Friday, October 31, 2008

Crafting Jewish by Rivky Koenig

Crafting Jewish is a unique and beautiful book. It has been designed both for experienced crafters looking for creative and unusual ideas and for beginners just starting to discover the joys of crafting. This book has it all!

. Over 120 holiday and everyday projects, each with step-by-step instructions
. Stunning full-color photos of every craft
. Distinctive ideas for holiday get-togethers--many with delicious recipes
. Pictorial reference guide of crafting tools and product buying guide
. Full-size templates and comprehensive index

The entire family will love creating these marvelous, homemade crafts--and the warm and loving family traditions that you create at the same time.

My Review:
I am not Jewish, but I know books. And this 271-page hardbound book is a good idea! This impressive volume (8 1/2" x 10") is heavy with beautiful, sharp color photography by Jennifer Levy that follows the Jewish year. Each holiday begins its own chapter with an introduction, followed by crafts, and then recipes. Contents are: Product and Tool Guide, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot, Chanukah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Pesach, Shavuot, Shabbat, For Every Day, Templates, Resources, and Index. Note: the templates are full-sized and detailed.

I can see this as a perfect gift for a bridal shower, a house warming, or for parents. It's a happy family book.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Conditioning

Mariel suggested this week’s question.

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earrer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

My Response:
In all honesty, I would have to answer: yes, yes, yes, yes, but I've changed. In fact, I've flip-flopped. When I was a child, I handled books as if they were precious keepsakes. They are.

When I got older, I used to break the spine by bending the book in half so that I could more easily hold it in one hand while I read. I'd press my fingers down the inside spine to force the book to lay flat while open. I'd think nothing of folding down those pages to keep my place. After all, bookmarks fall out! I confess that I've further messed up books by making notes in them, underling and highlighting lines in them. But no longer.

Now, my books are kept in pristine condition; it's difficult to tell by looking at a book whether or not I've read it. In fact, I hesitate to fully open a book too wide. This means I gently turn the pages as I read. Instead of dog-earring a page, I use a Post-it to keep my place. What changed me? I began to sell my books on eBay!

How do you read a book?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

Theodore Mead Fegley has always been the smartest person he knows. By age 12, he was in high school, and by 15 he was attending a top-ranking university. And now, at the tender age of 18, he's on the verge of proving the Riemann Hypothesis, a mathematical equation that has mystified academics for almost 150 years. But only days before graduation, Mead suddenly packs his bags and flees home to rural Illinois. What has caused him to flee remains a mystery to all but Mead and a classmate whose quest for success has turned into a dangerous obsession.

At home, Mead finds little solace. His past ghosts haunt him; his parents don't understand the agony his genius has caused him, nor his desire to be a normal kid, and his dreams seem crushed forever. He embarks on a new life's journey--learning the family business of selling furniture and embalming the dead--that disappoints and surprises all who knew him as "the young Fegley genius."

Equal parts academic thriller and poignant coming-of-age story, this novel follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn't yet learned.

My Review:
An eighteen-year-old genius leaves college eight days before graduating. Why, you ask? The answer is revealed bit by bit as the reader looks back through Mead's tortured childhood. His cold, distant mother loves Mead conditionally when he performs well scholastically. She nags and controls him. One way he rebuffs her is by thinking of her as "the six-legged creature." Mead's indifferent father, runs a furniture store/undertaking business and seems unaware of the existence of his son. The only people who are good to Mead are his Aunt Jewel and his cousin, Percy.

Mead reveals the pain of being an emotional and social misfit. Wishing he could be an "overlooked face in the crowd," he spends most of his life hiding--struggling to stay out of the paths of potential tormentors. His one love is that of learning, particularly in the field of mathematics. Mathematicians will enjoy this novel with the many references. Truthfully, I had to look up "Carl Fredrich Gauss,""Riemann zeta-hypothesis," "Prime Number Theorem," "Method of Least Squares," "Bell Labs," and "Cray X/MP" to confirm that these names and labels exist. They all do.

