Monday, March 29, 2010

"Share from the Heart" by Marilyn Randall

"Share from the Heart" by Marilyn Randall is a children's book about compassion. Two brothers are out gallivanting when one day they see a dragon. Frightened by it, they try to attack it and then run from it. After discovering that the dragon means no harm and only wants friends, the boys talk to it and eventually invite him to live with them / be their extended third brother. There is no explicit sharing in terms of toys or other objects children can relate to. There is a sharing of a house, but that is not the most applicable for young ones. Also, this book is not as overtly religious as some of Randall's other books. The illustrations are basic in nature. While the author means well, this book should not be read by youngsters who will misunderstand it and think it is okay to hug strangers and invite them home when adults are not present (as happens in the book).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Partnering with Nature" by Catriona MacGregor

"Partnering with Nature: The Wild Path to Reconnecting with the Earth" by Catriona MacGregor is as tree-hugging as tree-hugging gets. The book is all about how people need to get back in sync with Mother Nature. It talks much of spirits, both of animals and plants. This spirituality may not settle well with all readers. While MacGregor juxtaposes the apparent wrongs of the Catholic Church towards nature with its admirable altruism, she does write that many paths lead to the Creator. Catholic and Christian readers can look past her low blow to the Church. Howver, they can not stand by and approve of a salvation that is able to stem from anywhere but the true Lord Jesus Christ. Anyway, the pictures in the book are of the utmost quality and are nice to look at. The poems, interspersed life science material, quotations, and stories both from the author and others are interesting. This book promotes peace, inner sanctity, and many green ways of living. Although, one should not read too deeply into the stories about animal benevolence because overtly trusting a wild animal or drawing close to it may prove to be dangerous, especially if it has some sort of disease like rabies or ticks. Overall, this book is interesting food for thought that will occupy time and possibly lead to relaxation, but it will most likely not be taken seriously.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Wake Up!" by Michelle Pearl

"Wake Up!--You're Probably Never Going to Look Like That; How to be Happier, Healthier, and Imperfectly Fit" by Michelle Pearl is a collection of thoughts from a fitness instructor. She starts off the book by bashing Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser for promoting "incorrect" weight loss tips that exploit the obese. While these claims may or may not be true, the comments are unnaturally harsh. The book talks about weight loss, surgery, pills, fast food, infomercials, eating disorders, machines, and more. There is some mathematical talk of calories but not that much. There are no designated exercise programs listed. Rather, Pearl encourages readers to find what is best for them--perhaps with her site that provides videos directly to home computers for people to emulate. This book definitely is interesting as it includes much information and even personal stories from people. However, as it stands alone, this book is not a weight-loss program book. The book merely points out what Pearl thinks it wrong with popular fitness programs.

*In the revised edition of this book, Pearl has toned down the comments about Michaels. She has also added to the notion of healthy eating that does not include starving oneself. There is more of an emphasis on easy-to-view eating charts and tables. While most of the book has the same content, the revised edition is more reader-friendly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"The Bridge" by Jackie Carpenter

"The Bridge: Between Cell Block A and Miracle is Psalm 91" by Jackie Carpenter is based on the true story of Jason Veitch. Basically, the author's son had worked for a construction company. They were having precious supplies being stolen, so Veitch carried a gun to try and scare them away, never intending on hurting anyone. However, one day, the gun went off by mistake and killed a man. Veitch was then sentenced to jail, and a jury was deciding whether or not he would get the death penalty. This book is that story, and it includes photos and newspaper articles that are relevant. It has the interactions and emotions of many close to Veitch. There is also an emphasis on trusting in the Lord, along with important Bible quotations from the Book of Psalms. The author even includes a note at the end about accepting Jesus for salvation. Overall, this book was genuine. It even came with a little pin.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"The Saving of Aris" by Novamelia

