Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ezekiel Made Clearer


Mark Hitchcock offers this brief, fact-filled book for the Christian (or anyone) who wants to make sense of what is happening in the Middle East today.  He identifies the nations in Ezekiel’s prophecies and gives historical context.  Hitchcock also shows how emerging events align with the prophet’s writings.  What role will Iran, Russia, and other nations play in the end times?

As a visual learner, I always appreciate that Hitchcock includes charts to summarize the vast amounts of information he presents.  This book is accessible to any reader familiar with the Bible.  No theology degree or Hebrew proficiency is required, as everything is presented thoroughly and in terms understandable by an educated layman.


I received a free review copy of The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel through Blogging for Books.

Magical Mathematics for Preteen Readers


Alex is an only child with parents who have demanding jobs and are seldom able to spend time with her.  Because her father’s engineering skills are in demand all over the world, Alex also moves often.  She is not the best at making friends, either.

When Alex goes to her first day of middle school she stands up to some bullies.  They throw her into a closet, where she hits her head and wakes up in another world.  Archimedes (yes, that Archimedes) greets her and shares that he, too, just appeared in this world many years back.  While Alex has never been fond of math, she learns that in this new world, math is “magical.” Archimedes takes her under his wing, convinced that math can eventually get Alex home again.  Alex meets some of Archimedes’ students and works with him, learning that he, like her father, uses math to help people.


Latin and math are presented in this novel as exciting tools rather than dull textbook topics.  I highly recommend this book for preteen readers.

I received a free review copy of Libellus de Numeros for my honest assessment.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Help Kids Learn to Tie Knots

Nellie Knows How to Tie a Neck Scarf: A Children's Book Review


This beautifully illustrated book has an appealing character in Nellie, a girl who loves to dress in beautiful clothes.  After donning a dress, tights, and hat, she finishes each outfit with her favorite accessory: one of her lovely neck scarves.  Nellie has a fun story that helps her remember the steps for tying her favorite knot, too.

Not only does this book teach manual dexterity skills, it also includes natural-sounding sentences instead of stilted, controlled-vocabulary sentences.  The book sounds more like Beatrix Potter than a textbook, making it fun to read aloud while a child follows the rhyming directions.

Nellie would make a lovely gift, especially wrapped in a box full of colorful scarves for practice!

I received a free review copy of this book for my honest assessment and endorse it as a parent and a librarian.

A Fresh Look at Hadassah (Esther)

Esther: A “Dangerous Beauty” Novel by Angela Hunt


Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate this version of the story of Hadassah.  A beautiful Jewish orphan girl is raised by her uncle, a scribe in the court of the Persian king.  When the king seeks a beautiful young woman to be his new queen, Hadassah is among those rounded up--and must hide her Jewish identity for her own safety.

Hadassah becomes Esther, who wins the heart of the king and saves her Jewish people at the risk of her own life.  Angela Hunt fills in the Biblical account with her own imagination, informed by research into Persian culture and history.  This inspiring story is an encouraging reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people.


I received a free review copy of Esther: Royal Beauty from NetGalley.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Starr Chronicles Book 1: A Review



Jeffrey Day offers young readers (tweens and teens) a cast of appealing characters and a plot that has some interesting twists on the "gifted kids go to space" story.  Readers who enjoyed Ender's Game will want to check out this novel.  Children and teens alike love stories of smart young people overcoming obstacles--especially when they get the best of some evil adults.

Sonny Star is selected along with other highly gifted kids from around the world for a spot in the United Nations' special space academy.  Five teams of children around eleven years old are training for deep space flight.  One team, however, has been hand-picked for a suicide mission without their (or their parents') knowledge and consent.  Will the manipulative leaders at the U.N. and the academy get away with their unethical human experiment?  Sonny (the pilot) and his team will need all their skills to survive this adventure--and skill may not be enough...

I received a free copy of Sonny Starr Versus the Spacetime Conspiracy from the author in exchange for my honest review.  As a librarian, parent of six, and Purdue engineering graduate, I heartily recommend this interesting story for preteens through adults.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Complete Guide to Starting an Online Store: A Book Review

It’s refreshing to read a book that lives up to its name.  When the authors say “complete” they are serious.  Four areas are covered in detail:  starting, building/setup, marketing, and maximizing revenue. How detailed is the information given? This book cover details many newcomers would not even think were that important.  From choosing your business name and domain name, setting up phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and selecting a logo to accounting, this book delivers.

There are many online services and platforms vying for your attention.  This book helps you weed through all the options and find the best tools for each business task.  If you need to know what to do and how to do it, this book offers the checklists you need and links you to tools that make the process less daunting. I highly recommend How to Start an Online Business to anyone considering an internet-based business.  Although the focus is on online stores, many of the recommendations could also help indie authors, affiliate marketers, and other entrepreneurs. 


I received a free review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Great New Mystery Series: The Man from the Yard Trilogy


Dark of Night is a thriller that has an eclectic cast of characters.  One woman is tormented by a teenage prank that still haunts her and seems to be catching up to her.  Can she be saved by a brilliant Englishman who became an American sheriff in a small town?  Perhaps there is hope if he enlists his comrades: a Native American, some young men eager to make their mark, and a good old boy from a neighboring town, for starters. 

It would help greatly if they knew exactly what they were up against, but the murderer they seek is unlike anything they’ve ever encountered.  It will take logic, faith, and courage to figure out the truth--and to confront the murderer before he/she/it kills everybody!

