Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Finding the Prosperity Within by Brian Webster

Finding the Prosperity Within is a guide for finding, understanding, and utilizing the prosperity that exists within you to create a prosperous and fulfilling life. Written as an entertaining fable and borne out of the author's own life experiences, Finding the Prosperity Within will compel you to rethink who you are and what you are capable of achieving. It will open your eyes to the many ways your environment attempts to define and limit you, and it will give you the tools you need to get in the driver's seat and take control of your own experience.
If you have ever struggled to achieve success in business, in marriage, or in your personal life, and have fallen short, this book is for you. If failures and disappointments have caused you to lower your expectations of what you think you can accomplish, or caused you to believe that success will always be only a dream, this book could be a life changer.

Finding the Prosperity Within follows the experiences of a talented, motivated, and accomplished young woman named Jamie who has never reached her full potential in the business world. Her life seems to be at the mercy of people and events she can't control. Failure after failure has made her believe that she will never prosper to the extent she desires-until she makes an acquaintance that changes her life and leads her to a world of prosperity she has never known.

Received for review.

I genuinely enjoy reading self-help books so I was interested to give this one a try.  Frankly, I was expecting another rah-rah Anthony Robbins type book, but this turned out to be almost a novel.  Well, not really a novel, novel, but a narrative more along the lines of The Alchemist or The Richest Man in Babylon which teaches you the lessons it wants to impart without you almost knowing it.

It was clearly written in a nice, readable style.  The main character was someone you could genuinely connect to as well.  The lessons were perhaps not the most realistic but I'm sure they work for some people.

If you're looking for a different take on the usual self-help book this is certainly worth a look.  I definitely recommend it to those looking for inspiration on how to change their lives.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Featured Book: The Adventures of Keeno & Ernest by Maggie Van Galen

About the book:

Keeno and Ernest are the best of friends living in the jungle. Keeno, a very mischievous monkey, finds a big, shiny new banana tree. Unfortunately, it is on the other side of the river and his parents have told him never to cross without an adult. Ernest, a clever young elephant, reminds him of this, but Keeno decides to go anyway. Follow the adventure as Keeno finds himself in great danger and relies on Ernest to rescue him. In the end, Keeno learns two very valuable lessons about friendship and family rules.

About the author:

Maggie van Galen grew up in Northern Michigan listening to her father's stories, imaging the characters, being transported to the locations, and engaging in the plots.  Maggie discovered that she too had the creativity to put her thoughts to paper, and always used writing as a sort of escapism.  After years of telling stories to her boys and their friends, Maggie decided to share them with the world.  She truly hopes that you enjoy them too!  Maggie lives with her husband and two beautiful boys on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Men Don't Pee Straight by Rick Dean

Chock full of stuff about men that you’ve always known but never wished to fully grasp (and always hoped would change), Men Don’t Pee Straight confirms your worst fear – those male stereotypes are real, they are accurate, and they are here to stay.
Blunt and comedic, and voted best bathroom book in the universe by the Bureau of Better Bathroom Books*, these cartoon illustrated pages soften the sad reality for many mothers, girlfriends, and wives who have been hoping for change. The best anyone can do is simply grimace, shrug, and then perhaps smile. From diapers and driving thru fragile egos and toilet seats, this poignant yet tactless book will assist with that smile.

*Currently, to the best of Rick Dean's knowledge, the Bureau of Better Bathroom Books is defunct.

Received for review.

This slim little volume was promising from the very first glimpse at the title and I was certainly not disappointed.  It was full of fun cartoons and amusing tidbits that made for light, enjoyable reading.

Some of my favorites were:

More than one fork is confusing.
More than one spoon is confusing.
More than one knife is silly (a steak knife cuts all).
All wines tate the same.
Beer goes with everything.

I definitely recommend this fun little book for personal enjoyment.  It would also make an amusing gift.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Monday, January 28, 2013

Featured Book: The Hummingbird Garden by Evelyn Schwarz

About the book:

Alexis discovers one of nature's miracles!

Six-year-old Alexis and her parents have just moved from an apartment in the city to a home in the suburbs. While lying in the grass in her new backyard, Alexis is startled by a tiny flash of color darting by, heading for her neighbor's yard. Peeking through a hole in the fence, she sees a wondrous sight. Her new neighbor's backyard is filled with hundreds of beautiful flowers, and there are colorful glass balls hanging from some of the trees. But the most magical sight of all are the tiny, jewel-like birds flashing by, hovering in midair, and even flying backward!

About the author:

Evelyn Schwarz loves the outdoors and volunteers as a nature center docent at a local regional ark in San Diego, California.  She enjoyes hiking and sharing nature with others.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison

Wednesday, December 10, 1941

“Hitler speaks to Reichstag tomorrow. We just heard the first casualty lists over the radio. . . . Lots of boys from Michigan and Illinois. Oh my God! . . . Life goes on though. We read our books in the library and eat lunch, bridge, etc. Phy. Sci. and Calculus. Darn Descartes. Reading Walt Whitman now.”

This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era—FDR’s radio addresses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Goodbye Mr. Chips and Citizen Kane, Churchill and Hitler, war work and Red Cross meetings. Included are Joan’s charming doodles of her latest dress or haircut reflective of the era. Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but an important primary source—a vivid account of a real American girl’s lived experiences.

Received for review.

I'm not a big fan of diary books.  I never did enjoy The Diary of Anne Frank.  So, I was a bit hesitant about this.  However, the book was an interesting and quite fast read.

The author's insights into the life and times she documented were intriguing but I didn't particularly like the author as person.  She just wasn't someone I would have wanted to be friends with.  She had a snotty, holier than thou attitude about her that annoyed me.  Perhaps that was just a reflection of members of her class during that time period, yet it was still irritating and distracted from the reading enjoyment.

