Sunday, November 28, 2010

God Loves Single Moms by Teresa Whitehurst

This book was surprisingly good. Not being a [single] mother, there was much I learned. Whitehurst uses quizzes, psychological advice, self-esteem building, stories, and more to convey her various points. Bible verses and prayers are included, as well. There is much emphasis on the single mother bettering herself not only for her own well-being but also for the well-being of her child. Quotations from advocates are boxed, and Whitehurst even cross-references some help from her book that deals with how Jesus would raise / handle children. Relationships with others--including the child's father--are expounded upon, too. For single mothers or anyone with a heart, this book should be read.
Available November 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Granular Patterns" by Igor S. Aranson and Lev S. Tsimring

This book starts of with--surprise, surprise--defining and explaining what granular patterns are. However, the authors get straight to the point and introduce proper vocabulary and theories. The reader is treated as competent enough to follow along, but they never feel as if the book is too slow; the pace is proper. The authors use easy-to-visualize examples to explain concepts. One such is the Brazilian nut effect that the authors explain with--you guessed it--a picture of nuts in a jar alongside glass beads in a jar.

Many applications are discussed. Some are avalanche, bacteria patterns, cell movement under certain conditions, extraterrestrial craters, sand dunes / piles, and more. After the interest is piqued, the math is introduced. It seems as though many of the equations are meant to be fed into a computer, but the authors still introduce what the equations mean for general understanding.

Some other topics discussed include different types of materials for substrates. Periodicity and frequency comes into play, too. Gravity-driven flow is inserted, and the authors admit where there is a theory that is still not quite understood by the scientific granular community. Boundary layers, complex interactions, and movement is touched upon, as well. Some statistics come into play with probability, but readers need not have a background in in to follow along. Experimental and simulated results are compared side-by-side when appropriate.

The appearance of this book is rather nice. The hardcover is not too heavy, being under 500 pages. Also, the green and tan cover with an example of granular patterns conveys precocity without an air of literary arrogance. The pages have a nice glossy feel to them, and the content is black-and-white. Pictures are plentiful, and all diagrams / charts / graphs are explained with proper paragraphs and captions.

The audience for this book struck me as for readers at the research level. This could be undergraduate research programs, graduate school projects, or just research professors are working on. The information given is presented in such a manner that any technical reader will enjoy it for a leisurely read. However, there is enough technical data in this book to be used as a primary source is research. While notations and symbols are explained, not all of the math is. Readers are expected to have a good grasp of vector calculus, differential calculus, and multivariable equations.

While this book can be considered a classical textbook, I feel it is better than that. While it is meant to teach readers about granular patterns, it has a one-up on other textbooks because it is so well presented. Pages fly by and are actually fun--a term not many working scientists and engineers see in texts. Additionally, there is a CD-rom included in the back of the book. It has a plethora (not using the word lightly) of movies. Some are molecular dynamics simulations, whilst others are from experimentalists physically setting up scenarios (evidence is from the black-and-white hands entering the foreground every now and then).

Overall, I have nothing but positive things to say about this book. I've always considered granular patterns to be simply under the scope of materials science. However, I've learned that this topic is very interdisciplinary. It covers computer science, mathematics, environmental science, physics, and--my favorite as an aeronautical engineer--fluid dynamics.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"A Rush of Wings" by Kristen Heitzmann

The back cover's brief synopsis does not do this book justice. There is so much in the plot and characters that readers are immediately sucked into Heitzmann's world. The book starts off with a rich girl running away with a dream of a hawk that haunts her copiously. The narration moves between characters, and readers wonder why the protagonist fled. As she arrives at her new destination, new characters emerge as Noelle catches the admiration of two brothers. Country life is juxtaposed with city life, and horses enter the story, along with painting. Both seek her love and are vastly different. Noelle's ex-fiance also purses her in an effort to find her and get her back. As mysteries unfold with the book's progression, Noelle interacts with the brothers. There is some romance, but nothing is graphic. Female readers are a bit annoyed with Noelle's venerability as a female character, but, after they learn her story, they see her persona fits into the story and is not overtly saying otherwise. Also, albeit a bit cheesy at moments, the twists are unexpected, and there is never a dull or predictable moment. Even if readers skip to the end of the book to read the last line, they'll have the ending wrong if they guessed it. Faith is tied into the book in such a profound way that I will not spoil it. My favorite quote from the book? "She had feared the sky, but it was the ground that broke her" (Heitzmann 174).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christmas at Harrington’s by Melody Carlson

This book did not dazzle me with its cover, as many Christmas books I have come by me tend to be tiredly predictable and dramatic. However, seeing Carlson's name, I figured I'd give the book a try since I've known some of her better works. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the book. The protagonist is actually an ex-con, and the reader is pulled into the mystery and intrigue of her sentence. The reader also ponders the whole "wolf in sheep's clothing" reference. The woman is out of prison when the book starts, and readers follow her on her journey of starting a new life. She ends up working as a Mrs. Santa and makes some new friends. I don't want to spoil more, but I will say this book is a nice Christmas gift that flows well and isn't too long to read.

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

"More Glimpses of Heaven" by Trudy Harris, RN

When I picked up this book, I expected to be blown away by an array of near-death-experiences and literal "glimpses-of-heaven." That's not exactly what I got. After reading the introduction, I realized the author was speaking of heaven as the kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit here on Earth. So, there were more stories of kindness, love, forgiveness, and compassion than all out NDEs. There are a few stories about little children seeing / hearing Jesus and people seeing angels, but most others are just about people dying contently knowing that God loves them. Readers may not like or agree with everything in the book, but the author probably had good intentions. My main criticism is for when the author puts the first story in her book. It is about a dying young wife. Her husband wants her to feel beautiful one last time, so he gives her a bath (cleaned up version I am writing here). The author goes on to say that that is how Jesus loves us. While I know she probably meant that God loves us and wants us to feel beautiful even when we feel ugly, I do not think the analogy was the best. Love is love, but the love of God is not romantic. Again, I am sure she did not mean for it to come out that way, but it just did.

