Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Radical Beauty" by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Kimberly Snyder, C.N.

When it comes to health and beauty wellness, the options for reading are countless.  There are lots of books out there that are written by professionals that are way too difficult to follow.  There are also lots of books out there written by nonprofessionals that are easy to follow.  This book offers the best of both worlds in that it is written by professionals yet is easy to follow.  With no medical degree, I was able to follow along and put the advice into practice in my own life.  Knowing the tips in this book are backed by science and not just some fad really helped.  I also really enjoyed the sections devoted to recipes and exercises.  It isn't good enough simply to tell readers they need to eat better and move more.  Books need to tell readers WHAT to eat and HOW to exercise.  With the cool pink pages and emphasis on beauty, this book is geared more towards women.  However, I would argue that men would also like to learn how to look better.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant

This dramatic novel takes a simply Bible story and makes it come to life in a most unflattering yet human light.  In Genesis, countless generations read how Jacob wanted to marry Rachel--his one true love--but was tricked into marrying her sister Leah.  After this swindle, he waited seven years to be with Rachel (as was the custom in that day when some men worked for their bride-to-be's father until the agreed-upon wedding day).  Yet, in Diamant's tale, Jacob was not totally in love with Leah, and he was not such an honorable man.  Beyond having two other wives beyond Rachel and Leah, Jacob had several sons by Leah.  A drunken man can be excused for conceiving on his wedding night, but what of all the other children and women?  What other excuse is there?  Leah's only daughter Dinah is remembered in the Bible as a woman who fell in love with a prince.  The prince and her were intimate, and the prince loved her so much that he wanted to marry Dinah.  However, Jacob's sons murdered Dinah's love and doomed her to a life of misery.  From this misfortune, Dinah never forgave her family.  Diamant goes so far to presume Jacob changed his name to Israel not due to some diving encounter but rather to be rid of his former name Jacob that had become synonymous with murder and deceit.  Of course, the story of this novel is historical fiction or midrash of the Torah.  It can not be 100% verified.  However, given the blunt details of the Bible and the persuasive way this story reads, it is not difficult to imagine that the characters in the Bible really lived the way we read in "The Red Tent."  This book has adult themes and is not recommended for children.  It is also very sad, so I would not recommending it right before bedtime.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"The Secret Language of Dogs" by Victoria Stilwell

Clearly written and full of pictures, this book is a must for all busy dog owners.  Tips will teach people how to have a happy dog that behaves well.  Communication is key in any relationship, and the author explains how dogs communicate with others.  Barks and body language are explained, as well as unusual behaviors.  The science of howling, pain, and aging are covered, too.  This book is honest and not a be-all-end-all.  For situations that are unique or hard to determine, the author recommends a visit to the vet.  My favorite part of this book is the underlying these of positive training as opposed to negative training.  Punishing dogs does nothing but cause pain, and the dog learns nothing.  To have a truly happy and well-behaved dog, reward good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior.  I love that.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Shadow of the Storm" by Connilyn Cossette

As the second book in the Out of Egypt trilogy, this story both builds upon the first book but also stands on its own.  Readers who have not read the first book will not be confused as to what is going on.  This tale focuses on Shira, a young woman who desires to become a midwife.  She battles with her past where men abused her, and she is confused when a man truly begins to love her.  Can she trust him?  Is he just like all the others?  To make matters worse, there is a desperate woman named Dvorah who does everything to make Shira's life a living hell.  And did I mention the Golden Calf incident is going on at this time?  Beyond the drama of a good story, this book really makes one think about the biblical narrative.  What really happened to all those converts to Judaism?  How did Moses handle the racial divide?  How did families react when loved ones were murdered for bowing to an idol?  All these questions and more are played out with characters. While nothing in this book is graphic, I would not recommend it for young readers.

"This is Real and you are Completely Unprepared" by Alan Lew

While this book centers around the Jewish fall high holidays, the messages it sends to readers are important for all year round.  The rabbi writes about self-introspection, family, guilt, forgiveness, purpose, and so much more.  From setting goals to realizing failure to finding joy, readers will go on the incredibly uncomfortable but incredibly essential journey of Rosh Hashana to Sukkot.  There are Hebrew terms in this book, but it is written in such a way that an lay reader can understand.  Even non-Jewish readers can gain insight into themselves as they read this book and delve into a culture that stresses the importance of both the community and the individual.  From broken marriages to ignored homeless people, no sour spot is ignored.  Life is tough.  This is real and you are completely unprepared.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Saffire" by Sigmund Brouwer