I found this book refreshingly free of gratuitous sex and violence, while full of suspense and likeable characters.  The murders are gruesome, but not described in unnecessarily graphic detail.  The writing is well-paced and the story moves right along--a real page-turner.  I also appreciated the respectful treatment of faith in the story: skeptics, Native American spirituality, and Christian faith are all part of the story and none are ridiculed or maligned.  They are simply part of the journey made by the various characters.


I received a free review copy of Dark of Night by Marios Savva, and am happy to recommend it for adult and young adult readers who enjoy mysteries.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - A 30-minute Instaread Summary



I have seen Gillian Flynn’s books in stores and wondered if this was an author I would enjoy.  It seemed a good way to decide would be to check out an Instaread Summary of one of the books, since I have found those summaries helpful in the past.

The broad overview of the book indicates that it is written with chapters alternating between the present and flashbacks from various characters.  I enjoy reading books with this element, as I have never been a linear thinker--I like to see the big picture from many vantage points instead.  A woman survived the home invasion that resulted in the murder of her mother and two sisters and the conviction of her brother.  As a child, she couldn't have known anything about betrayal, murder-for-hire, or other dark forces at work in her own family.

From the chapter summaries I can see that Dark Places is a murder mystery with a number of twists: a family member who may have been wrongly convicted, a child witness/survivor, and a club full of people who investigate old cases and resolve them if possible.  I was also informed, however, that none of the characters were particularly likeable.  This may be a deal-breaker for me, as my fiction reading is driven by well-developed characters who exhibit flaws, grow, and achieve some sort of satisfactory resolution of their conflicts.  I might find this novel disappointing.


I received my copy of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - A 30-minute Instaread Summary free for my review.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Compassion Does Not Require Compromise of Biblical Truth


This excellent book covers the issues churches and individual Christians face now and increasingly in the future--how to deal with homosexuality within and without the church.   From loving neighbors to handling a kid your children's ministry with two "dads" or 'moms" this book offers practical advice and sound spiritual teaching.

Adding credibility to this book is the fact that one of the authors was involved in a homosexual lifestyle before Jesus.  He can identify with struggles and offer hope for others.

I received a free review copy of Compassion without Compromise from Bethany House Publishers.

Meet the Kurds


Stephen Mansfield, the author, fell in love with a people who trace their roots back to the ancient Medes.  These hearty warriors live in the mountains of what is now northern Iraq.  They have survived generations of atrocities, including Sadaam Hussein's vicious chemical weapons.  Despite their hardships, however, the Kurds are building a modern nation.  As Mansfield states, Kurdistan is becoming what America had hoped Iraq would become.

I enjoyed reading the stories of Kurdish hospitality.  It is refreshing to know of a mostly Muslim people who welcome Jews, Christians, and religious minorities of all sorts.  It was sobering to read of the many times Kurds have faced extermination.  The world is fortunate such resilient and determined people of goodwill exist, as the Kurds could show the rest of the Middle East a better path--if only they would take it.

I received a free review copy of The Miracle of the Kurds from Worthy Publishers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Susie's Hope: Movie Giveaway!



Susie's Hope is a movie about survivors.  Donna Lawrence survived an attack by an abused dog in her neighborhood.  Susie survived being beaten and set on fire by a human abuser. Thanks to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and many in the North Carolina community who donated money and prayed, Susie survived.

When Donna and her husband, Roy, adopted Susie, they couldn't have known how they would be used to change animal cruelty laws in North Carolina.   They couldn't have known how much Susie's story would inspire people to give, educate, and adopt.  As you will see in the movie, however, Donna and Susie healed more than each other.  Today Susie's Hope teaches about responsible pet care, advocates for abused animals, and teaches children about safety around strange dogs.

The movie was done with plenty of input from Donna and Roy.  Emmanuelle Vaguer does an excellent job of capturing Donna's beauty--inside and outside.  While some details of the story were changed for the movie, the main story line is there in painful detail.

I am happy to recommend this movie to anyone.  My own review copy will be placed in the library at Life Community Church, where many know and love the Lawrences--2-footed and 4-footed!  Some scenes are disturbing, particularly Donna after the attack and the photos of Susie's actual burns.  Truth, however, is a powerful teaching tool.  Just be aware that young children will need to watch it with a parent who is ready to discuss the problem of evil in our world and offer positive things a child can do to help animals.

See the trailer, then get your own copy of the movie on DVD.

Comment on this blog post below to get a chance to win a drawing for a free copy of Susie's Hope.  One reader will win, so comment now!



"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Crumbles Chronicles: A Children's Book for Dog Lovers


Those of us who have adopted shelter pets love to hear stories of rescued animals.  Crumbles is a dog with some hang-ups and eccentricities.  His family loves him, though, and he loves his family.

The story uses Crumbles himself as the narrator, so we get to see things through his eyes.  Paper bags become a menace to his family and must be destroyed.  Crumbles will need some help, but he's fortunate to have some good neighbors like Napoleon, the dog next door.

Rescue dogs are not perfect, but they can still be great family companions.  Laura Scott Schaefer has done a good job of telling this engaging story as a short chapter book for children.

