Friday, November 28, 2014

"Style Stalking" by Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi

Adorably eclectic, this book covers various fashion styles with colorful pictures and tips.  From metallic to denim to black to girly to sporty to "ugly pretty"--that's a first for me!--this book has it all.  There are question and answer sections where famous stylists are consulted.  There is even advice and examples for how to take a single item (a shirt, skirt, pant, etc) and wear it 3 different ways.  What I really liked was how this book featured all different types of women.  There were young girls and older women, skinny girls and more full-figured women, and all types of ethnicity represented.  No matter how old you are, how thick you are, or what race you are, you will find someone like you in this book.  I should also note that this book is unique from other fashion books in that it doesn't just focus on clothing but also notes accessories and shoes.    

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Fun with Tea" by Babette Donaldson

This cute little book is great for readers of all ages.  It is aimed at children, but--come on!--who wouldn't want to play with tea puzzles, relax with coloring tea kettles, and learn some new tea songs?  For the musically inclined, there is even sheet music to play.  I particularly enjoyed this because I play several instruments.  Just having catchy lyrics is not enough; I want to hear the rhythm.  There are inspirational quotes, places for journaling, drawing prompts, arts and crafts projects, and more.  What's also really fun is that there are cut-outs ready for use.  There's even instructions for making a traditional paper tea lantern, which was nice.  The games included can be a bit silly, but they are fun and would make great ice-breakers for older people.  The recipes included in this book are easy yet delectable, too.  Overall, this book is a must-have.  It's both extremely fun and extremely practical.   

"The Everything Healthy Tea Book" by Babette Donaldson

Part of the EVERYTHING series, this book gives ready a quick go-to reference for all things tea.  From tips to facts to medical warnings to questions / answers to myths, this book covers it all.  Historical background on tea is provided, along with some accompanying fun stories.  Chemical compounds and medical jargon are there for the advanced, along with simpler terms for the lay reader.  Hot tea, cold tea, bagged tea, loose-leaf tea, types of tea leaves, and so much more are explained.  There is even a section on tools needed for tea, as well as storage to keep you tea lasting long.  Something I have not seen in other tea books, which really caught my attention, was the section on how to grow and cultivate your own tea leaves from flowers.  This was really fascinating and--to my surprise--not all that difficult.  Maybe I will make my own garden and harvest my own tea some day!  I also greatly enjoyed the unique section on baking with tea and making beauty treatments with tea.  I had no idea that moist tea bags could be held for ten minutes over a blemish to reduce swelling and promote healing.  I want to start using tea as toner, too, since it's way cheaper than product.  If you want info on how to drink tea and which to buy, you can find that almost anywhere.  But if you want the real scoop on EVERYTHING about tea, you'll find it all here.  The things I read were so surprising and caught me so off guard, I am glad I got this book!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Emma Lea's First Tea Ceremony" by Babette Donaldson

Culturally enticing and unique, this book will teach readers of all ages about Japanese tea ceremonies.  Emma Lea has a tea party with her friend Sam.  His family teaches Emma Lea and her mother about the intricacies of Japanese tea.  Emma Lea gets a beautiful traditional garment and is involved in the tea ceremony--which is explained so readers may learn about it.  Sam, Emma Lea's friend, points out that tea is for men and warriors and boys...not just women and girls.  New vocabulary is introduced to youngsters as they experience the meaning of words like tranquility and peace.  The illustrations are also beautifully painted, from the Japanese tea room to the authentic gardens.  Also included at the end of the book is a wonderful tea cook recipe based off of Japanese tradition.  This is a great book for learning, and it would easily make a great book report project on the culture of Japan.

"Emma Lea's Tea With Daddy" by Babette Donaldson

Emma Lea wants to have some one-on-one time with her father.  Trouble is, Dad is busy with chores.  Emma Lea doesn't fuss or cry or complain.  Rather, she sets a good example for other children by spending time preparing the tea party while her father completes his chores.  Emma Lea uses a blunt knife to cut fruit and make simple sandwiches.  She prepares the kettle but waits for her father to ignite the stove fire.  This is another great example for children to follow in terms of safety.  When all is said and done, Emma Lea and her father enjoy a special time of togetherness that was well worth the wait.  They don't dawdle but rather talk about what's been going on in their life.  Focusing on patience and family time, this book is great for life lessons.  Also included at the end of this wonderfully illustrated book is an easy recipe for tea cookies.

"Emma Lea's Magic Teapot" by Babette Donaldson

Adorably written and illustrated, this book is a great bedtime story.  Emma Lea has a magic teapot.  When she rubs it, her grandmother comes out to grant wishes.  Emma Lea thinks it's just a dream and silliness until her wishes begin to come true.  First she wishes for her mother to cook crepes.  Then she wishes to make amends with her friend.  Then she wishes to sing at school.  All these wishes come true, but her father reminds her that Emma Lea is the special one, not the teapot.  More happiness ensues as Emma Lea gets a visit from her grandparents and receives a brand new puppy.  Family time is emphasized in this book, as well as resolving conflict with friends and embracing inner confidence.  The teddy bear's input is also cutely included from time to time.  Overall, this is a very nice book that will remind us all that we can all make the choice to add the magic of friendship and kindness and togetherness to others.

"Emma Lea's First Tea Party" by Babette Donaldson

Readers are introduced to young, polite Emma Lea.  She likes teddy bears, her family, and tea.  Invited to her very first tea party--also a birthday party for her grandmother--has her all excited.  However, matters become sullen when Emma Lea realizes she is secluded to the kiddie table.  Forlorn and upset, she runs away.  Her grandfather finds her, and they have their own private tea party.  Eventually, the grandmother finds out what happened and invites both Emma Lea and her husband to the tea party.  This book has a theme of inclusion.  At the end of the story, both the young, as well as the male are a part of the tea festivities.  Children will learn a good lesson about not making others feel left other.  They will also learn about conflict and family resolution.  The hardcover book is beautifully illustrated with great watercolors.  This is an excellent book to read over and over with friends.  

