Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Twinge" by Leora Krygier

This book is pretty simple. An adopted girl deciding college plans meets a guy in a coffee shop. Pretty ordinary; right? Wrong. Nikki is as messed up as the colleges she makes. With coming of age and questions of identity, her life is spilled upside down when a mysterious guy she dubs The Reader gives her a printout of places to go each day. Taking a risk, she goes there and meets up with him each day. Both awkward in their own way, they cherish each other's company. Readers almost fall off the edges of their seats when they realize why The Reader wants to go to a different store each day. Cultural and friendship issues are briefly gone over, too. As inevitable as the romance is, it is not graphic; still, this book is not suitable for young readers. There are a few swears, and the Lord's name is also taken in vain. The book is riddled with grammatical syntax errors that will hopefully be addressed before publication. At the end of the book, there is not any huge climactic twist. The book just ends with a simple decision. Not many authors can get away with something like that. Readers know the feeling. You finish a book and realize that not much happened, yet you realize you never stopped turning the pages.

"Graceful" by Emily P. Freeman

This book is surprisingly real and candid.  The author works with young women, and--surprise, surprise--writes about real issues that young women face today.  What I particularly liked about this book was that the author classified young women.  We have the Actress, Girl Next Door, Activist, Heroine, Bystander, Judge, Intellectual, and Dreamer.  These classifications have to do with what women are afraid of, what they hold onto, and what they hide behind.  While the titles are mostly self-explanatory, the book goes into more detail.  Freeman analyzes the types of masks that young women all wear.  She gives real-life advice and shares stories that are embarrassing and shameful.  However, she leaves no detail out and holds nothing back.  Bible verses are quoted every now and then, and the theme of finding value in Christ is reiterated over and over again.  This book is a great read for young women.  It is a great book for women to read in a group as they each identify which "mask" they wear and how to remove it.      

"Courting Cate" by Leslie Gould

This is a difficult review to write.  There is a huge pro and a huge con.  The pro is that this book is a page-turner.  It holds your attention so you keep reading and reading without getting bored.  However, the con is that the book reads too much like a story.  What I mean is that I didn't find the story believable.  I'm not saying the story is impossible--I'm sure it's possible for this series of events to unfold in real life.  However, as I saw it, it was all too made-up, so to speak.  The protagonist Cate is a melancholy "shrew" who ends up falling for Pete.  Pete is the "new guy in town" who pursues Cate, seems to drift away, and then--surprise, surprise--finds his happily ever after with Cate at the end.  That aside, there were great twists and turns in the book.  Some plot events were highly unexpected.  Still, I felt I was reading a fairy-tale of sorts.  That said, this book is very well written.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Cheaper, Better, Faster" by Mary Hunt

This book that boasts of "over 2000 tips and tricks to save you time and money every day" immediately caught my eye.  But, I'm not going to lie--when I got it in the mail and saw how thick it was, I recoiled a bit.  Because, let's face it, no one likes a nearly 400 page non-fiction book.  However, I was pleasantly surprised as I started to read the book.  It is very well-organized both by category and alphabetical order.  Plus, each "tip" is quite short.  So, it's easy to flip through this book and find what you need quickly.  The format is double column with bold titles to make it easy to find things.  There are tips on everything from cleaning to travel to cars to shopping.  I like this book so much.  It will come in handy for me tons.  The section for moms and children may not be applicable to me, but the other sections certainly are!  This book has got something for everyone.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Quiet" by Susan Cain