I received a free review copy of Battle of the Paper Bags for my honest review.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Learn about Saudi Arabia through the Eyes of a South African Girl

Girl of the Book by Princila Murrell is an interesting and engaging story about a South African family that moves to Saudi Arabia for the father’s two-year work assignment.  I was concerned that this would be a preachy book for kids about how all Muslims are wonderful and all Christians are intolerant and arrogant, but I was pleasantly surprised by a balanced story line with realistic characters that struggle with real life situations.

The new-girl-in-school problems found in many tween and teen books are magnified in this book.  Despite her parents’ careful instructions, Courtney still manages to violate cultural rules regularly, even though she tries not to cause trouble.  Many of her classmates at school don’t help--and even work to get her into more trouble.  Two young people, a girl and a boy, are the only ones kind to her. Unfortunately, their kindness to Courtney causes them problems with some family members and classmates, too.


This was a wonderful book that respected both religious traditions while showing how difficult it can be for the two cultures to understand one another.  There are no objectionable elements, so parents can confidently hand this excellent story to young readers, even very young children who read well above grade level. 

I received a free copy of Girl of the Book  for my honest review.  It will be available on December 1, so you won't have to wait long to read it for yourselves!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recommended Blog for Moms: Mommy Edition

Mommy Edition is a blog that offers information on education of young children as well as nutrition, shopping tips, and health articles.  You will also find tips for children's parties and family celebrations/traditions.  This blog features high-quality articles that can make your life a little easier.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Self-Publishing Help from a Seasoned Publisher


Deborah S. Nelson teaches anyone how to publish a book with her own book: Publish Your Book Blueprint in 3 Days.  This book walks the user step by step through the publishing process on Createspace.  Part 1 explains in detail the digital publishing process.  Part 2 is a guided workbook in which you just fill in the blanks on pages from title and preface through the back matter (appendices, glossary, about the author, etc.)  She provides the skeleton and you add the flesh.

As one who has only published e-books, I found this book encouraging.  Having heard that formatting a print book is much more difficult,  I have been reluctant to consider hardback or paperback publishing.  If/when I do, however, I plan to refer to Nelson’s website and her wealth of resources, including courses on self-publishing.

I received a free review copy of Publish Your Book Blueprint in 3 Days in exchange for my honest review.


Children's Book Review

The Boy Who Spoke to God
This is another fine children’s story by Randa Handler.   In an imaginary kingdom, four cultures live in harmony and work well together--except when a holiday rolls around!  Niko gets tired of all the arguing and prays about it.

In answer to his prayers, Niko sees and hears from God in a dream.  God looks like all the people groups together and tells Niko that the four groups can live together.  Niko gives this message to the kingdom, but it takes a while for people to work things out and respect one another.  Wonderfully detailed illustrations help tell the story.

As an evangelical Christian, I might read and discuss this with children as a lesson in being friends despite differences.  It is not a theological text, so it does not teach children to reject their own faith--although old people like me will have some concerns about postmodernism (there is no objective truth) and universalism (there are many ways to God and all gods are the same.)


I received a free copy of this book from the author for review.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Fantasy Story with Moral Lessons

Cubbie Blue and his Dog Dot

This children’s story by Randa Handler involves a boy from a species of tiny people living in Antarctica and having special powers. Cubbie Blue disobeys his father and uses a transport device before he is taught to use it safely.  Fortunately, his dog is with him and can help him when they land in a city full of humans.

Three boys become friends to Cubbie and Dot and help them survive while they look for a way back to their own people.  This story can be used as a launching pad for discussions with children about being friends with those who are different--in size, color, or culture.  The boys have to solve lots of problems, too, offering even more lessons for young readers.

Color illustrations help the reader visualize the story.


I received a free copy of this book from the author for review.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Philosophy and Fantasy for Tween Readers


Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin was written as a fantasy novel for tweens.  Nemorin also created the story as a philosophical text.  As children follow the journey of Samarra and her brother Cassian, they encounter questions basic to all humans:
  •        How do I know what or whom to believe?
  •        How do I make wise choices?
  •        Can I know what is right or wrong?

Samarra learns she and her brother came from another planet and, when offered a one-way trip to that planet, accepts the offer for herself and her brother.  Some things on the new planet are better, some are worse.  Samarra is happier, but her brother is not.  When they get caught in a battle between two kinds of magic and two ways of believing, choices must be made.


This is a well written story whether or not one uses it to teach philosophy.  This is recommended for teachers or parents to read and discuss with tweens and young teens.  Nemorin wrote Shieldwolf Dawning as part of her work on her Master of Arts thesis and it was obviously written with attention to detail.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering


Happily engaged Drew Farthering is looking forward to a nice, normal wedding and married life with his Madeline.  Unfortunately, life has other plans.

Can Drew’s relationship with Madeline survive while he helps an old girlfriend? A beautiful former actress accused of murdering a member of her theatre troupe?

This title is recommended for lovers of mystery, the theatre, and a little romance. 


I received a free review copy of Murder at the Mikado from Bethany House publishers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Abraham by Chuck Swindoll


Pastor Chuck Swindoll offers his insights as he explores the Biblical account of the life of Abraham.  From God’s first words to Abram to Abraham’s death after a long, eventful life, there are lessons for all of us who want to know how to really follow God.

This biography of Abram/Abraham, like the Bible, shows us the good and the bad.  This man of God was, after all, a man.  In each chapter, Swindoll showcases one event and how that event developed character or revealed character flaws.  By the end, anyone can see that Abraham’s life was a journey of faith--a journey with detours, disappointments, and delights.

