Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Vexation" by Elicia Clegg

This book is deeply disturbing and downright creepy. Christian readers should just plain avoid it, for it is nothing like what Philippians 4:8 says we should think about. The word devil is spoken of one too many times in just the first chapter. Audaciously enough, it is even capitalized. There are even swear words--even the big f-one--in the first chapter. The book is about a messed up girl who got kidnapped, went through a nut house, and then tried in vain to reenter society. The story is not redemptive, and it should just be pushed aside.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Living With Evolution or Dying Without It" by Koratsky

As a self-proclaimed Christian, your first guess is right--I don't believe in evolution. However, I believe reading Koratsky's book did me some good. After 600+ pages of eyelid drooping detail, I still think evolution is a bunch of hooey and fervently adhere to my creationist viewpoint. Hooray.

In this book, evolution is discussed from the tiniest of creatures to the biggest. Large spans of history are covered, and there is even an expandable guide in the back that has eras and such. After going through the science-y part (which anyone who has taken high school biology, chemistry, and earth science can understand), the people part comes in.

Religion is discussed, as many world views are given from way back to the current age. Oddly, Koratsky does not openly trash religions. He merely speaks about them as if they are part of history. What's sad to me is that he does not recognize that Christianity is the only way. Then again, from an evolutionist, what was I expecting anyway, right?

From business to war to the difference between males and females, this brick of a book covers it all. Given the immense nature of the book, Koratky slips in thoughts about some people having more worth than others and how gender equality is nonsense. Overall, this book is as riveting as a history textbook but should not be taken seriously.

"The Stress Effect" by Henry Thompson

Riveting to say the least, Thompson's book delivers. He takes seemingly common sense ideas and makes them come alive. Sure, any nincompoop with half a brain knows stress makes people not act as they should and that things like nutrition and sleep aid stress. Big whoop. What is marvelous is how this book makes those ideas come to life and not seem boring. Interesting is how many of the examples are of pilots, not just CEOs. Many psychological diagrams are given for the ease of the reader's understanding, too. Emotional intelligence and qualities of leaders are highly expounded upon.

"Mannie's Diet and Enzyme Formula" by Barlin and Brooks

Written as a nutritional guide, this book delves deep into the science of eating. More relevant to those with diseases like Crohn's, this book can be used by anyone looking to get healthier and decrease digestive pain. Enzymes are explained, measurements are given, and there are even tips on how to cook certain foods. Healthy fast food alternative restaurants are listed, as well as what to do to eat healthy in a foreign nation. Although well researched and organized, the book could do with some pictures. Also, 77 pages of references is a bit much.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Wunschkind" by Liesel Appel

The tale of a German girl is told in sad detail. With the rise of Hitler, her parents planned her to be a gift to him. She didn't actually meet or interact with Hitler. Rather, her existence was made so her parents could make yet another faithful German of Hitler's montage. When she finally realizes this fact, added to what her parents actually think, she is flabbergasted and in a state of consternation. This book offers a great look at a difficult coming of age. Religion is mentioned, and Christians are labeled as hypocrites with no good example to counteract them. Readers are left thinking the girl is agnostic, unfortunately. However, seeing as how the book is published by a company called Grateful Steps with crosses in the insignia, who knows what to think?

"What Did Jesus Say?"

Best as a reference guide, this book has printed on tabs of alphabet letters for easy look up of topics. Each one starts with a description, followed by Bible verses, and finally a synopsis. Each pages has at least one picture. The pictures are black-and-white and do not seem contemporary. Some Bible verses are boxed off on the sides. Most of the verses are from the New Testament. The few--and I emphasize few--Old Testament quotations are predominantly from Psalms and Proverbs. Many stories are repeated for different topics. Given this redundant nature, the book would be best for youngsters without much Bible knowledge that will benefit from it. In terms of Biblical advice, this book leaves out a lot but would be useful for young ones just beginning to learn about who Jesus is and what He did.