If you're looking for a first hand account of the war from the perspective of a privileged American teenage girl of the time then this is for you.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Politics. Escorts. Blackmail. by Pynk

POLITICS.ESCORTS.BLACKMAIL follows the life of Madam Money Watts and explores the call-girl industry as it spills over into the world of politics in New York City. Money's exclusive, top escort service operates under the name, Lip Service, and Midori Moody, Leilani Sutton and male escort Kemba Price are her high-end contractors who make a hefty living out of sex for money.

Among her clients are two New York senators who are the very officials voters have elected to make decisions for others to abide by, yet these politicians play by a different set of rules, secretly paying top dollar for the forbidden girlfriend experience. But when a freaky client takes it too far; a pimp wants in on some of the action; and an escort gets greedy, the world of Money Watts is brought to a head.

Received for review.

I'm not a huge fan of erotica, but Pynk always does a good job so I decided to check out her latest offering and I was not disappointed.

Yes, this was graphic (I mean, it is erotica after all) but it wasn't trashily done.  There was a reasonable, if not particularly convincing, plot which added to the readability.  Is it literature?  No.  Is it fun?  Yes.  Overall I found it a nice, rather fluffy, read for a cold winter's night.

If you're looking for contemporary erotica with an intelligent feel this is your book.  I certainly recommend it to erotica fans.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Friday, January 25, 2013

Featured Book: Bubs the Bumblebee and The Spider's Web by Joyce Graham Fogwill

About the book:

When disaster strikes their home, Bubs the Bumblebee and her family find a new garden to collect pollen and nectar, but they must avoid dangerous predator spiders and their huge webs in this garden.
The Bubs the Bumblebee series (this is the second story) introduces children to nature through the use of amazing color photographs and imaginative stories, focusing on the activities and interactions of Bumblebees, other insects and spiders in gardens.

"I want to see more dragon spiders!- said one awestruck 6 year old when he saw the photographs of spiders in this book.

Recommended for children ages 6-10

About the author:

Joyce Graham Fogwill is a retired college science teacher with degrees in Botany and Education.  She continues her interest in Science Education and in Nature Photography.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: How Wall Street Rips You Off by Dale Ledbetter

How Wall Street Rips You Off - and what you can do to defend yourself is a "one-stop source" of information and defenses for many different groups and individual investors.

The various sections of this book will walk readers through obstacles faced by the average investor in dealing with Wall Street. 

The authors explore the many ways in which Wall Street rips off investors and provide readers with the knowledge, tools and strategies that can be employed as defenses against becoming a Wall Street victim.

Readers will learn of the many steps investors can take to defend themselves against the aggressive onslaught of Wall Street profiteers.

Received for review.

The premise of this book was interesting, as quite a few people have lost money in investments, but the reality was quite different.  Yes, the book was educational, but it was dry, very dry, reading.  Think economics textbook.  Which is great, if you like that sort of thing, but for the rest of us it's a little tough to stay focused.  

The majority of the material was extremely educational, but also extremely sleep inducing.  The bullet points at the end of each section do make the material more accessible by highlighting key points though.  The Horror Story sections were the most interesting parts as they described incidents that occurred to others which one can learn from.

Overall, this is an important read, but plan to read it a bit at a time as it may be overwhelming in large portions.  I certainly recommend it to those who are looking for a comprehensive description of broker practices and the pitfalls of dealing with said brokers.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Featured Book: Molly O'Grady's Home Run by Stephen R. Champi

About the book:

A Very Different Baseball Hero! As the crucial seventh game of the World Series approaches, emotions are running high for both the New York Bombers and the New York Stars. John O'Grady, the legendary manager of the Bombers, has his hopes pinned on winning the World Series. His loyal and loving wife, Molly, secretly wishes for a different outcome, dreaming of a peaceful retirement to Florida. Unexpectedly, O'Grady has a vision of a different kind of sports legacy ... but will it affect the outcome of the game? Find out in this unique and delightful baseball story for all ages.

About the author:

Stephen R. Champi, a native of new Jersey, retired in 2005 from a law career that spanned over five decades.  He is a former founder and managing partner of a mid-size law firm, and also served as a county prosecutor and judge.  He now enjoys reading, writing, limited traveling, and expanding his knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for a dynamic and changing society in the new global world of the 21st century.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Elevating Overman by Bruce Ferber

This hilarious and painful novel of redemption follows the journey of Ira Overman, veteran of multiple botched careers and a singularly botched marriage, as he makes one last attempt to rise above the guilt, weakness, and self-hatred that have been hard-wired into his soul since birth. Through an unlikely side effect from an otherwise routine surgery, Overman finds himself revisiting and confronting the uniformly poor choices of his past, and making sense of a world he has never known how to negotiate. The ex-New Yorker and transplanted Angeleno decides to bestow his newfound gifts from coast to coast, earning unprecedented respect from his son and daughter, and the ferocious envy of his best friend.

Ultimately, Elevating Overman speaks to us about righting some of our wrongs, letting others go, and most importantly, gaining a small yet significant insight into a life that matters.

Received for review.

I just knew this was going to be a good book from the moment I read the back cover.  It just had that promising glow about it.  I was certainly not disappointed.

The book is brilliantly written in a fun, clever tone that imparts a a fun feel that is only rarely seen.  I love the idea of how having Lasik can change how you see your entire life.  It is just so intriguing.  That question is explored in an amusing and witty way that is thoroughly enjoyable and yet makes you think about your own life.

My favorite lines from the entire book were from pages 5-6:

Every disgusting nook and cranny of the apartment now looked like it was being presented in IMAX 3-D.  The startling images beckoned him to focus on them with a yogi-like acuity.  The mildewed carpet had far more texture than he had previously thought.  The hole he had kicked in the drywall exposed a curiously gray fiberglass insulation that had gone unnoticed for years.  The "mid-century" cottage cheese ceilings were cheesier, richer, undoubtedly masking a history of secrets Overman dared not contemplate.