As a reserved book-worm (I am a book reviewer aren't I?), I was eager to read this book.  Written with  precise detail and flowing stories, this book is rather engaging.  While it seems to be a gargantuan book, it's really not that long (the "notes" section takes up a sizable chunk of pages).  Each chapter begins with a fun quote.  While this book gets scientific at times, readers do not need to be psychology experts to follow the author--things are well explained, and terms are defined.  The book talks about various types of relationships and environments, from workplaces to marriages to child-rearing and more.  I like how personal profiles are given in the chapters.  This way, readers can understand more about how introversion plays out in the real life.  So, everyone has something they can learn from this book.  Contrary to popular belief, this is not just a self-help book for introverts.  Extroverts can learn much from this book.  What I liked in this book also was the few quizzes it had to determine your own level of introversion / extroversion and other psychological / behavioral characteristics.  I also enjoyed how Cain dispelled some myths, from erroneous introversion myths to erroneous portrayals of the introverted Moses in major motion pictures.  There is even added bonus material in the back of the book, which I won't spoil.  For those who want to look up specific things, an index is included as well.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"20,000 Days and Counting" by Robert D. Smith

This is a nice self-help book about making each day count.  The chapters are very short, and some pages are devoted to just a quote.  With around 100 pages, this leads to a very short book that can be conquered in as little as a day or just 5 minutes every day if you like to spread out your reading.  There was a big theme of "live as if you would die tomorrow" and "make each day count."  The themes in this book were great.  However--here comes the however--I do not think this book is worth the $14.99 which it retails for.  While this book boasts of being a "quick read," it lacks substantial information to make for a great reference book.  Also, the main ideas found in this book can be found on any self-help site.  This book is fun and well-written, but I do not think it's worth the cost.  That's just my opinion.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence" by Nehemia Gordon

This book focuses on the Name of God (YHWH) but goes in several directions.  The author's main motivation for researching the Name YHWH stemmed from the priestly blessing (see Numbers 6).  As a Karaite Jew raised by an Orthodox father, Gordon always used "Adonay" (means Lord in Hebrew) instead of YHWH when reciting the blessing.  When Gordon's curiosity is piqued, he makes it his mission to find out more about the Name YHWH and tell others about it.

One thing I like about Gordon's books is the feeling of adventure in the pages when the author visits historical sites in Israel.  Raw emotion leaks through the book as the author visits sites that hold both Biblical significance and personal significance.  The book also quotes Talmud and other extra-biblical rabbinical writings.  Some of the history Gordon digs up is fascinating.  All of his unusual facts are referenced clearly for one to verify.  I learned so many new facts, which I won't spoil for you.

The book has many parts that discuss the background of the Name YHWH in the Bible.  Arguments are very carefully weaved.  Gordon uses the Hebrew Bible to support how saying YHWH is fine and even encouraged in Scripture.  He even exposes the extreme rabbinical views that resulted in a rabbi being burned alive in a Torah scroll for trying to say YHWH out loud.  Gordon also goes into the idea of YHWH blessing us like a Father.  The beginning of the book has some great information about mixed worship in the Hebrew Bible and how corruption slowly crept into Judaism.  This was fascinating.  From golden calves in the Bible to conflicting rabbinical decrees, Gordon exposes the sad truth of mixed worship.  The book went so far to say that blindly accepting any teaching (rabbinical or otherwise) without first consulting the Hebrew Bible is as bad as idolatry (making a teacher an idol that is seen as infallible and never questioned). 

I think both Jews and Christians could benefit from this book.  The book has a lot of history and Jewish insight that everyone can learn from.  Anecdotes thrown in every now and then are funny (e.g.- author says his friend whines like a little girl at one point).  However, some stories are not so funny.  There are stories in the book how a "Christian" told Nehemia that him and all other Jews are "going to hell" because they "have no grace."  Stories like these break my heart.  As a Messianic, I do trust in Yeshua for my salvation.  However, I do not tell others they are going to hell.  I have no idea where others go when they die.  That is not my job--YHWH alone will judge everyone, not me.  But, there will always be mean, ignorant people in the world.

I should note that this book uses the pronunciation Yehovah.  There is a note about how other pronunciations are used by others and that everyone should just do their best with what information they have.  Essentially, if we mess up the pronunciation of YHWH, God understands that we just tried out best.  A point I totally agreed with is that it's better to try to pronounce YHWH and maybe mess up a bit as opposed to correctly pronounce something that's not YHWH's Name.