Set during the early twentieth century, this story takes place in Panama during the building of the Panama canal.  There is a mysterious cowboy who is send to inspect the building project.  There is also a young girl whose mother disappeared and who is looking for answers.  There is an entire host of characters whose paths cross as intrigue and mystery enfold.  The book takes some literary liberties but does have historic credibility, including a note at the end of the story.  While Brouwer is one of my favorite authors and I do like cowboy stories, this book was just a little too slow paced for me.  It's not that I didn't like the book--I just found it hard to keep turning the pages compared to some of his other books.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Snuggle Time Psalms" by Glenys Nellist

This short book puts psalms into everyday language that young ones can understand.  The colorful images of animals adds to the cuteness, as well.  Each psalm has a verse quoted followed by a poem beneath it.  The poem contains the nature of the psalm but obviously has been reworded for children.  From elephants to monkeys to mice to penguins, there are so many fun creatures running about in these pages.  The full-color pages will make the illustrations come to life, and the hard-cover binding will keep the book in tip-top shape over the years. Young readers will understand that God watches over them like a parent, takes care of them when they are sick, watches out for their life, and guides them towards happiness.  While this book is geared towards children, I would say it offer valuable lessons for readers of all ages.

Monday, August 1, 2016

"The Love Code" by Alexander Loyd, Ph.D., ND

Contrary to what some may think, this book is not about romantic relationships or dating advice.  This book is all about how to use love to succeed in all aspects of life.  The author focuses on lowering stress to reduce problems.  The concept of internal versus external goals is a huge player in this self-help book.  An example will help.  Let's say someone wants to be a millionaire.  They can try and try but keep failing.  Why do they want to be a millionaire?  Because they think money will give them security and friends.  If that's the case, the person needs to internalize emotions of security and acceptance and self-worth before they can even begin to actualize any sort of financial success.  There are countless other examples in the book, but the idea is to fix the inside before attempting at fixing the outside.  With a doctorate, readers take the author seriously.  One thing  I found fascinating about the book was a mention about a book called Change of Heart (google it).  It is about a woman who gets a heart transplant and subsequently has personality shifts similar to her donor.  From this,  the author surmises that our emotions get imprinted onto our cells.  In other words, the spiritual / mental goes into the physical.  But the good news is that the mental / spiritual can be healed and corrected in order for the physical to flourish and heal, too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Goddesses Never Age" by Christine Northrup, M.D.

I found out about this book and author from an organic women's newsletter.  The subject matter intrigued me, so I started to read the book.  There is a lot of advice in these pages, most of it a bit unconventional.  It's good that the author is a doctor because that gives her thoughts credibility.  There is a lot of eastern meets western medicine in this book.  A large focus of the book is on stress and emotions.  When patients are happy and carefree, they tend to have better health.  However, the author does not ignore physical aspects of life such as poor lifestyle, cancers, and genetic disorders.  Yes, there is a time and place for medication / surgery.  But the key is that every woman must first examine their personal life to see if there is something that could be triggering their bad feelings.  A portion of the book focuses on women's sexuality, which some readers (including myself) may be a bit uncomfortable with.  On the plus side, since the author appropriately titled each chapter, it is easy for readers to skip chapters that they may not enjoy.  At the end of the book, there are ample resources for diet and exercise, as well as women's health in general.  there is even a 14-day plan to help women feel their best at any age.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Pumpkin Patch Blessings" by Kim Washburn, Jacqueline East

Autumn is such a pleasant time for me.  I love to admire the fall foliage, get our my cozy sweaters, tour pumpkin patches, and eat pumpkin-flavored food.  Well, all these good feelings have been swaddled up into a cute little children's book!  Two children--one boy and one girl--explore the blessings of fall.  With birdies, bunnies, lady bugs, and other natural friends, they truly have a blast.  The kids eat pumpkin pie and corn-on-the-cob.  They ride a horse-drawn hay wagon.  They even pick their own pumpkins.  Throughout the hard-covered, full-cover story, the text is a nice sized font.  With simple rhymes of a few lines per page, this book is suitable for pre-k through grammar school children.  Also, while the book has blessings in the title, there are no religious undertones in the book.