Chapters are not in chronological order; they are mixed up--much like Mead's life. The tale begins eight days before graduation and each chapter reveals one puzzle piece in Mead's life so that the reader can understand the puzzling question, "Why leave college eight days before graduating?" Unhappily, the ending did not tie up all loose ends.

Note: This novel contains profanity and adult themes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cole Family Christmas by Jennifer Liu Bryan

This amazing year, the nine children in the Cole family have been allowed to sit down with the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalogue (the wish book) to choose the gift they would most like to receive for Christmas. This is a rare event, for the Coles are not wealthy. Indeed, Cole Family Christmas is the true, tender, and wholly unforgettable tale of a coal miner's family. The story takes place in the small company town of Benham, Kentucky, in a time (1920) and place when coal was king and families made their precarious living mining the dirty and sometimes deadly coal.

When one of Mama's few possessions, a treasured purple glass bowl with fluted edges, is accidentally broken by exuberant children rushing in from the outdoors, and an unlikely blizzard prevents Papa from coming home after working extra hours at the coal mine on Christmas Eve, the stage is set for a Christmas morning in which gifts are given and received that no one could have predicted. This title is suitable for ages 9 to 12 years.

My Review:
Looking at the cover of this book made me smile. It promises a treat inside, and it delivers! A true story, that tells about a poor/rich family experiencing the real meaning of Christmas. Further enhanced with beautifully detailed illustrations by Jenniffer Julich, the story holds the reader's attention page after page. Why, there are even "six vintage Christmas-themed fabrics featured on the borders" that reflect Mama Cole's quilts!

You'll find good use of vocabulary, table manners, and sharing skills.

The Cole family is a special one because of their love and their traditions of Christmas. Each member is valued, and in nine chapters a story is told that can become a part of your family tradition. I loved the gifts for Mama Cole. A terrific chapter book!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Queen Vernita's Visitors by Dawn Menge

Queen Vernita invites twelve wonderful friends to visit with her during each month of the year. Queen Vernita and her friends enjoy fun activities throughout the Oceaneers Kingdom. Parents and teachers will love teaching the monthly calendar, days of the weeks and seasons through the storytelling adventures of Queen Vernita and her friends.

My Review:
What a terrific tool for homeschooling parents and teachers to use to teach the days of the week, months of the year, and the seasons! The number of days in each month is covered too. Told in a straight forward style, this whimsical tale will capture the attention while teaching. The illustrations are delightful while colorful.

One caveat is that punctuation should have been more carefully applied. For instance, never more than one exclamation point should be used.

The Oceaneer world awaits your exploring. This is a good one.

Lost and Found By Carolyn Parkhurst - Giveaway!

On behalf of the generous Hachette Book Group, I can offer five (5) bloggers a copy of Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst!

A suburban mom, her troubled daughter, divorced brothers, former child stars, born-again Christians, and some young millionaires have all been selected to compete on LOST AND FOUND, a daring new reality show. In pairs of two, they will race across the world to compete for a million-dollar prize.The only question is not only who will capture the big jackpot, but at what price.

Carolyn Parkhurst is also the author of the bestseller The Dogs of Babel.

* Winners are restricted to the US and Canada. No PO Box mailing addresses, please.

* I must have a way of contacting you, so be sure to leave your email address in code: you[at]yourmail[dot]com

* I'll close the comments in one week at 6PM EST November 3rd and pick the winners. I will contact the winners via email to get their snail mail address. The winners will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner(s).

* If you're interested, leave a comment with that all-important email in code.
My Review
Because I've been swamped with other books to read and review, it took over a year for me to pick up and read this book! I was disappointed with it.