"Start Your Own Family Tea Time" by Babette Donaldson

This short booklet is a must-have for anyone who is uncertain what the fuss is about with tea.  Don't understand why tea is important?  Not sure where to start?  Not sure how to get friends and family involved?  This book covers it all.  Additionally, this book is not just the author's perspective.  Sprinkled throughout the pages are opinions from famous tea experts, as well as ordinary people.  Men and women, parents and children all have their say.  Photos are included, too.  This book is geared towards all types of people, and I enjoyed how there were writings and photos of all types of ethnicity represented.  Budgeting is also considered as tips for saving money are included.  Ideas for crafts and cooking are inside too.  Overall, this is a nice quick reference guide for all things tea. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Keepers of the Covenant" by Lynn Austin

This sequel to Lynn's "Return to Me" is a great book but not as phenomenal as the first.  Still, even for readers who have not read "Return to Me," no details will be missed, and there will be no confusion.  This book starts with the story of Esther and goes through a generation of lives.  There is Ezra the priest who is called to move Jews to Jerusalem and eventually govern a rebellious people in ways he could never imagine.  There is Reuben, a young boy who loses his father in an apartheid against Hebrews.  His life spirals out of control as he strays from the God who took everything away from him.  There is Amina, a crippled Gentile who hates her life and is beaten by her father and uncles.  There is Devorah, a woman who is married to the love of her life but must choose what to do when circumstances turn her world upside down.  Warriors, potters, priests, thieves, weavers and more come together as we see how individuals view the curses and blessings God bestows upon His people.  The fine line between discipline and grace is discussed as real-life characters struggle to obey the Torah.  Politics play a part too as God's chosen people must bend to the edicts of the Persian king.  True love and false love are played out too as hearts dance the dance of destiny.  Great book.

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Life on the Family Farm" by Tom Heck

A compilation of short stories a few pages each, this book is nice for someone who is short on time.  You can pick this book up to read a quick tale and then put it away for months.  When you pick it up, you won't have to worry about remembering characters or events since each story is unique.  Many of the stories revolve around farm animals, tractors, the dairy business, family lessons, and such.  My personal favorites are the animal stores, especially the one where cows play with fish in their water bins in a cute fashion.  There are also stories of hunting and trapping animals.  They are not written in graphic detail, but there is a photo of a skinned fox included.  There is also a story of the author overcoming pornography.  For these reasons, I would not suggest this as a book suitable for very young readers.  Additionally, it should be noted that this book has Christian undertones.

The blog tour page for Life on the Family Farm is at:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor" by Katariina Rosenblatt and Cecil Murphey

Starting with Katariina's childhood, this book tells a true story about how a girl was forced to become a woman far too early.  We sit with her at the hotel pool while her mom works.  We feel the loneliness.  We fall for the smooth-talking woman who promises to be her friend.  Then reality sets in.  Katariina is lured into child trafficking.  She is forced to sleep with numerous men.  She is beaten and force-fed drugs.  On more than one occasion, people try to murder Katariina.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Readers will discover how Katariina got out of her personal hell, how she bettered herself, and the work she does now.  What's also fascinating is the picture of family life in the book.  Katariina does not shy away from discussing her troubled parents, children, and even ex-husband.  This book is brutally raw and honest.  At the end of the book, there are tips for helping vulnerable victims and even who to contact about freeing children from sex slavery.  This book is not suitable for young readers due to the mature nature.  Additionally, there are Christian undertones in the book.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Playing by Heart" by Anne Mateer

This fascinating story follows a woman with a passion for music and a drive for mathematics.  Her love of music comes from her deceased mother, whereas her love of music comes from her dying father.  The wish of both Lucy and her father is for her to become the first woman PhD in Oaklahoma.  With a teaching scholarship in place to make that happen, Lucy is good to go.  That is, until life happens and she must temporarily leave her position.  Worst of all, she must teach girls' basketball, which she has neither interest not knowledge in.  The boys' basketball coach at the high school is Chet.  Chet's life experiences are tied into the book as the chapters alternate between Chet's perspective and Lula's perspective, which was nice.  I always like when books change voice.  It keeps things interesting.  There is added drama with the death of characters and war enlistment.  Not surprisingly, Chet and Lula have some chemistry, are separated, and then reunite at the end of the book.  However, the series of events in between is anything but predictable.  Unlike stories where the plot solely revolves around two love-struck characters.  The lives of high-schoolers and family members weave their way into the events.  It should be noted that there are Christian undertones in this book, but they are not overwhelming.     

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Lena of Vegitopia" by Sybil Severin and Illustrated by Carlos Patino

This adorable children's book is will hold the attention of both child and adult readers.  Set in the land of Vegitopia, Lena is friends with all the animals.  When she learns that some animals are missing their babies, she writes a letter to the Princess of Vegitopia for help.  This teachers youngsters the power of public advocacy and writing representatives.  After the Princess writes back and visits, both her and Lena visit the Carnista to free the baby animals from being dinner.  Carnista is portrayed as an ugly, overweight woman with a cruel heart.  However, after eating Lena's carrot-cake, Carnista decides to become vegan and let the animals go.  Lean's carrot-cake recipe is even included in the back of the book for interested bakers.  After Carnista becomes vegan, she is illustrated as thin and beautiful.  While many ideas in this book are taken to the extreme, there are many valuable lessons.  Eating healthier will result in a slimmer waistline and clearer skin and better hair.  Also, friendship and conflict management are pushed in this tale.  At the end of the story, Lena and Carnista are friends and even send each other gifts.  In terms of the artwork, it is very crisp and fun.  I would have like to see more pictures of animals, but overall, the book was very nice.

