Tuesday, October 31, 2017

River Master by Cecil Kuhne

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River Master
by Cecil Kuhne

ISBN-13: 9781682680742
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Countryman Press
Released: Oct. 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
In 1869, Civil War veteran and amputee Major John Wesley Powell led an expedition down the uncharted Colorado River through the then-nameless Grand Canyon. This is the story of what started as a geological survey, but ended in danger, chaos, and blood.

The men were inexperienced and ill-equipped, and they faced unimaginable peril. Along the way there was death, mutiny, and abject terror, but Powell persevered and produced a masterwork of adventure writing still held in the highest regard by the boatmen who follow his course today.

With never-before-used primary sources and firsthand experience navigating Powell’s legendary route, Cecil Kuhne brings this remarkable chapter of frontier history to life.

My Review:
River Master describes the 97-day 1869 Powell expedition down the uncharted Colorado River. They went into the unknown with the intent to map and do a geological survey of the Colorado River. These ten men had never been on a river, let alone handled whitewater. Their boats were less than ideal for this trip. Yet not a single one drowned, despite many dangerous mishaps.

The author quoted from or summarized the information in the journals written by the men during the trip and records of later interviews with them about the trip. He describe what the trip was like, including the friction caused by running out of food, the danger, and personality conflicts. He also talked about James White's earlier trip on the Colorado River and some later expeditions, including one in 18871/72 led by Major Powell. He talked about Powell's official report, which was written like a journal but was much more colorful than the terse entries made during the actual trip.

The intent of this book was to accurately portray what happened on the trip, so the description was interesting and exciting but didn't include the questionable stories from the later official report. While I enjoyed this amazing story, I think whitewater rafters could better appreciate just what these men went through since much of what was recorded talked about the rapids they encountered. Overall, I'd recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Christmas by Judith Flanders

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by Judith Flanders

ISBN-13: 9781250118349
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Released: Oct. 24, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Christmas has always been a magical time. Or has it? Thirty years after the first recorded Christmas, the Pope was already warning that too many people were spending the day, not in worship, but in partying and eating to excess. By 1616, the playwright Ben Jonson was nostalgically remembering Christmas in the old days, certain that it had been better then.

Christmas is all things to all people: a religious festival, a family celebration, a period of eating and drinking. In Christmas: A Biography, bestselling author and acclaimed social historian Judith Flanders casts a sharp eye on myths, legends and history, deftly moving from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire, through Christmas trees in central Europe, to what might be the first appearance of Santa Claus – in Switzerland – to draw a picture of the season as it has never been seen before.

My Review:
Christmas is a history of how Christmas was celebrated, mainly in the British Isles, Germany, and America. The author repeatedly stated that Christmas was never primarily a religious holiday as many non-religious-focused activities have always occurred on the day. As most people didn't get the day off work for most of Christmas history, this seems an odd argument. The author came across as believing that Christians who push for more focus on the intended purpose of the holiday (celebrating Christ's birth) shouldn't do so because it's never been celebrated solely by people spending the day in worship and church services.

The author talked about when a day was first chosen to celebrate Christ's birth up to recent times. She examined written sources for what was actually done on Christmas (and New Years) and organized this information in roughly chronological order. It would have been easier for me to remember the progressions if the development of Christmas trees, for example, had been examined all at once rather than in chunks throughout several chapters.

She focused on European customs, mostly English, Scottish, German, and how these mixed and were added to in America after it was colonized. Basically, different areas had different customs or variations of a custom. Many of these customs were not specific to Christmas but became attached to the Christmas season. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that people created an ideal, traditional Christmas (which never existed) and increasingly standardized Christmas legends and activities.