"The Saving of Aris" by Novamelia is a dramatic novel. It follows the protagonist Aris from his early childhood to his late youth. Different characters have different views on religion--particularly Christianity. Seeing as how different characters are portrayed dissimilarly, both positively and negatively, one view is not pushed so much over the other. Still, there are some points in the book where Christian readers will be offended. The people Aris interacts with really shape him, as he contemplates his role in life. Things get even more confusing for him as he questions why God allows bad things to happen. There is sadness and angst when Aris learns he was conceived in a church. Aris goes through many psychological stages where he searches for his identity--his soul even. In the end, though, it appears as though Aris finds his way back to God; or readers see that God never gave up on Aris no matter how situations may have appeared. There is swearing and some explicit details of traumatic events in this book that do not make it suitable for children. This book is a good test of faith for readers. Christians can look at what characters say and find holes in their depressing logic; this would be great for group discussion in a religious setting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Feather" by Susan Page Davis

"Feather" by Susan Page Davis is a young adult book about children in a clan. One day, as a brother and sister are out picking for berries, the sister is kidnapped by a member of an enemy tribe. The brother wants to rescue her, but his tribal elders tell him to stay put, which makes him irate. The sister is beaten and treated brutally by her captors until they learn of one of her skills. The girl befriends another captured youngster from another tribe, and they both plan to escape. There is drama when the other captive decides whether or not to stay after the tribe accepts him and promotes him from slave to a member of the clan. Additionally, the brother and his tribe learn the power of reading when they make an unusual discovery. This book is full of mystery, drama, and suspense. Children of all ages will enjoy this book, but it may also be suitable for younger readers since there are no graphic parts. The language and scenery really make the native setting and customs believable.

"Back to Somalia" by Glenn A. Bell

"Back to Somalia" by Glenn A. Bell falls under the militaristic adventure category. It is about a pilot that goes to Somalia at the request of the CIA. He must rescue a bomb in Somalia that is linked to terrorism. Things get heated when the pilot's beau is kidnapped and forced to help the enemy. The setting changes but is not too hard to keep up with. The narration describes how an aircraft takes off and lands in great detail, but, unfortunately, no aerodynamics are heavily discussed. This book has a nice balance between dialog and straight prose, and the ending is not too predictable. Overall, for those that relish adventure and don't have anything against the United States army, this book will not let them down. However, due to the nature of the story, this book is not intended for small children.

"The Story of Easter" by Gwen Ellis

"The Story of Easter" by Gwen Ellis and illustrated by Steve Smallman is a delightful children's book in the Read and Share collection. It tells the story of Easter in easy to understand terms, with plenty of pictures for little ones to look at. Some Bible verses are even given (reference, not exact quotations) so kids can feel the urge to look them up. At the end of the book, there is even a part where kids see pictures of the Easter story and can put them in order chronologically. Also, a DVD is included that uses 3D graphics that look almost like clay figurines to narrate the story of Easter plus a few other New Testament stories. The only thing left out if that the author says Jesus resurrected and showed Himself to women--the women are not named as they are in the Bible. Overall, this is a book that will make readers want to purchase the other Read and Share editions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"50 Athletes over 50" by Don McGrath, PhD

"50 Athletes over 50 Teach Us to Live a Strong, Healthy Life" by Don McGrath, PhD is a great book. It has a wonderful format that quickly introduces readers to what it takes to be an older athlete mentally, physically, and emotionally. Then, it dives right into the excitement with the 50 athletes over 50. There are copious interviews that are written in a question-and-answer layout. Photos of the athletes are included, too, some of which are whimsically amusing. At the end of chapters, there are even questions for the reader to answer with spaces to write in. These questions serve as stepping stones for the reader to get more active and rekindle their inner athletic passions. What makes this book so great is that the 50 athletes are not all famous and well-known. Chances are the readers may have not even heard of one. Still, this makes the book more riveting as readers discover new stories that could be about them some day. Most of the athletes in this book do not do group sports, but the athletic endeavors will impress nonetheless. Athletes of all ages will enjoy this book.