I highly recommend this thoroughly enjoyable read.  Really, if you're looking for a new author or book to entertain you and make you think this is the author and this is the book.  You simply cannot go wrong picking up a copy!

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Monday, January 21, 2013

Featured Book: Nursing Jambalaya with Gumbo on the Side by Jacqueline Spencer, Beverly Ward, and Lynell Whittington Brignac

About the book:

Thanks to television, film, and incorrect public perception, there are a lot of misconceptions about the critically important profession of nursing. This entertaining and educational book is the perfect read for those who are already nurses and who want to explore different facets of their career, those who are thinking of becoming nurses, and those who want a greater appreciation and understanding of an amazing calling and way of life. Forget Nurse Jackie, ER, House, and all the rest - this is the real story, told by dedicated nursing veterans. While most of us think of nurses as those providing the office and bedside care that no doctor can do without, Nursing Jambalaya shows the diversity of the nursing profession, including research, education, serving in the armed forces, public health outreach. But the heart of Nursing Jambalaya is the heart of nursing itself: helping patients to recover, and standing by patients and their families during difficult and frightening times. Celebrate a profession built on nurturing, healing, dedication, and selflessness - and have a few laughs along the way, as the authors show you their profession through the eyes of those who have lived and loved nursing for decades.

About the authors:

Jacqueline Spencer, RN, BSN, has been in the nursing field for over 30 years, and still finds it rewarding.  She is a graduate of D'Youville College in Buffalo, NY.  This is her third book.

Lynell Whittington-Brignac, RN is a Texas native who graduated from Lamar University.  Lynell's career has spanned three decades in medical/surgical and psychiatric nursing.  She lives with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Puddin.  This is Lynell's fist collaboration as an aspiring writer, and she will continue to pursue her writing and nursing careers.

Beverly S. Ward, RN, MSN, is a nurse educator with over 30 years of experience in clinical nursing.  Presently she is a second-year doctoral student at Waiden University, majoring in education for higher learning.  This is her first authorial collaboration.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Giveaway: Illusions by Richard Bach

In the cloud-washed airspace between the cornfields of Illinois and blue infinity, a man puts his faith in the propeller of his biplane. For disillusioned writer and itinerant barnstormer Richard Bach, belief is as real as a full tank of gas and sparks firing in the cylinders...until he meets Donald Shimoda—former mechanic and self-described messiah who can make wrenches fly and Richard's imagination soar....

In Illusions, the unforgettable follow-up to his phenomenal bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach takes to the air to discover the ageless truths that give our souls wings: that people don't need airplanes to soar...that even the darkest clouds have meaning once we lift ourselves above them... and that messiahs can be found in the unlikeliest places—like hay fields, one-traffic-light midwestern towns, and most of all, deep within ourselves.

Up for grabs is my used reading copy of Illusions.

US shipping only.  PO Boxes are okay.  Ends January 26, 2013.

To enter leave me a comment below telling me why you want to read this book.
Include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.

Review: Odyssey of the Gods by Erich von Daniken

Von Däniken’s game‐changing Chariots of the Gods rocked traditional beliefs about ancient history. Now, he tackles the history of Greece again with a new viewpoint using painstaking archaeological research and evidence from the writings of Plato and
Aristotle. He suggests that Greek myths were, in fact, very much a reality, and that the Greek gods were extraterrestrial beings that arrived on Earth thousands of years ago.  

The author’s conclusions may seem astounding, yet they are argued with such insight and knowledge that readers are forced to consider the implications of his findings for mankind. Odyssey of the Gods includes new, eye‐opening information: 

• A revolutionary interpretation of the sites and legends of ancient Greece
• The conflict between alien gods and humans
• The true origin of centaurs, the Cyclops, and other mythical creatures
• A startling new explanation of the Atlantis legend

Received for review.

I have read other works by the author so I was expecting something on the far limits of credulity and I was not disappointed.  The author's rather far fetched ideas took a new turn here as he attempted to add aliens into myths of Ancient Greece.  This was certainly an interesting new take on the material, but the evidence was a bit shaky.

Despite the views presented, the book is well printed and organized and simply packed with photos of what the author believes is evidence supporting his theories.  The photographs alone are educational and certainly make it worthwhile to browse through the book.

While I do not agree with the author's theories, he does present them in a clear, concise manner and is almost persuasive.  At best it is amusing and marginally educational.  If you are into the alternative history thing this would be an interesting book to pick up.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest Post: Erich Von Daniken author of Evidence of the Gods

Erich Von Daniken, author of the book Evidence of the Gods, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

Odyssey of the Gods

by Erich von Däniken

"First the gods, they who dwell on the heights of Olympus, brought forth a golden race of much‐discoursing men...”

The above quote is translated from a German translation of Hesiod’s Theogony of 1817. Professor Voss translated the Greek to read ‘they who dwell on the heights of Olympus’. In newer versions of the same passage, we find a slightly different slant: ‘... [gods] dwelling in heavenly houses’.

Let me put these two translations, separated by only 150 years, alongside each other so that you can compare them and draw your conclusions:

1817: First the gods, they who dwell on the heights of Olympus, brought forth a golden race of much‐ discoursing men. These were ruled by Chronos, at that time reigning in heaven. And they lived like the gods, their souls continually cared for...

1970: Deathless gods dwelling in heavenly houses first created the golden race of frail human beings. That was at the time of Chronos, when he was still king in the heavens. And they lived like gods, having no worry in their hearts...

The ancient Greek some of us may have toiled over at school is not sufficient to judge which version is more accurate. Although the general drift of both translations is broadly the same, there is a fundamental difference between ‘heights of Olympus’ and ‘heavenly houses’, and between ‘ruled by Chronos’ and ‘at the time of Chronos’. What will the translation sound like in the year 2100? And what was the original sense and meaning in Hesiod’s time?

