Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"My Name Is Mahtob" by Mahtob Mahmoody

It is in the early years of life that most people are shaped.  For Mahtob Mahmoody, she had the unfortunate experience of being kidnapped.  Her family was all smiles until her father became an extreme Muslim and brought the family to Iran.  Once in that foreign land, women were expected to cover and obey Sharia Law.  Sadly, Mahtob's mother was the victim of domestic abuse.  By the grace of God, Mahtob and her mother manage to escape to America.  But the story doesn't just end there.  Mahtob continues her tale by writing about her adolescence and adulthood.  The fact that this child could grow up to be so successful and optimistic is a miracle in and of itself.  This book shows how anyone can move on from their ugly past and not let the woes of yesterday affect the sunshine of tomorrow.  

"Instant Happy Journal: 365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude, and Joy" by Karen Salmansohn

When I first got this journal, I was excited because I like writing.  However, I was a bit cautious from the title.  After all, how can a journal make somebody happy--I mean, truly happy?  But once I started to read and write, I realized this book isn't a one-all cure for those feeling down.  Rather, it is a guide to redirect one's thoughts from negativity to positivist.  Inspirational quotes and discussion prompts force the reader to change his or her frame of mind.  Those who journal in this book will learn how to look on the bright side.  There will be laughs, snickers, and some soul-searching journal entries.  Great gift for the new year.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

"5-Minute Bedtime Treasury" by Precious Moments

This full-color hardcover book is the perfect addition for any bedside bureau.  There is a section of stories on the Old Testament, the New Testament (for Christians), and a chunk of wisdom stories mostly from the books of Psalms / Proverbs.  The language is very simple in big font, so it is good for young readers.  The illustrations are simply adorable from well-known precious moments characters.  From little children praying together to adorable animals traipsing along, each image is too cute for words.  My favorite illustrations are those of the guardian angels.  Youngsters will learn about the parting of the sea, Joseph's multicolored coat, Solomon's wisdom, Christian parables from Jesus, and more.  Popular prayers such as the Our Father and The Lord is My Shepherd are adapted for young ones.  Overall, this is a nice book, and I would argue it is for readers of all ages.  

"The Knot: Outdoor Weddings" by Carley Roney

I am not married, engaged, or otherwise "taken."  So, why did I choose to review this book?  Quite honestly, because the cover had a beautiful flower arrangement...and I love flowers.  Reading through the pages of various outdoor wedding descriptions was great.  However, what I really enjoyed was the full-covered beautiful pictures.  From dresses to flowers to outdoor seating arrangements to food and more, everything is breathtakingly beautiful.  Also interesting is the fact that the author did not just design face, less weddings.  Rather, each theme of outdoor wedding has an actual couple attached to it.  Readers will see real-world examples of what other people did.  There are weddings on the waterfront, in tropical destinations, on country club properties, and more.  In terms of diversity, there are various examples of weddings.  There are interracial couples and even gay couples features.  Religion-wise, there are Christian weddings, Jewish weddings, and a mixed Hindi wedding.  This hefty hardcover book will make a great gift for your bride-to-be.  Best of all, in the back of the book, there is a timeline of advice for what to do 12 months before the wedding, 3 months before the wedding, and all the way to the day-of.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"He's Just Not That Into You" by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

I got this book at a book swap, and it was a fun read.  The chapters are short and rather comical.  But, most of all, the advice it gives is spot on.  Too often, women can stress over whether or not a guy likes them or why a potential mate is acting a certain way.  This book gives the sad reality that most men are simply not interested and are too afraid to say so.  So, if a man does not make a blatant and concentrated effort to contact a woman, odds are he is "just not that into them."  This does not mean the woman is ugly or of poor character.  It just means the guy sees the woman more as a friend than a romantic interest.  I understand this.  I have a close male friend who I hear from once every few months.  This does not upset me in the least because we are just friends.  I am not attracted to him because I am not attracted to Asians; and he is not attracted to me because he likes plump women.  Neither of us are bad-looking or obnoxious--we simply only view the other as friends.  Since we are only friends, the sporadic contact is fine.  If we were romantically involved, it would be unacceptable.  And that's what this book advices.  If a guy is not going out of his way to contact a woman, he only views her as a friend.  However, if a guy has made romantic interests clear but is not going out of his way to contact the woman, the woman ought to dump him.  If I can sum up this book in a phrase, it is, "do not settle."