She covered the origins and development of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, decorations, carols, cards, and candles, nativity plays and scenes, holiday foods and alcoholic drinks, gift-giving and wrapping gifts, advertising, parades, and holding special Christmas religious services. She explained kissing boughs, wassailing, mumming, role switching, and 12th Night activities. She talked about how Christmas was banned in several areas for a while and how the day changed into a child-focused holiday. She talked about how Washington Irving's and Charles Dicken's fictional depictions influence how people celebrated Christmas and how radio, film, and TV movies further created new Christmas traditions.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mehndi for the Inspired Artist by Heather Caunt-Nulton

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Mehndi for the Inspired Artist
by Heather Caunt-Nulton, Alex Morgan, Iqra Qureshi, Sonia Sumaira

ISBN-13: 9781633222410
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Walter Foster
Released: Oct. 17, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
Mehndi for the Inspired Artist presents artists with a step-by-step approach to creating a variety of skillful designs, including traditional and globally influenced patterns, as well as modern mehndi designs.

Starting with a brief introduction, readers will learn how to create a range of henna designs following the easy, step-by-step demonstrations of professional henna artists. Artists will then learn to incorporate their designs into a variety of DIY art projects, as well as transfer them to a range of surfaces and decorative items for a unique, personal touch. Using a variety of tools and materials, Mehndi for the Inspired Artist is sure to inspire endless DIY craft projects with both traditional and contemporary mehndi patterns that will delight henna enthusiasts of all ages.

My Review:
Mehndi for the Inspired Artist provides instruction on how to create basic mehndi patterns and how to use these designs on do-it-yourself projects (usually using acrylic paint instead of henna). The authors started by briefly explaining the history of using henna to create designs on the skin. They included a recipe on how to make your own henna paste and how to use it on skin.

The various artists then gave stroke-by-stroke pictures showing how to draw some basic mehndi designs (paisley, several flowers and vines, an arch, mandala, peacock, bands and borders, braids, etc.). Even a child could follow the directions and create the patterns.

Next were the step-by-step projects with pictures illustrating each step, and the end results looked beautiful. I expect a beginner's projects won't look quite so neat (as in, clean lines), but everything takes practice. The projects included decorating an envelope, candle, picture frame, wooden monogram letter, animal-skin tambourine, wooden jewelry box, wooden table coaster, charger plate, mason jar, and making pendants. They didn't explain where you might get some of the less-available supplies, which might have been useful, but I suppose you can find them online.

I've used henna to create temporary body art in the past, but I wasn't using traditional designs. I enjoyed learning more about how to create traditional designs and make up your own variations. I'd recommend this book to those interested in basic mehndi patterns and designs.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Journey by DK Publishing Staff

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by DK Publishing Staff

ISBN-13: 9781465464149
Hardcover: 440 pages
Publisher: DK
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
An illustrated account of human movement, travel, exploration, and scientific discovery—from the first trade networks in ancient Sumer to the epic Voyager missions.

Human journeys arise from all manner of impulses, from migration and the search for food, to pilgrimages, trade, scientific curiosity, or simply the quest for adventure. Journey traces each through lively accounts, alongside the biographies of conquerors, explorers, and travelers; stories of technological innovation; literary journals; and works of art. Themed spreads and feature panels capture the romance of travel with evocative accounts, archive images, historic maps, and artifacts, while catalog spreads add glamour and nostalgia, showcasing objects and documents associated with the rise of travel, such as postcards and passports. A textured cover with a picture-perfect image and shiny finishes make it ideal for gift-giving.

Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institution.

My Review:
Journey is an illustrated book reviewing the history of travel. The book started with ancient civilizations (Minoan, Egypt, Polynesian, Persian, Greek, Asian, Roman, etc.) and discussed the reach of their trading and the technology they used (like the type of boat and how accurate their maps or traveler's tales were).

Then we moved chronologically through history to learn about famous explorers, well-known journeys, and accounts of various travels. We learned about the rise of new technologies (like trains, bicycles, or airplanes), how they changed over time, and how they changed society. We also learned motives for travel (usually trade related), about popular trips like the Grand Tour or popular destinations like spas, and about things that developed to support travel (like highways and hotels). We learned about when a technology--like flight--first came about, but also why and when it became widespread or popular.