Each paragraph is written in the first-person voice of one of the contestants of the reality television game show that is the setting for this novel. The theme contains an obvious homosexual agenda. The plot moves at a steady pace, with a predictable ending.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Instant Replay: the Day That Changed Sports Forever by Tony Verna

On December 7, 1963, TV and sport history was made when the first "instant replay" ever seen on the air was broadcast during the Army-Navy game on CBS Television. The creator was twenty-nine-year-old "wunderkind" director Tony Verna, whose illustrious show-business career has spanned forty-five years of Sport and Entertainment history.

His broadcast hallmark was his ability to continually come up with advances in the use of cameras, program content, and creative interplay. Honored by the Directors Guild of America with a "Lifetime Achievement Award," Verna produced and/or directed five Super Bowls, Rome Olympics, NBA Championships, twelve Kentucky Derbies, and won an Emmy for the Los Angeles Olympics.

This heartwarming, inspiring, and funny story of an "entertainment life" portrays his varied career which included creating, producing and directing Pope John Paul's billion-viewer TV Special "A Prayer for World Peace," the historic "Live Aid," and as President of Caesar's Palace, was involved in all their entertainment projects.

My Review:
Without instant replay, games would be won by the "wrong" teams. Here is the behind-the-scenes story of the invention of instant replay as told by the creator himself. This is a good source of detailed information of the interesting life of a man in the field of television and sports. For instance, the first time instant replay was introduced--during the fourth quarter of a CBS telecast of the Army-Navy game from Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia on December 7, 1963--the announcer was fearful that television viewers might think that Army had scored another touchdown! So, he said, "This is not Live! Ladies and Gentlemen, Army did score again." But, what would we do without it now?

The book is written chronologically in first person, with chapters divided every ten years. This would help anyone to use this as a resource to look up information relative to a particular time period.

Although at times repetitive, so much information is intriguing: the famous people the author has met, conversations he's had, and his detailed experiences, all make this a worthwhile read, especially for those interested in sports and television.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In the Beginning: the Art of Genesis by Chuck Fischer

An ingenious series of three-dimensional spreads with fold-outs and narrative booklets, In the Beginning shows how the timeless narratives of the Book of Genesis have inspired artists for thousands of years and continue to do so today.

This spectacular gift book features Fischer's original artwork on intricate pop-ups created in collaboration with paper engineer Bruce Foster, which represent the classic stories from the first chapter of the Bible. With spreads that range from a medieval-inspired Garden of Eden to an stunningly tall tower of Babel to a magnificent diorama depicting Jacob's dream of a stairway to Heaven, this volume is destined to become a treasured keepsake and perennial favorite on every family's shelf.

My Review:
When I first opened this gorgeous volume, I thought that it was a special book for an older child--someone who would understand how to treasure such a piece of art. However, upon closer inspection, I realize this is no children's book. This is for adults who can properly appreciate not only the artwork--which is breathtaking--but also value the art history included. For centuries, the book of Genesis has been told by artists through their work. Copies of those masterpieces are used to illustrate the text, giving the reader much more than they would expect from a pop-up book.

Details are amazing. The Tower of Babel measures 16" in height. Jacob's dream is like a stained glass window (inside a book!). Hold it up to the light for a breath-catching treat. There's a time line of Joseph's life.

More than a children's book, I can see this as a special gift for an art history enthusiast, a lover of the Bible, or as a coffee table volume. What a conversation piece!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Giveaway! The Healing Choice: How to Move Beyond Betrayal

The subject matter is dicey: healing when a spouse is unfaithful or addicted to pornography. See my review here.

This book will go to someone who lives within the US. To those living outside of the United States, I'm sorry, but postage is too steep. It comes out of my pockets, and they're not too deep.

I'll close the comments 6PM EST November 1st and pick the winner. I will contact the winner via email for their snail mail address. The winner will have three days to respond. If I do not hear from them within three days, I will select another winner.

If you would like to read it or know a friend who could use it, leave a comment on this post. I must have a way of contacting you, and I hate to have to search. So be sure to leave your email address in code on the comment: you[at]yourmail[dot]com

Winners! Woo Hoo!