Friday, November 27, 2015

"You First" by Lea Michele

This is a wonderful journal for all ages.  The book sleeve comes off for those that want a more personalized and less celebrity-driven look.  Inside the pages of the book, readers will first journal about their ancestry and family recipes.  Then they will write about exercise and health / wellness.  There is a section for friendships and relationships.  Then there is goal-setting in general and how to journal about work-related issues.  What I like about this book is that it offers ways to get better.  For instance, instead of just saying "do you think you are healthy?" there are journal entries about "how can you get healthy?  how can you change your diet and exercise habits?".  Afterwards, there are tips from Lea herself.  The writing space is plenty big, and the font is nice in purple cursive.  Overall, this is a very nice journal and would make an excellent gift. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

"Make Every Word Count" by Moshs Doron

This book is all about prayer.  But it's not just about praying repetitious prayer or saying prayers in one's head.  Rather, the book is about praying out loud and from the heart.  After a brief introduction, the book goes into questions and answers.  Some questions are: how does one pray?, what if I don't know what to pray?, why pray if G-d knows our thoughts?, can I pray if I have sinned?, when should I pray?, where should I pray?, and more.  The language is easy to follow and not intimidating.  Furthermore, the book is written for the ordinary person and not some lofty rabbi.  Readers will feel important and valued when they read this book--not judged.  This book is rather small and can be read quickly all at once or just used as a reference guide.  Overall, excellent guide on how to pray from the heart.  To HaShem!  :o)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"On This Foundation" by Lynn Austin

As always, Austin does not disappoint with her historical Biblical fiction.  In this story, readers follow Nehemiah as he leaves his Persian home to rebuild Jerusalem's walls.  He faces both political and spiritual oppression as even those closest to him betray him.  Struggles for power and wealth collide as Nehemiah urges landowners to forgive debts, free bondsmen, and stop charging interest.  Austin doesn't just give Nehemiah's perspective.  She also gives the point-of-view of Nava.   Nava is a bondswoman who must serve six years to help her father pay off debt.  Nava wants to marry Dan but must work as a servant.  Tensions arise when the son of Nava's master sets his sight on Nava and is infatuated with her.  Then there is the perspective of Chana.  Chana is the daughter of a Jerusalem leader.  She is one of the few women working on rebuilding the wall--a man's job.  Furthermore, she is engaged to a wealthy landowner.  The lives of rich and poor are told, and there is the notion of faith woven throughout.  How can one pray when they are sold as a servant?  How can one pray when they are separated from the love of their life?  How can one pray when their sincere attempts to rebuild are thwarted?  Readers will enjoy this lively story that makes the Bible come alive.

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Proverbs Prayers" by John Mason

This little book is stock-full of wisdom.  It is a great holiday gift for any occasion.  The way the book flows, there is a chapter of Proverbs followed by a chapter of prayer.  While I say "chapter," it is really not more than a page or two.  Beyond that, there is an index of sorts in the back that links specific topics to Bible verses.  These topics cover joy, sadness, motivation, and more.  This book is very easy to read on quick breaks on in-between errands on the run.  This book is pretty gender neutral and can be read by men or women.  When the book gets to Proverbs 31, there are separate prayer chapters for men and women since Proverbs 31 deals with marriage.  However, these prayer chapters are written assuming the reader is married and not single.  All in all, great book.