"Green Pieces" by Drew Aquilina

A compilation of cartoons, these strips are organized in such a fashion that they actually tell a story and have some sort of order. The four parts of the book--spring, summer, fall, and winter--make it easy for the book to be read in sections. The main characters are a turtle, dragonfly, frog, and raccoon. However, other animals appear [like rabbits, deer, squirrels, and birds]. Every now and then, hard science facts will appear to teach the reader something about nature. Other bits of information are more subtle (like hibernation and predator / prey interactions). While cute and adorable, some things that buyers should know before giving this to children are as follows: smoking depicted by animal, animals pecking on the lips, and evolution mentioned. All in all, this series is facetious.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Hot" by Laura L. Smith

Flash back to high school. Lindsey has killer looks, and a hockey star has caught her eye. She makes it her mission to get his attention, and--surprise, surprise--she does. As their relationship progresses, things escalate between them. Lindsey must choose between God and the things of this world. A secret about her best friend trumps readers. Family problems at home that surface also make the story believable and have the reader lost in Smith's world. I'm not going to spoil this book, but what I will say is that what makes this book different is that it has a Christian perspective and Lindsey's beau is actually genuinely in love with her. He isn't just some jerk looking to use her; he really wants to be with her forever. This makes the impact of Lindsey's decisions unpredictable and tangible to the reader. Smith has done quite a job building up the beau's character. This book is short, but it goes by slowly, as if Smith carefully chooses each word. The romance is not at all graphic, but the emotion is real. "I need Noah right now like a magazine needs a cover girl" (Smith 106). The ending will leave readers satisfied but also pondering Lindsey's future with Noah.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"One Touch from the Maker" by Pat W. Kirk

A compilation of short stories, this book aims to show the incredible power of God. Many miracles are given in the pages. Some are as extreme as saving lives. Others are just about God putting someone in the right place at the right time. The Bible is quoted every now and then. There are more references to God than Jesus, but this is a Christian book. The second edition has more stories in it. What's fantastic is that some stories are not about fervently religious people getting exactly what they pray for. Some are about unanswered prayers, and some are about non-believers being met by God right where they are. Each retelling is only a few pages, followed by a short bio of the writer(s). This would make a nice gift to any who think they have a hopeless situation, for they will see how God makes His mark on the world, one miracle at a time.

"Hanging by the Thread" by Donald Anderson

Scary to some degree, this book is about a cult who wish to overthrow the government. This has great fiscal implications--or at least, the author likes to focus on the economics. Like any story with a group of villains, someone is in the way. The "good guy" knows what is going on, and the back-and-forth begins. There are a lot of fast scenes. Most chapters include times and locations to give the book a spy feel. The economics are explained, but appendices in the back clear up any confusion. The actual book has the American flag a bit faded on the cover.

"Photographs and Memories" by Barbara Fifield

More suited for an older audience, this book has American drama. Parents are getting older, siblings are using drugs, couples argue, etc. The protagonist coerces her husband into helping her parents elude her sibling's ploys. When a death occurs, the emotion in the book is tangible. While the protagonist tries to cope, another death occurs. Real life issues come to life in this book, but it is overtly depressing. The book does flow, and the writing skills are evident, on the plus side.

"Mara's Flowery Arrows" by Siam's Unnamed

This story takes place in the past and the future--it bounces around a lot. Basically, a royal boy is murdered and a servant is the prime suspect. Like a true Law and Order mystery, the servant goes about trying to find who really killed the royal boy. Government unrest between rulers is also described. The ending the bridges the many gaps in the story seems contemporary amidst the historical themes. Poetry and cryptology included make the book entertaining. The author even includes references for historical tidbits. Readers may have to reread segments of this book to keep up with the plot.

"The Souls of the Fire Dragon" by John Wrieden

Oddly reminiscent of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," this book centers around an unlikely hero. Dubbed as being at the right man in the wrong place, he is swept up into a fantastical adventure. Assisted by dragons, the protagonist must help defeat evil. There are references to power--which may or may not allude to actual government systems--and corruption. It is a bit creepy when the dragon is described as seductive, though. The book is more dialog than narration, so it feels very fast paced.

