Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to you and your family. And may you have a healthy and happy 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nearing Home!

Billy Graham’s book Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well has a simple message. It’s a message we’ve all heard – accept Jesus Christ – yet it’s delivered in such a simple and non-preachy manner that we can read it without getting our backs up. You know what I mean because we’ve all been preached to. And that preaching doesn’t always win over our hearts. Billy Graham doesn’t do that in this book. He delivers his message in a gentle manner. He speaks honestly about aging and we all (some more than others) can relate to this. But his message comes through and yet we can read that Billy Graham is at peace in his life and in his future.

Nearing Home is an honest look at Billy’s end-of-life journey with his simple but definite suggestions for us all. No matter how you feel about the subject, this book is worth a read.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

William G. Bentrim Does It Again!

The Wicked Good Stepmother, by William G. Bentrim, is a nice story that will help ease the fears many children face these days. With divorce common, many children are faced with the insecurities and fears that go along with a new stepmother or stepfather. This fear may be worse in the case of a parent’s death and a remarriage by the remaining parent. In this book, Bentrim shows how Bonnie and Bradley face their fears of a new stepmother. They know all the scary stories of wicked stepmothers but don’t know any about good ones. They definitely expect the worse when Dad returns from his deployment with a new wife.

The story allows Bonnie and Bradley to express their fears but also shows how their Dad demonstrates his love for each of them. And the new “wicked” stepmother handles the situation perfectly so that they can all face the unknown days ahead as a great new adventure.

If a child you know is dealing with similar fears, they may be comforted to see how Bonnie and Bradley can now face their future together with love and hope. This is also a good book for those who are not facing this situation so that they can better understand friends who may be going through a similar scary times.

Read The Wicked Good Stepmother to your child and help ease their fears. Well done, Mr. Bentrim!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

American Politics and Global History

America The Last Best Hope Volume III, by William J. Bennett is a book describing America through its politics and world relationship during the past 30 years. It touches on the Presidents and their administrations from the end of the Cold War through a close inspection of the years since 1998 and our present-day difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Surprisingly, it was an easy read despite the heaviness of the subject. It was totally unbiased, which is like a breath of fresh air these days. So many publications are extremely conservation or extremely liberal. I found Bennett’s unbiased handling of this history both fair and informative. If you’re interested in global events and the political world, Bennett’s America The Last Best Hope Volume III is a good, informative book to read.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where Has Oprah Taken Us?

Where Has Oprah Taken Us? by Stephen Mansfield will be a magnet for many. With Oprah being a household word, readers will flock to this book. Most who have watched Oprah’s show over the years love her. They may agree with some of her topics and disagree with others. But the general consensus is they like her and like her guests and topics of discussion. Some of those discussions have been difficult to watch, such as child and spouse abuse, murder and rape. Others have been enlightening. This book covers her personal life, her rise to fame, and her TV show and acts of charity and generosity. But the main thrust of the book is her faith journey and where it has led her.

Raised as a Baptist, Oprah has made a 180-degree turn, and then another turn and another turn. She’s studied many religions including most Eastern ones. And, according to Mansfield, Oprah has created her own “religion of self” based on the aspects of each religion she prefers. It was an interesting book about Oprah’s life but I disagreed with the Mansfield attempt to blame her for leading her fans astray. If a fan is moved to the point that he or she abandons his or her own religion then that person was searching for something different anyway. If a fan is so wishy-washy that he or she changes each time Oprah features a new guest and new religion, then anyone could have changed that person’s beliefs. If someone is strong in his or her faith, watching and listening to Oprah would have been interesting but not earth shattering.

If you are searching, read this book – it may lead you somewhere new. If you are strong in your faith, read this book – it will be interesting but won’t affect your beliefs. If you have no faith, then the book will still be interesting but have little or no effect on you. Me? It didn’t affect me in any way other than to learn a bit about Oprah’s childhood, climb to the top of her career, and her beliefs.