“Manners” by Kate Spade

What I enjoy most about this book is how fun it is to read and how quick it is for easy reference.  There are not lengthy paragraphs or essays on etiquette.  Rather, there are snippets from real life on how to deal with awkward and commonplace scenarios.  Not sure how to write a thank-you or when to send it?  Not sure if you can re-gift an item and who to re-gift it to?  Not sure how to act at a party or how to RSVP to said party?  This book will help you!  Obviously, it does not cover every single event, but it does include enough to give the reader a crash-course in how to behave.  The illustrations that line the pages are colorful and amusing.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

"The Berenstain Bears' Caring and Sharing Treasury" by Jan and Mike Berenstain

This hardcover book is not a single story but rather five books in one!  In these pages, readers will learn about different jobs in the community.  There is an emphasis on how everyone has a unique purpose and no one job is more important than another.  When the kid bears start gossiping, there is a story about the damage that can do.  However, there is still reconciliation and the emphasis on saying sorry when one has done something wrong.  When the bears try to constantly one-up each other, Grandpa Bear comes in and puts life into perspective.  No one needs to prove themselves by making others seem inferior.  In another story, when family members are in an emergency, the whole town comes together to help out.  There is yet another tale that teachers youngsters not to judge others based on looks.  So many good morals are shown in this book without seeming corny.  The reading level is grade school and up--I would not use this with book with a toddler.  While religion is not pushed in this book, there are Christian undertones.  A preacher is included in some stories, and there are references to the New Testament Bible.

Monday, June 20, 2016

"I Love You Just Because" by Donna Keith

Adorably written and illustrated, this full-cover hardcover children's book is sure to please readers of all ages.  There are two adult bears that represent a mother and father.  Then, there are several kid bears that are unique.  We have a polar bear, a brown bear, and a panda bear.  Each bear has a different diet, different climbing abilities, different interests, etc.  Diversity of uniqueness is celebrated in this story.  Additionally, there are several Bible verses interspersed throughout the pages.  These quotes are from both the Old and New Testament.  While this story can simply teach little ones about differences among siblings, it can also be a great teaching aid for those with adopted kids who are very different.  Overall, the ultimate message of this book is that each bear kid is loved for no particular reason.  Unconditional love needs no explanation.  :)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Saved by the Enemy" by Craig A. Ledbetter

Childhood is supposed to be an easy, carefree time full of playing and learning in school.  However, for Hank and Fred, their early years were lived in Nazi Germany.  This was not easy for any child, let alone Jewish children.  The story starts with the boy's parents meeting and starting their life together.  When the boys enter the story, there is a brief moment of calm before the storm of Nazi Germany rises up.  The experiences of the entire family is recounted alongside historical facts.  What's great about this book is that it reads like a story while also teaching readers about historical information.  The years are listed for each book chunk, along with information on what happened in those exact years.  There is also a storm analogy used throughout.  While what happened to this family was tragic, there is an element of hope.  The parents do not survive, but the boys do.  They eventually emigrate to America and start over.  The details about the Holocaust are not sugarcoated, but they are not overly graphic (same goes for the pictures).  Throughout the tough time that the boys faced, they were helped by various gentile Germans.  At the end of the book, the author reminds readers to not hold grudges and to remember that not everyone is bad.  There were good Germans who sought to help the Jews, and it is each and every person's personal responsibility to help as many people as they can.  Also mentioned in this book is the JDC--a Jewish humanitarian organization--that helped Hank and Fred start over as orphans in America.

Monday, May 16, 2016

“Counting Blessings” by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Lee Holland

This full-color hardcover children’s book is a must have for any collection.  Not only is the main character a cute and cuddly bunny rabbit, but there is much versatility in this book.  The first half of the story involves counting from one to ten.  With the fun rhymes and engaging images, kids can learn the basics of counting.  Then, there is a wrap-up to work on children’s memory.  Afterwards, the second half of the book has various blessings to be grateful for.  Cognitively, this will help kids transition from counting to analyzing.  Plus, who doesn’t like a cutesy book about a bunny counting blessings? 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"UNorthodox" by Deborah Feldman

This memoir is a harrowing tale of a woman in search of freedom.  The author was raised in a Hasidic community, which is one of the strictest ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities there is.  There are extensive rules covering almost all aspects of life from what to eat, where to go, who to marry, and more.  Readers understand the interactions between men and women, the extreme modesty rules, and how arranged marriages work.  They also understand the limited education and censorship that goes on.  While not all readers will be Hasids leaving their old lives behind, there are many universal messages for all readers.  There is the universal desire for freedom, to break out of the molds one's family / society has placed upon them.  There is the lesson that, no matter how long the skirt or how loose the dress, there will always be men who lust after you.  There is the lesson that even the most religious and pious-looking communities have gossip, violence, pedophilia, and other "bad things and bad people."  While the author eventually leaves with her son to start a new life, her marriage is sad.  Before getting a divorce, the reader is stuck in a loveless marriage with a man who only wants her for her body.  While most readers will likely not be in arranged marriages such as this, I am sure there are women stuck with men who do not love them but rather only use them for their body.  For all those women, there is something better out there for you.  The story ends while the author is still a young woman, and she finds fulfillment in her child and career.  For any woman struggling with finding purpose, wrestling with religious identity, or just looking for a good read, this book is sure to broaden perspectives and have compassion on the "others" knows as Hasids...especially the women.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Counted With the Stars" by Connilyn Cossette

