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.