Mansfield’s Where Has Oprah Taken Us? is a quick read but only if you’re an Oprah fan. If not, move on to read something with more substance.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Quirky Christmas – Not just for Christmas

Bentrim has done it again! A Quirky Christmas: A Tale of Christmas Spirit, by William G. Bentrim, is a delightful story for any time of year – not just for Christmas. But it would make a great gift for under the tree. It’s a story about four squirrels who display the same traits we find in people. Three of them, Quirky, Stubby and Art, are good friends. Each one has his own little idiosyncrasies but they are still good friends and overlook each other’s “issues.” And then there’s Reggie who seems to have an attitude and considers himself “above” the other normal squirrels.

The squirrels manage to co-exist despite the underlying friction caused by Reggie’s aloofness and greed. Then it happens. A “giant” comes along and cuts down Reggie’s tree, takes it into the house and decorates it for Christmas. It’s beautiful but Reggie is beside himself. Quirky, Stubby and Art show compassion and offer a helping hand. Reggie is surprised they’d be so nice to him after he treated them so poorly. He softens and learns a great lesson.

This story is a fun read for young children, while it subtly teaches them to be kind to others. It’s advertised for ages 9 to 12 but I feel the book is for younger children. My 5-year-old granddaughter loves it! It’s a great book for reading to young children yet still fun for the older self-reader. Put Bentrim’s A Quirky Christmas under the Christmas tree for your favorite child. It will delight him or her for years to come.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Surprised by Oxford is no Surprise

Surprised by Oxford, by Carolyn Weber, is a memoir of the author’s journey from an agnostic to a Christian. She had a tough childhood yet, through perseverance, she managed to get through college and received a scholarship to Oxford. That’s when her journey took off in a new and surprising direction. Early on she met an interesting man she called TDH, short for tall, dark and handsome. He’s a Christian and leads her toward Christianity despite the fact that she continues to fight it. But Jesus wins out in this struggle and “Caro” becomes a happy Christian. The book shows how others affect her life and how she, in turn, affects other’s lives.

The book is an easy read and Weber’s story is interesting. However, I feel it was about twice as long as it needed to be. Some may love the book while others will react as I did. Enough is enough. End the book and come to the not-so-surprising ending. Apparently, this book could have been much longer because the ending was summed up in a few pages while we had to read through hundreds of pages to get there.

Yes, Christians will enjoy this book and it is interesting for non-Christians also. I don’t think it’s the type of book that will convert anyone. And the length may just turn some off. Don’t get me wrong, I think Weber is an excellent writer. She just needs to know when to end a good thing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Survival on 9/11 - A Different Point of View

Thunder Dog, by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory was quite a surprise. I began this book with apprehension. I’m just not ready to be reading books about 9/11 as it’s still too painful. But this book and Michael Hingson’s story is different as it’s about his harrowing escape that day and, also, about his survival each and every day of his life. Hingson is blind and has dealt with issues all his life, but his blindness has never held him back. Try riding a bike or even driving a car with your eyes closed. Try walking through a room and “hearing” the coffee table before running into it. Life has been a series of challenges for Hingson and he’s met each and every one of those challenges head on. 9/11 brought on a challenge no one ever expected. Hingson met that challenge too.

The book describes how Hingson, along with his various guide dogs, has met these challenges and acquired skills most people assumed he could never achieve. The tales of his life are interspersed with his story of 9/11 and his long walk down 78 flights of stairs along with his wonderful guide dog, Roselle and his friend Dave.

Hingson did a great job in telling his story of that tragic day and the aftermath. But he also managed to teach the reader the challenges and the capabilities of the blind. We all tend to assume the blind can’t do many things in life. Let’s not cut them short. Hingson even flew and landed a plane!

This is a fast-reading book and very interesting to boot. Yes, it’s a depressing and sad topic as we deal with 9/11 over and over again. But it’s a day that’s etched in all our lives forever so read Thunder Dog for a very different viewpoint – not from the tragic event but from the survivor’s point of view.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Whole Book of Quotes from Sarah!

The Quotable Rogue -the Ideals of Sarah Palin in Her Own Words, edited by Matt Lewis is a compilation of quotes by, who else but Sarah Palin. Despite the fact that some quotes are entertaining and some are obviously coming from an intelligent woman, I really don’t know why any of us would want to read a book of Palin quotes. She is definitely not my favorite politician but I also believe she is often misrepresented by the press. Hey, that’s the nicest thing I may say about her so take it or leave it.