Every now and then I get a book that I keep turning the pages due to the suspenseful and gripping story.  However, very rarely do I get a book that has that and impacts me greatly on a personal level.  "Counted with the Stars" is a biblical fiction story.  It follows Kiya, a young Egyptian woman sold into slavery to pay her father's debt.  Her tale is told during the time of the Hebrew slaves leaving Egypt and the 10 plagues.  Kiya is forced to look inside of herself and question her beliefs as she leaves her idols to go after a faceless God.  Kiya's master is a cruel woman, and the readers learn why the woman is so bitter, giving them a perspective to think for themselves why others treat them so poorly.  Then there are the suitors.  Kiya is originally betrothed to one man, but that does not last.  There is a Hebrew she is attracted to, but he despises the Egyptian people.  Then there is an Amalakite who at first is dashing but later proves to be abusive and aggressive.  Readers will learn through Kiya about mistakes that come from rushing with men and not taking time to learn their character.  When the slaves--Hebrew, Egyptian, and whoever else wanted to join--leave, there are struggles and miracles in the wilderness.  Kiya witnesses danger and salvation as normal occurrences.  With regards to acceptance, Kiya faces the cold stares of Hebrews that despise her heritage.  She struggles with her past and whether or not she will ever be accepted as part of Israel.  All that drama aside, this book is beautifully written and feels so real.  Between emotions and dialog, there are vivid descriptions of life through a slave's eyes.  There is the touch of a donkey's ear, the rush of the Nile waters, the cool stone of a royal floor beneath calloused feet, and so much more.  I can not wait for the next book in this series.     

"Night Night, Daddy" by Amy Parker

After reading Amy Parker's "Night Night, Mommy," I could not wait to read "Night Night, Daddy."  This story follows a kid and father fox--how adorable--on their adventure through the day.  There is playing ball and flying kites.  Then the duo eats a huge stack of pancakes; don't worry, they clean up the maple syrup mess.  There is fort-building and playing on the beach.  The child fox is carried in the father fox arms and eventually laid to rest.  Both father and child pray together and learn about God.  This bedtime story is a must that can be read over and over. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"The Flower Workshop" by Ariella Chezar

Who does not want a beautiful hardcover, full print huge book full of flower arrangements?  This book makes an excellent decoration in the home, a perfect distraction on a rainy day, and even a DIY book for those interested.  Readers will learn how to select vases, prune flowers, and make floral arrangements.  There are tips on selecting colors, textures, and even what types of flowers grow in different seasons.  Beyond that, there are the fancy sections on making head garlands, wreaths, and flower curtains--so beautiful!  I was also pleasantly surprised to read about using vines, branches, and even fruit to make floral arrangements.  This is not your run-of-the-mill flower book.  This is a professionally written book that will turn any passerby into a flower-arranging expert!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Night Night, Mommy" by Amy Parker

Cute as a button, this full-cover hardcover book is sure to please mom and kids alike.  The otters are simply adorable, and the bunny stuffed animal that follows them is even more cute.  From story time to going to the library to washing up and more,  the otters truly had a packed day.  The mommy otter plays with the child otter to tire them out for bedtime.  At the end, there is prayer and singing time for the duo.  This story highlights to children how they are loved by mothers.  It is good for young ones just learning about this special type of bond.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Collage This Journal" by Eleanor Shakespeare

Most journals focus on writing, and that's great.  However, this journal focuses on imagery.  Each page has a specific question or prompt.  Readers are encouraged to either draw or paste in a picture of what they are feeling.  There is a section in the front of the book that gives advice on how to handle family documents.  For example, make copies and paste those into the book--don't cut and paste original family photos.  The whole book is in color and has a nostalgic feel about it.  Readers will document their family, their dreams, what they love, what they need to get rid of, and more.  This is a visual way to express oneself.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

"7 Days of Awesome" by Shawn Byous and Colin Jack

With illustrations reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and childish play of a circus, this book is sure to give kids laughs.  There are serious aspects of what God made and on what day--of course!  However, the manner in which the tale is told is very humorous.  There will be plenty of giggles as the kids fly through space with their wacky tour guide.  From birds to fish to stinky toes, kids will be taught all about creation.  Also, at the end, there is a final note about how God made rest.  That is my favorite part.  The text is short and rhymes in clever patterns.  This book is good for those just learning to read, I would say at five and up.