"Tracking My Soul" by William H. Odekirk

"Tracking My Soul: A Philosophical Autobiography" by William H. Odekirk is one behemoth of a book. At close to 500 pages, this book is a lot to get through. The first 160 pages or so is devoted to the author's autobiography. Here, he talks about his family lineage, his wife, his career, his memories, his troubles, and so on. Then, there are poems up until page 200. These cover a myriad of topics and seem to read like a journal. Lastly, there is an "encyclopedia of thoughts" that goes until the end. These range from relationships to religion to beauty and more, and they even have an index for quick look-up. These are written in short snid-bits, and they are separated by breaks in the pages. Some of the words may offend government supporters. The author also makes a lot of cuts at Christianity. He does say that he loves Jesus--just not Christians--but he does not make it explicitly clear that Jesus is the only way to salvation; he is a bit wishy-washy on that, which may put some readers off. Overall, this book is interesting in that it chronicles the life of a man and his thoughts. It may not track his soul, per se, but it comes pretty darn close.

"Good Medicine" by Carol Roberts, MD

"Good Medicine: A Return to Common Sense" by Carol Roberts, MD is definitely one of a kind. It reads like a novel but is actually a non-fiction reference guide for health. There are quotations from famous individuals in the book, as well as medical stories and boldface headings to catch readers' attention. A large portion of the book is designated for nutrition, but other topics are covered. Some less than conventional therapies such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and such are mentioned, too. The advice is profound at places and perturbed at others. The book also mentions sex, which may make readers want to put the book down at times. Other philosophical references to "energy" may put readers off. However, in general, Roberts did a satisfactory job of talking about common sense in medicine and ways to feel better that don't include pill-popping, surgery, and drugs.

"Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are" by Alex and Brett Harris with Elisa Stanford

"Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are" by Alex and Brett Harris with Elisa Stanford is a follow-up to the "Do Hard Things" book the twin boys wrote. The concept was to make "rebolutionaries:" teens that rebelled against low expectations and started a revolution of change amongst young people. This book goes into the nooks and crannies of how to go about doing so. The chapters are divided up nicely and are mostly in a question-and-answer type format that organizes everything. There are occasional stories of "rebolutionaries," personal insights from the authors, and some Bible quotes, but--in general--this book aims at helping teens who are ready to do hard things start out right. It is constantly pushed throughout the book that one should not be prideful and should instead have a humble heart, perpetually giving glory to God. Some of the stories about teens doing extraordinary things are more humanitarian than overtly Christian. but they are inspiring nonetheless. The grammar in the book is excellent, and the only oddities are two instances where there are contradictions (the back cover says the boys wrote "Do Hard Things" when they were eighteen while inside the book it says nineteen & John Moore is written as writing, directing, and producing his own film in one part and then it is written in another that his friend produced it). Overall, this is a great guide for teens looking to make a difference in the world with a face of humility.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"How to Lost a Client" by Becky A. Bartness

"How to Lost a Client" by Becky A. Bartness could have been a phenomenal book if the subject of it were changed. The story is about a middle-aged lawyer that starts her own defense firm in Phoenix. She goes on to represent the leader of a prostitution ring and finds mystery when the ring's previous attorney if found dead. Several facetious new characters emerge to add comedy to the book, and everyone interacts on a humorous level until the murderer is revealed and put to justice. Bartness has a truly excellent style of writing that flows and is easy to read. However, given that there are swear words, a prostitution theme, and several sexually inappropriate parts of the book, this work is sub-par. If Bartness took time to write a lawyer book without such levels of lasciviousness, it would probably be good.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"St. John of the Midfield" by Garasamo Maccagnone

