Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Gifts of the Heart by Karen Boes Oman


(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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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)


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 ( 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


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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Wisdom of Solomon by Wanda E. Brunstetter Review


The Wisdom of Solomon is one of the cutest child-friendly storybooks I've ever encountered.

The book is a compilation of twelve lesson-teaching stories that children will be able to instantly relate to.

Although the stories are about Amish children I believe any child can relate to the characters. Occasionally an Amish word is used in a story, but the English word is always parenthesized for easy story-telling.

This would make a great read aloud, and Kindergarten age children would probably enjoy acting out the stories as well. The only religious part of the book is the beginning of each chapter where a verse from Proverbs is shown next to the chapter title. Other than that, the stories are about everyday life and the lessons children learn such as sharing, telling the truth, minding parents, and being a friend.

Young children ages 3-5 will probably ask to be read this book over and over and older children 6-7 will probably enjoy reading this book once or twice by themselves. I give this book a very high recommendation for it's interesting stories, cute artwork, and the lessons it teaches.

This book is due to be released March 2009. At 256 pages, this book is also a great value.