Many of the funny and way out quotes we’ve all heard over and over again are in this book, but not taken out of context. But even in context these quotes don’t impress me one iota. And a whole book of them? No, I’m sorry, this is definitely not a book for me. But if you’re a Palin fan and are hoping she’ll be president one day then you may enjoy reading this book.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Song of the Silk Road - Fast, Steamy, but not my Cup of Tea

Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip is a fast read. It covers some wonderful aspects of the Chinese culture and beautiful descriptions of geography along the Silk Road. That’s where my admiration ends. Lily Lin is the main character of the story. She’s a struggling writer who is involved with her married professor. She receives a mysterious offer from an aunt she never knew she had. Lily is told she must travel the Silk Road and follow specific instructions and she will be rewarded with $3 million.

Lily decides to take on the too-good-to-be-true challenge and heads for the Silk Road. Some of her adventures are interesting but most everything that she experiences is, well, slightly unbelievable. I loved the explanations of the culture and ways of the Chinese, but a good part of this book seems to be contrived to “fit” into the storyline.

There’s a great deal of romance and “just plain old sex” in the story. Lily seems a bit of a fly-by-night to me. I’m sure anyone who is into steamy sex and romances would enjoy this book. No, I’m not a prude but this story goes a bit overboard. It could have been written with lots of great descriptions of the culture and history of the Silk Road and with less of the sex scenes. But all in all, the story would still seem rather far fledged.

If you want a quick read and can look beyond the silliness of some of the storyline, you may well enjoy this book. Personally, I’m glad I read it but am rather unhappy I actually paid money for it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Live Like the Amish in Tough Economic Times

Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving, by Lorilee Craker is a delightful little book. Ms. Craker comes from a Mennonite heritage and decides to explore the frugal ways of the Amish when she runs into some tough economic times. She learns a great deal of how to live within her means as she teaches us some of the traditions of the Amish culture.

Saving money is the way of life for the Amish and we could all learn a lot from them. She translates some of what she learns into our own “English” culture. Living within means Amish style is a far cry from how the “Fancy” people live. Maybe we can’t live totally debt free but there can be a nice compromise. The Amish believe loans are considered “stealing” and tend to pay their debts not only on time but ahead of schedule. Needless to say, the Amish don’t have trouble getting credit – the lenders know full well that they will pay back well in advance.

Ms. Craker gives loads of hints of living frugally and many can be applied to our lifestyle as well. However, there are a few extremes. For instance, there’s no way I’d but a mixture of honey and vinegar in my eyes to avoid cataracts. Bring on the cataracts I say! Other than a few extremes, there is plenty one can take away from this book if they hope to change their spending habits. But the reader will also learn a great deal about these beautiful and happy people.

Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving is a quick read and quite interesting. There’s a lot of humor throughout the book and I must admit I laughed out loud reading some of the stories about both the “Plain” and the “Fancy” people. My only criticism is that I wish Ms. Craker had listed all the websites she mentioned at the end of the book for easy reference. I had to go through the book a second time to find the more interesting websites I wanted to visit. Other than that, take a chance reading this book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed even if you’re not trying to live a more frugal lifestyle.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cute Children's Book

Lee Pritchett has done it again. He has a new book titled, Bert Tumblefluff and Friends. As his last book The Tale of Greta Gumboot and Other Stories, this is also a collection of stories set in a magical world. Many of these stories are sequels to previous stories from the first book but they are easy to pick up even having not read the first book.

Greta Gumboot, Gilbey, and Mr. Bumble return to new adventures any child will enjoy. Broken up into many separate stories, this is a book that will be hard for children to put down. Yet with each story a complete tale in itself children can finish one and have the anticipation of a new one for tomorrow.

Holly and the Epheline were my favorites in Pritchett’s first book and they continue to be my favorite in the new book. Pritchett has outdone himself with stories and illustrations. Many of these stories could have been a storybook by itself, but Pritchett has compiled them into one big fun book. I think your children will enjoy Bert Tumblefluff and Friends as much as they liked The Tale of Greta Gumboot and Other Stories.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Too Far-fetched for Me!