His account goes on: after the ‘golden race’ the gods created a second, lesser race, a ‘silver race’. This race was still created by the same gods, those who ‘dwell in the heights of Olympus’, or, perhaps, ‘dwell in heavenly houses’. This ‘silver race’ was of a lower order than the golden race, both in form and out look, and was made up of ‘softies’, whose mothers pampered them.

After this came: ‘... a third race of noisy people’. These were of ‘great strength and force’, and ‘from their shoulders grew huge limbs’. This race is supposed to have been obdurate and
obstinate, and its agricultural tools were made of metal. But this race too was a disappointment apparently, and so Chronos created a fourth as well: that of the heroes or half‐gods.

We modem people, according to Hesiod, belong to the fifth race, the iron race. We are a mixture of 
‘good and evil’, and experience joy and pain. But when things degenerate to such a nextent that children no longer resemble their fathers, hosts no longer welcome their guests, and brothers no longer love one another, then our race too will be destroyed in the name of Zeus.

Hesiod gives a vivid, detailed description, including all the finer points of the weapons involved, of the battle between the gods and the Titans. Although the latter had been created by the gods themselves, they had to vanish from the face of the earth. A terrible struggle broke out, in which even father god Zeus got involved, hurling from the skies great exploding bolts of lightning, missiles which made the seas boil, burned whole regions and brought the earth to its trembling knees. Hesiod uses many pages to describe the slaughter, but I will quote only a short excerpt from the 1817 translation:

‘Up above too, the Titans consolidated their squadrons ... loudly did the earth quake, and the dome of heaven boomed ... and straight from heaven and from Olympus rushed in the Thunderer, with a flash of lightning. Blow fell upon blow, with rumbling and flashing of fire ... holy flames intertwined ... the fertile sprouting earth flamed up and the great forests collapsed in the fury of fire... then the holy winds caught fire too, so that the eyes of even the strongest were blinded ... as if the domed heaven descended close to the earth, the loudest, most thunderous noise vented itself ... the gods stormed in to the fray, the winds blew wildly and whirled up dust and destruction ... then Zeus sent his sublime missile ...and awful clamor arose...‘

Such a battle was not waged with earthly means. Something very similar, but with even more dreadful weapons, is described in the Indian epic The Mahabharata. There, too, different races of gods do battle with each other:

‘The unknown weapon is radiant lightning, a frightful messenger of death, which turns to ashes all who belong to the Vrishni and the Andhaka. The bodies consumed by fire were unrecognizable. Those who escaped with their lives lost their hair and their nails. Clay pots broke without cause, the birds turned white. In a short while food became poisonous. The lightning fell to earth and became fine dust.’

And what did Gilgamesh say, when his friend Enkidu died in great pain after encountering the divine monster Chumbaba? ‘Was it perhaps the poisonous breath of the heavenly beast which struck you?’

The Mahabharata versions available in German are all edited and shortened. Since I can’t read Sanskrit, I have to refer mainly to the many volume versions in English. The similarities with Hesiod are too compelling to be simply over looked. It was as if the elements had been set free. The sun turned in circles, and burning from the weapon’s heat, the world staggered in flames. Elephants were singed by fire and ran wildly to and fro ... the water grew hot, the beasts died ... the thundering of the flames made the trees crash one after the other as in a forest fire.. Horses and chariots burst into flames ... thousands of chariots were destroyed, then a deep silence fell ... a terrible sight met the gaze. The corpses of the fallen were disfigured by the awful heat ... never before have we seen such a dreadful weapon, never before have we heard of such a weapon.

This is also the place to mention another cross‐reference to Gilgamesh: ‘The heavens cried out, the earth screamed out in reply. Lightning lit up, a fire flamed upwards, death rained down. The brightness vanished, the fire was extinguished. All that had been struck by the lightning turned to ashes.’

All these weapons of mass destruction—whether described by Hesiod, or in The Mahabharata, or the Epic of Gilgamesh—were used in times before written history began. If these battles of the gods had occurred in an ‘historical epoch’, we would have precise accounts with dates. Since this is clearly not the case, they must either have taken place in prehistoric times—or in the imagination. I do understand the point of view of scholars who made their commentaries on these ancient Writings before 1945. But since the end of the Second World War, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we ought to be a bit wiser. We now know what ‘gods’ are capable of.

About the book:

Von Däniken’s game‐changing Chariots of the Gods rocked traditional beliefs about ancient history. Now, he tackles the history of Greece again with a new viewpoint using painstaking archaeological research and evidence from the writings of Plato and
Aristotle. He suggests that Greek myths were, in fact, very much a reality, and that the Greek gods were extraterrestrial beings that arrived on Earth thousands of years ago.  

The author’s conclusions may seem astounding, yet they are argued with such insight and knowledge that readers are forced to consider the implications of his findings for mankind. Odyssey of the Gods includes new, eye‐opening information: 

• A revolutionary interpretation of the sites and legends of ancient Greece
• The conflict between alien gods and humans
• The true origin of centaurs, the Cyclops, and other mythical creatures
• A startling new explanation of the Atlantis legend

About the author:

Since the publishing of bestseller Chariots of the Gods in 1968, Erick
von Däniken has become one of the most widely read and most‐copied nonfiction authors in the world, selling more than 63 million copies. He is the author of 31 books, including the recent Twilight of the Gods and History Is Wrong (both published by New Page Books). Several of his titles have been made into films.

The author has participated and contributed to numerous film and TV productions, and has written countless articles and compilations. His ideas have been the inspiration for a wide range of TV series, including the History Channel’s hit program, “Ancient Aliens”.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Featured Book: Love Calls and Roundelays by WYN

About the book:

Easy to Love...