Monday, November 2, 2015

"Horse of my Heart" Edited by Callie Smith Grant

This book  is a collection of short stories (no more than a few pages each) of how horses have impacted lives.  From the wild horse who is eventually tamed to the abused horse who learns to love and more, these stories will warm your heart.  Besides horses, there are even stories about donkeys and mules.  Additionally, there are quotes and pictures and historical notes sprinkled throughout the book.  Should the reader be curious about the individual authors, there are mini-biographies of each writer at the back of the book.  What I loved about this book was how it conveyed horses.  Having ridden and cared for horses before, I know the freedom horses provide.  I also know the emotion and intelligence in their eyes.  This book is a must read for all.   Whether you are a pony-obsessed girl or a macho cowboy, you will find the horse of your heart here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

"God's Smuggler" by Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

This book really took me by surprise.  I am neither evangelical nor Christian, but I found myself turning the pages and wondering what would happen next.  The book follows the life of Andrew.  Readers experience his childhood, his military life, his time in Indonesia with locals and monkey, his first love, his marriage to an unlikely beau, his conversion to Christianity, and his call to the missions field.  I should note that the parts of the book that focus on Andrew's beau and wife are written in a classy manner.  There is nothing graphic, and it is appropriate even for young readers.  The innocence of true love is conveyed and nothing more.  As for the missions, readers feel as if they are on a CIA mission as they follow Andrew through several communist countries.  Places where Bibles and preaching are illegal make the book even more suspenseful.  Most intriguing of all are the small coincidences that lined up with Andrew's prayers.  This book is a must-read for people of all faiths.  Also included is an interview with Andrew about more of his travels and even a section of photos.  While there are no graphic details, the book does mention people dying, so sensitive readers should be warned.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Girl Meets Change" by Kristen Strong

This book is all about women not only facing change in their life but also embracing it.  Several Biblical stories such as the story of Joseph, Ruth, and Esther are given as examples.  There is also heavy emphasis on Jesus and his story, giving this book much of a Christian undertone.  In terms of the real-life examples from modern day, those were spot on...for certain people.  The examples were interesting, but they just didn't hit home for me.  Being a young working professional, I could not relate to the change of marriage, divorce, children leaving the home, and so forth.  Still, that does not mean I did not enjoy the book.  The book did hold my attention was kept me thinking about how others in the world are going through so much (even if it is not the same change I am going through).

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"The Sabbath" by Abraham Joshua Heschel

This book is an essential must-have for anyone curious about the Sabbath.  In this short book of quick easy-to-follow chapters, readers begin to understand what the Sabbath is all about.  Through carefully woven language, each page is almost a work of art.  Speaking of art, there are beautiful black-and-white illustrations throughout that are quite thought-provoking.  The biggest concept I got out of this book is that the Sabbath is centered around time instead of space.  Space is ordinary, while time is holy.  During the Sabbath, man is blessed with a taste of eternity.

"The Time Garden" by Daria Song

This is a wonderful coloring book for artists of all ages.  While the story follows a girl in her dream thru time and space, females may find this book more suited for them.  Besides the images themselves, there is some text to walk colorers through the story.  The coloring pages themselves are quite intricate and take a bit of time to color--hence the title of TIME garden.  Still, this book is quite relaxing and enjoyable.  Whether there is a rainy day or just an early morning, this book is great for passing the time.  The patterns are intricate enough to make you think what color patterns to use but not so detailed that you get frustrated trying to color in the lines.  On the left is an example that this book reviewer colored.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Thank You Lord for Everything" by P J Lyons, Tim Warnes

This children's book is simply adorable.  The little teddy bear is quite grateful, and readers of all ages see that.  From the basic needs of food and nourishment to the joys of friendship and family, this little teddy is thankful.  The full-color illustrations are cute and get the story across in a fun manner.  There are several animals throughout the book, so kids see not only bears but also other wildlife.  Since the teddy bear thanks Lord for everything, there is a religious feel to the book.  There is a chapel in an illustration, so the book leans more towards Christianity.  Nonetheless, the overall theme of being thankful for life's blessings is central.  The book is hardcover, and the pages are thick and more wood-like than paper.  It is a durable book that can take lots of reading and dropping!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology" by Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili

I am fascinated with quantum mechanics, so this book immediately stood out to me.  How does quantum mechanics relate to biology?  Obviously, there are quantum particles such as electrons in living matter.  However, these authors really take it a step further to explain and postulate how quantum mechanics aids in common biological processes.  From photosynthesis to enzyme action to the concept to the soul, and more, this book dives deep.  Of particular interest was the idea that quantum mechanics is responsible for the compass in creatures such as birds and butterflies that allows them to migrate on precise magnetic headings to their migratory destinations.  Also fascinating was the concept of how quantum mechanics works with the sense of smell in creatures.  This book was great.  My only criticism is that it could have had more pictures.  When discussing complex chemical phenomena, sometimes words alone can not convey the whole story.  I work as a rocket scientist by day, and even I had to read many paragraphs multiple times before I got the gist.