The Final Summit: A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity, by Andy Andrews, is fiction with bits of non-fiction thrown in. It’s about a man, David Ponder, who is trying to save mankind. He does this with the help of Joan of Arc, Winston Churchill, Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln, and other real-life characters. I find the story so far-fetched that I had a hard time forcing myself to continue to read it. I don’t mind fiction if there’s some basis of realism but this is way out there. I’m sure Mr. Andrews means well and I’m sure he has a large audience for this type of book. It’s just not for me. If you’re into this type of book you’ll enjoy it as it is a quick read.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daddy Dates Helps Build Strong Relationships

Daddy Dates, by Greg Wright, is a great little book for fathers who want to create and/or improve the emotional connection with their daughters. Many fathers, busy with their careers, spend little time with the family. Wright gives pointers and suggestions in ways dads can connect with their daughter one-on-one.

This connection is far more important than just creating quality time for father and daughter. It also helps insure the daughter’s future relationships with boyfriends, husbands, and other males in their future. No, it doesn’t eliminate the chance that a young woman may end up in an abusive relationship, but it does help build that security needed to, hopefully, avoid that possibility.

The book is broken down into short chapters dealing with different topics and strategies for dates with their daughters. It’s a quick and easy read but also a book that you can go back to for a refresher course whenever needed. Dads need to take the time to work on their relationship with their daughters and this book helps the Dad build the relationship and prepare him for the daughter’s growing years. At the same time, it helps the daughter build a relationship with the number one man in her life. And it really is easy once the process gets underway. All dads should take the time to read Wright’s Daddy Dates.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bach - The Man and the Musician

Johann Sebastian Bach, by Rick Marschall is a good book for anyone interested in this wonderful musician. It’s a quick and interesting read full of facts – known and little known – about Bach. Although Bach is well known as a musician, some may not know the depth of his faith. This book shows both sides of the man as well as the times in which he lived. If you’re interested in Bach and history, you’ll enjoy this book by Rick Marschall.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hardy and Tiny are Back with Gusto!

Hardy Belch and Tiny Return, by William G. Bentrim is filled with real-life stories and situations and not-so-real life hysterics. This book is divided into four separate stories, each based on something Hardy Belch has read about or learned in school. Then a mystery presents itself and he and his 240-pound telepathic dog, Tiny, set out to solve it. With the knowledge he already has he and Tiny are able to solve each mystery. But the most fun in this book is the conversations between Hardy and Tiny. Yes, Tiny can converse - in Hardy’s mind, of course.

Children and young adolescents will love the mystery and humor in each of these stories. And they will learn something as they read through this book. If you have a good sense of humor, you won’t be able to help yourself – you’ll just laugh out loud reading Bentrim’s Hardy Belch and Tiny Return.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Fight of Our Lives is Overstated

The Fight of Our Lives, by William Bennett and Seth Leibsohn had interesting points, most of which have been rehashed over and over again in the decade since September 11, 2001. I agree that most terrorists are from radical Islam, but I do not believe the majority of Muslim people are terrorists. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The authors seem to be saying that our national security is in greater danger because of political correctness. Give me a break! Why can’t we be open-minded and understanding of all people? No, I don’t mean we should bow down to radicals but we certainly shouldn’t be as narrow-minded as the radicals are!

According to this book, Bush got nearly everything right and Obama is getting everything wrong. I believe politics is politics. Bush’s administration certainly messed up and Obama’s administration isn’t perfect either. Why can’t our country and our politicians work together? Stop with the extreme conservative and extreme liberal side of politics – that’s nearly as bad as the radicals we’re trying to fight.

Don’t get me wrong, there was much truth in this book, but it’s nothing new and it’s certainly expressed from the extreme right. I define myself as a moderate and both extremes irritate the heck out of me. Let’s be a little more understanding of all peoples and all religions and let’s fight what we need to fight (the extremes).