I recommend this book to Sunday School teachers and church libraries.  It is also useful as a supplement for individual Bible study of Genesis.


I received a free copy of Abraham from the publisher for my honest review.

From Dreamer to Planner


 The Newest Secret by Deborah S. Nelson is not just another motivational book.  The subtitle,  Part 1: Introduction to Dream Planning indicates a big difference.  Nelson teaches the power of truthful thinking rather than merely positive thinking.  Truth is fundamental to achieving any dream and Nelson offers tools to help the reader identify and speak the truth in his/her life.  Each chapter includes a “power study” with links to helpful resources, making this book an inspirational title and a reference book.

The culmination of the process of dream planning is to actually write and publish your dream.  Your pen bridges the gap between imagination and creation.  Creation is an important theme in the book, as Nelson embraces a creative worldview (one of abundance) rather than a competitive worldview (one of scarcity.)

Important features I found especially notable included her discussion of overcoming entropy and gaining momentum (engineers like physics metaphors) and her coverage of what to do when the dream arrives.  Gratitude is an important attitude to have!   Nelson also offers useful tips for dealing with “dream deniers” who can’t or won’t see your dream.


The Newest Secret would make a fine gift for a graduating senior or a helpful study for a person experiencing “midlife crisis.” 

Note: I received a free review copy from the author for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Unit Study Resources for Elementary Grades

Randa Handler has written several books for children that can launch excellent class discussions.  The books also make great material for family reading time.

The Thanksgiving Dinner Platter is set in 1941, the year Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in the United States.  Takari is part of a Japanese-American family and is excited to celebrate with her family--until she breaks an heirloom platter that belonged to her grandmother.  Takari’s mother is upset, so Takari seeks consolation from her friend, Little Sparrow, a Native American.

As Little Sparrow’s family prepares cornbread in the tradition of the Wampanoag, Takari learns about the pilgrims and begins to understand how much she has to be thankful for.  She tags along when Little Sparrow and his father go to spend time at a veterans’ hospital and learns that Thanksgiving Day is about more than food and heirloom platters.  She returns home wiser and more thankful than ever.

Use this book in a unit study on Thanksgiving, veterans, or multicultural customs.
***
Handler has also written Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot and What’s Up with Mike? which feature multiracial boys, a fantasy world, and tiny creatures.  The lesson is that being different is not a bad thing.  If I Were King features a zebra that learns important lessons about friendship, boundaries, and safety while playing with a variety of animals.  The Boy Who Spoke to God is a lesson on tolerance among different religions.
***
Find Randa Handler’s books on her Amazon Author Page and check them out.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Giveaway: Their Name is Today

Johann Christoph Arnold offers the why and the how of "reclaiming childhood in a hostile world."  The modern world needs some common sense reminders about the age-appropriate pursuits of childhood, as our institutions become increasingly hostile toward normal child development.  

I believe Maria Montessori and a host of sensible great-great-grandparents would say to us what Arnold does in this much-needed book.  Play is the proper work of a child.  Screen time is no substitute for hands-on activities.  There is no substitute for active adult involvement in the lives of children.




Comment on this post below and get a chance to win a free copy of Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.  Winner will be chosen November 8.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thorough SAP ERP Exam Preparation



This is as thorough an exam preparation book as I have seen for any examination.  The authors have taken a highly specialized exam and created a resource to help qualified test takers do their best and earn their Financial Accounting (FI) Certification.

A large part of success in taking an exam is to be familiar and comfortable with the test structure and format.  The authors tackle this immediately, offering an overview of key exam features: time limit, computer-based format, official pass rate, etc.  Particularly important is the knowledge that some questions have more than one answer and missing one of the options results in an incorrect answer.

A Quick Quiz section follows the introduction, giving the reader the general “flavor” of the examination.  This allows the reader to quickly get a sense for whether or not he/she is ready to prepare for the examination or needs more practical experience before tackling the remaining sample test questions.

The rest of the book groups sample questions by topic, e.g. fundamentals, automatic payments, logistics integration, and workflow.  Sample questions include both single answer and multiple answer format, so the reader gets practice in both types of questions.  Answers immediately follow each question, so there is no leafing back and forth to check answers.  Each correct answer is followed by a helpful explanation. Charts are included where a visual aid is helpful.


If you know how to use SAP ERP 6.0, this guide will help you prove it.  Enter the certification exam with confidence if you have worked through this book.

I received a free review copy of this guide for my honest review.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Important Resource for Women

Book Review: LoveBeyond Your Dreams by Riana Milne


This is a long book, but well worth a woman’s time.  There are two areas this book covers that you won’t find in many “relationship” books.  One is a detailed description of the signs of a toxic person.  The other is practical advice on steps to take to protect yourself early in dating.

Toxic people come in many different “flavors” and Milne has seen them all in her work as a counselor. To help the non-professional identify people who might become problems, lists are provided so a reader can recognize behaviors that are not normal.  This is so important, because people who grew up in homes with a toxic person (e.g. a narcissist, a Mother Hater, or an Adult Child of Alcoholics) probably don’t know what a normal relationship should look like.  Such a person could read one of the lists and think, “Oh! it’s not normal for my boyfriend to do X or Z.”

The practical advice is quite detailed and includes such common sense practices as protecting your home by meeting dates outside your home until you are in a real relationship. Not responding to late-night text messages is another tip.  Readers are assured that a man who really wants a relationship with them will keep up the pursuit.  Your safeguards protect you and help separate the wheat from the chaff.