"Pilgrimage of a Proseletyte" by David Patterson

So my friend invites me to synagogue one day, and there's this big box of FREE books.  I pick this one up and start reading.  Man oh man was I in for a surprise.  Written in soul-piercing prose, this memoir is of a Russian convert to Judaism.  In the month of May 1991, it chronicles his journey from Poland to Israel to Germany and finally back home to America.  He visits the concentration camps, sees the Western Wall, and sees where Anna Frank lived.  The impact of each location is powerful, and readers feel as if they are with David on his voyage across continents and across spiritual dimensions.  A few other characters are weaved into this book as the author highlights those who have touched him the most--from an elderly couple who helps the sick to a hunched over beggar on the streets.  I believe this book was meant for me.  Born in May of 1991, this book helped me discover that I was born on a Shabbat and on Shavuot.  I am also planning trips to Poland and Italy.  If there could be no more coincidences, there is a point in the memoir where the author and friends discuss Saint Teresa.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"God is Watching Over You" by P.J. Lyons and illustrated by Tim Warnes

How can anyone not like a book about a little lambie learning God's love?  This super cute full-color wooden-paged book has rhymes that illustrate how God is watching over little ones all day long.  From early morning to bedtime, everything is good.  Children (in the form of animals, of course!) are playing, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and families are glad.  There is no dull or sad moment in this little story.  The lambie knows that parents care, as well.  This story is great for readers.  Plus, since the lamb is kind of androgynous, this story could be for girls and boys.

"A Book of Life" by Michael Strassfeld

While this reads like a novel, the book is really a reference for all things Jewish.  While things like Shabbat and holidays are covered towards the end of the book, the beginning starts off with the fundamentals.  The aspects of Torah, prayer, and acts of loving kindness are introduced first.  The Talmud and other ancient Jewish texts are heavily quoted.  There are sections on life-cycle events such as birth, death, mourning, marriage, and more.  Conversion is even covered, along with the different branches of Judaism.  No detail is left out, even controversial opinions held by extremely right winged Jews.  What I liked about this book was how it balanced information with bias.  Many perspectives are given, but no one is elevated about the others.  It was also nice how the main theme of doing good that runs throughout the book.

"Hannah's Choice" by Jan Drexler

Set in the Amish country, this book tells the story of not one but several women as they decide who to marry.  The main character must choose between two men--one is a part of her religion, while another is from the Mennonite offshoot.  To complicate matters, one wants to stay in the area while the other wants Hannah to move to another part of the country.  One is stable and secure, while the other is adventurous and dangerous.  One wants Hannah to be a stay-at-home wife, while the other wants her to help save black slaves escaping the slave trade.  Talk about drama, right?  Another character must decide between an Amish man and an American gangster.  Unlike most stories that just focus on love triangles, this book brings in historical context, family history, and character opinion.  It is an interesting read.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"30 Day Faith Detox" by Laura Harris Smith

While this book is titled as a "faith detox," it really involves more than that.  The bulk of the book is on physical detox from bad processed foods.  As a certified nutritionist counselor, the author has science behind her claims.  Readers will understand how the gut affects the brain and vice versa.  They will also learn what foods are helpful for the immune system and which are not.  There are plenty of recipes in the back of the book, too.  When it comes to social detox, the author gives advice for both men and women, whether they be single, married, separated, widowed, or divorced.  For the faith aspect, Smith encourages readers to stay hopeful in God and never give up even when times are rough.  Since the author is Christian, there is a lot of New Testament quoted along with Old Testament and copious notes about Jesus.  In terms of my opinion of the book, I was a bit confused at first since there are 8 chapters for 30 days.  Also, I disagree with the giving up wheat aspect.  I agree that one should give up processed sugary wheat but find nothing wrong with homemade whole wheat (not "enriched") baked bread.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"A Worthy Heart" by Susan Anne Mason

Going from Ireland to America is a big trip but not as big as going from a preconceived notion of someone to a true relationship.  In this story, there are love triangles and drama galore.  Maggie left her homeland to find work in America...and leave behind her crazy ex-fiance.  Adam is an ex-con who had bad luck and doesn't think he deserves any good in life.  Rylan is a character who judges people quickly and is slow to give second chances.  Aurora is a girl learning her place in the world and deciding between suitors.  The character list goes on.  What I liked was how different stories were woven together.  This isn't just some fiction book focused on two characters falling in love.  Rather, others join the scene.  There is even historical detail thrown in the mix to authenticate the novel.  While there is romance in the book, it is not graphic.