Friday, September 4, 2015

"The Chase: Trusting God with Your Happily Ever After" by Kelsey Kupecky, Kyle Kupecky

This is a delightful book from a husband and wife about waiting for God's best for your life in terms of marriage.  Both give their opinions and share their stories.  Readers will hear of heartbreak from the authors themselves, as well as from the authors' friends.  Cutest of all is how both talk about praying for their future spouse and how they met.  The font is a nice size, and there are embellished (artistically, not verbally!) quotes throughout to make readers smile.  The book goes by fairly quickly and is a great conversation starter.  While both authors are Christian, they do not force their views on others.  They talk about what they believe, but I did not feel they were forcing me to believe everything they believed.  Rather, they were just sharing their story...and part of their story is their religion.  Overall, this was a great book.  There are even some wedding photos at the end, which is adorable.  This book does talk about sex and waiting until marriage.  It is in no way graphic, so parents may decide for themselves whether or not this book is suited for their children.

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Thankful" by Eileen Spinelli and Illustrated by Archie Preston

This adorable book is all about gratitude.  From firefighters to gardeners to dancers to artists, all chip in to say what they are grateful for.  However, there are not real firemen and gardeners and so forth depicted.  Rather, the brother-sister protagonist duo pretends to be most other people person.  This hardcover book is well made with nice glossy pages.  The illustrations really make this book what it is.  They are clever and cute and oh-so hilarious.  From the little boy running for mayor with a sign about abolishing bedtimes to the father rolling his eyes as he presents high-tea desserts to the little girl queen, this story is sure to have you giggling.  The book is not overtly religious.  There is a church with a steeple in the background of an image, plus a pastor who is grateful for God's Word included.  However, no one religion feels pushed on the reader.  This book is just a fun read for people of all ages to remind them to be more thankful for the blessings they have.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"The Plans I Have For You" by Amy Parker and Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This adorable book takes Jeremiah 29:11 and brings it to life.  Children are depicted in magnificent full-color images of them following their dreams.  Some are doctors, some work at zoos, some are scientists, some are pilots, and so forth.  It is emphasized that each child is unique and special and that no path is superior to any other.  So, a doctor is just as loved as a store clerk in God's eyes.  What's nice is that there are kids of all ethnicity shown.  Stereotypes are broken as readers see that anyone can be whatever God as in store for them.  This hardcover book is a treasure for children and adults alike that should be read over and over.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Wild in the Hollow" by Amber C. Haines

Starting at her own childhood and ending at the childhood of her sons, this book follows one woman's life journey.  The text reads like a memoir with its brutal honesty and poetic license.  Amber tells of her shameful past she regrets of chasing after men.  Readers then follow her as she converts to Christianity and eventually marries her holy-roller husband.  The struggles of marriage, affairs, and such are described.  When kids finally enter the picture, Amber is honest with her insecurities and anxieties of postpartum depression as her own baby holds on for dear life in the hospital.  This is a religious book in that it talks about Christianity and the church.  Due to the sensitive nature of this book in describing the author's sexual encounters, I would not recommend it for young readers.  The book is not graphic, but it does allude to mature matters.  There is no swearing in the book.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Spinster" by Kate Bolick