"Brief Encounters with Che Guevara" by Ben Fountain

Hitting the ground running, this book starts with a fascinating tale of a graduate student who studies birds--an ornithologist to be precise.  He is in Central America studying a rare species of birds when he gets kidnapped by rebels who suspect him as spy.  His experiences in this situation are detailed with stunning detail.  After that, there are a series of short stories, none of which are related.  They are not even all about Che Guevara.  Rather, the stories are about freedom and the lack thereof.  There is war, both physical and emotion.  One story chronicles a wife's experience with her PTSD husband who has become obsessed with voodoo after returning from the army.  Another story follows a pianist with eleven fingers whose brilliance is a self-destructive force.  There are many tales to hold the reader's attention, and this book is very well-written.  The only exceptions are the swearing and R-rated parts sprinkled in.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Atlas Girl" by Emily T. Wierenga

Poignant and brutally honest, Emily tells a story of starving for food, starving for love, and starving for family.  Raised as the child of missionaries, Emily has an exotic upbringing from living in foreign countries.  Searching for her own meaning, Emily also travels once out of her parents' house.  We learn of a home-schooled girl's college experiences and her boyfriends.  We also discover how she came to love her husband.  The pain of not being able to conceive and dealing with a mother who has cancer does not make this book an easy read.  However, there is a happy ending.  Since this book is written by a Christian, there are religious undertones.  However, they are not in every chapter and are not too in-your-face.  Before each chapter, there is a motivational quote, which is nice.  At the end of the book, there are discussion questions for a book group.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Body and Soul" by Bethany Hamilton

Geared at young women and pre-teen girls, this book is full of advice for how to be happy and healthy.  From exercising to eating a nutritious diet to making friends, this book has it all.  Girls are encouraged to eat well and have fun while working out.  There are even parts of the book where Bethany shares her own personal struggles as a female.  Her individual stories make the book feel as if the reader is chatting with her in a coffee shop.  In terms of spirituality, Bethany discusses her own faith and encourages girls to seek spiritual matters.  There are Christian undertones in this book but they are not overwhelming.  Overall, this was a nice book.  The font and graphics were well done, too.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Collision" by Michael Phillip Cash

A while ago, I received a different book written by Michael Phillip Cash that I hated.  However, this book I thoroughly enjoyed.  In this book, Cash has impressed me with the talent I knew he had.  This science-fiction fantasy novel has a star wars feeling and is about opposing kingdoms, good and evil.  There is romance, but it is not graphic (compared to some of his other books).  In this book, readers understand who likes who but do not feel like they are reading a trashy book.  Aliens fill this book, as distant planets and species interact.  There is religion in the book as characters vie for their own spirituality.  Forces of good are seen as mysterious at times and vocal at other times.  The forces of evil are scary but not so much that the reader will have nightmares or want to put the book down.  There is a sense of paganism / animism in the book, but the reader does not feel preached to or overwhelmed.  It comes off more as just context and part of the story.  There are plenty of words the author made up, many of which are hard to pronounce.  However, even with all the characters' alien names, the book is not too hard to follow along with.  Something I enjoyed was how the chapters alternated between voices.  In other words, one chapter would be narrated by one character, and another chapter would be narrated by another character, and so on.  This is not an easy thing to pull of literary, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This is book 2 in a series.  I did not read book 1, but I was not at all confused in reading this.  This is also a difficult thing to pull off in any sort of series edition of books.  On another note, I liked how the print was nice and big.  I did not have to put my glasses on or strain to read the words.  It was a nice size for leisurely reading.  As for the ending of the book, I won't give it away, but it was unexpected and made me excited for the next book. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" by Lois P. Frankel, PhD

Full of tips of stories, this book explains to women the many pitfalls and strategies that affect their career.  What I enjoyed is that there were not just mistakes but also advice for how to work on said mistakes.  While there are chapters, the bulk of the book is broken up into 101 sections that are very short.  One page discusses the mistake with a story from real women.  The next page discusses tips for how to overcome this mistake.  With this layout, not only does the book get straight to the point, but it is also incredibly readable for all those women who work long hours and don't have the time to read long psychological dissertations that span hundreds of pages.  I read this book through a book club at my corporation and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I realized there were some mistakes I was making, and--along with Frankel's tips--I am working on correcting them.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

"The Introverted Leader" by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD

I had the privilege of hearing the author speak in person at a professional development seminar.  She is definitely knowledgeable on introversion and business acumen.  So, when I started to read her book, I knew there was meaningful advice in it from a real expert.  This book has tips of meetings, sales calls, career-planning, mentoring, and so much more.  There are plenty of places where the reader is prompted to write out their thoughts and goals, too, which is nice.  The author expresses what she calls her 4 P's.  These are Presence, Practice, Prepare, and Push.  These are explained in more detail in the book.  They give readers a quick and easy way to remember how to be successful.  I also want to point out that--unlike some self-help business books--readers do not feel like they are being yelled at.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"The Israeli Solution" by Caroline Glick

