: North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter

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North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter is the well-written, and well-documented story of a young Japanese school girl who goes missing on her way home from school one day. Her whereabouts remained a mystery for twenty years, with tight lipped rumours offering little hope of finding young Megumi. 

More significant than the events that led up to her disappearance and the reasons it happened in the first place, is the heart wrenching story of how her family dealt with her disappearance while searching for the answers that would lead to the recovery of Megumi. Her mother, Sakie Yokota quickly became her greatest supporter and details her efforts, hope, faith, and painful struggle that she has endured since 1977. 

The political reasons Megumi was kidnapped are explained briefly. The purpose of her kidnapping was so that Megumi, and thirteen other suspected abductees, could train North Korean operatives to behave, talk, and otherwise fit in Japanese society undetected. The tragedy of this is that a young girl, who excelled in academics and sports, had a bright future ahead of her in Japan. In one fateful moment, her dreams were stolen from her one afternoon in 1977. 

Since then, the family still does not have closure, but they have found more answers and have never given up hope of reuniting with their daughter. 

This is a short read of only 137 pages. If you've ever pondered what parents of missing children go through on a year to year basis, this book will provide insight into one family's experience with the unthinkable.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: Holy Roller by Julie Lyons

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Holy Roller was a bit different that I had anticipated. Author Julie Lyons takes readers from the birth of a small Black Pentecostal Church in a crime ridden neighborhood through twenty years of fascinating spiritual growth.

By far the most interesting parts of the book were the beginning and the end. Near the beginning, she profiles the healing power and prayer as it works miracles in the lives of the residents of South Dallas; her spiritual leader, Pastor Eddington included. The last several chapters of the book take the reader on a missionary journey to Botswana, where AIDS is an epidemic. Demons are fought, lives are changed, but still the battle is not over.

In the latter beginning to middle of the book I felt the subject matter derailed into TMI. We learn that Julie suffered same sex attraction and she even talks about her desire to masturbate as well. She writes about a trip she took to Belfast which didn't really connect with the rest of the book.

This book will probably offend a lot of people. Obviously, gay people will take offense that the author feels that homosexuality can be healed by the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals might take offense at the authors portrayal of their churches as, "I had always gagged on the phoniness, hypocrisy, and indifference to the spiritual issues with which people struggle. How could evangelical churches judge liberal Christians for not taking God and the Bible seriously and then belittle Pentecostal Christians for taking God too seriously?" A lot of generalizations are made throughout the book about "white" people and "black" people and the various types of churches they attend. Those type of generalizations made by the author are hard to dismiss. Later the author states, "Their (white persons) tendency to objectify color takes some interesting twists. Too often, for example, white Christians view black Christians, particularly Pentecostals, as being innately spiritual, as if spirituality comes naturally to black people because of their ethnic or racial heritage. Whites seem to think that blacks have an elemental connection with primitive religious practices best suited to their supposed childlike beliefs." I think the author is bound up in some childhood beliefs she must have inherited from her family, because I don't think that way and was pretty offended by those statements. I would hate for a black person to read that and actually believe it.

Although I do have some criticisms of the book, overall, this was a really fascinating look at the inner workings of a small black Pentecostal church and their work, their members, their struggles, and their triumphs. Overall, I enjoyed the book and getting to know the life stories of the individual characters.

For Christians not familiar with Pentecostal churches, this book will prove very enlightening and brutally honest. Julie Lyons is an excellent writer and a gifted storyteller. She writers her truth from the heart, and doesn't hold back.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: Jesus Calling - Enjoying Peace in His Presence

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This pocket sized devotional is very well written and backed up with scriptural references. Each month starts off with a bible verse followed by a month's worth of devotional reading. At the end of each short but effective devotional, there are 3-4 scriptural references to backup the devotional. 

I found the scripture references to be very much in alignment with the devotional, sometimes almost word for word. Each devotional was also very though provoking. 

The book is very small at approximately 4" x 6", and one inch thick. It's hardcover and very well-made, making it appropriate for gift giving or carrying in your purse. A ribbon book mark is included as well. The only complaint I have is that I wish this came with a small sleeve or protectant
 bag, which would keep it in nice condition, especially for those reading it daily.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review: Shimmer by Eric Barnes

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Shimmer is a debut tech business thriller by Eric Barnes. Considering my tastes in books generally runs in adventure and historical fiction, I found this a difficult read, but not from the technical aspects. The endless business meetings and office talk made this an dull and boring read for me. The greed, lies, and almost sterile sexual interactions didn't appeal to me either. 

In a nutshell, this is a tech business thriller about an adopted man who finds himself CEO of a company that is operating on borrowed time because they don't really have the technology they claim to have. The main character, Robbie Case, operates a network of shell corporations around the world that keep his secret hidden from the world, and he devotes endless hours to his spreadsheets and secret computer system. He also has an addiction to prostitutes but never really experiences intimacy.


2 1/2 Stars

Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions

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I've long been interested in world religions. Back when I was in middle school, I used to go to the school library and read the reference books on religion. I became fascinated by the beliefs of others and wanted to know more. Once again this thirst has been quenched by Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions

Non-Christians will most likely not like this book because it often examines the other religions in contrast to Christianity and even criticizes them, but always through the lens of author James A. Beverely. For example, the author makes seven arguments against Islam. He does this with pretty much every religion to some degree. He has seven counterpoints to Judaism, as well as 3 counterpoints to Hinduism. 