The winners of the Hachette Giveaway along with the title of the book(s) won are as listed:

Elizabeth Hollywood Crows By Joseph Wambaugh
Debbie Hollywood Crows By Joseph Wambaugh
Alicia Hollywood Crows By Joseph Wambaugh
Alison Hollywood Crows By Joseph Wambaugh
Darlene Hollywood Crows By Joseph Wambaugh

Andi Dead Boys by Richard Lange
Shelly Dead Boys by Richard Lange
Tina Dead Boys by Richard Lange
Janel Dead Boys by Richard Lange
James Dead Boys by Richard Lange

Lee Election Selection Giveaway box of books
Allen Election Selection Giveaway box of books
Stephen Election Selection Giveaway box of books
Anne Election Selection Giveaway box of books
Dawn Election Selection Giveaway box of books

The winner of my giveaway along with the title of the book won is:
Kayren Altar Call by Hope Lyda

Congratulations everyone and happy reading! If you were not a winner this time, there are more book giveaways coming, so keep checking Book Critiques.

What You Should Know About Politics...But Don't: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues by Jessamyn Conrad

The first and only issue-based nonpartisan guide to contemporary American politics.

It's a very exciting time in American politics. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses across the nation have shattered old records. More than ever, in this election year people are paying attention to the issues. But in a world of sound bytes and deliberate misinformation and a political scene that is literally colored by a partisan divide—-blue vs. red—-how does the average educated American find a reliable source that’s free of political spin?

This book breaks it all down, issue by issue, explaining who stands for what, and why—-whether it’s the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, oil and renewable energy sources, or climate change. If you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, it’s the perfect book to brush up on a single topic or read through to get a deeper understanding of the often-mucky world of American politics.

Polls have shown that interest in the presidential campaign traditionally peaks 3–6 weeks before the elections. But this is also a book that transcends the season. It’s truly for anyone who wants to know more about the issues, which are perennial issues that will continue to affect our everyday lives.

My Review:
This handy book is laid out so that it's easy to follow. Topics are divided by chapters: Elections, The Economy, Foreign Policy, The Military, Health Care, Energy, The Environment, Civil Liberties, Culture Wars, Socioeconomic Policy, Homeland Security, Education, and Trade. Each chapter begins with a bulleted list of major points, next comes the background to current debates, and then current debates follow with a more in-depth discussion. Both sides of each issue are laid out. Time and again the reader sees "opponents" and "advocates" as each side is presented in a no-nonsense style of writing. Results of polls and majority of opinions are incorporated where applicable and overall trends are examined.

This is a useful guide to be referred to often. I recommend it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Coupling

Monica suggested this one: Got this idea from Literary Feline during her recent contest: “Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.”

My Response:
I point to William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet for my favorite couple of literature. From the time Romeo Montague spots Juliet Capulet at the party, his heart is hers. Once they talk, she is equally entranced. This timeless tale of star-crossed lovers who determine to be together--no matter what their families dictate, and even to the point of death--is my choice for this answer.

Who do you choose for your favorite couple in literature?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tagged! I'm It!

Jill from At Home in the Country tagged me to:

  • Grab the nearest book.

  • Open the book to page 56.

  • Find the fifth sentence.

  • Post the text of the next two to five sentences along with these instructions. Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

Right now, I'm reading Out of Her Hands by Megan DiMaria.
"He must really be in love, Grandpa. They've been seen kissing in public."
If I were sure Id get the right leg, I'd kick Emma under the table.
"Really?" Ross asks.
"So, Pop, what's new with you?"
Thank goodness for Jer. If we continue to talk about Nick and Amber, my head will explode. At least Emma didn't mention that Nick never came home last night.

I am supposed to tag 5 other bloggers. So guess what? If you are reading this, consider yourself TAGGED!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Boomer Burden: Dealing with Your Parents' Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff by Julie Hall

A practical guide to advise Baby Boomers how to deal with the daunting task of facing a parents eventual passing as it relates to residential contents, heirlooms, and the often difficult family interactions and feuds that accompany them.