Full of history, politics, and research, this book will explain to readers what Israel is all about.  From pre-World War I to modern day, Glick explains what international laws have been passed and ignored through the ages.  Other countries' political makeups are also detailed.  Readers will learn about Egypt, Syria, Iran, and other places.  Leaders and terrorists are detailed.  Media broadcasts and educational propaganda in other cultures are expounded upon in translations / quotes.  Broken up into three sections with an extremely useful table-of-contents, this makes a great reference book.  There are terror events recorded and hateful quotes inserted.  This is not a book for the faint-of-heart but it does give an honest account of the news surrounding Israel.  Glick also gives chapters where she discusses what she predicts for the future in Israel.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor E. Frankl

Written by a Holocaust survivor, this book is a must read.  It chronicles his sufferings, his triumphs, his freedom, and--most importantly--his soul.  We read how Frankl decided to stay in Germany at the rise of the Nazi party when he could have accepted a visa to America.  Why did he stay, you may ask?  Because he did not want to leave his parents alone to face what was coming.  Even more beautiful is what Frankl thinks of when he in the concentration camps.  He remembers his wife, whom he calls his beloved.  In a very philosophical moment, Frankl writes that love is what really keeps one going in life.  This book is full of great words that you'll want to quote to your friends.  It is the story of a decent man who cared for others and did not let the monsters of indecent men ruin him.  After the memoir aspect of the book, there is a second section on the author's psychological theories.

"Twirl: A Fresh Spin at Life" by Patsy Clairmont

Full of encouraging tips, this book is a nice read for those who want to add more oomph into their lives.  The author encourages readers to stop and smell flowers, both literally and figuratively.  The notions of dance, art, writing, reading, studying, loving people, loving animals, and more are covered.  Each chapter is also full of inspirational quotes and thought-provoking questions.  There are Christian undertones in this book as the author speaks of Jesus and quotes Bible verses.  However, it is not too pushy or overwhelming for the reader.  Overall, this book is about being happy and--let me just say it--stop being uptight.  Life is too short to not enjoy it.  What I love is the back cover where the author is smiling.  She is not some twenty-year-old but rather a wise woman with life experience.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Josephus IV Jewish Antiquities, Books I-IV

Rich in history and literary devices, this is a must read.  The reader feels like they are getting a tour of Jewish history.  In these works, Josephus essentially sums up the Torah in his own words.  There is a lot of paraphrasing and even accounts that are slightly different from the Torah itself.  For the reason of that, I will let each reader arrive at their own conclusion.  Needless to say, this book is very interesting.  We read of how Moses wasn't the only one to part a sea.  Josephus writes that this isn't a made-up story since even Alexander the Great is written of as having parted a sea.  The footnotes in this work are also fascinating.  When the topic of manna came up, a footnote had me learn that Arabs have long found an edible substance that emanated from tamarisk trees.  There are even some phrases that are familiar to the New Testament and even predate the New Testament.  This gives evidence to the idea that much of the phrases and cultural references in the New Testament was derived from contemporary sources such as this work.  All in all, I found this very work very interesting.  It really made me about the history of manuscripts.  The footnotes do note where discrepancies between manuscript lie, and that really was great.  There was no covering up.  That isn't to say that a book with discrepancies should be ultimately dismissed.  After all, even my great grandmother's birth year is different on several documents from  The discrepancies in Josephus' work prove that his book is not divine (he never claimed it was).  But still, it is a great peek into a historical time that is worth the read.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Sammy Ikua Gachagua

Thoroughly engaging, this book will inspire you on many levels.  The story is real-life and each chapter is either narrated by Claire or Sammy as the tale goes back and forth between their different perspectives.  We get to know two very different yet very similar souls.  We also begin to understand how other cultures behave and value things.  Claire is a twenty-something American looking to find her own way in the world.  Her friend Lara accompanies her as they travel the world.  Sammy is a Kenyan orphan living day to day.  When their paths collide, a love grows that can not be put out.  This is by no means a romantic love but rather the love of a woman for a child.  Sammy sometimes calls Claire his big sister, his aunt, his mother, or just his guardian.  Whatever the title, they care deeply for each other as family members.  Readers also learn about the charity organization Hope Runs, which is active in the story.  A part of the book’s proceeds even go towards the charity.  In the middle of the book, there are some full-color photos of international travels for both Claire and Sammy.  Well written, this story will make you think twice about the meaning of life and it will make you want to make a different in the world.  At the end of the book, you will want to climb your own mountain, whether it be physical or symbolical.

"For Such a Time" by Kate Breslin

Mirroring the story found in the Book of Esther, this book changes its setting to Germany in WWII.  Hadassah has forged papers that state she is Aryan (her blond hair and blues eyes help).  However, she still ends up in the ghetto.  As a child she loves is torn from her, a brave SS soldier takes Hadassah—her Stella, her fake Aryan name—to work for him as his secretary.  Bald, emaciated, and wearing prison garb, the soldier Aric gives Stella a wig and food and new clothes.  Slowly, Stella is nursed back to health.  In Aric’s home, Stella meets a one-eared Jewish boy named Joseph, whom she begins to love as her own child.  Joseph is also involved in a secret note-smuggling effort that involves Stella’s uncle Morty (to no surprise, this nickname is short for Mordecai).  One Stella’s secretarial duties begin to take speed, she is heartbroken and torn as she must write notes for Nazi and even type up deportation lists for Jews who will meet their fate in Auschwitz.  As one may suspect, Stella and Aric develop a romance.  There is emotional tension as Stella hides her Jewish identity and Aric must cope with the monster the war has turned him into.  Drama ensues when Aric’s fellow soldiers hit on Stella and try to woo her away from Aric.  The climax of the book involves a train to Auschwitz, and I will not spoil the ending.  What I did like was how there was an author’s note at the back of the book explaining what was and was not fictionalized.  There is even a section in the back that defines some Jewish and German vocabulary.  There is no swearing in this book, and while the violence is not written graphically, allusions to crematoriums and shootings are there.  In terms of romance, that is not graphic either.  Stella and Aric do not go any further than kissing in the book; and Stella is honorable in that she does not sleep in Aric’s bedroom when not married to him, insisting, “I am not your mistress.”  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

“Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek” by Jill Osbourne

This is a fun children’s book about an ordinary girl turned extraordinary.  Riley Mae is a normal kid that loves her friends, her family, and playing softball.  One day, her father’s business associate stops by to chat, and he catches Riley Mae having fun trying on the shoes.  At that point, it is decided that Riley Mae will make the perfect spokesperson for the girls’ athletic shoe line.  While that is fun for a bit, Riley Mae soon realizes the responsibility and time-commitment of being a full-time spokesperson.  It is even ironic how she misses softball games in order to take pictures wearing softball shoes.  There is some mystery in the book, and things get scary for a bit—but not too scary for kids.  There is no swearing, graphic images, or perversion in the book.  There are Christian undertones in the book as things like Christmas and Easter ham are mentioned.  Riley Mae goes to church on occasion, and we follow her as she helps out the little children.  There is charity as Riley Mae tries to provide sustenance for a girl who can’t afford food.  Overall, the story was engaging and interesting. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

“Summer of Joy” by Ann H. Gabhart

This story follows a young teenage girl’s family as day-to-day drama ensues.  The girl’s father is a preach and part-time journalist.  Given the family’s poor state of financial affairs, she works after school with her father on the local newspaper.  The preacher is divorced and plans to remarry a young blond woman.  The two are madly in love, but things get a bit complicated when the protagonist’s English teacher starts hitting on and stalking her father’s soon-to-be new bride.  More drama comes in when a minor character gets a visit form a long-lost grandson.  This book has a lot of “country talk” and a lot of Christian undertones.  While the back cover did not allude to it, there is a big Christmas theme in this book.    

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Flight for Safety" by Karlene Petitt

After reading a horribly perverse book by one pilot, I thought to myself, maybe a book written by a lady pilot would be better.  Boy was I wrong.  Equally full of drinking, swearing, and disturbingly graphic perversion, this book was no better than the other.  I started the book thinking that maybe things would be different.  That maybe I’d find a book solely about flying and find a role model worthy of looking up to.  Instead, about a third of the way through, I was confronted with a sex-scene.  I do not like reading these sort of things in books.  I would think pilots were the upper echelon of society and worth looking up to.  What I wouldn’t give for just one positive role model in the aviation community that does not promote drinking, swearing, cohabitation, and casual sex.  Books like these make me almost not want to fly anymore. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"A Heart's Rebellion" by Ruth Axtell

Within just the first few pages, I got a very Pride and Prejudice impression.  Set in the 1800's in England, this book follows Jessamine and her friend Megan through their London season.  For those that don't know, a season is a time where young single ladies go about town and attend balls.  They do this in hopes of meeting eligible bachelors and finding a husband.  This may seem very old-fashioned and even archaic.  However, the way Axtell writes her story, we do not see any of the characters as weak or "less-than."  Instead, we get inside the minds and hearts of two young women who just want to be loved.  We meet the suitors through their eyes.  We learn who is good and who is bad...sometimes too late.  This book also covers topics such as provocative dress, flirting, being drugged, being attacked, and more.  It will teach young women a lot about life, but I do not recommend it to very young readers.  Whether in 1800 or 2000, the rules of life and love have not changed much as the human is still human throughout the years.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Daughters in Danger" by Elayne Bennett

Exceptionally written, this book chronicles the severe pressure facing girls and young women in our day and age.  Several case-studies are given of na├»ve ladies who were severely beaten or lost their lives or who were kidnapped.  There are even stories of dating-gone-wrong and how psychology comes into play.  Alcoholism, drug-use, sororities, fraternities, and social media are also analyzed in depth.  Violence from men is studied, as is the skewed view of gender roles in the media.  The author argues that women are all too often given conflicting messages.  They are told they have to act a certain way, dress a certain way, do their hair a certain way, earn a certain salary, have a certain job, and so on.  Yet, rarely are they told how to be safe.  Likewise, the author touches upon the lack of manhood in modern America.  She discusses how many young men lack career-focus and stay at home.  She compares the 1950s to the 2000s and notes the similarities and differences, as well as crimes-against-women statistics.  The reader also learns how schools are helping and hurting youngsters today and how even the most secular schools have philosophical agendas.  This book did have some Catholic undertones in it, but I did not feel they were forced or that the author was coming off as preachy.  Overall, this book was very interesting and was a much needed eye-opening read.

"The Last of the Bush Pilots" by Eric Auxier

With loads of cursing and swearing and dirty scenes, this book was definitely too R-rated for my liking.  And that’s a shame since I really enjoyed the author’s other book “Code Name: Dodger.”  As a new tour-guide pilot dreaming of flying commercial jets, DC finds himself stuck.  One day he finally caves into his friend’s suggestion that he log hours in Alaska, where he can get a good pilot job.  When DC comes to Alaska, we see the beauty and devastation of nature.  There are even some interesting scenes that involve eagles, salmon, and baby bears.  However, DC also has a girl that he lives with intimately.  After he goes to Alaska, he forgets about his girlfriend and starts seeing an exotic Alaskan native, who is too awfully perverted for me to even describe.  Eventually he realizes that he should not have let go of his girlfriend, but he finds this realization too late.  Not once did I see any positive, strong female in the book.  The check-rider Holly was as close as it came to a strong woman, but even she got inebriated and perverse at one point in the book.  Overall, this book was not my cup of tea.  I found it incredibly sexist, where women were just seen as sex objects throughout the entire book.  This review may not be promoting the book, but all my reviews are free.  I am under no obligation to give people good reviews.    