Given the fun title and cover, how could I not read this book?  Starting off with the historical definition of spinster, this book hits the ground running.  Afterwards, I was surprised to realize that the author analyzed five writers from years gone by.  All these writers were women similar to Bolick.  Interestingly enough, not all of Bolick's heroines were really spinsters in the truest sense of the word.  Some of them even married.  Also surprising was the fact that Bolick writes of her dating life.  With a title like "Spinster," I was expecting some sort of feminist book that shuns all men.  However, Bolick writes of her boyfriends and even near-engagements with clear honesty.  Thought-provoking and insightful, this book is a nice respite for a sunny day.  Since Bolick is so honest in her dating life, I would not suggest this book for young readers.  This is not a graphic book, but still it is not good for youngsters.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"The Hiding Place" with Elizabeth & John Sherrill

World War II hits Holland like a ton of bricks as Corrie and her religious Christian family must decide how to help their Jewish neighbors who are being hunted down.  With a large estate, the Ten Boom family converts a large bedroom into a small bedroom and a small hiding place.  There, Jews hide from the police.  All is well until the Ten Boom family is found out.  Corrie and her family are first sent to prison and eventually to concentration camps.  As a children's edition book, this story does not get incredibly graphic.  However, there is still enough information to convey the suffering--inadequate food supplies, poor sanitation, flea infestation, etc.  Amidst all the tragedy, there is hope in the book.  Corrie learns to forgive a soldier who she hates, and even fulfills her late sister's wish for healing concentration camp survivors.  There is an ending in this book.  Whether or not readers will find that ending happy is something that only they can decide.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"A Human Error Approach to Aviation Accideent Analysis" by Douglas A. Weigmann and Scott A. Shappell

This book focuses on the human factors analysis and classification system as is relates to aviation.  While commercial aviation and general aviation are discussed, there is more research provided on military / naval aviation.  Both fixed-wing and helicopters are studied.  This book does not cover light sport aircraft, hot air balloons, gliders, etc.  The text is written in such a way that the information is conveyed without being too messy.  There are less tan 200 pages in the book, and the figures are quite easy to follow.  Respected authorities in the literature are cited frequently.  The authors are free from bias and honest when critiquing their own methodologies.  Readers will learn about visual flight rules, instrument flight rules, crew resource management, controlled flight into terrain, modeling, simulation, training, and more.  Overall, the book was interesting.  My favorite part was the case studies that took students right to accidents as they learned what went wrong and what could have been prevented.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Seven Spoons" by Tara O'Brady

This is a fun cookbook with lots of recipes.  It is not my favorite, but the recipes are pretty good and versatile.  I made two cakes from this book, and they came out rather well.  This even included me swapping out ingredients and halving the sugar.  I made the coconut plum cake and the blueberry poppy seed cake, and both were delicious.  As to why this is not my favorite cookbook, there are a few reasons.  Firstly, there is a lack of pictures--I mean, there are pics, but just not as many as I would like.  Additionally, this cookbooks has paragraph steps in tiny font instead of numbered steps.  This makes it incredibly difficult to follow along, especially after going to the cupboard and then coming back to try and find where you left off.  Also, some recipes I found unusual.  There was a grape dessert in the book.  The pic and directions had the cooked dessert with the grapes still on the vine, even though the grapes were cooked to the point where pulling them off manually would be messy.  That was a bid odd, but who am I to say?  :)

"Thief of Glory" by Sigmund Brouwer

Many books are written about European concentration campus, but this is the first I've read about the camps in the Dutch East Indies (now known as Indonesia).  The protagonist Jeremiah writes the story in first-person.  Readers travel with him from his pampered upper-class life to his starving destitution under Japanese rule.  We go from a luxuriously open home to a house crammed with twelve families and an overflowing sewage system.  Hygiene and compassion go out the window as the Dutch succumb to cruel soldiers.  Throughout the book, Jeremiah writes of his childhood love Laura and his quarrels with Georgie.  The book is not graphic but can get sad at times due to the historical context.  The end of the book has a twist that readers did not see coming as Jeremiah is in his eighties looking back on what happened post-World War II.  Beautifully written, this book is a masterpiece.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