"The Jewish Holidays" by Michael Straffeld

This book is an encyclopedia of information on all the Jewish holidays.  While it is compiled by one man, there are copious notes in the margins from other commentators.  From sukkot to shavuot to yom kippur and more, readers will understand what traditions are for those holidays.  There is even a section on understanding where the dates come from and how the cycles of the moon play into that.  In terms of pictures, there is a good balance of images to show things look like.  For example, a seder plate and a sukkah are not left to mere words--there are illustrations.  What I enjoyed most about this book is that it explained where traditions come from with respect but left it up to the reader to decide what is important.  So, while someone may decide to opt out of a certain ritual, they will at least know its significance.

"Basic Reading from the Kabbalah" edited by Gershom Scholem

This short book has excerpts from the Zohar or "book of splendor."  It is essentially a compilation of Jewish mysticism.  The book is divided into categories based on books of the Torah (first five books of the Bible).  There are further subdivisions based on the theme or main idea of each text.  Even though the book is quite slender, it is not an easy read.  The ideas in the book are obscure, and syntax does not help.  While this work was edited for ease of reading, it still reads as though it were written thousands of years ago.  Still, readers can glean several bits of wisdom from this book.  Ranging on topics from the grades of one's soul to what happens when people die to what allegories exist in the Bible to what the nature of God is like, this book will keep you occupied.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"One Spring Lamb" by Anne Vittur Kennedy

Adorable in every sense of the word, this book is a must for children of all ages.  The hard wooden pages give for a durable book that will last the test of time.  The full-color illustrations will mesmerize, as well.  Starting at one and ending at ten, this book teaches little ones how to count.  Throughout, there is a theme of spring and Easter.  The short lines rhyme, and readers get a chance to count the specific number.  For example, when we get to 10, we could 10 bunnies.  There is some religiousness in this book as it is related to Easter.  There is even a line about Jesus at the end.  However, parents can choose their discretion.  When kids ask about the religious aspect at the end, that can be a moment to teach about diversity.  Plus, the lamb is just so cute!  :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"God in the Wilderness" by Jamie S. Korngold

Moses met God in a burning bush and received the Ten Commandments on a mountaintop.  So why do people tend to sit in buildings isolated from the outdoors?  In this book, the author tells her story of finding God in hiking, running, and hiking.  Readers will also learn how others have learned about spirituality from the "adventure rabbi."  This book is written from a Reform perspective but it goes deep on topics like the Sabbath and even quotes from ancient Jewish sages.  Something I like is that this book promotes the outdoors but does not diminish the indoors.  If someone wants to sit in shul to find God, that's okay.  However, if they want to find God on a mountaintop, that is also okay.  People deserve the choice of how to find their spirituality.  Beyond stories, there are plenty of biblical quotes that illustrate how spirituality is found in the quiet stillness of nature.  This is an excellent read and is very short.  So short and light is this book that is can easily be carried along with you on your next hike!  :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

"Becoming Jewish" by Steven Reuben and Jennifer Hanin

This is an excellent resource for anyone who wants more information on Judaism.  While it is geared towards converts, the details can help anyone who wants to know the what and why of Jewish happenings.  From Shabbas to High Holidays to Blessings and more, this book has it all.  The authors make a good combo since one is a rabbi, while the other is a convert.  Different sects of Judaism are explained, and readers understand how Reform is different from Orthodoxy and so on.  There is even a glossary in the back for those who want to learn more Hebrew terms.  The topics covered are inclusive, and there are sections for men, women, and children.  Readers will come to know what a mikveh is, how adult bar/bat mitzvahs work, what to expect at synagogue services, how kashrut works, what kaballah is, why Israel matters, how to make the world a better place, and even whether or not Madonna is Jewish.  Best of all, this book is written with a very non-judgmental tone.  Readers will feel accepted yet challenged as they decide whether or not to continue walking down the road that is Judaism.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

“The Bee-Friendly Garden” by Kate Frey and Gretchen Lebuhn

Thoroughly researched and well organized, this book is a must for any gardener.  From the full color pictures of flowers and bees to the helpful tips, this book is an excellent reference.  Most know that bees are good for the earth.  However, few may know the precise scientific reasons.  Both authors explain these concepts in a way that is accurate yet easy to follow.  There are also explanations on the different species of bee—I didn’t even know there was more than one type of bee!  The authors also distinguish between what type of greenery to have in geographic locations and seasons / temperatures.  Beyond flowers, there are sections on shrubbery and different types of trees.  Readers will learn how to keep their garden sustainable and how to attract the helpful flying workers.  For those scared of bees, they can plant greenery that will attract stinger-free bees.  Helping out bees will not only aid the world agricultural system but it will also help pollinate your garden to keep it looking its best!