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

“What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew About Judaism” by Robert Schoen

Well written and brutally honest, this book gives a good introduction into basic Judaism for readers of all backgrounds.  Despite the catchy title, I would argue that Christians aren’t the only ones who could learn from this book.  The author takes us back into both Biblical times and modern synagogues.  We read about the difference between a rabbi and a cantor, what “observance” is, and what the various denominations within Judaism are.  The Sabbath and High Holidays are discussed in detail.  Religious life events such as weddings, bar / bat mitzvahs and funerals are included.  The modern state of Israel, including historic events in Israel’s history, is reviewed.  There is even a pronunciation guide and suggested reading list in the back of the book.  Above all, what I enjoyed most about this book was that it promoted peace and understanding amongst various people groups.         

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

“Code Name: Dodger” by Eric Auxier

Meet Justice who likes to be called Justin.  He’s a Brooklyn orphan living out his teenage years searching for meaning.  With a solid group of friends and an even more solid skateboard, days just seem to fly by for Justin.  However, one day, all of that changes.  After a run-in with some suspicious characters, Justin is mysteriously sent away from the orphanage.  He isn’t sent to juvie as he fears—read the book to find out about Justin’s shenanigans—but is rather sent with a mysterious man for a psychological experiment.  The plot gets even more interesting when the reader realizes Justin is involved in the CIA and is helping to take down his father’s killer.  Emotions flare as Justin snoops around in CIA files he isn’t supposed to see and makes a serious father-son connection with his CIA guardian.  This book is fast-paced with plenty of adventurous action.  While there are some fight scenes, they are not too graphic or scary for the average reader to tolerate.  In terms of romance, Justin is a great role model for young men.  He is not a womanizer, and he treats the young women he is attracted to with respect and care.  When it comes to drugs and gangs, Justin is also a good influence because he avoid those things he deems “stupid.”  There are a few cuss words in this book, but it is not overdone; and there are no f-bombs.  In terms of font, it is a nice size.  It’s big enough to not strain the eyes but not so big as to feel like a book for the visually-impaired; it’s just right.  Also, a portion of this book’s sales goes towards charities for orphans, which is nice.   

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"In the Shadow of Jezebel" by Mesu Andrews

What's most interesting about this book is that it's not just another story chronicling the life of Jezebel.  Rather, it's a story of those whom Jezebel influences and affects during her life.  We meet Athaliah and her daughter (not blood-related) Jehosheba.  As power struggles shift and slide for who is king and who is queen, political intrigues intensifies.  Then factor in the conflict of which God will emerge the strongest in an epic Israeli-pagan duel of spiritual proportions.  Athaliah and Jehosheba and Jezebel worship Baal.  In an effort to show diplomacy between the pagans and the Jews, Jezebel proposes that Sheba marries the Jewish Temple high priest.  As the marriages progresses, Sheba learns to love and wrestles between which divinity she will devote herself to.  Other characters enter the story, and their personal lives emerge as well.  I will not divulge those details but will say they add an extra dimension of interest to the story.  Helpful in this book is a list of character names and descriptions, a family tree diagram of important characters, and a historical note in the back for where the basis of the story came from.  All I can say is this: prepare for drama.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food: A Practical Guide" by Chef Alain Braux

If you have any issues with gluten or dairy, this book is for you.  If you are trying to cut back on carbs, this book is for you.  If you get an upset tummy after dairy products, this book is for you.  Now, you won't start diving into recipes as soon as you open this book.  Rather, you will first gain a physical and nutritional understanding of your body's digestive system.  You will begin to comprehend where stomach issues come from, why they affect certain people, and much more.  Even though the author has advanced education in nutritional science, I like how he includes personal testimonies.  We read letters from people explaining their abdominal issues, their diet, their lifestyles, their improvements, and more.  This makes the book much more personal.  Plus, you will feel better knowing you're not the only one with food issues.  Chef Alain shows you that you are just one of the many people with these concerns.  Autism and mental issues also are discussed in this book, with a detailed Appendix for contacting relevant societies.  After the reader has had a thorough schooling on food education, they get a detailed list of what Chef Alain recommends they stock up in their kitchen.  They also get lists of ingredients to watch out for.  This is nice since not everybody knows what all the "big words" on food labels mean.  Here, you will understand some of these "big words" and know which ones to avoid.  In terms of recipes, you have plenty to choose from.  From breads to pastries to side dishes to soups to salads to meat to fish and more, you will have enough recipes to keep your mind busy and your palate engaged.  While I won't go through all of the recipes in this book, I will say some of my favorites were the Coconut Pots, the Quinoa Cookies, and the Zucchini Soup.  Also, I can say that the recipes are very easy to "adapt."  If you want to use say Safflower oil instead of the recommend olive oil, the recipe turns out fine.  If you want to swap out Oregano for Basil, the recipe turns out fine.   