"Prophet of the Pentacle" by Marilyn D. Privratsky

This book reads like an old mythology story. Evil is captured and imprisoned. Then, some unknowing nitwit accidentally releases it and dooms life as we know it. The forces of good must rally up and train to fight evil and destroy it for good. There are many lords and prophets and creepy adages that are akin to incantations. While just to be taken as a story, one hopes that it is meant for pure entertainment and no sort of animistic propaganda. This book is very short--under fifty pages--and can be read on a train ride.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor" by Jim Sutton and Sagar Nigwekar

Best to be used as a reference, this book does exactly what it says it will and then some. For each condition / disease, there is a brief description of what it is. This is given in simple terms so that even the most uneducated patient can comprehend them. Then, there is a list of five questions to ask. After that, there are a few other important questions that may be asked in secondary importance. At the beginning of the book, there are introductions on the health care industry and how this book should be used--in addition to some doctor visit tips and examples of dialogs between doctor and patient. The only thing that must be noted is that none of the questions in the book are answered. They serve as guides, and it is up to the reader to actually ask their doctor questions and find the answers.

"Public Schools Are Archaic" by MR Ussery and SR Pargman (Editor)

The organization and grammar in the book is excellent. Oftentimes, authors neglect to hire editors. Ussery made a good choice with his. What's great about this book is that it tries to not offend. In the beginning, Ussery says he means no offense to schoolteachers and even says he acknowledges all the hard work they do. Diving into the prose, Ussery discusses what's wrong with our school systems (both public and private) and how they don't always benefit children on the individual scale to cater to their specific learning needs. Examples from the air force are compared to Ussery's idyll. While riveting in its detail and highly interesting, what's sad about thus book is that it is obvious that there is not going to be some huge educational reform just yet. Maybe some day, yes. But for now, things will most likely stay the same for at least a few years. Besides that sad realization, this book is engaging if not a bit pushy.

"Body Parts" by Janet Cameron Hoult

This is a collection of poems about aging. With a simple wooden body spewed on the cover, readers are not ready for the candid shock that comes in the pages. Details of changing body parts are interspersed among what can only be assumed to be anecdotes. A bit perverse, the author even mentions ogling younger counterparts in inappropriate fashions. For the older reader that may get this as a book, they will most likely be depressed and offended. If anything, this book could pass as a joke or prank given to someone else. However, as a sincere gift, it may not be the best choice.

"Managing Your Stress in Difficult Times" by Jerry Teplitz

Like a pretty flower with holes missing from bug bites, this book falls short of excellence. The positive idea of managing stress is providential. Tips on exercise, nutrition, optimism, and more are encouraging. Facial massages and yoga poses are interesting, as well. Meditation tips are thorough, and relaxation techniques are actually helpful. What is creepy that some pictures are naked drawings of people. While they are not 100% detail, there is enough to make it not suitable for younger readers. I see no reason why charcoal art pictures of people equip with butt cracks and other details can not be replaced with more appropriate cartoon silhouettes that leave such details out. Also, the last chapter involves using--um, er--relations to reduce stress. Never mind that partners [and not spouses] are discussed (eye roll). What is disgusting is the promotion of perverse fornication for stress relief with more repulsing pictures. Yuck!

"Wrinkles, Waistlines, and Wet Pants" by Jeanne Kraus and illustrated by Diana Arneson

One may glean from this book that it is a collection of funny stories for an older audience. However, for older readers, an unexpected surprise will come that is not very pleasant. From just depressing to downright unpleasant, this book has it all. While some aspects may be meant to be taken in jest, there is no mistaking that anyone who receives this book better have a twisted sense of humor--or else, they will be greatly upset upon receiving this gift. Certain stories are perverse to the point that I am ashamed to even write them down. Also, changing bodies and bodily functions are discussed with candid humor that may not bide well with those who actually have the same issues. Swear words are included, too. Overall, this book does not do justice to the older generation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"God's Promises for Girls" by Jack Countryman and Amy Parker

Sweet as a batch of cupcakes, this book delivers what its title decrees. Instead of concrete chapters, each left and right page holds a lesson for girls. There is a title, a picture, a short poem, and a collection of relevant Bible verses. The illustration are adorable and display various acts of kindness and good behavior. While girls are depicted in dresses and oftentimes with dolls, readers do not get a sense of pigeonholing. Rather, they get a sense that girls are portrayed as princesses--God's princesses. This book will get little girls excited about the Bible. The glossy pages and short nature of this book will prepare girls for the larger size and depth of the actual Bible.