OK, now I’ll calm down long enough to say that I wasn’t a great fan of this book. I truly hope we can, one day, achieve peace. I know, many say this is na├»ve but we can at least move in that direction by being a little more open-minded about all religions. And, no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight back when attacked but let’s try to do it responsibly. We’re in a war situation now that I know we can’t walk away from as much as many Americans would like to. But making comments about an entire religion is not the way to getting closer to some kind of peace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rick and Bubba's Story

We Be Big: The Mostly True Story of How Two Kids from Calhoun County, Alabama Became Rick and Bubba, by Rick Burgess and Bill Bussey is about two Southern good ol’ boys who made it big. I never heard of them until I agreed to review this book.

The book is not only about their journey in radio and television broadcasting, but also about their journey in faith. On their morning radio show they were themselves – and no one else. They loved sports, food and their God.

This is a very easy read and I enjoyed it despite my first impression. I was a bit distressed that I agreed to review the book but I really enjoyed it. My only gripe is that I could never quite figure out what was not completely true in their story. How much could I believe?

Their journey to stardom was not always easy. It took many detours as they were let go from station after station. But none of that was because they weren’t popular with their listeners. They were just “different” from the run-of-the-mill programs on radio. With perseverance and hard work, they continued to survive and finally made it big.

Their story includes their families and home life, their religion and politics. I don’t agree with everything they believe in but I do feel this is an easy read and an enjoyable book.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Training – Time to Read About Baseball Too!

Pujols: More Than the Game by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth, is a book many baseball fans would enjoy reading. I love watching baseball but would seldom bother to read about it. So reviewing a book about baseball would not have been my first choice. The statistics quoted in the book are rather boring although I’m sure my husband will enjoy reading the book.

Despite that, this book is quite interesting and kept my interest. The story of Pujol’s faith and family and how he grew within that faith is quite interesting. The book and Pujol’s story kept my interest and I read through the book much faster than I expected I would.

If you’re a baseball fan, you definitely should pick up Pujols: More than the Game.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Get Caught!

Caught, Harlan Coben, is a quick read. It’s a mystery dealing with a missing high school senior and a recently identified pedophile. But it goes way beyond that when a local TV reporter tries to connect all the dots and ends up looking into several lives of a group of friends from Princeton University.

I particularly enjoyed this book because it’s centered mainly in North Jersey near where I grew up. So I recognized many of the places mentioned and that’s always a bit of a kick. Beyond that, the story itself is full of twists and turns and confuses, not only the local TV reporter and a few persistent police investigators, but also the reader. Each time I thought we were close to solving the mystery another twist would develop. This book certainly keeps you on your toes.

My only criticism of the book is that Coben needs to get all his facts straight if he bases a story on a real-life place. Princeton does not have a medical school. That’s such a small part of the story it didn’t even need to be mentioned in the book, but it is, in fact, inaccurate.

If you like mysteries, you’ll love this book. You won’t be able to put it down until you reach the end. And then you’ll wish for more. Enjoy getting Caught!

Surviving Rejection

Left at the Altar, by Kimberley Kennedy is a short book and quick read. It tells the author’s true story of literally being left at the altar and how she got through the days, weeks, and years after her humiliating rejection. It’s also full of stories of others who had similar tales of their own. One thing I noticed is that the man is always the bad guy – seldom is it the other way around. It also is deeply religious. I have no problem with that but one must, of course, get through this with the love and support of friends and family, along with God. Beyond that, this book will surely touch those who have been through similar situations, whether they rely on God’s help or not. If you’ve been through this type of situation or if you know someone who has, this is a good book to read.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Entertaining but Predictable Storyline

Love on Assignment by Cara Lynn James is a quick read. It’s interesting but predictable. It’s about a young woman, Charlotte Hale, a secretary at a newspaper in the early 20th century. She’s one step closer to her goal to be a reporter when her boss asks her to take a position as a governess in order to “spy” on a local professor and devout Christian. She is torn between ethics and ambition. However, as the story unfolds it’s rather obvious what is going to happen. The storyline is typical where she feels guilty but also needs to finish the job in order to advance in journalism. As hard as she tries, she cannot find anything to pin on the professor and, of course, falls in love. If you’re looking for a light read, this book is for you. I found it easy to read but with little substance.