The poems in this collection are easy to love - accessible, plainspoken, yet rich in depth and meaning. As earnest as they are lilting, these poems reach out for beauty and truth - the core of Art. And they are often playful and amusing, as is evident from such poems as "Hey Pretty Kitty", "Renaissance Man" or "Ode to a Pearly Naut". Nor does this book slight the darker side of life, as expressed metaphorically in "To a Lost Friend" or more starkly in "Delirium". The visual appeal of the photo-art in this book is an ideal match for the musicality of the poems. Among the photos, you may be particularly struck by "Radiant Autumn" on the front cover, or the glowing "Golden Mountain" on the back. And what a delightful little gift this book is for your friends, relatives and all those you love!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Tiny Homes by Lloyd Kahn

These days, homeowners, designers, architects (no less), road gypsies, water dwellers, dreamers, people of all ages, all over the world are making do creatively with under-500 sq. ft. shelters. This is a real and powerful alternative to high rents, or a lifelong obligation to a bank on an overpriced home.

The heart of our 1973 book Shelter was on small buildings, which we recommended as a starting point in providing one's own living space. Now, almost 40 years later, there's a significant tiny house movement all over the world -which we've been tracking over the past year.

John Field sold his 2800 sq. ft. house in upstate New York and built a 128 ft. cabin in the high Texas desert. The "Lady on the Road" (who wishes to remain anonymous), has been living full-time in a highly decorated bus since she was 51 (she's now 72). A couple in British Columbia have a houseboat with adjacent floating garden. A rustic cabin has been built on a remote beach in Mendocino, inspired by our book Shelter, and reachable only by boat. A lot of small houses have been built on trailers, so they can be moved around and don't necessarily require land ownership.
More and more people are living in buses, trucks, houseboats, and other movable shelters. There are a large number of prefabs and kits now available. There are innovative solutions in cities, such as the "capsules" in Tokyo. There are numerous websites with news, photos, and/or plans for tiny houses.

Received for review.

I have loved the idea of a tiny home since I read The Wind in the Willows as a little girl. The idea seemed so warm and cozy. That's not to say that I grew up in mausoleum – I just liked the idea that a space a little larger than my bedroom could be at home. My parents actually built me a small playhouse in our backyard and I would spend hours in it (reading, of course).

However they were always two things that are essential to a home – a bathroom and a kitchen. While I liked the idea of many of these homes most were simply too small to be practical. Most had composting toilets (if any) And rudimentary cooking areas parentheses at best parentheses. I mean, there's crunchy granola and then there's Crunchy Granola! As a New Englander I simply cannot envision a lifetime spent trekking through snow to an outhouse or not being able to bake a batch of cookies for want of an oven.

So, yes, this was a fascinating intellectual exercise, but unless you enjoy camping 365 days a year in a moderate climate, 99.9% of these homes are not for you.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Featured Book: Chessman: And His Nine Lives on Death Row by Terrence Cooney

About the book:

On May 2, 1960, on its ninth attempt, the State of California finally executed Caryl Chessman.

Terrence W. Cooney’s Chessman, told in the liberating form of a factually-informed novel, introduces the reader to all the players in a long odyssey that brought such infamy to the state and country. From Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown to Chessman himself and to the landscape of a fast-changing California, Cooney anchors a chapter of the state’s history that for too long has meandered a-sea. Many of the facts of this hysteria-inducing ordeal were gleaned from archival histories, both oral and written. And while much of he dialogue is imagined, the times, attendees, and days of the meetings that hosted such conversations are not.

In 1956, the author was appointed by the California Supreme Court to serve as counsel representing a defendant who had pleaded guilty to two murders. It was, Cooney knew from the start, a death penalty case. Cooney argued that the arbitrary imposition of the punishment violated the 1791 Eighth Amendment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights against “Cruel and Unusual Punishment.” His argument was rejected. Subsequently, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted that position in 1972 when it so ruled that the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Four years later, still unable to shake the case, Cooney had become engrossed by the Caryl Chessman affair that had started to become headline news throughout California and beyond. In 1960, Cooney produced the documentary: Justice and Caryl Chessman. The film was shown in more than 1,500 movie houses throughout the United States alone, and in countless theatres worldwide. During the filming of the documentary, Cooney met Chessman who was, at the time, the most famous resident of San Quentin’s death row. In the process, Cooney also met and conversed with Chessman’s attorneys, prosecutors, investigators and jailers.

Calls for clemency came from all over: Norman Mailer, Ray Bradbury, Robert Frost, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Governor Brown’s own son and future two-time California Governor Jerry Brown. So strong was the worldwide vitriol over Chessman’s impending doom, that his eighth stay of execution was issued by Governor Brown mainly out of fear of retaliation against President Dwight Eisenhower who was scheduled to be traveling in South America at the time. Governor Edmund Brown later conceded that the Chessman affair cost him any real chance at a successful bid for the presidency of the United States of America.

After Chessman’s execution, Cooney was able to meet former Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown and members of his staff. After fifty years, after decades of anger, hysteria and misinformation, Terrence W. Cooney, has made the boldest move yet by placing all of these facts into the center of a novel that attempts to get to the heart of the matter.

About the author:

The author is a California lawyer who produced the world-wide distributed documentary feature "Justice and Caryl Chessman" in 1960.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: The Hypnosis Treatment Option by Scott D. Lewis

Clearing up the myths about hypnosis and presenting scientific research documenting its efficacy, this guide explains what hypnosis is and how it can be used to treat more than 50 common health problems, including chronic pain, sleep disorders, smoking cessation, asthma, obesity, and headaches. Hypnosis works as a healing, anesthetic, and pain-management tool, providing real, measurable health benefits to patients either on its own or in conjunction with other therapies and treatments. In addition, patients who learn and practice self-hypnosis are able to reduce their healthcare costs, prevent symptom relapses, take fewer medications, and make fewer emergency room visits. This book includes information on specific health issues for which hypnosis has been proven to be effective, including issues related to pregnancy and childbirth; up-to-date studies than demonstrate the results that can be achieved, including how it can benefit children; an appendix with resources for ongoing research; and a glossary of terms.

