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.