Saturday, July 28, 2012

Crossing Over: One Woman's Escape from Amish Life by Ruth Irene Garrett with Rick Farrant

Crossing Over by Ruth Irene Garrett
Irene tells her story of growing up in an Amish family with an angry, abusive father,and subservient mother. Eventually, she fell in love with the English van driver that her family hired, even though he was over 20 years older than her and she ran off with him and married him. When she wrote the book she was happy with her husband and with the Lutheran church that she had joined. She still missed her family and wished they could reconcile peacefully.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Matt is a clone of El Patron, the most powerful drug lord ruling the country of Opium, between the United States and Aztlan to the south.  As he grows up he is first shielded from his identity and then from his fate, but helped by Celia, who raised him and Tam Lin, his bodyguard, he manages to escape the fate for which he was created.  Outside of the Farm where the work is done by by eejits, people who have computer chips in their brains to make them compliant, he learns what the real world is like and sees the devastation caused by the drugs produced in Opium.  He befriends some other Lost Boys working at the plankton processing plant where they have been put under the control of the Keepers. It is an interesting and frighteningly plausible story. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This is an enchanting tale of two magicians who are competing with one another within the realm of an enchanted circus. Celia and Marco have both been trained to compete in this game since they were children, although the rules are never explained to them. Within this mysterious and magical circus, the two competitors fall in love. This is a richly woven story that shows that even in a circus where everything is black and white, there is still room for a colorful imagination.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.

Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa
I picked up this book because I thought it was mostly about the cat, and I love cats, but it is really about alzheimers and dementia and how people deal with it. It is a very interesting and informative, well-written book. Dr. Dosa, a geriatritian, has patients who often go to the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which sounds like an excellent facility. Oscar is a cat who lives there, along with several other animals, and he has an uncanny ability to know when patients are abnout to die and he sits with them during their last hours. By interviewing the family members of some of the patients who Oscar sat with, Dr Dosa learned more about how families deal with dementia in their loved ones and more about animals' relationships with people. A few things that impressed me are that doctors need to explain to the families how the disease will affect the patient's living and behavior  rather than just giving the medical information and that when a patient with dementia reaches a certain point, life-saving procedures are merely adding to their suffering and costing money and it is better to allow them to progress naturally and die even though that is difficult for us to do with our loved ones.  I also like what one of the nursing home patients with dementia told him one day when he was having a bad day - "You'll have  a lot more of those in your life.  Forget about it.  Most of the time it's not as bad as you think it is.  Just go home, kiss your wife and kids, drink a beer, go to bed early, and you'll feel better in the morning!"          

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler
This book is more about Ira's personal struggles than the Amish faith in general, but it does show some of the underlying problems that can occur in that group. Like others who have left insular, controlling religious groups, Ira went through a period of depression when he left the Amish religion. For several years, torn by homesickness and fear of hell, he would return to the Amish, and then, feeling trapped, he would again leave. His story is interesting and revealing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
Hauntingly creepily eerie, and some sizzling (literally) romance! Using vivid imagery, Alice Hoffman tells a tale of a woman who is struck by ligntening. As she recovers from the strike, experiencing a myriad of infirmities, she searches out a man known as Lazarus, who was struck by lightening, died, and came back to life. Experiencing love and loss, she faces death and learns how to live.

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog
"Everything is more complicated than you thought." The author, a psychologist who is an anthrozoologist shares a wealth of information from a multitutde of studies and experiences of how people interact with animals. From dolphin therapy - bogus and dangerous - to hunting, animal activism, vegetarianism, pet hoarding, animal research and more, Hal shares interesting and intriguing stories about how we interact with and think about animals. I would never have thought that cock-fighting could be considered humane, but, as Hal explains, the life of a rooster who is pampered, fed a wonderful diet, allowed to live outside, have sex, and lives for two years before being put in a fight is much nicer than that of the chickens that we eat, who only live for 6 weeks in horribly inhumane conditions, never seeing the light of day.
This book definitely makes you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford

Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios
I was prepared for this book to be just another doomsday prepping book, similar to Jim Rawles according to whom, you need a fortified secret location about an hour's drive from your home that is hidden, well protected and self-sufficient, and an arsenal to protect yourself with against the angry hordes or zombies at the time of the apocalypse. This book, however, has down to earth practical advice that could be useful to any mom, whether she has a survival and doomsday mindset or not. The author discusses issues that moms face, even in short term disasters or problems, that can be really helpful. For instance, she addresses the issue of sanitary supplies for women and suggests the Diva Cup, and also suggests that moms of babies have a supply of cloth diapers on hand for just in case situations. She does suggest stocking up on food and dry goods and has some interesting storage suggestions. She outlines topics for teaching our children what to do in case of emergencies, how to prepare their own meals, care for pets and more. For one source of emergency lighting, she suggests going to the dollar store or grocery store and getting devotional or patron saint candles that come in those tall glass containers because they are long burning and cheap. From water, to food storage, to finances to evacuation; whether you are preparing for the end of the world as we know it, a hurricane, blizzard, or power or water outage, this book has some excellent information that will be useful for all moms.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Truth and Fiction in The DaVinci Code by Bart D. Ehrman

Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene & Constantine
I think this is a nice short sample of Ehrman's writing for those who have not read his longer books. It is a bit more interesting and fun of a read than his other books (which I have not read because I found them rather boring) since he takes apart the biblical references from the DaVinci Code and refers to the story throughout his book. Bart sets the record straight and explains, as a historian, that most of the controversial "biblical facts" from the DaVinci code are not really factual, but rather come from the fertile imagination of Dan Brown, who skillfully mixes fact with fiction in the book, The DaVinci Code. He does not address the art works or other parts of the DaVinci Code, merely the biblical references. This is a short, quick read and a nice introduction to Ehrman's point of view and his writing

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

 The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, #3)
Good writing, but not as good a story as The DaVinci Code. Once again, Robert Langdon is summoned to solve a mystery filled with ancient symbolism. This time, we don't start with a dead body, rather with a body part, and Robert is again assisted by a female related to the victim - not his granddaughter or daughter, but this time, his sister.  Set in Washington DC, combining once again symbolism from the Bible along with that of other ancient cultures and in this story, focusing on that of the Freemasons, we again have an insane antagonist and only Robert Langdon, assisted by his female accomplice, can unravel the symbolic mystery.
Like Angels and Demons, this story includes some science and some pseudo-science, blending fact and fiction, new-ageism, Christianity, Freemasonry and a large dose of the author's immagination. 
The fact that Peter Solomon, a symbolic name in and of itself, really did know what the mysterious pyramid lead to, however, kind of nullified the whole hiding and searching for meaning since it was apparantly already known to him.  Why all the life-risking drama if the answer was so simple?  Perhaps the author was trying to make some sort of theological/metaphysical statement, but in doing so, I think he lost the excitement and intrigue that is present in his more imaginative book, The DaVinci Code.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price
In this novel, Zoe wonders why she is in a hospital with 5 other girls who have eating disorders. She does not believe that she has any problem and even they notice that she is not as thin as they are. So why is she there? She writes letters to her best friend, but never receives a reply.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Zeitoun, who was originally from Syria, and his wife, an American, ran a successful painting business in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit, his wife and children had left, but Zeitoun remained to keep an eye on their house and business properties. At first, Zeitoun helped others who had been stranded by the flooding, but then, in a bizarre turn of events, he was arrested and jailed with no explanation, and no phone calls allowed, mainly due to his ethnicity and fear of terrorism. It is sad that we treat people the way he was treated here in the US. I am so sorry for all that he and his family had to go through. It is kind of sickening that my tax money paid for that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston

Unchosen by Hella Winston
In this book, Hella tells the story of Yossi, a 25 year old Hassidic Jewish man who rejects the Hassidic lifestyle along with the stories of several other men and women who have also left the insular communites and/or lifestyles of the Hassidic Jews living in New York. As she met more and more people from that community she learned how their belief in separation from the world and their own religious educational system leaves people emotionally scarred and lacking in knowledge of the outside world making it incredibly difficult for them to leave the Hassidic communities even if they want to. Similar to the FLDS, and possibly the Hutterites and Amish, the Hassidic Jews cut themselves off from the rest of the world to the extent that they don't even know what it is like or how to interact within it. They often speak mostly Yiddish and don't know much English, have very little education in Math, Science or Social Studies, making it difficult for them to get any kind of employment outside of their community. Women are second class citizens who are expected to marry young to a man who they are allowed to meet twice for 20 minutes each time before the wedding and are encouraged to have as many children as they possibly can. Unsuprisingly, depression and mental illness occur frequently among the Hassidic Jews.
Interestingly, many of the young Hassids begin to learn about the outside world and other opinions when they visit Israel, which is much more liberal than the Hassidic Jewish communities of New York.
The stories in this book are illuminating and sad.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy by Maggie Anderson

Our Black Year by Maggie Anderson

As a social and economical experiment, Maggie and her husband John decided to buy only from Black owned businesses for a year. The experiment was highly publicized and Maggie spoke in many different forums about the goal of investing in Black owned businesses. They found, to their distress, that it was most difficult to find Black owned grocery stores and two of the ones they did find went out of business during 2009 while they were participating in this experiement that they have named the Empowerment Experiment.
Maggie shares lots of statistics about why there are not many Black owned businesses and studies that explain why and how people need to become better informed and educated in order to help Black owned businesses to succeed and increase.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The sequel to "Divergent".
Bit of a dissappointing ending. Once again, the factions are having strife, Tris and Tobias, aka Four, are romantic, there is lots of action and people jumping on and off of trains that we know nothing about. The factionless join forces, Tris tries to find out the secret knowledge that her parents were killed trying to hide and people are manipulated with the wierd simulation stuff as Jeanine leads the Erudite in trying to find all of the divergents to learn what makes them tick and how to overpower them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

Four children, a candy contest and a confectionary conundrum. When Logan, the son of the Candymaker at the Life is Sweet candy company, is 12 years old, he is finally able to enter the annual New Candy Contes of the Confectionary Association. Three other 12 year olds join him to create new candies. Along with Logan; Philip, Miles, and Daisy, each tell their part of the story and their roles in helping to solve the mystery and create a winning confection. The story is mouth wateringly fun! I highly recommend it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, PhD.

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Bray Pipher

Dr. Pipher shares her experiences of treating teenage girls in her psychology practice and gives practical advice to parents and other adults about what teenage girls are going through, how they think and how to help them through adolescence. As a teacher - I taught middle school for 13 years and now substitute in middle and high schools - and as a parent of two daughters - one who is 19 and one who is 10, I found the book to be very practical and helpful.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

I read the DaVinci Code before I read this book, and the DaVinci Code is a better book. I was sad to see that the same formula is followed in both books - start with a tragic death and the body mutilated in some bizare religiously symbolic way causing someone to call Robert Langdon, a professor who specializes in religious symbology, then have a crazed assassian working for an unknown boss for a cause that he believes is in some way helping some odd religious group, add in some help from the daughter or granddaughter of the murdered man and a race within 24 hours to solve the mystery including real and imagined "facts" about religion and science and you have the basic plot of both books. This book is gripping and fun to read and I look forward to reading the third book in the series next.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
Last year, 17 year old Gaby Rodriguez pretended she was pregnant as her senior project to gague prejudice and sterotyping. She had the cooperation of her mom and boyfriend, but most of their families and friends and teachers at school, had no idea that she was not really pregnant. In this book, Gaby tells about her family and how she planned the project. It turned out to be more difficult than she expected and got much more attention than she had ever imagined, going national with major networks fighting for her story.
The book is interesting and brings up issues that pregnant teens face that many people may not be aware of.