There were pictures of things like reconstructed ancient boats, various models of cars or airplanes, travel posters, famous explorers, historical maps and maps of the route taken by the explorers, paintings of various events, and more. At the back of the book, there were brief biographies of famous explorers and travelers. After that were listings of various trips (like to the Wall of China or along the Livingston trail) and the sights you might see. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this interesting and informative book and would recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Held Hostage by Dennis Flynn

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Held Hostage
by Dennis Flynn

ISBN-13: 9781947290075
ebook: 287 pages
Publisher: WildBlue Press
Released: Aug. 22, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
What do you say to prevent someone from committing ‘suicide-by-cop’? Or has a gun pointed at a hostage? Or an armed man who has barricaded himself in a hotel room? Or a despondent woman who is threatening to kill herself?

Veteran police negotiator Lieutenant Dennis Flynn spent nearly two decades responding to more than a thousand of these and other high-intensity incidents with the Crisis Negotiations Team in Las Vegas, Nevada. His goal? Bring ‘em out alive!

A behind-the-scenes view of life-and-death situations that police negotiators face and how they were resolved one way or the other under the bright lights and glitter of Sin City.

My Review:
Held Hostage is about how hostage negotiators (now called Crisis Negotiations Teams) work in Las Vegas. Lieutenant Dennis Flynn worked as a part of the negotiator teams in Las Vegas from 1998 to 2015. He responded to over a thousand incidents, including suicide attempts, barricade situations, pseudo-hostage and hostage situations.

He started by briefly explaining about how he got interested in being a negotiator, the training he took, and the different positions/jobs on the team. He then provided details about ten incidents that he worked. He described the situation that the police responded to, what the scene was like when the CNT arrived, what they did, and why. He also analyzed what could have been done better and any changes they made to their procedures based on what they learned. He included pictures of the places these incidents took place so you can see what they were dealing with.

The author wrote in a way that a person unfamiliar with police, SWAT, or negotiator tools and terminology can easily understand what was going on. I better understand the challenging situations they face and how they deal with them. I'm amazed that they will spend hours talking people out of committing suicide, but horrified that passersby will call out to these hurting people to jump. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in what negotiators do.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Last Christians by Andreas Knapp

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The Last Christians
by Andreas Knapp

ISBN-13: 9780874860627
Paperback: 233 pages
Publisher: Plough Publishing House
Released: Sept. 1, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
Andreas Knapp, a priest who works with refugees in Germany, travelled to camps for displaced people in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq to collect stories of survivors – and to seek answers to troubling questions about the link between religion and violence. He found Christians who today still speak Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The uprooted remnant of ancient churches, they doggedly continue to practice their faith despite the odds. Their devastating eyewitness reports make it clear why millions are fleeing the Middle East. Yet, remarkably, though these last Christians hold little hope of ever returning to their homes, they also harbor no thirst for revenge.

Inside Syria and Iraq, and even along the refugee trail, they’re a religious minority persecuted for their Christian faith. Outside the Middle East, they’re suspect because of their nationality.

The kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and murder of Christians by the Islamic State, or ISIS, have been detailed by journalists, as have the jihadists' deliberate efforts to destroy the cultural heritage of a region that is the cradle of Christianity. But some stories run deep, and without a better understanding of the religious and historical roots of the present conflict, history will keep repeating itself century after century.

My Review:
The Last Christians is about Syriac Orthodox Christians and other Christian groups that have existed in the Middle East long before Islam. The author is a German priest who came in contact with Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria. In 2015, he traveled to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and collected the stories of those he met (most of whom fled Mosul when Islamic State fighters took over). He also helps Christian refugees in Germany. He relates their stories, plus stories about similar events in 1915 when the Ottoman Empire (specifically, Turkey and Kurds) carried out a holocaust against the Christians living there.

The author wants to inform people about the history and persecution of these Christians and to ask people to help them even though they're not Protestant or Roman Catholic. His suggestions on how to help included ways to reach out to Christian refugees (which seemed more aimed at European countries) and trying to get Muslims to condemn violence in the name of religion. Syriac Orthodox Christians are dedicated to nonviolence and forgiving their enemies, and the author feels that the rest of the world has a lot to learn from their example.