"Shadow of the Mountain" by Cliff Graham

The Biblical account of the Exodus and desert wanderings does not mention Caleb much in terms of life history.  Very little is known about this courageous warrior.  This is where Graham comes in and dramatizes the life of Caleb with fascinating back-stories.  The author is careful to note that much of what is written in his book is purely fiction to help readers understand the culture of ancient Egypt and soldiering.  The book currently has Caleb as an old man.  The story of life in Egypt, the plagues, and so forth is set up as a series of flashbacks.  Caleb's nephew asks his uncle about his past during a rainy day, and so the tale begins.  Where the Biblical account is sufficient, it is quoted directly as Caleb says something along the lines of  "read what Moses has already written."  Since the author is a veteran, the battle scenes tend to be graphic.  They are not vomit-inducing descriptions, but I will say they give more detail than one may be comfortable with.  That being said, I do think this book would be a good gift for men.  Many biblical fiction books are geared towards women, and this book shows the aspect of warfare that men may enjoy better.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

“Devil’s Pass” by Sigmund Brouwer

Sigmund Brouwer is one of my favorite authors, and he has not disappointed me with this book.  Action-packed and well-written, this adventure novel is sure to keep readers guessing what will happen next.  This book is part of a series.  The other books in the series are written by different authors and focus on different characters.  Reading this book, it never felt as if there were details left out of that it was necessary to read the other books in the series.  This book focuses on Jim Webb, who likes to just be called Webb.  When his grandfather passes away, he leaves Jim a cryptic set of directions.  Desperate to fulfill his late grandfather’s wishes, Webb sets out on his adventure.  He meets friends and foes—mostly foes.  Webb is in the wilderness and encounters wild animals, harsh climate, and many more deterrents.  The style of this book goes back and forth between the past and the present.  This gives the reader enough detail to have some fun but not so much as to leave everything predetermined or obvious.  This book has nothing inappropriate in it, so it may be suited for younger readers.  There is a violent stepfather and an unearthed corpse in the book, but the details are not graphic; readers may use discretion.  While Webb comes off as a little rough-around-the-edges, Brouwer paints him as a truly good guy who has kindness in his heart.  Throughout the book, Webb pushes aside his hatred for his life’s circumstances to find that kindness.  Overall, this is a great read full of both thrill and emotion; it has depth. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"I'm Happy for You (Sort of...Not Really)" by Kay Wills Wyma

Written in fun speech that will feel like you are talking to a long-lost friend, this book is sure to get readers pondering about the vice of envy.  With plenty of real-world examples, quotes, stories, and more, Wyma explains how playing the game of comparison steals the joy from life.  While Wyma is a wife and mother, readers of all life stages will glean wisdom from this book.  The humorous yet sobering anecdotes from Wyma's children are sure to resonate.  There is the son in a swim match who is swimming slow because he wastes too much time looking left and right to see how other swimmers are doing compared to him.  There is the daughter who reflects on not being selected for a sports team when her friends are and the emotions that come with that.  There is the author herself who compares her marriage and parenting to other families she knows.  The list goes on, but at the end of the day and the end of the chapter, we all realize that it is better for everyone to just focus on being happy for others and not worrying about how good everyone else is compared to ourselves as long as we are doing our personal best.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

“Cookie Love” by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

“Cookie Love” by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy is a massive cookie cookbook.  From drop cookies to sandwich cookies to rugelach to biscotti to shortbread, this book has it all.  The hardcover book is very nice with the full-color pictures.  Unlike most cookbooks I review, this book has a picture of almost all the recipes it includes so readers know what the final product should look like.  That aside, there are some criticisms worth pointing out.  The bulk of the recipes are for 40+ cookies, so the average reader has to do some division to get smaller portions.  Additionally, the recipe font is a tad small, and there is no numbering system.  Rather, small paragraphs are just in order with directions on how to make recipes.  Due to the unusual layout of the recipe page (with the author’s comments on her opinions of each cookie, sometimes with a family member), the directions tend to spill onto extra pages.  This is often the case with a recipe starting on a right page and continuing onto a left page.  For average bakers who are running back and forth in the kitchen with dough-encrusted hands, it is difficult to remember where exactly on the page they were last at and then have to later flip pages on top of that.  Since most of the recipes call for fancy techniques and machinery that I do not own, I tried out chocolate chip cookies.  I figured that should be easy enough and require the least amount of technique / machinery.  The cookies did come out well and rather tasty. 