"The Seeker" by Ann H. Gabhart

Amish fiction is becoming all too popular these days. However, books that delve into the Shaker tradition are few. In this book, the female protagonist is set to marry her fiance. Plans change when her soon-to-be husband decides to join the Shakers. The woman reluctantly joins this sect. Her heart is torn between men when a non-Shaker that is an illustrator for "Harper's" draws her and...I'm not ruining it for you. Anyway, she is immersed in the Shaker culture, and the reader learns about their beliefs and customs (in addition to the introduction into what the Shakers are that precedes chapter one). Letters are exchanged between characters and add emotion to the prose. With the Civil War going on, more details are added. At times, this book is a bit slow, but it seems as though it would appeal to history buffs that relish small details.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

"So Over It" by Stephanie Morrill

This is the third book in the Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. It centers around a born again teenage girl that leaves behind her honky-tonk life for one where she tries to lead a godly life. However, she still has boy issues. Characters from the previous books are involved with brief recaps of their significance. The bulk of the book revolves around Skylar and her several suitors. In this book, she goes to Hawaii over the summer and meets more boys. A sister with her own child out of wedlock adds to the drama. All in all, this is a typical teenage book for girls about relationships. It involves some romance and drugs so is not suitable for younger readers. While Bible verses are not overtly quoted, the reader gleans that Skylar wants to be a better Christian. While she still has a long way to go, she is a better role model than most teenage protagonists that don't even acknowledge God.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Escaping the Hezbollah" by Pola Muzyka

A sticker across this book deems it the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year, and, after a few chapters, it is clear why. It is the story of an American Iranian Christian smuggled into the Hezbollah Muslim extremist terrorist group. Faced with decrepit conditions and those of a different faith, he struggles. God keeps him alive while his mind lingers back to the woman he loves--his princess, as he likes to think of her. The story is tiredly predictable. Readers know he will escape and be reunited with his love. The magic lies in the storytelling, the richness of the characters, and the unabashed historical candor with which the author uses that makes the reader keep turning the pages.

"Staying Fit After 60" by Calvin Hill

Geared at older audiences, this book is all about staying fit in one's later years. Poems are included about personal life reflection as well as just unusual aging. Personal history from the author is given, as well as a candid doctor's note that was photocopied in. Advice on vitality, medicine, fitness, and overall optimism is given. Towards the end of the book are the actual calisthenics with cute cartoon diagrams. While the book is nice and sends forth a good message, it is not written by a doctor / nutritionist, and most of the exercises seem to assume the elderly person is already somewhat fit. For example, some floor exercises are shown. However, not every man or woman over sixty can get on their hands and knees easily for exercise, especially those with mobility issues.

“Iron Butterflies” by Birute Regine

This book boasts of being full of women transforming themselves and the world. Very well written, the grammar and syntax is immaculate. With rich history and first-person accounts, feminism leaps off the pages. However, like most women’s studies books, this one takes it a bit too far and falls short all at the same time. While there are some stories from successful doctors and artists, there is no emphasis on STEM women (science, technology, engineering, and math). Also, Regine goes berserk when she claims the Bible is sexist. She quotes a verse about women obeying husbands yet does not reference quotes about men honoring women or even the fact that the first people the resurrected Jesus appeared to were women. Also, she goes on to say how it is unfair that women can not be priests yet the concept of nunnery is not even considered an option. There are many references to goddesses of ancient times as well as pagan adages. Whether or not these are taken as just demonstrative phrases or the true beliefs of the author and her interviewees is yet to be seen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Courting Morrow Little" by Laura Frantz