While it's rather depressing reading, overall, I'd recommend this book--especially to those who are in a position to help these refugees.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Magic of Food by Michael T. Murray

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The Magic of Food
by Michael T. Murray

ISBN-13: 9781451662979
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Food affects our body, mind, and health in many remarkable ways. And certain foods are almost magical. Michael Murray’s years of research and clinical experience have led to a definitive understanding of how specific foods affect us. He presents his findings on phytochemicals and other nutrients and why they’re the new “vitamins”; discusses specific healing foods; and explains the principles to follow for eating the most magical foods every day. Here also are practical and prescriptive recipes and helpful guidelines for better and delicious eating.

My Review:
The Magic of Food is basically another "follow my healthy diet" book. I'm interested in "foods that act together to produce a total effect...that is greater than the sum of the individual foods" (from the ARC book description). However, what I got was a list of individual foods and the research done on the health benefits of that food or phytonutrient that food contains. And the book was very scientific; he even explained the chemical structure of fats and the structural differences between Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fats.

The author started by looking at several societies that live long, healthy lives and briefly explained what foods he thought contributed to that health. Then he looked at good fats versus bad fats, superfood fruits and veggies, and the health benefits of various common spices and herbs. He explained his recommend eating habits then provided some sample meal plans and some recipes. He recommended eating more (and a variety of) plant foods, more fish and less red meat, and eating 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. At the end, he included a list of some health problems (like anemia, constipation, hives, MS, and RA) along with some studies about what foods might help that condition.

While he recommended avoiding GMO canola, for some reason he didn't talk about other GMOs like soy when he suggested foods like tofu and soy milk. He spent some time talking about Glycemic Load and strongly recommended eating low GL foods, then he recommended juicing fruits and veggies (which removes the fiber and makes them into higher GL foods). And then he suggested using a fiber supplement to get enough fiber in your diet. So that didn't seem logical to me. Overall, though, the information was good.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

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Fire Road
by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

ISBN-13: 9781496424303
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Momentum
Released: Oct. 3, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Goodreads:
"Get out! Run! We must leave this place! They are going to destroy this whole place! Go, children, run first! Go now!" These were the final shouts nine year-old Kim Phuc heard before her world dissolved into flames—before napalm bombs fell from the sky, burning away her clothing and searing deep into her skin. It’s a moment forever captured, an iconic image that has come to define the horror and violence of the Vietnam War. Kim was left for dead in a morgue; no one expected her to survive the attack. Napalm meant fire, and fire meant death.

Against all odds, Kim lived—but her journey toward healing was only beginning. When the napalm bombs dropped, everything Kim knew and relied on exploded along with them: her home, her country’s freedom, her childhood innocence and happiness. The coming years would be marked by excruciating treatments for her burns and unrelenting physical pain throughout her body, which were constant reminders of that terrible day. Kim survived the pain of her body ablaze, but how could she possibly survive the pain of her devastated soul?

Fire Road is the true story of how she found the answer in a God who suffered Himself; a Savior who truly understood and cared about the depths of her pain. Fire Road is a story of horror and hope, a harrowing tale of a life changed in an instant—and the power and resilience that can only be found in the power of God’s mercy and love.

My Review:
Fire Road is a memoir that describes how Kim Phuc found peace for her soul. She told her life story, which includes descriptions of the bad things that happened (the napalm burns, how political officials prevented her from pursuing her dream and used her as a propaganda tool) and how these events affected her emotionally and physically. However, she didn't dwell on the bad things so it's a sad but not depressing story during these worst parts. She initially followed her family's religion with great devotion, but the gods didn't help her. When a Christian pastor came into her orbit and answered her questions, she realized that Jesus also bore scars and endured pain.

As she told the story of her life, she also told the story of her spiritual growth and how God provided for her. She described how, as a new Christian, she fought depression and a desire to commit suicide by memorizing Scripture and praying the Psalms back to God. She talked about how she slowly came to forgive those who abused and wronged her by praying for them (as Jesus instructed us to do). And she talked about how she deals with the physical pain by singing praises to God (among many other things).

I'd never heard of Kim Phuc before, partly because I was born several years after she was burned. I found her story interesting and touching. People who do know her story will likely enjoy knowing some of the things that have happened in more recent years. As Kim acknowledges, everyone carries their own scars and pains, though not all are as obvious as her scars. I'd recommend this story to anyone, but especially to those who want to know how she found peace despite the pain and scars she still carries.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.