I recommend this book to women of all ages.  The young can learn to keep themselves safer by establishing the healthy boundaries and avoiding unhealthy relationships in the first place. Older women may need information on safely leaving an abusive relationship (don’t do it without help) or resources for helping friends and relatives.

Healing is also covered, of course, so there is hope for the reader who is in a bad relationship or is recovering from a bad relationship. The author's personal and professional experience really show here!


I received a free review copy of Love Beyond Your Dreams from the author for my review.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Book about a Journey

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - A 15-minute Instaread Summary


Instaread summaries are helpful to me when I approach a book outside my usual comfort zone.  Japanese authors and culture are not my usual fare, so I turn to Instaread to see if Murakami’s book should be added to my reading list.

Instaread gave a broad overview of the book, followed by chapter summaries.  The book is an account of one man’s journey from rejection and bewilderment to a fresh start. Tsukuru spends sixteen years of his life not knowing why his high school friends suddenly turned away from him.  He assumes there is something wrong with him until Sara enters his life and suggests, quite sensibly, that simply asking for the truth would be a great way to get past his past. Tsukuru learns the truth and the book ends with him making a decision that will move him forward in his life.

Instaread offers a “Reader’s Perspective” which serves as an opinion about the book.  I agree that the switching from past to present from chapter to chapter was a good device for understanding Tsukuru’s pilgrimage.  The point of the book was to show how his wrong thinking had stalled his life at several key junctures.  Once he learned he was not colorless and worthless, however, he was ready to pursue a new relationship and move forward with his life.


I received my copy of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - A 15-minute Instaread Summary free for my review.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Subversive Living: Fight Back, Young Women!


Subversive Living: Fight Back, Young Women!: Be Rebellious by Megan Clinton is a call to young women everywhere to take charge of their destinies and become the women they were cr...

Friday, September 19, 2014

An Instaread Summary of D'Souza's "America"


This little book was my introduction to the Instaread series.  Since I have not yet read America: Imagine a World Without Her by Dinesh D’Souza, this summary was a good way to find out if that book is different enough from D’Souza’s other books (which I have read) to justify my time and cash.

I was not disappointed.  Instaread first gave a broad overview of the book, which is an account of the two different viewpoints in American politics and culture today.  On one side are the progressives (also recognized by D’Souza as anti-colonialists) and on the other are the conservatives/constitutionalists.  Very brief accounts of key people are also included in the introductory matter, in case the book is read by a political or historical novice.  Notable is the summary of Saul Alinsky’s 4-point Lucifer strategy: polarize, demonize, organize, and deceive.  D’Souza appears to have nailed the progressive plan.

The body of the book consists of chapter summaries.  I can tell from these summaries that the book includes detailed discussions of the value conflicts between conservatives and progressives, including economic freedom v. sexual/social freedom and entrepreneurship/capitalism v. tolerance/entitlement.  The chapters cover reparations, foreign policy, bureaucracy, domestic spying, and many other issues relevant to concerned Americans today.

Reading this “30-Minute Instaread Summary” has made me more enthusiastic about making time to read the entire book by Dinesh D’Souza.  I also will seek out more Instaread e-books as a supplement to reading reviews on book websites.


I received my copy of America by Dinesh D'Souza - A 30-minuteInstaread Summary free for my review.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roar Blog Tour Stops Here in North Carolina!



As an older woman and a Libertarian (once a Reagan Republican) I was interested to hear and understand what a younger woman really thinks.  Hughes has given me hope that not all women of her generation are dressing in silly vagina costumes and plotting the socialist demise of America while aborting their helpless babies conceived in a one-night stand with a community organizer.  Get this book if only for the great chapter on gun control, or the great chapter on what women really want economically, although there is much more to like.

Scottie Nell Hughes is a journalist, trained in the (now lost) art of journalism.  One chapter of the book laments the loss of the distinction between news reporting and editorial content.  With the lines so blurred in both traditional and new media, objective truth is more elusive than ever.

Hughes has a chapter on being a parent in modern times.  As one who lived through the transition from the traditional upbringing (what I got from my family/school/community) to the safety/self-esteem/precious princess/non-competitive/organic world of modern “parenting,” it was nice to hear from a mother with a balanced view: who uses car seats, but doesn’t think we must be forced to keep kids in them until they are 18 years old and 200 pounds, for example.  She sums up the dangers of the post-Christian, postmodern society as follows:  “…there are more tools to help lead our children astray than there are ways for us to keep them on the straight path.”


Older women, read this to regain an ounce of hope for the future.  Young women, read this to know you are not alone in wanting to protect and defend your family and country from those who are tearing them down.

I received a free copy of Roar for my review from Worthy Publishing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Does Modern Education Endanger Reading?

Do our students read enough? Are technologies crowding out recreational reading time? Given the importance of reading in a free society, where an educated population is essential, these are important questions. Reading engages the mind, exercises the imagination, and improves concentration. Through literature we interact with other literate people across time and space. Good literature may reinforce our beliefs or challenge them. Literature provides a model for us as we compose our own essays and stories. Students who do not read great writing cannot be expected to produce great writing. More importantly, children who do not read will become adults who do not read.