"St. John of the Midfield" by Garasamo Maccagnone is a highly disappointing read. Judging by the title, one would think the book would be about pure religion tied into exciting soccer detail. However, Christian readers that relish soccer are sadly mistaken. This book revolves around a Mafia family and their eccentricities that just so happens to have a boy who can play soccer. Much fighting is written in detail as a former boxer of the Mafia can't control his temper. More disgusting is how the author introduces almost every female character by the size of her bosom; the fact that affairs and other atrocities are described in detail is fodder for such grotesqueness. Most appalling of all is the small bit of religion tied into the book. Midfielders are compared to St. John because he was selfless; that's fine and dandy. Conversely, when the Mafia characters and sexually immoral characters go to church and have religious icons in their house, such hypocrisy makes readers want to tear the pages. (Sure, while one should not judge unless they are without sin, no good Christian wants the name of their sacred religion to be paralleled with what it stands against in such lewd disregard of grace, penance, and, most of all, contrition.) In short, if readers enjoy soccer and are religious, they should not pick up this book for good reason.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Happy to 102" by Kathy Johnson, James Johnson, and Lily Sarafan

"Happy to 102: The Best Kept Secrets to a Long and Happy Life" by Kathy Johnson (PhD, CMC), James Johnson (PhD), and Lily Sarafan (MS) is a surprisingly well-written book. While one may think that it is geared to only an older reading audience, young people will be amazed at how they keep turning the pages. The book sheds light on what young people can do now and what they should do in the future (both for themselves, as well as their older parents or friends). The book discusses nutrition, exercise, mindset, social interaction, and more. A chapter even dives into a Japanese area where many live oer 100 and analyzes why this may be. A key aspect that is repeated numerous times is how older people should live in their own home--not a nursing home. The benefits of hiring a caregiver (one that can even live-in at their home or at an assisted living area) are profusely repeated. This is no surprise since the book is published by a company that is known for selling caregivers and their time. However biases or sales-driven this book may be, the authors make good points. Living with caregivers allows older people to enjoy regular activities in their own home with some help. It also reduces the shame that comes with having a family member have to live-in and take care of them. The list goes on but these authors make some great points that will leave readers of all ages wondering about how long they will have and how long they have the potential to live if they actually do something about it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Is There a Monster Over There?" by Sally O. Lee

"Is There a Monster Over There?" by Sally O. Lee is as cute as cute gets. The story revolves around a little girl named Mabel and her cat Tiffany. Mable, being incredibly afraid of a monster, lives in fear. There are several pages with a monster in different locations of the girl's room, showing Mabel crouching back with her cat. Then, Mabel decides to approach and touch the monster. She finds it is soft and cuddly. Remarkably, she discovers that the monster is even afraid of her. Lastly, the girl, cat, and monster have a tea party together and play. This book has a great message. Unlike books that talk about monsters not existing (little kids won't buy that), this encourages children to face their fears and even befriend monsters using their imagination. The author even made up her own font for this book ("furry monster"). As for the illustrations, they are perfectly fitting for a monster book and drawn in such a style that is hard to put into words; one just has to read the book and instantaneously know the illustrations add to the appropriate mood of the book.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Mother Daughter Duet" by Cheri Fuller & "Dancing With My Father" by Sally Clarkson

"Mother Daughter Duet" by Cheri Fuller is a nice little book for mothers with older daughters. It guides them through why it is often so hard for mothers and daughters to get along as time goes on. From letting go to forgiveness to encouragement and more, this book gives firsthand advice to mothers. There are even personal stories from the authors inserted, as well as perspectives from adult daughters themselves. The book occasionally relies on Biblical teachings, referring to verses while not actually quoting them. This manual is great and sheds some real light on what most women think of as "walking on eggshells." With candid truth and speech, this book is exactly what the title claims it to be.

"Dancing With My Father" by Sally Clarkson is about learning to trust in God like a child. While it is geared more towards adult female readers, male readers will find reassurance in the overall message. Clarkson goes over her personal accounts of failure, prayer, desperation, and salvation. She frequently quotes Scripture, as well as other famous quotes. Each chapter concludes with a series of questions to the reader with space to write responses. There is also a prayer that readers can pray that relates to the theme of each chapter. Clarkson's stories are those pertinent to a middle aged mother, so not everyone will find them riveting. However, her reliance on God and perseverance in faith is admirable. This book is nice for a rainy day when one has nothing to do.

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.