“I Can Make You HOT!: The Supermodel Diet” by Kelly Killoren Bensimon

“I Can Make You HOT!: The Supermodel Diet” by Kelly Killoren Bensimon is a fun book written by—you guessed it—a supermodel.  Included are personal stories, life events (with pictures to boot!), eating / exercise tips, fashion advice, and recipes.  The writing style flows very well, and the pages go by quickly.  The author gives advice for how to plan out each day of the week in order to be “hot.”  While the bulk of the concepts make sense, there are some parts that may be difficult for the reader to agree to.  Some of the food plans seemed to emphasize too much meat and not enough vegetables.  This obviously does not make the author fat since she is a supermodel.  However, the average reader is not supermodel height and does not run three miles a day.  That aside, the recipes in the book were very easy to follow and quite good.  The Pad Thai recipe in particular was very quick and tasty with healthy ingredients.  Overall, this was a fun book, but I would not say the lifestyle it promotes is as easy to follow as the recipes included.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Bread and Butter" by Erin McKenna

This cookbook is geared at gluten-free and vegan baking.  Baking gluten-free is not bad, and baking vegan is not bad; however, combining the two can be extremely difficult.  I tried two recipes in this book and both came out sub-par.  The flavor was lacking, the consistency was unusual, and I was overall disappointed.  Since the author of the cookbook owns a bakery, I have no doubt that the items can come out well.  However, I do not own a bakery and have no formal culinary training.  This cookbook is not for the average baker.  Considering how some breads take over 3 hours to make and use expensive flour blends, I did not try to make any more recipes from the book for this review.  On a positive note, the book is very nice with glossy high-color images. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Pure Food" by Veronica Bosgraaf

This cookbook is focused on simple yet healthy meals.  When I say simple, I am not joking.  Many recipes have less than 10 ingredients.  The instructions are very easy to follow, and I enjoyed how the author would note how long perishable dishes like desserts would last in the fridge or freezer.  Best of all, this book is broken down by month.  So, you have special recipes for January, February, March, and so on.  The monthly recipes are not holiday themed (e.g.- valentines day dishes for February).  Rather, each month showcases recipes that use what is in season for that given month.  I really like that because sometimes I get recipes where I can not find some of the ingredients.  By making seasonal food, you won't have to worry about chasing down elusive ingredients.  My favorite recipe in this cookbook is the Strawberry Ice Cream pie and it came out wonderful.  There is actually no dairy in the pie.  The crust is made of almonds and dates (a crust without wheat, who knew!), and the filling is made of strawberries, cashews, and dates.  The recipes here will keep both your taste buds and waistline happy as you eat pure food.

Monday, March 2, 2015

"God and Kings" by Lynn Austin

Set during the late reign of King Ahaz to the early reign of King Hezekiah, this book packs a historical punch.  Prophets Isaiah, Zechariah, and Micah take to the scene, as well.  Based off of biblical accounts, this book ties together various stories and helps make sense of political issues in ancient Israel.  While the books of the Bible have exciting stories, sometimes it can be hard to connect the dots of separate books.  Austin weaves together stories from the books of kings and the prophetic books.  For instance, it totally went over my head that prophet Zechariah's daughter was married to King Ahaz.  What may seem like a random prophecy in the Bible is brought into plain historical context many times.  Additionally, while idolatry can seem awful enough on paper, it comes to like in this story.  Readers wrench in emotional pain as they stand by prince Hezekiah watching his heather father sacrifice sons to pagan gods.  As prophets walk thru the Temple, we feel their remorse and repulsion to see pagan altars encroaching on holy territory.  The lives of women are also dramatized, which makes the reader ponder the real historical accounts.  Sure, the Bible may leave certain details out, but what if the queen was really struggling with a specific internal dilemma?  Beyond being an obviously religious book, I enjoyed how Austin put in real doubts.  A royal tutor is an atheist, a foreign envoy thinks he is his own god, a Jewish priest fakes devotion to YHWH, etc.  This book does not sugarcoat history but rather puts it in light.  I look forward to reading the next book in Austin's series.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"When I Fell from the Sky" by Juliane Koepcke