It is worth asking ourselves whether school, with its increased emphasis on testing, testing, testing, is crowding out time that students formerly spent reading literature. Is it possible the increased emphasis on skills that can be readily measured by end-of-grade tests means less emphasis on reading and evaluating great literature? Without exposure to literature in school, young people are less likely to be aware of or to read literature outside class. Easy books based on popular culture are the literary equivalent of junk food, yet those are the books children are more likely to access without an educated adult to guide them toward more challenging titles. Here is an area where librarians can help to fill the gap, by actively encouraging young people to tackle great literature.

Another way in which modern education might be endangering reading is the great reliance on textbooks. Students read only excerpts from a literature book or history book rather than reading an entire novel or biography. This is the literary equivalent of a snack instead of a full meal. Good readers can be turned off by textbooks, since textbooks are written to be accessible to the hypothetical average student. A good reader wants to be challenged--to interact with a greater mind. Textbooks are designed to cover a state's standard course of study, not to serve as models of good literature. A better approach than textbooks is the "living books" approach (see Shafer) used by Charlotte Mason and adopted by many modern home schools and private schools. This approach uses great literature and biographies rather than textbooks, and encourages students to learn to write by copying examples of good literature for handwriting practice. For example, students could study American history by using a history textbook, memorizing Patrick Henry's "War Inevitable" speech, and reading great literature such as Johnny Tremain and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.

Many simply blame the decline in recreational reading on the proliferation of electronics. Television time certainly displaces some reading time for many people. Recreational computer use can also be anti-reading if the internet is used only for watching video clips of silly pet tricks or looking up movie times at the local theater. However, I agree with the Electronic Literature Organization that our electronics are also a tool that can enhance literary reading (see Kirschenbaum 1-2). The computer can even provide quality new literature for our reading pleasure and enrichment. Seek out quality reading material for children online and they will read.

Reading is at risk, but it need not die. By harnessing the power of our electronic tools, there is no reason America should not see a new golden age of literacy. Our technology can be a tool for enhanced readingrather than an excuse for not reading. The traditional print book is also a viable technology and can still be appreciated by children when a respected adult guides them to the best books.

Works Cited:

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. "A Response to Reading at Risk." letter on behalf of Electronic Literature Organization.

Shafer, Sonya. "What is the Charlotte Mason Method?" 21 August, 2009. http://simplycharlottemason.com 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Eugene Cho Book Giveaway: Overrated


Pastor Cho asks us to ask ourselves if we are really willing to do the work to change the world or if we just think changing the world is a nice idea.  Our culture of opportunity can lead us to a feeling of entitlement.  As Americans, we have the luxury of just sitting back on the blessings others have given us.  Will we get up anyway? Will we get uncomfortable for Jesus' sake and in His name?
Cho does a good job of sorting out the things we do to feel good versus the things we do that do good.  We need to be sure our good deeds are actually helping people with their real needs.  Furthermore, he dares to point out that just posting a #hashtag on Twitter or liking a Facebook page doesn't actually do anything.
Start challenging yourself by reading this book.  Then get up and actually change the world--even a little bit!  You can begin by signing up for the Overrated 5-day e-mail challenge.
Comment on this blog post to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Overrated.  A winner will be chosen October 1.
"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Read an Inspiring and Interesting Astronaut Biography


Jerry Ross, a Purdue graduate and NASA frequent flyer, generously shares his story in this autobiography. Like many of us who went to school post-Sputnik, Jerry grew up idolizing astronauts and expecting to pursue a STEM career (it wasn't called STEM at the time) in order to keep America number one in science and technology.  He joined the Air Force, where he became a flight engineer and successfully applied to the astronaut program at NASA.  He logged over fifty-eight hours on spacewalks and is tied for first place for the number of times he was launched into space: seven!
As a Purdue graduate myself (BSIE '84) I enjoyed Jerry's account of his Purdue years and the time he spent with future astronauts (like himself!) In his accounts of the more mundane aspects of student life, I was interested to find that the Purdue I went to in the early eighties was not much different from the Purdue of the sixties: the engineering work ethic, Triple X burgers, married student housing on Nimitz Drive, etc.
Jerry was a college student when the Apollo 1 crew died on the launch pad. He was in the Space Shuttle program when Challenger exploded and on the team that recovered the remains of Columbia. When he gives his account of what went wrong, he knows what he's talking about.
Read this book for a look at a real astronaut. Not just a highly-trained technology beast, Jerry has family, friends, and strong Christian faith as well. He even gives detailed descriptions of what things look like from space: sunrise and sunset, the continents, a thunderstorm. You will feel like you were there.
This book is recommended reading for Purdue fans, space enthusiasts, and anyone from Indiana--as well as everyone else! 
I received a free electronic review copy of Spacewalker from NetGalley.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Save Money on College Classes


College has grown more expensive over the years, but there are also many new ways to save money. Your challenging high school classes, your life experiences, and your computer can help you get a college degree for much less than the "sticker price." Utilize several of these money-saving strategies, and you will be well on your way to meeting your educational and financial goals.