“Little One, God Loves You” by Amy Warren Hilliker and Illustrated by Polona Lovsin

This little wooden book is simply adorable.  A baby rabbit (or bunny as my mother likes to say) skedaddles through the story.  This little soul learns how it is loved by God, family, and friends.  There is even the theme of sharing and helping others incorporated into this book.  Each set of left/right page has a simple two line where each line rhymes.  The pictures are full color and reminiscent of oil color painting.  My favorite image is of the bunny on its back in a bed of flowers with a butterfly hovering just above.  This book is perfect for right before bedtime or any time readers (young and old alike) could use a pick-me-up.  Who doesn't like feeling all warm and fuzzy while being reminded how much God loves them?

Friday, February 19, 2016

"Bride and Prejudice" directed by Gurinder Chadha

This witty comedy is sure to keep you laughing.  As any Bollywood inspired movie would do, it  starts off with extravagant singing and dancing.  Oh, and, there is plenty more theatrical outbreaks into song as the movie progresses.  This story is based off of the classic Pride and Prejudice but has an Indian twist.  Indian Lolita thinks that British Darcy is too privileged and that he looks down on common Indian women.  The characters have plenty of conflict and eventually come together at the end of the story in a marriage.  There is drama from other suitors and Lolita's sisters, as well.  This film has elements of romance but nothing graphic.  The story is sweet and hilarious all at the same time.  Personally, I loved all the colorful Indian costumes!

"Aircraft Safety" by Shari Stamford Krause, Ph.D

From bad weather to poor crew collaboration to improper communication with ATC to mechanical failures to spotty maintenance, this book explains how and why many airplanes throughout history have crashed.  Chapters begin by explaining key topics.   For example, what type of maintenance checks are there, and what is a runway excursion?  From there, there are plenty of case studies for analyze.  While this book is pretty exhaustive when it comes to data, my main complaint is that it was too text heavy.  There were lots of places in this book where pictures would have helped a lot more than words.  For example, when explaining different types of clouds, diagrams would have worked.   And for writing about accidents, a visual would have sufficed.  Perhaps I have been spoiled from my ground school textbook that is full color with plenty of pictures to explain concepts in 3D.  For those interested in aircraft safety, I would forgo  this book and go to that has more pictures and clarity when it comes to aviation accidents.

"The Martian" by Andy Weir

After a deadly storm messes up American's mission to Mars, Mark is left behind.  His crew thinks he is deceased when he was really just knocked unconscious.  When Mark comes to, he realizes he is alone.  After the shock wears off, Mark sets to calculating how long he can survive with his given supplies.  He also tries to communicate with earth and survive long enough until the next Mission to Mars arrives.  From using solar cells to manipulating satellite radios to coding space software and more, Mark has his hands full.  He even makes his own garden and uses chemical reactions to create water for sustenance.  While this story of survival has lots of adventure, I really did not like the protagonist.  He seemed too sarcastic and crude--qualities I do not enjoy in a character.  Not a choice pick from me.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Emotional Freedom" by Judith Orloff, M.D.

Ever felt down and out?  Like you are stuck and want to get better?  This book will really help open your eyes to what emotional captivity and freedom look like.  What I really enjoyed about this book is not only how practical it is (using real world examples), but also that it combines science and spirituality.  In today's culture, most people who are upset get prescribed pills to make them better.  While that may be necessary on some of the population who truly have chemical brain imbalances, most people really need spirituality.  Spirituality can come from yoga, meditation, prayer, church, synagogue, counseling, therapy, tai chi, etc.  While Judith believes in God (so do I), she is not pushy in her book.  For those who are averse to spirituality, she encourages them to connect with a force of love and compassion--we can all benefit from doing this instead of mentally critiquing ourselves in our heads.  I think Judith is more convincing due to the medical background.  If she were not a licensed psychiatrist, some may not make all this stuff seriously.  However, given her credentials, readers have no reason not to take the advice in this book 100% serious.  And they will be glad they did!  Furthermore, different personality types are chronicled.  There are even quizzes in the book to help readers determine what situation they are in and what type of personality they [and others] have.  For me, I combined what I learned in Judith's book to understand that I am an empath (I absorb other people's emotions).  I was feeling tired and realized this only happened when I was around a victim emotional vampire (someone who is negative and complains a lot).  I realized that for my own emotional health that I had to distance myself from my negative friend and instead surround myself with positive energy (5Ks for example).  In the second half of the book, there are clear ways to switch negative emotions to positive ones.  Readers will learn how to transform vices such as jealousy, anger, and depression into hope, compassion, and self esteem.  This book also has a helpful index and list of references for those curious.  So, if someone wanted to read up on the mirror neuron science that Judith mentioned, they can easily find where to do that. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Beyond DRES" by DRES Stylists