ARC received for review.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of hypnosis, so when I was offered the opportunity to take a look at this new book on the subject I naturally jumped at the chance.

This is a wonderful introduction to hypnosis and clearly and comprehensively covers all concerns that a person may have about the hypnosis process.  It dispels such myths that the hypnotist can make you do things you don't want to do (such as bark like a dog or do the chicken dance) or that you can be stuck in a hypnotic state a la Office Space (which is still an incredibly awesome movie!).  

It covers topics from uses of hypnosis to finding the right hypnotist for you, and the process itself.  It even covers self-hypnosis!

Truly, if you are looking for an extremely well written, easy to understand yet intelligent, introduction to hypnosis this is your go to book.  You simply must pick up a copy if you at all interested in using hypnosis.  I cannot recommend this enough!

★★★★ = Really Liked It

2013 Reading Challenges

You may have noticed that I haven't posted any announcements about joining any reading challenges this year.  I sort of overdosed on challenges last year and felt obligated to read books that I normally wouldn't read (although I did thoroughly enjoy the Vintage Mysteries Challenge) and neglected some of the books that I really wanted to read.  So, this year I'm declaring it my year to read what I want, when I want, and not to worry about whether it fits into a challenge or whether I have to read it by a certain date or whatever.

My annual goal of 120 books read for 2013 will stand since I've been doing that for ages and it's not really a challenge but a goal.

In any case, everything will continue as usual in 2013 but I just won't be participating in any challenges.  I'll reconsider next year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful year, reading wise and in general!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Featured Book: 1931 by Mike Tucker

About the book:

1931 is an epic, riveting Great Depression crime saga and a classic American novel, from the time of the grenade and the tommy gun and the bloody, undeclared, no holds barred war on the streets and shores of the United States, when the Mafia ran bootlegging with an iron fist and the Special Agents of the Bureau of Investigation took on the Mafia from coast to coast.

About the author:

Born in 1960, Mike Tucker grew up in Japan, Northern England and America. He holds degrees in history and literature and honors in poetry. His apprenticeship as a poet and writer was from 1983-1986 in Washington, D.C. In 1990, his first book was published, UNREPORTED, a work of poetry. HELL IS OVER: VOICES OF THE KURDS AFTER SADDAM, his critically-acclaimed work of history, was a finalist for the Ben Franklin Award in History in 2005. His most recent work is 1931, a Great Depression crime saga and classic American novel, published in September 2012. Under fire as a young poet with Spanish counterterrorists in Barcelona, he was the only author on counterterrorist missions with Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 commandos after September 11th. He was honored by the United States Naval Academy as a visiting scholar on counterterrorism from 2008-2012. An American Marine infantry veteran, he lives in the Near East, northern Thailand and Spain.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review: Life in the Universe by Marshall Vian Summers

For thousands of years, humanity has looked into the night sky and wondered: who is out there? Now you have a chance to travel into that night sky, to go beyond wondering and experience for yourself the reality and spirituality of life beyond our world.

This book is a window into the living story of our universe: the realities of trade, travel and conflict in space; the birth and death of civilizations across the stars and the greater plan and purpose of a Creator who oversees the spiritual progress of life in all galaxies.

Enter a universe that is alive with danger, mystery, relationship and purpose.

Explore the unfolding narrative of life in our own region of space and learn about the struggle for freedom now occurring beyond the borders of our solar system.

Marshall Vian Summers has been engaged in a process of Revelation for over 30 years. The outcome of that revelation, this book reveals what life is really like in the universe, something human science and speculation may never fully uncover.

Much more than a book, Life in the Universe is an open doorway to a greater human experience. Unfolding before you page-by-page, is a story and a vision of the living cosmos, the complexity of interactions between worlds and the future that awaits us as we enter this larger arena of life.
Go beyond the limits of a purely human vantage point and immerse yourself in this "Greater Community," a vast universe of intelligent life that has always called to you.

Received for review.

This was my first experience with the author's work so I wasn't sure what to expect.  The author was extremely heavy on the religious aspect of his views - "God" was mentioned in nearly every paragraph.  This, obviously, severely detracted from the material.  However, once the overwhelming religious message was skimmed past (clearly not what the author intended) the remainder of material was surprisingly intriguing.  The author discussed such topics as genetic manipulation and interspecies disease control, which actually would be genuine issues impacting the human population should we encounter an alien race.

Despite the clearly well thought out implications of alien contact the book's overt religious message and continual use of "God", "Knowledge", and "Greater Community" (the capitalization is the author's) was just too much for me.  So, why, you ask, did I rate this as Liked It rather than Just Okay?  Well, the author genuinely believes in his views yet he is ready and willing to admit other perspectives.  This open minded behavior along with his well thought out discussions of the possible implications of alien contact swayed me to the higher rating.

If you are interested in the possible consequences of alien contact with Earth and you have strong religious beliefs, or if you can put aside your religious skepticism, this is the book for you and I certainly recommend it.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review: Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Trained pastry chef, blogger, and mother of two Aran Goyoaga turned to gluten-free cooking when she and her children were diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Combining the flavors of her childhood in Bilbao, Spain, with unique artistry and the informal elegance of small-plate dining, Aran has sacrificed nothing.

Dishes range from soups and salads to savory tarts and stews to her signature desserts. With delicate, flavorful, and naturally gluten-free recipes arranged by season, and the author's gorgeously sun-filled food photography throughout, SMALL PLATES AND SWEET TREATS will bring the magic of Aran's home to yours.

Fans of Cannelle et Vanille, those with gluten allergies, and cookbook enthusiasts looking for something new and special will all be attracted to this breathtaking book.

Received for review.

I actually don't eat gluten-free but I simply cannot pass up a look at a cookbook and this looked particularly tempting.