First, try to test out of as many classes as possible. Most people are familiar with the AP classes offered by many high schools, but there is another alternative. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers exams in a wide range of subjects, including accounting and psychology in addition to the usual foreign languages, math, and English. Most colleges will give credit for acceptable scores on CLEP exams, but be sure to learn exactly which exams are accepted by the college you wish to attend. CLEP exams typically cost around $80, which is less than the cost of a textbook for most classes. Try to take the tests at the school to which you want the credits applied, otherwise you may have to pay fees to transfer credits.
Another money saving strategy is to take online classes. You will have to pay a "technology fee" at many schools, but you will save transportation costs and room and board if the college is some distance from home. Most schools have computer discount programs to help you get an adequate computer for online study. Online classes work well for students disciplined enough to work without much supervision. Schedule time for an online class just as you would for a regular class.
Consider a community college for all those introductory classes. Community college is not as prestigious, but does it really matter for Freshman Composition or College Algebra? You can save money by transferring to a four-year institution for those important upper level classes in your major. Be sure to plan with an advisor to be sure you are taking courses that will transfer to the four-year school of your choice.
When it comes to textbooks, try to contact your professors before making a purchase. Ask whether the books listed at the bookstore are all required texts. You may learn that one of the books is just for occasional reference, in which case you may be able to use a reserve copy at the library as needed. If a course is outside your major, meaning you probably won't want to keep the book, consider renting the textbook from Chegg.com

Finally, don't overlook the small things. For example, if you are covered by your parent's health insurance, you should be able to file a waiver form and avoid paying for the college health plan. Some schools give small discounts for registering early, so watch those deadlines. Plan ahead and enjoy the journey as you make yourself a more educated person.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bible Study Resource


The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible lives up to its title. Dr. Marty and Dr. Seevers offer the setting, summary, and significance of every book of the Bible in less than 300 paperback pages.

Use this as a reference for an Old or New Testament survey course or as a resource for Sunday School teachers.  This is also an excellent resource for high schoolers in the AWANA Journey program who are working on their required Bible readings and summaries.

This inexpensive book offers a big picture look at the Word of God for beginners or for those who teach.

I received a free review copy of The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible from Bethany House publishers.

Writing Inspiration for Every Day

Robert Benson: "Most of the time, writing a book more closely resembles digging a ditch than participating in some transcendent creative experience." (page 8)


Robert Benson offers his own insights to fellow writers.  He has done copy writing, written books, and even spent a year pretending to write a book.  This is not a how-to book with ten handy tips to overcome writer's block, but an account of one writer's experiences.

I enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, many from famous writers.  My favorite chapter concerned three hats.  What?!? Yes, Benson wisely tells us there is a time to wear the artist's hat, a time to put on work clothes and edit, and a time to be the business manager.  Wearing the wrong hat for the day's task can sidetrack a writing project.

If you sometimes feel nobody understands your life as a writer (or as one who want to be a writer) you need to sit down with this book.  You will feel like you met a new friends who "gets it."

I received a free review copy of  Dancing on the Head of a Pen from Waterbrook publishers.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kids Ask Hard Questions


Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions is a resource for parents and others who work with children.  The mother and daughter team of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson have put their heads together with Scripture to offer suggested answers for children's questions about death (including suicide) and life.  Each chapter begins with a question, gives adult answers to the question, and offers developmentally-appropriate answers for preschoolers, ages 5 to 10, and older children.

Topics addressed include divorce, natural disasters, sexual sins, Satan, and hell.  Difficult Bible stories are also covered.  Children deserve honest answers to their questions.  Our honesty shows them that our faith can stand up to difficulty.

I recommend this book to Sunday School directors, church libraries, and parents.  I received a free review copy of Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions from Bethany House.

Historical Fiction: Honor by Lyn Cote



Lyn Cote opens her new Quaker Brides series with a solid piece of historical fiction.  Honor is betrayed by her grandfather, cousin, and former love interest.  She and her companion, Royale, must find a way to survive as a disinherited plantation lady and a freed slave.  Their salvation comes in the form of a deaf man, a marriage of convenience, a trip on the Ohio River, and a new business.

Many tragedies and near-tragedies keep the reader on pins and needles.  Slave catchers, abolitionist journalists, brave Christians, apathetic neighbors, and lazy/corrupt public officials combine in a story that is the human story: fallen people trying to live together in community.

This novel is an excellent blend of fact and fiction.  Those who like their romantic fiction with more substance than fluff will enjoy this book.


I received a free copy of Honor from Tyndale publishers for my review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Management Books for Contrary Thinkers and Other Lifelong Learners