With fascinating stories and comprehensive checklists, professional estate liquidator Julie Hall walks Baby Boomers through the often painful challenge of dividing the wealth and property of their parents lifetime accumulation of stuff. From preparation while the parent is still living through compassionately helping them empty the family home, The Estate Lady? gives invaluable tips on negotiating the inevitable disputes, avoiding exploitation from scam artists, and eventually closing the chapter of their lives in a way that preserves relationships and maximizes value of assets.

My Review:
My husband and I have survived the deaths of our parents, and how I wish we'd had this book to help us sort through the stuff. I'm glad that we've discovered it now, however. We will use this valuable tool with our children to plan along with us to better prepare for our passings.

This book is broken down into fifteen easy-to-read chapters with information boxes and ending with "What Do I Do Now?" checklists. At the end of the book, the author has kindly added four convenient appendixes: "Your Complete Parent Care Checklist," "Helpful Resources," "Documents and Information to Locate," and "Wish List Spreadsheet." Chock full of real life experiences and tips to help the most difficult times go more smoothly, every household could use this handy resource as a guide.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Alpine Americas: An Odyssey Along the Crest of Two Continents

Photography by Olaf Soot
Essays by Don Mellor
Alpine Americas is a mountaineer's tour of the 10,000 mile range of peaks from the Arctic to Patagonia. The book combines stunning mountain photography with elegant text that explores the places from all perspectives — geologic, historical, philosophical — as it takes readers up the cold wind-swept ridges of Denali or down into the caldron of a smoking Mexican volcano. Each mountain grouping is a different chapter. Each chapter focuses on a single element of what the place means to us. Brooks range in the Arctic, it's all about tranquility and the reassurance of seasonal patterns. Way to the South, in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, it's the chaos and conflict of the natural elements — angry winds and big weather — as the jagged landscape thrusts upward from the cold salt sea. Don Mellor's inspirational words and Olaf Sööt's magical photographs, Alpine Americas is the celebration of the western world's majestic high places.

My Review:
This large volume (14" x 12" x 1") will make a beautiful coffee table book and conversation starter. However, there are many other uses for it.

Essays by Don Mellor are informative; he uses his own mountain climbing experience to describe sights too awesome for words. Interesting details are given; for instance, the Alaskan pipeline debate is discussed along with the history of the Incas, Columbus and the discovery of America, and Magellan. I can see this book being used by homeschooling moms for history, geography, geology, and art lessons.

As I turned page after page, I quickly became a fan of Olaf Soot's phenomenal photography. I found myself oohing and aahing over and over. Lovers of artwork will appreciate this. So many magnificent color pages; this heavy volume will be passed down from generation to generation.

Whatever your age, you'll spend many happy hours climbing and investigating these mountains.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Good Person Guidebook by Richard Bayer, Ph.D

The focus of the book is to help the reader discover the answers to two key questions: "What type of person should I be?" and "What should I do given a decision of ethical importance?" The author provides important advice on a multitude of topics including how to overcome suffering, whistle blowing, love in your personal life, raising children well, a meaningful work life, and respecting human dignity. The book helps to bridge the gap between ethics and practical life and is pertinent in a time when business and religion are highly topical.

My Review:
If you've ever wished that you could have your own personal career coach, this Five O'Clock Club book for you. Sized (5" x 7") to fit into a pocket or purse, this handy guide is especially good for business-oriented people. Each chapter is chock full of inspirational, thought-provoking quotes, tables, and group discussion questions. I can envision an entire office staff choosing this book to read and work through as a group for the betterment of all.

It's divided into three parts: 1. A Perspective on Ethics, 2. Virtue: What Type of Person Should I Be? and 3. What Must We Do (Ethical Principles for Action). There are thirty-three short chapters, written so as to easily be picked up and put down. The chapter that I feel could be most effective is How to Terminate Employees While Respecting Human Dignity. Actual words are given to help managers make this dreaded task doable. This is a worthwhile self-help book.