This book has an unmistakable charm about it. Set in the time of Lewis and Clark out on the American frontier, Morrow Little lives a troubled life. Although many men ask for her hand in marriage, none really catch her eye. The fact that a Native American killed her mother and sister whilst kidnapping her brother does not help her spirits. Eventually, Morrow finds her true love, marries, and has children. The romance is not at all graphic. Mentionings of nursing may upset the stomachs of some readers. Morrow is a typical bag of estrogen, always crying and sewing. Still, the reader does not feel Frantz is stereotyping; back then, that's just how most women were. Also, the fact that smoking and drinking are taken so lightly--and even considered for medicinal purposes--enhances the true feel of the time and place [no matter how ignorant the people were]. Christian morals are given, as are some unquoted Bible verses. The notion of forgiveness is really expounded upon. Engrossed in the book, readers realize the woman on the cover does not quite resemble the Morrow described. Nonetheless, this is an engrossing romance novel for those that like sappy stories with Native American adventure and suspense.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"The Faith Dare" by Debbie Alsdorf

While many books and products claim they can make you lose weight in 30 days, few project "30 days to Live Your Life to the Fullest." And that's just what Alsdorf's book says. Entitled "The Faith Dare," one may wonder what's so ominous and daring as faith. I mean, read the Bible every now and then, chat up with some church girlfriends, and you're good; right? Wrong. Alsdorf dares women to really live like Christ. Some of the simple yet profoundly hard concepts like loving one's enemies, learning to forgive, and trusting fully in God are expounded upon. Alsdorf occasionally uses some examples from her own life, but she keeps situations general enough so the average woman can relate to them. There are four parts [excluding introduction and conclusion] to this book. The first deals with defining faith and trials; the second deals with having a personal relationship with God; the third deals with surrendering the self; and the fourth deals with how to interact with others. Each devotional starts with a Bible verse, a story / explanation, praise verses and truth verses. Then, another explanation / relation to life is given, followed by the dare of the day, a space for prompted journaling, a prayer, a final verse, and an adage on belief. As a primarily Christian book reviewer, I get plenty of devotionals. This one really resonated with me and applied to my own life. At first, I thought the cover was a bit plain. Once done with the book, I realized its simple picture of joy reflected my own soul.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Touching the Clouds" by Bonnie Leon

This book had parts I greatly liked and disliked. First off, as an aeronautical engineer, I was biased towards any book that involves an adventurous female pilot. While the flying descriptions brought me a feel of nostalgia, they left something to be desired for the technical reader in me; also, some simple flight mechanics were not expounded upon for those who may not be familiar with flying. The writing itself was somewhat dry, and the real suspense came a good two-thirds of the way into the book. As for the romance, it is a good PG rated and not graphic. The book is suitable for all readers, but younger ones should be cautioned against one action of harassment in the book. The religion in the book is subtle, with a Bible verse or two juxtaposed against the wonder of God's creation. Those who are literary inclined may be annoyed when sentences that start with "I wonder why" end with question marks. All in all, the book was nice with a few slow parts. Had I not been a flight enthusiast, I may have plain (no pun intended) put the book down.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Perfectly Dateless: A Universally Misunderstood Novel" by Kristin Billerbeck

This book is a bit slow in the beginning, and--to be honest--a bit cliched. However, Billerbeck works her magic and makes the pages keep turning once engrossed in the story (this happens after the first few chapters). In the end, there are some great messages and realizations for women--especially young girls--that make the book worthwhile. First off, there's the notion that the guy women peg as mister perfect may not be so perfect after all. He may not be how we envisioned he'd be...even if we've known who he was for a few years. The next lesson is that God puts your soul mate in your life on His time. It may not even be someone you expect or someone you'd pick yourself. Another interesting lesson is that guys will and will not like women regardless of how the women think they appear--that's just how it is. This book reminds me of Twilight in the sense that there are some plot holes and cheesy moments that don't make sense, but women still identify with the characters and lose themselves in the story. The protagonist is a sheltered Christian teen trying to get a prom date. She is forced to dress very conservatively, and has a victimized high school reputation. At the very end of this book, women will rest assured, knowing that boyfriend or no boyfriend, God loves them above all. I won't spoil the ending, but readers will be unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised at how the author ends a predictable story.