In my former life in consulting, I survived more management fads than I have fingers and toes. I read countless management books, many of them contradictory and some of them utterly ridiculous. I still read and review management/business books occasionally.  Here are five gems that I can truly recommend to thoughtful readers.
First, Break all the Rules
As soon as I read the title of this book, I purchased it and read it cover to cover. (I have a little problem with authority
J) Based on two studies done by the Gallup Organization, this book explains what successful managers do and what talented employees need. The answers fly in the face of many generally accepted management practices. For example, the most successful managers spend the most time with their most productive employees. They also give employees objectives, then turn them loose to achieve those objectives in whatever way they deem best. They can do this because they select their employees for talent.
The Ultimate Business Library
This book is a trip down memory lane, with short chapters devoted to fifty books that were each famous for a time. Remember The Third Wave, In Search of Excellence, and Up the Organization?Titles reviewed include The Prince, Principles of Scientific Management, and The Fifth Discipline. I enjoyed this book because the author seems to be as cynical about most management theory as I am.
Overachievement
This is more of a psychology book than a management book, but I found it fascinating. The author is a Ph.D. who has made it his work to study high achievers: athletes, lawyers, business managers, and students. Again, the findings question conventional wisdom. For instance, we assume high achievers work harder, always analyzing every move and studying every angle. Although hard work has its place, Dr. Eliot finds that great performers, when they are doing what they do best, are actually not thinking like that. They are focused only on what they are doing in the moment: playing the violin, hitting the baseball, or running fast. His discussion of the "training mindset" versus the "trusting mindset" is alone worth the price of the book.
Intellectual Capital
America has moved from a manufacturing economy to an information economy. Managers are trying to manage knowledge workers with the methods of the old economy-with limited success. Stewart offers a new way of thinking about employees by suggesting we use their minds as well as their hands. Learn how successful companies are harnessing the power of the intellectual capital in their organizations.
Generations at Work
The authors studied four generations of workers, whom they labeled: Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters. They describe the pivotal events in the formative years of each generation, e.g. World War II, Woodstock, the Challenger disaster. The different attitudes and work habits of each generation are explained and ideas are presented for getting different generations to work together.
Any of these five management books would truly be worth a few hours and a few dollars. There are no silly fads or psychobabble in these books; in fact, you will probably find they confirm your own experience and common sense.
References:
Buckingham, M. & Coffman, C. (1999). First, break all the rules: What the world's greatest managers do differently. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Cranier, S. (1997). The ultimate business library: 50 books that shaped management thinking. New York: AMACOM.
Eliot, J. (2004). Overachievement: The new science of working less to accomplish more. New York: Penguin Group.
Stewart, T. (1997). Intellectual capital: The new wealth of organizations. New York: Doubleday.
Zemke, R., Raines, C. & Filipczak, B. (2000). Generations at work. New York: AMACOM.



Monday, August 25, 2014

A Book Review of The Israeli Solution by Caroline Glick


I am 51 years old.  Every president I can remember has tried to broker “peace in the middle east” and every one has failed.   Caroline Glick helps me understand why.  The two-state solution has been assumed to be the only solution for so long that most of us never consider the alternative--a one-state solution.
 
Glick deals one by one with the arguments against Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (with Israeli citizenship offered to Arabs living in those regions.)  Those Arabs who do not wish death to all Jews would benefit from the stability and civility of Israeli law compared to life under PLO terrorist rule.  Those Arabs who wish death to all Jews will never be content with any “solution” other than the total destruction of any Jewish state and its citizens.  The one-state solution would work for all those who truly want to live in peace, and would improve the economic well-being and physical safety of Arabs who chose to live as Israeli citizens or permanent residents.

This is an important book with historical perspective and practical analysis of demographics, economics, and other concerns.  The only way to improve this book, in my opinion, would be to include more and larger maps for those of us who are more visual learners.


I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Crown Forum, through the Blogging for Books program.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Great Books for Long Flights or Other Long Waits


A book is a wonderful travel companion, especially when those inevitable delays happen. The top books I recommend to travelers are long enough to keep you entertained through hours of layovers. For reading on the plane or in a waiting room, the following are novels and nonfiction that will refresh your mind, spirit, or both.

For an especially long flight, say Los Angeles to Sydney or New York to Hong Kong, take along a copy of the paperback, 50th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This classic novel explores what happens when the productive people in a society disappear and those who mooch off them have to cope. The greatest musicians, philosophers, industrialists, and engineers are disappearing and the government is running out of wealth to confiscate. Men are destroying their wealth or leaving it to rot, then the men vanish without a trace. Can society cope without all those "greedy" men who provided jobs, transportation, and solutions to their problems? If you are a successful person who feels unappreciated, this book will make you cheer. Do take your reading glasses, though, because this paperback version is nearly a thousand pages of fine print.
For fans of J.R.R. Tolkein, an airplane trip is a great time to read The Silmarillion. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, this book is not a straight story; it is rather a "history" behind the story. Tolkein did not merely write a trilogy; he created an entire world, with languages and culture and history. The Silmarillion tells of the creation of Middle Earth, explains why elves and dwarfs don't usually get along with one another, and gives the genealogies of our favorite trilogy characters. Don't read this until you have read The Lord of the Rings, which is my third recommendation for travel reading. The trilogy is available in paperback and will last you through the longest of trips.
Always interesting is The Holy Bible. For history buffs, read I and II Samuel and I and II Kings for a survey of all the kings of Israel, or read Luke and Acts for a history of the early Christian church. For romance, read the book of Ruth for a sweet love story or the Song of Solomon for love poetry of the highest order. Esther is a story for those who want romance, intrigue, and history all in one package. Compact Bibles fit easily in a carry-on bag.
Finally, if you have a Vietnam veteran in your family or would simply like to have a better understanding of what some of those young men went through, you must read We Were Soldiers Once...and Young by Lt. General Hal Moore (USA-Ret.) and Joe Galloway. If you saw the movie starring Mel Gibson, you probably found yourself wondering about some of the characters and found yourself moved to tears by the suffering of the men and their families-and amazed at their heroic attempts to save one another. The book explores what went wrong, gives deeper insights into the lives of some of the men, and tells us what some of the survivors did after the war.

May all your travel be delay-free! However, these books are good enough that you might want a delay or two. You'll be glad to have any of these books in your carry-on bag, and your life will be richer for having read them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Missions on the Amazon: A Review of Wherever the River Runs


Kelly Minter has a gift for describing her experiences.  You will feel like you went along for the ride when she describes her first trip on the Amazon River and many other experiences among the people who live there.  She has a desire to share her love of the Amazon and its people, as well as God's great love for them.

Add this book to your library of mission stories at home and at church.  Comment on this blog post by August 20 and get an entry in a drawing to win a free copy of Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”