The part I enjoyed about the book was reading the historical background of various religions, looking at their timelines, and reading their tenants of faith. The chapter on Hinduism was absolutely fascinating. Spanning 46 pages, it's full of pictures, charts, lists, stories, and leaders. If you are a Christian seeking a better understanding of world religions, I highly recommend this 850 page book that covers 19 religions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This Is Your Brain on Joy Review

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This is Your Brain on Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin Review:

Finally, a mental health book that provides not only a solution but solid, easy to understand science. Dr. Henslin does a wonderful job examing the subject of "Joy" as it relates to brain health. 

Dr. Henslin uses several methods to diagnose and treat brain disorders including the usual diet, exercise, supplements, and medicine, but he goes even beyond that and works on the brain through mind uplifting methods like aroma therapy, music, reading, prayer, and more. 

Using cutting edge science, Dr. Henslin also explains SPECT Imaging and how it can help to diagnose overactive and underactive areas of the brain in order to more accurately treat brain disorders. Adults or children suffering from ADHD, ADD, depression, PTSD, bi-polar disorder, and so many other brain disorders will find stories and solutions in this book that might change their life. 

Although SPECT Imaging is new and not widely available, I was also happy to find out that the only SPECT imaging center in my state is less than a one hour drive. 

Although this book is written from a Christian perspective and often weaves biblical viewpoints, I recommend this book to everyone. The more we understand the brain, brain disorders, and treatments, the better off our society will be. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

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The Blue Notebook was one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. Written by Dr. James A. Levine, this book follows the experiences of a young nine year old girl over a period of six years, during which time she is a sexual slave, serving up to ten men per day in the red light district of Mumbai. The underbelly of the rich, the poor, and those who serve them is brought to light through Batuk's interactions with a slew of disreputable individuals.

Author James A. Levine somehow manages very well to give a voice to the central character, Batuk, as she deals with her thoughts and one traumatic experience after another. Her innocence is stolen in one frightening moment, and from that point on her resilience to the world hardens. She likens herself to a clay bowl that can be anything, but once hardened becomes more fragile and can break.

This book leaves more questions than answers, but questions worth exploring. I'm left wondering if her father understood what he was doing when he sold her to Mr. Gahil. What precisely put her father in the position of needing to sell his daughter? Our only indication is that he says he is sorry and that he has lost everything as he parts with Batuk. Apparently they did not lose "everything" since he still had cash to bring her to Mumbai from his rural farming community and throw her a feast before her departure. There are so many more questions that remain unanswered but would be excellent to discuss in a book club.

The quality of the writing is as near flawless as I've read in a long time. The scenery is brought to life through rich but simple details. Batuk's state of mind is easily understood and explained as she tells her story in her journal.

Many people who otherwise would be too sickened to finish this book might be able to handle this short two hundred page book. Scenes of child rape occur frequently along with an even possibly more gruesome scene near the end. Wrapping up the story, Batuk writes a beautiful story of the Silver-eyed Leopard, taking up approximately ten pages. Even though the story is sad, it was the one bright spot in the book because it was a fairy tale told to her by her father.

As the problems that face the poor in India continue to swell, I can't imagine the issue of child sexual slavery and human trafficking getting better anytime soon. However, the author is donating 100% of the US proceeds from this novel to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.icmec.org). My hope is that more children can be saved from this life.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, if you feel you can handle the material. The purchase goes for a good cause and your awareness of this ongoing situation will be heightened. The fact is, if every time you hear gruesome words like "child rape" you close your eyes and your ears, how can you possibly know what is going on? Dr. James A. Levine has made it easy for us by interviewing and writing about a real live child sexual slave in Mumbai, whom this story is loosely based upon. He's written the story for us and he giving the profits away to help alleviate this problem. As the world shines more light on this issue, the rats who rule this underworld will find less places to hide. Hopefully, with time, they will become extinct.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stalin's Children by Owen Matthews Review

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Stalin's Children, Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival, is a story of three generations and their experiences under the various incarnations of Russian government.

The opening chapters are rather sad but expected. The author did a wonderful job of explaining the past through photographs, excerpts of correspondence, and generational storytelling passed down from his grandmother and mother. The most central story of this book is author Owen Matthews' mother being separated from her parents at a very young age and raised in orphanages.

Growing up without a mother or father was so pivotal in shaping his mothers outlook on life and the direction her life took. Probably eighty percent or better of this book is about his mother and father, Mila and Mervyn, in one way or another.

Building on top of this and other tragedies in this book, this book is also a story of love lost and love gained, and the family ties that defy odds. Owen Matthews recounts his father Mervyn's early years working in academia and as a foreign exchange student in Russia. Mervyn of course falls in love, is seduced by the KGB, is deported from the country, sneaks back into the country, and fights with every ounce of his soul to be with his beloved fiancée, Mila.

Russophiles will love this families story. Despite the fact that this is a non-fiction book, it reads as nicely as a novel.