In the 1970s, a plane crashes into the rainforest that leaves only one girl alive.  Stuck in the Peruvian rainforest for over a week, Juliane must fight the elements to survive.  Interestingly enough, she is the daughter of two zoologists.  So, she was the most likely to survive--she knew what was needed to stay alive in that environment.  This book is one of hope and life, but it is not recommended to be read before bed.  There are scary details of maggots and jungle creatures and open wounds.  There is even mention of vultures and corpses and the sad reality of what happened to Juliane's mother.  When one woman falls 10,000 ft into the jungle and lives to tell about it, that is a story worth reading.  This book makes you appreciate life and will make readers contemplate their unique place in this world.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"The Healthy Mind Cookbook" by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson

I was so excited to review this cookbook.  Out of all the cookbooks I've tried, this is one of the only ones that focuses on brain health.  And I don't just mean memory and preventing dementia; I mean also combating depression and helping to be the happiest you can be.  Before the recipes even begin, the authors give a brief review of nutrition.  They explain what different foods do for the brain.  While they go into amino acids and neuroscience, the book is not so complex to scare readers away.  While some may think that eating brain-healthy is boring or lacking flavor, that can not be further from the truth.  The first recipe I tried from this book was the Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles.  I had found a truffle recipe online, which came out nothing like what the description said it would.  So, I figured I'd try out the cookbook truffles instead.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  The truffles in this cookbook came out exactly like what the description said they would.  Forget online recipes--I'm going to just stick to cookbooks now.  Also, these truffles were healthier for me and my brain than the online truffles I had tried.  The online recipe had cream and brandy; this cookbook recipe had dates, cherries, and walnuts.  Overall, this is a great cookbook, and I look forward to trying out other recipes in here to boost my brainpower!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Supermarket Healthy" by Melissa D'Arabian

Beautifully written and presented, this book is a quick guide for anyone looking to make some health-conscious meals.  The beginnings introduces some basics of what to keep handy in the pantry as well as some nutrition basics.  However, the author makes it clear that her book is not a diet or nutrition book but rather a cookbook focused on staying healthy.  The book is broken down into sections.  Besides breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts, this book divides up recipes further into sections for poultry, fish, pasta, and more, which is nice.  The pictures are very high-quality, and the colored printing is fun for the text.  There are tips for entertaining, as well as stretching a budget.  The directions themselves are pretty straightforward and in a good readable-sized font.  Overall, this is a fun cookbook.  However, it does not focus on any particular food avoidance or allergy.  So, if you avoid certain foods, just skip those recipes in this book and focus on others.  Or, feel free to substitute ingredients, which the author suggests.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"The Chia Cookbook" by Janie Hoffman

Unlike most cookbooks that just jump into recipes, this book has an introductory section on the health benefits of food.  Focusing specifically on chia seeds, the author describes how chia seeds help digestive health, immunity, and overall well-being.  For recipes that incorporate chia seeds, they are elaborate yet easy to make.  It is not as if the meals involve just sprinkling the seeds on them.  Rather, the chia seeds are incorporated into the preparation and cooking process.  From breakfast to lunch to dinner to snacks, this book has plenty of ideas.  The recipes are easy to follow, and the full-color pictures are very nice.  Go get a big bag of chia seeds because you will start putting them to use.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"You are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes" by Chris Hadfield

I received this book when I went to a speaking event for Chris Hadfield.  I heard the author in-person and can attest to his eye for details and witty humor, both of which are evident in this book.  As you flip thru this hardcover and see its full-color pages, you will see the astronaut's personal pictures from space.  From Asia to Europe and Africa to the Americas, you will see topographical details from all over.  Rivers and trees and irrigation fields sound commonplace.  However, when viewed from space, they are unique and breathtaking.  With each picture, there is a short description and sometimes a little joke.  This makes a nice coffee table book.  What I loved most is that the proceeds of this book go towards charity.