"The Long Awakening: A Memoir" by Lindsey O'Connor

This book is the story of a woman who went into a coma shortly after birthing her fifth child.  She was out for close to two months, and this is her story.  While the reader obviously knows that the author is fine and alive and well (how could she not be if she were writing the memoir?), the bulk of the book is depressing.  Yes, there is talk of hope, redemption, answered prayers, friendship, help from strangers, compassion, and other great things.  However, a good chunk of the book talks about tears, hospitals, diagnoses, despair, emotional trauma, confusion, suffering, and other depressing topics.  This book does not focus on dreams the author had in her coma or any sort of extravagant near-death-experience.  Rather, it is a collection of the author's memories, her husband's and children's reactions, and thoughtfully events she recalls in between consciousness.  I applaud the author for living through such an ordeal, but I warn readers that this is not a book you want to read before going to bed.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"A Dad's Prayer for His Daughter" by Rob and Joanna Teigen

This book is full of the prayers and well-wishes of a father for his daughter.  There are Bible verses quoted from both the Old and New Testament as the authors share their encouragement with readers.  Sections on happiness, joy, depression, school, fitting in, clothes, boyfriends, peer pressure, eating disorders, addictions, and more are covered.  Parts of the book read like a letter where the father speaks about what he wishes for his daughter.  Interspersed throughout the book are prayers and letters from other fathers (mostly pastors) for their daughters.  Obviously, this book has religious undertones.  One does not need to necessarily agree with all of them to enjoy this book as it is intended to help fathers pray for (and hence think about) good things for their daughter.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

“Firstborn” by Lorie Ann Grover

Engrossing and fast-paced, this book will be sure to hold your attention.  Whether it is in the future or in another dimension, the reader is thrust into an unusual world of oppression.  Firstborn females are either left for dead or forced to live life as males (“declared” as the book calls it).  Tiadone is one of those declared males.  She lives her whole life with an amulet on her hip.  It holds her father’s hair and a desert cat’s heart in it.  This—she is told—gives her masculine power to overcome her femininity.  In this strange world, people get birds that live with them for part of their lives.  The birds grow up with their humans and serve them.  As this animal-human friendship grows, it is severed once the oppressive government regime says so.  Tiadone’s bird Mirko is unique in that it sings and communicates with Tiadone through vision.  Ratho, Tidaon’s best friend and fellow worker, has a bird named Thae.  As both characters age, they feel an attraction that they are not allowed to have.  Subtle romance is worked into the book in a way that is not graphic.  As Tiadone and Ratho serve their government, religious tension ensues.  Tiadone worships the Creator Spirit (which is forbidden by state law), while Ratho worships the Four-Winged-Condor (which is promoted by state law).  Tiadone is forced to question every aspect of her life as she lives a lie.  The reader will sympathize with Tiadone when she really believes her amulet will make her male.  While I am not sure if the author intentionally was making comparisons, I will say that Tiadone’s experiences reminded me of the Holocaust.  Not in the sense of genocide but rather in the great religious oppression, the shaving of heads, and the abuse.  Also, the worship of the Four-Winged-Condor was reminiscent of Christianity. [Tiadone is forced to participate in a ceremony where a priest puts a wafer on her tongue and gives her wine to drink.  Also, at one part in the book, the government’s religious institution is accused of worshipping a created being.]  I will not spoil the ending of this book, but I will say there will be despair and victory at the same time.  Tiadone will question her faith and if there is even a God at all.  She will learn what it means to let go of friends and family.  Tiadone will lose some of her dreams but come out more alive than ever.  This book will make you think what your true priorities are and what lives you may be living with.  It will make women embrace their identity as female and learn what true love is. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"The Sabbath World" by Judith Shulevitz

With candid honestly and vivid imagery, Shulevitz takes us back in time to the ancient Sabbath of years gone by as well as the modern Sabbath of her own life.  We read historical accounts of how people in Israel, Europe, and America kept the Sabbath.  The book does not limit its experiences to only Jews, though; various Christian denominations and their interpretations of the Sabbath are included.  The age-old question of how one should celebrate / honor the Sabbath is not necessarily given an answer.  Yet, Shulevitz gives you enough examples of what others did to figure it out for yourself.  Pieces of the author's life also emerge in this book as she shares her own Jewish experience.  You will read of love, loss, loneliness, companionship, friendship, anger, happiness, sadness, joy, and--yes--the Sabbath.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Forged" by Bart D. Ehrman

This book is a real eye-opener.  It dives deep into ancient documents and history to reveal the cold hard truth of ancient forgery.  References are quoted in case the reader has any doubts.  Amazingly fascinating are the quotes Ehrman cites from New Testament era writings that did not make it into the Bible.  Some were considered forgeries and some just weren't seemed "Scripture" by the Constantine-appointed powers that be.  Quoting the New Testament, Ehrman exposes many verses that don't match up, inconsistencies, and plain errors.  For those that think the New Testament is all some God-appointed Book orchestrated by God, this book should be read.  If the truth sets one free, then this is as good a place as any to start.  I also want to emphasize that Ehrman does not insult Christians or other religious people.  He acknowledges that Jesus existed (historical fact) and respects the beliefs of others.  Readers will not feel offended or preached at when they read this book.  

"Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna

Written in a historical manner, this book explains where many of the most popular Christian traditions come from.  Readers learn where the church building comes from, the origin of the steeple, where the concept of sermons come from, where the idea of a pope and religious authority comes from, and so on.  New Testament Bible verses are quoted as fact on numerous occasions (think of that what you may).  Unfortunately, this book does not dive deep into where the holidays of Christmas, Easter, Lent, etc come from.  While there is some interesting material found in this book, it erroneously lumped Jews and pagans together on several occasions and states as fact that Jewish customs were "destroyed" by Jesus.  Sigh.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Lean Body, Fat Wallet" by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre

As my uncle says, "there's always the phrase that you can never be too rich or too thin."  The point is that being healthy and wealthy go hand in hand.  How can one save money and make smart money choices when they are unhealthy, stressed out, and depressed?  In the same way, how can one make the change to be nutritious and exercise if they are loaded down with debt and juggling numerous jobs?  This book attempts to answer some of those questions.  With calorie-counting tips, advice on what types of foods to eat, motivation for exercise, budgeting charts, information on buying cars, analyses of savings plans, and more, this book aims to help the common reader get in shape and get in a better financial state.  There is an emphasis on positive thinking in this book.  Psychology techniques are implemented as the authors tell the readers how to get past temptation, avoid bad thoughts, and focus on the truth of their goals.  This book is not written by a nutritionist or a financial adviser, so do not expect recipes, exercise diagrams / instructions, or counseling on your particular financial-life situation.  Rather, this book is written by two women who stay healthy (per their definition of healthy) and are happy with their financial situations (also per their definition of wealthy).  There is even a section of raising fit and frugal kids.  What's nice is that this book has a refresher section in the back with quick bullet points of what each chapter was about.  So, if you put this book down for a while and forget some details, you'll be quickly filled in.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Everyday Confetti" by Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer

This is a book focusing on entertaining others in your home.  The way it is written, it seems as if the intended audience is women with families.  The tips for making other people feel special while not breaking the bank were good.  For example, the authors talk about sending loved ones quick notes, text messages, collages, homemade crafts, and other gifts.  Both authors are professed Christians, and the theme of mainstream Christianity is in the book.  There are Bible verses quoted and even a whole section of the book devoted to celebrating spiritual milestones of friends / family.  There is some diversity as the book discusses how to entertain during Black History Month, Cinco de Mayo, Veterans Day, and more.  Passover is mentioned on one page, but not much information is given about entertaining--the authors encourage readers to do their own research for hosting a Seder.  Recipes are also included, but I was not a fan of them.  Many recipes had butter, sugar, ham, sausage, and pork.  While there were some healthy recipes thrown in, the bulk of the recipes didn't seem too healthy.  This is a nice book, but not one I'd spend my money on to buy.   

"Ingredients for Success: 10 Best Practices for Business and Life" by Joseph James Slawek

This book revolves around Matthew 25 and dives into how the lessons in those parables translate into business and personal success.  We read about how those who are successful will get more responsibility and rewards, while those who are lazy will get punished and lose profits.  We also read about the importance of being kind to others and donating to charity.  As the CEO of a major corporation, this author has real-life experience in the business world.  At times, the book feels likes the author's own personal journal--there are pages dedicated to the author's listed strengths, things he's grateful for, and even his company mission statement.  This book is very slim and quick to read, with 10 short chapters highlighting the author's "ingredients for success."  The only thing that shocked me was the value of this book.  As a professional book reviewer, I got a free copy.  However, the back cover said it goes for $16.99.  $16.99 for a paperback less than 120 pages is unrealistic.  While this book is nice, it is by no means life-changing.  For those interested in the parables of Yeshua, they can read the Bible online or even get a free Bible from one of the various Bible associations in the world.  Part of what makes parables parables is their ease of understanding and lack of beating around the bush.  Read the parables for yourself, and get a business book is you want tips for better work.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Viscountess" by Taversia

Fast paced yet slow to contemplate, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what really constitutes reality.  What makes this story unique is its setting.  It takes place in the future where advances are so revolutionary that ships literally fly through the sky.  However, the culture and society is very much dated with clear lines between aristocracy and serfs.  As the daughter of a wealthy upperclassman, the protagonist enjoys the finer things in life.  Yet, as a woman, many stereotypes and thrust upon her.  Seeking to find her own way in life, the Viscountess uses tech savvy and cunning personality traits to traverse a dangerous cycle of events.  There is some violence in the book but it is not graphic.  Romance is also part of the plot.  While much is left to the imagination, I would not recommend this book for young children.  Teens, perhaps, but not preteens.  There is a hint of tragedy in the story as death is involved.  Speculative superstitions are also intertwined into the series of events.  A key is involved, as are other magical devices.  But the symbols are not so important as what they represent and mean.  This is a story of coming-of-age in an era where much has advanced and much has stayed the same.  At the conclusion of the story, other characters would get the impression that the Viscountess has lost her mind.  However, the reader--and perhaps the Viscountess herself--will have the impression that perhaps for once in her life the Viscountess has found who she really is. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Forks Over Knives" written / directed by Lee Fulkerson

“Forks Over Knives” written / directed by Lee Fulkerson is a provocative film on the relation between food and health.   Scientific research and clinical study are combined when the documentary showcases both a surgeon and a professor.  Both men discuss what they have discovered over their years.  You know these men are not biased because they both grew up on farms that sold meat and dairy.  For them to publicly speak out against consuming what they once promoted further proves their credibility.  Particularly fascinating is the international aspect of their work.  A study on China is presented.  Dating back to the 1970s, the study found that certain types of cancers were concentrated in different parts of China.  Each of these different parts of China had different diets.  It was found that the areas of China that had mostly plant-based diets had lower levels of disease and cancer; the areas of China that had more meat and dairy consumption had higher levels of disease and cancer.  But this movie doesn’t just stop with China.  A research paper from India claiming that meat is linked to cancer is replicated by the scientists in the documentary.  The results they find match the results in the Indian paper.  The filmmaker goes a step further and researches the effect of diet on European countries like Norway, as well.  I will not go into detail about all of the studies, but I would like to point out that the information in this film is appropriately referenced and detailed while still being easy enough for the average viewer to understand.  Another fantastic aspect of the film was that it followed a few ordinary people and showed how their health improved (and some diseases went away) for them when they adopted a plant-based diet.  It should be noted that there are some clips of surgery in this film.  So, if you’re squeamish, prepare to avert your eyes when you start seeing lime green medical coats.  This documentary has plenty of tough love, as well as great bonus features.