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Angry" by Larua L. Smith

Smith has done it again. I have reviewed one of her other books before and greatly enjoyed it; this one is no different. There is a teenage girl with a crisis that is not too extreme that no one has heard of it. The girl's parents get divorced. Even if readers do not have divorced parents, chances are they know friends that do. The protagonist faces much animosity towards her parents and towards God in her situation. She also dives into her school play to be someone else and escape for a while. I won't ruin the book, but I will say the girl comes to God at the end. Really, what else can be expected from "TH1NK" publishing, anyway? Not everything in the book is Christian, but non-Chrisitan girls reading he book will slowly ease into the character and not feel like she is judged. The cover did not strike me at first, but the book was easy and enjoyable to read.

"The Discipline of Grace" by Jerry Bridges

As an avid lover sheep and book awards, this book immediately caught my eye. Going through it, I was pleasantly surprised. The Bible verses included were very inspirational and pertinent to the point the author was trying to make. Many overarching themes are in the book that growing Christians will find amazing and mature Christians will be reviewing. Either way, they are great for thinking of and encourage thought in all types of Christians. Many quotes are from Protestants, but the author never seems to put down more conservative Catholics. Most of the content of the book is accurate with the Bible and well-versed (no pun intended). Readers may not agree with everything said in context, but the overall theme of the book and tone has a very good set of intentions. Want to read about how grace works, how you can flee temptation, and what becoming holy means? Like books with sheep and book medals on the cover? Pick this book up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Real-life Discipleship" by Jim Putnam

I'm not going to lie--when I first saw this book, I figured I'd gotten myself a pretty cover with some fluff and more of reading what I already knew. Boy was I wrong! This book was very enjoyable and taught me much. Instead of other books that focus on the "stages" that people go through to become Christian (essentially arduous evangelism handbooks), this book focuses on something different. It puts people into groups. There are the spiritually dead and then Christans. Within the Christan group, there are infants, children, young adults, and then parents / adults. The book focuses on how to help each level so they can reach the parent / adult level and disciple others. While other books on evangelism are great, this does not focus on recruiting, because--well--that doesn't always work. Putnam acknowledges the fact that Christians can not control others or sway opinions. As I like to put it, only Jesus can lead others to Jesus. For the nonbelievers, we can lead by example / love and be ready with graceful answers and invitations. If we are asked something we don't know, we should just admit it and promise to get back to the person in a week. For those that already believe but are naive, self-centered, ill-informed, or otherwise lacking, there are ways we can help; this book outlines them. Instead of throwing pamphlets in atheists' faces and shouting turn-or-burn phrases, we should be building up what Christians there are more Christians that really strive to live like Jesus and grow the Church. I could go on and on, but, please, just read this book.

"Don't Waste the Pain" by David Lyons and Linda Lyons Richardson

Like the cover implies, this is a book on suffering. It has a Christian twist, though. In all of the sufferings and hardships written about by the brother and sister, God is intertwined. The Word of God is quoted quite often and in very relevant fashions. Even though the passages are great and the overarching theme has to do with growing through suffering, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. Cancer, depression, death, and other tragedies are described. Since they relate to family and friends that are real and not made up, the stories hit closer to home. Also, there are pictures included of both good times and bad that can pull at readers' heartstrings. Overall, this book has some great messages but definitely is not a book to read on a summer beach.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Amy Inspired" by Bethany Pierce

When I started reading this book, I was immediately sucked in. The characters are real and the tone is purposeful. Essentially, readers are taken into the mind of a thirty-year-old English professor (minus the tenure). She lives with quite a character that is her roommate in an apartment. Love is tied into the story but not in a graphic fashion. There is tension over relationships, but the book is not cheesy because it does not dwell on that. Whether this is a metaphor for how women should not dwell on men is another story. Regardless, the men in the book are always there but do not take up the whole story. Also, Pierce is careful to keep the book real while not making it shameful. In a sense, nothing is sugarcoated, but, at the same time, readers do not feel like the book should be on a Christian d0-not-read-list. Christianity is woven into the story in an honest way through the characters' eyes. There is grief in the story but not in a cliched manner. Women may like this book more than men, but, for the male readers, it will give them a glimpse into the female psyche that is surprisingly accurate. What's great about this book is that the story starts and ends after a while, but you realize that not many physical events happened; yet, you kept turning the pages. This is not easy for all writers to pull off, but Pierce does it. Also, there is a set of discussion questions at the end. As a book reviewer, I could have sped-read this book and still have gotten the gist of what happened. But I didn't and did not want to.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Then Sings My Soul" by Robert Morgan

This special edition book has 150 hymns in it. They are mostly Christmas and Easter songs, with some Thanksgiving and miscellaneous ones thrown in. The actual music is on the left page, and the description and history of the song is one the right page. This includes a Bible verse, which is nice for reflection. While the songs are not necessarily alphabetical, there is an organization to the book and many ways to look up songs both from the front and back of the book. Seeing as how the book is paperback and isn't huge, one needs extra books or some sort of clip to hold the pages down. The music is by no means a drawn out solo, but there is enough to hear the song. Notes for the left and right hand of piano are given. Lyrics are included, too. To test out this book, I went to a piano and played. The songs sound nice. Depending on one's denomination, some readers may only recognize a good portion of the Christmas songs and a few others. Still, the other songs have nice melodies and sincere words. Overall, I recommend this book to musicians--especially pianists--and hope Thomas Nelson offers more music books for review.