I found the Small Plates sections to be a bit too crunchy granola for me – featuring large quantities of beans, lentils, and even the odd parsnip.

I fared better with the Sweet Treats and even found a few recipes that I would actually make if I did any gluten-free baking which I don't. If I had any gluten-free friends I definitely experiment with the many and varied cookie recipes.

Overall, I found this quite comprehensive and usable if you do go gluten-free. Those who don't but have gluten-free friends or family members over for meals or holidays will find this an excellent resource. I highly recommend it.

★★★★☆ = Really Liked It

Friday, January 11, 2013

Featured Book: Global TESOL by Sarah Anne Shope, PhD

About the book:

Whether you’re an experienced teacher of English as a second or foreign language, or just beginning to think about the ways in which this field could revolutionize your life and career, this fantastic resource guide gives you a solid foundation and insider tips to ensure your success. You’ll find practical instruction for developing and teaching courses and lessons for English language learners locally or anywhere across the globe. The units contain principles, strategies, and techniques for teachers at all levels. You’ll discover how to make learning both fun and effective for you and for your students, with strategies and insights derived from the author’s invaluable personal experience.

About the author:

Sarah Shope brings a wealth of knowledge to the field of TESOL from her experience in teaching English language learners and teachers. She trains people of all ages, walks of life, and professional and cultural backgrounds to teach English locally as a second language (ESL) or globally as a foreign language (EFL), and English for special purposes (ESP). She has been active in developing and instructing TESOL training courses and certification programs through school districts, colleges and universities for academic credit, continuing education, and professional development. She teaches through live classroom and hybrids of classroom/ online delivery. Her areas of expertise include applied linguistics, issues of culture, methodology for teaching all levels and all components (listening, speaking, reading and writing), including social conversation, test-taking, pronunciation, academics, and accent reduction, and vocational language proficiency.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Beyond the Power of Your Subconscious Mind by C. James Jensen

Beyond the Power of Your Subconscious Mind is a book filled with the incredible promise for those readers who may better understand the TRUE relationship between the conscious and subconscious areas of the mind.

The reader will be taken on a journey toward a doorway that opens a life of expanded opportunities and potential successes. The book does not require a leap of faith. The principles and techniques presented herein are both practical and well documented by modern science. The following is an eloquent description and summary of this book.

"There is a musical form termed "call and response" in which a distinct phrase is played by one musician and a second phrase forms a commentary on or a response to the first phrase. This mirrors a tradition characteristic of African and African American Christian worship in which the speaker makes a statement and the congregation responds with an affirmation, amplifying and clarifying the initial statement. This work by Murphy and Jensen is an exquisite example of call and response-Murphy asserts, Jensen elucidates. Their subject matter may have sometimes been dismissed as too far out or not based on verifiable scientific evidence, but in page after page the call is a clear, declaratory statement of conviction and the response is an offering of anecdotal evidence which becomes increasingly compelling as the chapters accumulate. If it is not enough to convince the skeptic, it is at least enough to shake the certainty and smugness of its critics. Read this and sing!"-Daniel K. Church, Ph.D., President, Bastyr University."

Received for review.

This fits in perfectly with the teachings of Jack Canfield and Anthony Robbins.  It is a self-help manual that offers information on how to train your subconscious mind to achieve your goals.  As such, it is rather on the rah-rah positive cheerleader side of things with a leaning towards The Secret's principles.

I wasn't enthralled, but it was a solid work which did provide the information it advertised.  It could have been more comprehensive, and a little less heavy on the quotes from the works of others, though.

If you are interested in this sort of thing then you will find this educational and it may provide a solid introduction to the subject for others.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Featured Book: Remember Me by Brian L. MacLearn

About the book:

While mowing his lawn, a strange storm creates a black hole and pulls Andrew back through time to 1985, leaving behind his new wife and the life he always dreamed of. With no way back he tries to create a life in the past. The technology in his cell phone promises to make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, but a brief encounter with his ex wife causes a ripple effect that erases his daughter from existence. Now Andrew must try and survive the next 25 years in the hopes the black hole will reappear so he can travel back once more and save his daughter, and himself. But making it twenty-five years is starting to seem less likely as he is plagued by bad luck. It's that all it is, or is "time" out to get him for meddling in the past?

About the author:

Brian L. MacLearn is lifelong resident of Iowa, currently living in Waverly. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa. During his life he has had poetry published and written song lyrics that have been recorded in Nashville.

Brian's first novel "Our Heart" was published in 2010.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review: Financial Sourcery by Jason Miller

This life-changing book goes far beyond simple "money magic." This is a tome of true financial sorcery that will show you how to ensure success no matter what life throws at you.

Financial Sorcery will give you the step-by-step instructions on how to improve your fiscal situation. You will learn how to:

  • Stop using magic to fix emergency problems and start using it to build your dream life.
  • Use times of economic uncertainy to create new opportunities rather than cause problems.
  • Work joyfully with money as part of your spiritual discipline rather than as a necessary evil.
  • Make offerings to help increase the flow of prosperity around you.
  • Ditch old concepts and retrain your mind to make money in today's world.
  • Use the interplay of macro- and micro-enchantment to find jobs and get promoted.
  • Deploy strategic sorcery to kill your debt.
  • Create secondary income streams that will ensure continued revenue.

Received for review.

Think Suze Orman + Salem and you get the drift of this volume.  It combines effective common sense financial advice with spells to provide a completely new and intriguing look at your financial world and what you can do to improve it.

I've gone through my New Age/Salem/spells phase and as such I'm not as inclined to try the spells in the book, but they are reasonably simple and most items that you may need for them can most likely be found during a trip to your local Whole Foods.  So, if you're up for it, it may prove to be a financially helpful experience.