This book is written by six personal stylists.  It discusses practical and easy ways to be more confident.  Confidence is the main objective.  There is no secret formula or must-buy outfit recommended.  Yes, there is a plug to consult one of the DRES stylists for personal help.  However, the underlying theme is for women to find what makes them beautiful and wear that.  Also, readers will find introspection as they are faced with the hard questions of: Who am I?  What is my style saying to the world?  How do I want to be portrayed?  From cleaning out closets to journaling to meditating to analyzing body types and more, this book has it all.  I also appreciate how it is mentioned that not every color and outfit is good on every complexion and body type.  There is also wonderful advice of buying clothes that fit you NOW.  Do not wait until you lose weight.  If you lose weight, great for you.  However, you deserve to look and feel beautiful NOW.  Great book and great stylists! 

"Arranged" directed by Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo

In this delightful film, an Orthodox Jew and Muslim become friends.  They both share experiences and bond over their arranged marriage experiences, which--surprisingly--are not too different.  Both girls are school teachers in New York City and learn how to be inclusive in their religious lives.  There is much comedy included in the film.  Most of the laughs come from the suitors.  The girls meet / go on dates with potential matches.  Some are significantly older than them, some are narcissistic, some can barely talk, some are very shy, and so forth.  What's great is that this film highlights the experience of an arranged marriage while being unbiased.  The women have a choice in who they marry (no one is forced), and they do become happy with the outcome.  The film is very well done and a classsic.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Superfoods Every Day" by Sue Quinn

Every wondered what superfoods are and how to incorporate them into your diet?  This book uses scientific yet simple terms to explain all of that.  There are even helpful illustrations to illustrate what different superfoods do in the body.  As for the recipes, those are really nice.  The smoothies and salads are especially delicious...and easy to make!  What I love about this book is the pictures.  On the left page, there is a picture of all the ingredients you need for a recipe laid out.  On the right page, there is a picture of the final product.  The recipes also highlight which superfoods are used and how they aid the body in health.  The physical instructions are in paragraph from yet are kept short.  This book has a good balance.  The recipes aren't just normal food with superfoods mixed in.  Neither are the recipes just superfoods with nothing else.  From breakfast to sides to snacks to meals, this book will help you learn to cook and get more healthy food into your system!

"All Aboard the Ark" by Zondervan

This children's book is downright adorable.  Told from the point-of-view of animals, readers learn about Noah's ark.  While Noah himself is not really mentioned--or people in general--the animals take center stage.  They playfully board the ark, clean up, exercise, share, and hope in God.  The words in this book are very large font and following a rhyming pattern.  The illustrations are cute and look like watercolor art.  The pages are wooden and have a sturdy feel to them.  At the very end of the book, the animals go to sleep and have sweet dreams.

"I am Malala" by Malala Yousafzai

This girl is downright remarkable.  She stood up for women's education in Pakistan.  Faced with the Taliban--an extremist Muslim group that declared it illegal for girls to go to school--Malala stood her ground.  She never gave up, even after she was shot in the face by a Taliban terrorist.  Malala's dream is for education for girls...and boys.  Wherever schools close their doors, ignorance opens its own.  What was most touching was how Malala stood by her faith.  I am not a Muslim, but I admire how she kept praying to God even as other Muslims were being extremely violent towards her.  Regardless of how others portrayed religion, Malala knew there was a real God who loved her and cared about her.  That is really amazing.  At the end of the book, there is Malala's speech to the UN.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

 This is the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  Like the two that came before it, this book was excellently written and kept me anxiously turning the pages.  Here, Katniss has thwarted the Capitol once again—this time by destroying the Hunger Games arena force field.  Taken up in a rebel hovercraft, however, she is separated from her partner Peeta who was captured by the Capitol.  Working with the rebels to overthrown the Capitol and trying to save Peeta begin to conflict.  Katniss’ personal struggles ensue when she must be the face of the rebellion as the Mockingjay and put on a front for camera that record her propaganda tapes.  The issue of who Katniss will choose—Peeta or Gale—as her boyfriend is not easily predicted, and the personality of all the characters does change a bit due to post traumatic stress syndrome of the Hunger Games and being in a war.  There is some violence and romance in this book, but it is not at all graphic.  I find this book suitable for youth but parents are suggested to use their own discretion.  All in all, this is an excellent read with a good twist at the end.  Well done, Suzanne Collins.  Well done.