Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Is College Worth It?" by William J. Bennett with David Wilezol

This book is an excellent resource for all young student considering their future plans.  The authors take a good look at our current post-secondary education system and offer some practical advice.  They lay out the black-and-white numbers of tuition and debt, as well as the likelihood of getting a job upon graduation.  What I especially enjoy was how the authors suggested people give a second look at community college, associate degrees, and trade schools.  While these alternatives tend to be looked down upon, the authors demonstrate how they are very lucrative and require great amounts of skill and hard work.  Also interesting was how this book dives into the political direction of many schools and the biases that are taught in some institutions.  While this book gives a list of some schools that they recommend, I must stress that this is just a resource for students and should not be their only reference.  The schools listed in this book are few and do not cover all of them.  While this school put a slight emphasis on evangelical and Christian learning institutions, I was a bit sad they did not include Jewish learning institutions.  After all, Jews highly respect the Tanach (known to Christians as the Old Testament) and are known to have high levels of both intelligence and work ethic in education.   

"The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good" by Peter Greer with Anna Haggard

With all the books out there on charity and "doing good," it was interesting to read one on its apparent dangers.  While this book covers stuff like financial ruin, volunteer betrayal, and family crises, it focuses much more on the heart of the do-gooder.  Readers come to understand that doing good works does not guarantee blessings--Christian karma as the book calls it.  Readers will also grasp how they can be incredibly selfish even when they are serving others.  For instance, if you have a charity organization named after you with your face plastered all over media, pride can start to slip it...if it has not already.  This book was a fun read that held my attention.  What I didn't like so much was one nuance in the book where Pharisees were discussed.  The book gave the impression that the "heavy burdens" the Pharisees placed on people were related to biblical law.  However, historically speaking, the Pharisees pushed man-made tradition on people.  Yeshua (Jesus) promoted the Torah (Matt 5) and did not consider it a burden.  However, I perhaps I am being too harsh.  Very few mainstream Christian teachers know the difference between the Torah and the Talmud.  

"A Simple Change" by Judith Miller

I'm not going to lie--this book started off a bit slow.  However, once I got a good hundred pages in, things started to get really good.  The protagonist is torn as she has several men competing for her attention, the stress of moving to a new place, and the sadness associated with her dying mother.  As a city girl coming to Amish country, the woman does not fit in exactly.  Things get complicated when an unexpected family friend visits her.  Add in the drama of thievery and fires and you've got once suspenseful novel.  This book was full of twists and turns.  Set in the 1800s, there was enough details to understand that time period but not so much detail to make readers want to fall asleep.  I also liked the psychology of this book.  It had a happy ending (surprise, surprise) but was also filled with real-world problems that aren't so fairy-tale.  This includes abusive men, dangers of walking alone, and others.  While the dangers in this book aren't horrifying or graphic, they do help paint a story that is realistic and not just fantasy. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

“Prairie Song” by Mona Modgson

This book is set in the post civil war time period.  The main protagonists are moving across America to venture out west for a brighter future.  One is a widow, while the other is a woman who just abandoned her soon-to-be-husband at the altar.  The drama between the woman and the man she abandoned at the altar could have been played upon, but unfortunately it wasn’t.  The two left on good terms, closing the door on any readers’ expectations for conflict.  A captain has his eye on the widow, but she is cold to him since he delivered the news of her late husband’s death.  A trail hand worker and Miss Cold Feet both think ill of each other and find the other detestable.  However, that doesn’t stay that way for long.  There is also drama when certain characters are accused of stealing and when certain characters are fighting the deadly addiction of alcohol.  What I liked about this book was how it paralleled two love stories.  So many books just focus on one.  My only complaint about this book is the binding.  The margins are not wide enough, so you have to bend the book extra far to read certain parts.  However, overall, this was an entertaining read that held my attention.