I'd certainly highly recommend this to the New Age crowd who are fully into this, but skeptics should probably not apply.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Monday, January 7, 2013

Featured Book: Scrolls of Darkness by Paul Henry Johnson

About the book:

Corporate attorney Brent Michaels has a good life in Century City: he’s successful, good-looking, and well-respected. But he’s getting a little bored with the same old routine, and after a recent breakup, his personal life is in transition. Little does he know how completely his life will change when he receives a letter from David Baumann, an old friend of Brent’s deceased – and estranged – father, who had been engaged in a mysterious and urgent archeological search at the time of his death. From Baumann, Brent learns about the Scrolls of Darkness — ancient satanic scripts written thousands of years ago, and now sought by the Sons of Darkness, an organization controlled by Evil itself. Along with the beautiful Melauni, an archeologist familiar with the area where the scrolls are hidden, Brent is drawn into a deadly game that takes him from the streets of Paris to the beaches of New Zealand and Rio de Janeiro, and finally to the desert of the Middle East, where Brent will have a final showdown to determine who will get the ancient texts. Smart, fast-paced, and full of memorable characters, The Scrolls of Darkness will keep you enthralled and leave you wanting more!

About the author:

Paul H. Johnson is a corporate business transaction attorney. He has lived in Paris, Brussels, Sun Valley, and Carmel. Currently he and his wife reside in Santa Barbara, where his daughter and two grandchildren also live. His lifelong love of intriguing and exciting fiction has come to fruition in The Scrolls of Darkness, the first in a series.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reading Challenge Update: A to Z Mystery Author

Well, I didn't complete this challenge (to read one book by an author with the last name that begins with each letter) in 2012, but I'm going to try to finish it off by the end of 2013.  It's actually incredibly difficult!

These are the letters that I did complete in 2012:

A. The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
B. As the Pig Turns by M.C. Beaton
C. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
D. Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
E. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
G. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
H. Mrs. Malory's Shortest Journey by Hazel Holt
J. Classified as Murder by Miranda James
K. The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King
L. Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie
M. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
Q. Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
R. The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Reinhart
S. The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: The Lost Civilization Enigma by Philip Coppens

Are history books giving us the whole story? Or is civilization far more complex and for older than we have been taught?
Our school textbooks barely mention the 6,000-year-old Sumerian civilization, yet the latest archaeological findings at sites such as Jericho and, most recently, Gobekli Tepe in Turkey have been dated to 10,000 BC.

Civilization goes back at least another 10,000 years, if we are willing to believe what our ancestors themselves claimed.

The Lost Civilization Enigma reveals the truth about:

  • Lost magnitudes to known cultures, such as the Bosnian Pyramids and the civilization of "Old Europe";
  • The fabled lost "golden" cities of South America and the Amazon, which are slowly being rediscovered;
  • Fascinating examples of lost technology, such as the Antikythera Device;
  • Atlantis and the fact that it was a real civilization.
Analyzing the historical and archaeological record, best-selling author Philip Coppens demonstrates that there is substantial evidence that civilization is far older, far more advanced, and far more special than is currently accepted. Clearly, our history books have left out a great deal!

Received for review.

This had a fascinating premise and was very well researched.  The evidence presented was quite convincing.  It was very nicely written in a friendly, almost conversational, tone that made reading the book quite enjoyable.

The content itself was very good, but the publishers failed this volume in not running it through the proofreaders for a final time as there were numerous typos.  This, of course, was not the author's fault and is not reflected in my rating, but I wanted to mention it from a readability standpoint.

So, while I may not agree with all the author's assertions on lost civilizations the views he presented are intriguing and his supplemental evidence rather thought provoking.

Fans of alternative history will find this extremely interesting and an excellent read.  I highly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Friday, January 4, 2013

Featured Book: Good-bye, Dracula! by Traian Nicola

About the book:

Communism Strikes at the Very Heart of the Human Soul

Good-bye, Dracula was written at a time when nostalgia for communism was on the rise in the former Soviet bloc countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. State property was quickly transferred to a few thousand people, mostly former high-level communist party officials and secret police top brass. This left a large portion of the people, both young and old, to struggle for their very existence. Political corruption became widespread and led to disappointment and anger.

This book is more than a memoir. It allows the reader to experience communist Romania through the eyes of an innocent child growing up in the 1950s in Transylvania. It follows his life as a student and later as a member of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service, a powerful organization working directly for Nicolae Ceausescu, the leader of the Romanian Communist Party. This fascinating and personal account gives an insider's view of communism-and why it should never again be considered as a viable political option.

About the author:

Traian Nicola was born in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu in 1949. He grew up during the communist terror and darkness of the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1971, he graduated from the Academy of Economics at Bucharest, Romania, and a year later joined the Romanian Intelligence Service as a way of fulfilling his childhood dream to see the free, yet forbidden, world for himself. From 1976 until 1979, he worked as a press attaché in Japan and an economic attaché in Pakistan. Deeply disappointed with communism and feeling betrayed by the Romanian Intelligence Service, he defected with his wife and children to the United States in 1979. He became a recognized expert in the valuation of import shipments and later the World Trade Organization (WTO) valuation guidelines. He retired as vice president of a multinational company in 2008, but still works as a business consultant for the same firm. He currently lives with his wife in the state of Virginia.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Featured Book: New York Roommates by Howard Boger

About the book:

Hank has had nothing but bad luck when it comes to sharing an apartment in the City. After his last male roommate put the moves on him, Hank is determined never to share space with a man again. So he places an ad in the Village Voice for a new roommate—straightforward and to the point: Female wanted to share apartment with musician/photographer. No males allowed! He expects the usual parade of weirdos, but what he gets is much more than he bargained for. New York Roommates is a wild and entertaining romp through midtown New York and the characters who live there—welcome to the jungle!

About the author:

Howard Boger is a former urban planner and community developer, drug counselor, legal proofreader, and paralegal. He is also an accomplished musician and photographer in New York.